It’s the last week of the Fit Family Challenge and we are reflecting on pictures of ourselves from six months ago. We don’t even recognize each other. Courtney has lost 30 pounds. I have lost 20 pounds. The shape of my body is completely different. However, the biggest changes are how we feel and what we can now do. How are we doing it? We stopped saying, “I don’t need to do that” and began complying with what the experts say. This is not the first time we’ve lost weight, exercised or eaten healthy, but the results have been much more dramatic this time. Being honest with ourselves and consistent has made the difference. Before, we thought we were exercising twice as hard as we were and eating half as much as we were. Using tracking tools for nutrition, heart rate monitors during exercise and activity monitors built into our phone have shown us that we really didn’t understand the impact of our nutrition and exercise choices before. We thought all this tracking would be a lot of work, but it actually makes losing weight and making healthy choices so much easier. We spend less than 15 minutes a day on tracking, and the apps make it so easy to see progress and make informed decisions. We realize now that we were making it so much harder than it should be to live a healthy lifestyle. It’s not nickel-and-diming calories and running marathons. If you make reasonably healthy food choices and exercise a minimal amount, it’s actually very challenging to eat nearly enough calories. Our taste buds have changed. Fruit for dessert is amazingly sweet now. I didn’t understand or believe people who said that before until I experienced it for myself. I have reached a healthy weight, which is usually the point where I “relax” and drift away from healthy behaviors. This time, I’m moving into the uncharted territory of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and looking for new fitness goals to achieve. Courtney is halfway to her weight loss goal of losing 60 total pounds in 2016. With the changes we’ve talked about in this blog, these have been the easiest pounds she’s ever lost. This success has given us confidence that we’ve found the secret to being healthy. The simplest, most obvious (and free!) answer is the correct one. The experts know what they are talking about, and math doesn’t lie. We spend less than an hour a day focused on nutrition and exercise and have reaped so many benefits. There’s nothing else I can think of with a better return on investment. Shifting our focus from short-term, individual weight-loss goals to long-term family fitness has changed the way we look at our lifestyle. We notice all of the everyday traps that are impacting our kids health, too, as they grow. It’s challenging to find a kids' menu at a restaurant with healthy choices. We are making healthier choices for ourselves, and the kids are taking notice and emulating the behavior. They want to know the nutrition facts on what they are eating and eat the foods that are going to make them healthy, “pretty” and strong. Mia never met a fruit or vegetable she would eat until this year. She started with talking positively about fruits and veggies, moved to allowing them on her plate and recently has started actually eating them and liking them. Asher has always been a fruit and veggie lover, but is not much of a protein fan. Now that he understands and has seen me eat more protein and gain muscle, he wants to know how much protein he gets in every meal. Most recently, the kids have started identifying cookies, cake and pizza as “junk." Don’t get me wrong, they still want to eat it, but they understand that it’s not healthy and it’s not something we do every day. It’s amazing to see how much they have learned when they ask for a snack and we say, “Sure – what healthy snack would you like to have?” It makes us proud that just by talking about nutrition they have learned and can identify what is healthy versus unhealthy. The Fit Family Challenge helped us look at our health as a family priority. It’s not just something that the adults need to do when they have extra weight to lose. Nutrition and fitness are something every person in the family needs to focus on. If we can teach our kids now what it took us each 37 years to understand, we hope they can avoid the struggles we’ve experienced with our health. We are two working parents with not much free time and no background in health and fitness. If we can make these changes and get these results, any family can do this. We thought we were sacrificing our time and enjoyment of eating to prolong our lives. What we’ve discovered is that we aren’t really sacrificing anything. We’ve just re-directed the time and energy we used to spend on health issues and feeling bad about the way we looked and felt into activities we enjoy like family walks, bike rides, YMCA classes and cooking new healthy recipes. The result is a lifestyle we are enjoying so much more. — Daniel Rose