(Pictured above: Asher Rose enjoys mountain biking with his dad.) As we approach the midpoint of the Fit Family Challenge, we would like to reflect on the progress made, the resulting benefits and the drivers of the success. Let me point out that our process started a little earlier in 2016 than the official Fit Family Challenge. We have lost a combined 42 pounds and a minimum of three inches off of any typical measurement. We have shaped, defined and added muscle where needed. Our strength and stamina in every area is light years from what it was a few months ago. The changes have been an overall net add to our life. Yes, we spend time exercising and tracking food, but the resulting extra energy more than offsets the investment. We’re enjoying a wide array of benefits. The most obvious is that people have started to comment on how much different we look. We have needed to buy clothes several sizes down even though we have not yet hit our goals. More importantly, we feel so much better and decades younger. Psychologically, we are happier and more optimistic in life. We are enjoying activities with the kids so much more. We are more patient and engaged with them. I wouldn’t trade playing sports with my kids for anything. Asher and I enjoy Climb Nashville, mountain biking, basketball, and baseball. Mia enjoys walks, hikes, soccer, makeshift baseball and learning to ride her little princess bike without training wheels. I’m no longer tired and just going through the motions. Those are experiences they will always remember. So what is working? We are going with what the experts say. Tracking our food in an app has really made us be honest with what and how much we are eating. It makes decisions very easy. It also does all the math to make sure we have the right ratio of protein to fats to carbohydrates. We never consumed sufficient protein before. To save time, we buy things like bourbon Salmon in a baker’s bag or stuffed chicken breasts in a bakers tin from the butcher. It’s the same cost as the packaged meats, but there isn’t any prep time. Frozen Brussels sprouts or peas add additional protein and a staggering amount of fiber with little sodium (Green Giant lightly sauced have a great flavor).  Having only healthy food in the house, like mixed nuts or Cheerios for snacking,  is also key. We avoid sugar (or corn syrup) like the plague. The experts were right (shock!) that after several months our taste buds have changed, and we now crave healthy foods. Since the nutrition is appropriate, we get hungry only at appropriate meal times. We are focusing more on weight training rather than exclusive cardio. We’ve lost just as much weight, but have retained significantly more muscle. That makes a big difference in clothes – or a bathing suit this summer. The energy hungry muscle also makes additional weight loss, or maintenance, much easier. I am now addicted to the group fitness classes at the YMCA. I’ve found the staff to be warm, approachable and supportive. They knew my name day one. I’ve made several friends, and the adult face-to-face socialization is awesome since I work from home. Cardio kickboxing and RIPPED are great to get your frustrations out, and the teachers are quick with modifications so the class works for any fitness level. One of my personal fitness goals it to actually be able to keep up with the teacher for the entire class. The surprising part is that this time has been the easiest round of fitness for us. It’s also been the most tempered. Rather than crash dieting and exercising, we have made simple lifestyle changes. We view food as fuel, track it and exercise a few times a week. With these simple modifications, we expect the changes to actually stick. It makes us sad that we have spent so many years at less than our best, but very excited that we may not have experienced our peak yet. — Daniel Rose