We are honored to share our story with you and hope you find it interesting, inspiring, and perhaps even a little entertaining. Okay, okay entertaining might be a stretch, but hopefully it is at least worth the read! If you’re wondering who “we” are, we are Ben Kirch and Lexi Schanaman. Our story together began about 3 years ago when we began dating. The journey of this latest story, however, began almost one year ago today.
As we took some time to reflect on our journey, it’s been amazing to think what we achieved with good old fashioned dedication and consistency. Before we committed ourselves to a healthy lifestyle, we were in a place that so many other people are today. We ate what we wanted, when we wanted, and were far from being active. Not surprisingly, we weren’t in a good place physically or mentally. We were overweight and unhappy. Change was calling out to us. There were a number of catalysts that occurred at the end of 2015 that prompted us to make a change. The biggest, and most exciting, was our wedding engagement. It was a very happy and exciting time for us, but it made us think about what we wanted out of the next chapter of our lives. We realized that we both wanted to feel better and be healthier, as well as to be fit and trim on our wedding day. Ben also had a stark wakeup call when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. We wanted to be the best version of ourselves for each other and for our own self. It was time for a change.
As the two of us discussed the various ways we could achieve our goals, we decided to try CrossFit. Ben had been a member of CrossFit Modig previously and had great success during that time. We (re)joined Modig and began our journey in true “New Year’s Resolution” style in January of 2016. Is there really any other time to join a gym!?!? We also simultaneously kicked off a Whole30 Challenge because, why not?! Go big or go home! If you’re not familiar with Whole30, we encourage you to check out the website, which we linked directly. The bottom line is that it is 30 days of eliminating certain foods (sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol) with the goal not only of weight loss, but “to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” (whole30.com) Simply put, it was going to be a big change for us. But CrossFit and Whole30 were two choices that have been critical to our success.
The first month was really tough, but very rewarding. Lexi was new to CrossFit and was getting the hang of it. Ben was extremely out of shape, but quickly found his CrossFit rhythm. Whole30 was hard, though. We had eaten poorly for so long that our bodies were used to junk. The cravings were strong at first, but eventually lessened. We managed to get through all 30 days without falling into a cravings induced murderous rampage! In fact, we both lost about 10 pounds. Success was beginning to happen. We felt really good about what we accomplished, but there was still work to be done.
Over the next few months, we adopted a primarily Paleo diet. Again, if you’re not familiar, paleo is really just a fancy way of saying you are eating whole food; food with one ingredient. The goal was a 90/10 balance. We wanted to eat well, but also wanted to account for indulgences and “life.” As time went on, it went to 80/20, then 70/30. Then Paleo during the week with a “cheat meal” during the weekend. Then cheat meals became cheat weekends. You get the point, right? It’s quite remarkable how quickly it escalated. We were diligent with CrossFit, but it was our diet that was holding us back. We didn’t progress the way we wanted and got frustrated. We knew we needed to dial in our eating if we wanted to hit our goals. We needed help.
In the spring of 2016 we met with Corey Townsend for the first time. We talked about our goals, our habits, what was important to us, and what we were comfortable changing. From there we began our nutrition journey. The great thing was that Corey helped us build a plan that fit our lifestyle. It wasn’t a one size fits all mentality, but it considered each of us as an individual with different needs, habits, history, etc. We made small but manageable changes to our diet over a period of time. Before we knew it, the cheat weekends were a thing of the past and Ben was eating brussels sprouts!! Cooked with bacon, of course, but brussels sprouts nonetheless!
As we focused on our eating, we saw much better progress towards our goals. We felt better, had more energy, our workouts were stronger, and we saw positive changes to our bodies and on the scale. Since our nutrition plan was dialed in to what each of us needed specifically, we held ourselves and each other more accountable. We also meet with Corey regularly to talk about how we felt, review food logs, and make any necessary adjustments. This proved to be a great accountability tool as well. Knowing that our bodies and environment are constantly changing helped us to understand that adjustments are normal and help us to stay in tune with our current needs.
To date, we’ve collectively lost 75 pounds or, as we like to say, we’ve lost an entire “Bella!” Bella is our black Labrador Retriever. While our journey has had its share of ups and downs, the key for us was dedication and consistency. We don’t always make the best choice when it comes to food. We may have a bad weigh in. We may not feel good physically or mentally all the time, but we don’t allow those things to derail us. Ultimately, we shake it off and in the words of the famous, wise, and follicley-gifted philosopher, Joe Dirt, “we keep on keepin’ on.”
It’s also important to point out that we try to not make this journey all about the number on the scale. We might have ideas of what we want the scale to say and, hell yes, it’s rewarding to see that number go down. But as rewarding as it is to see that number decrease, it can be very demotivating to see it stall out or go up. Regardless of what the number says, we remind ourselves and each other that it doesn’t define our success or failure. It’s simply a number. The changes we made this year far exceed anything that a scale can tell us. We prefer to define success as eating well, exercising consistently, feeling good and being active.
As we approach the holidays, the first major holiday season since our transformation began, this mentality is extremely vital. One of our goals is to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. We want to continue to do things like celebrate with family, friends, and loved ones. As we embrace this, we need to remember our fundamentals. At family gatherings or work events we will try to eat whole foods as much as we can. Plenty of protein, as many vegetables as we can get, and hey, if a piece of pumpkin pie falls onto our plate, go ahead and enjoy. The key is to indulge responsibly. We don’t want that one piece of pie to turn into seconds, then a whole pie and ice cream and soda. Or worse yet, an entire week of pie, ice cream, soda, Peanut Butter M&M’s and peanut butter cups!! Indulge, yes, but stay on track. That’s what we prefer to say anyway. “Stay on track,” rather than “getting back on track,” because the latter infers that there is no room for error or reality in our lives. That is not the approach we are taking. That doesn’t work for us. The reality is that we aim to live a primarily clean eating, active lifestyle that includes the occasional dessert, drink or indulgence.
For anyone wondering about starting your own journey, we humbly offer a couple pieces of advice. First, just do something. Anything. Make one small change. Go for a walk. Skip the diet soda and drink a glass of water. Stretch out your hammies while watching “The Walking Dead” (you’ll be happy you have the extra mobility in the event of a zombie apocalypse). And don’t wait until “Monday” to start. Make the change now. Once you are comfortable with that first change, make a second, then a third. Then make as many as you need to in order to reach your goal. We found that small changes equal big results if you are consistent and dedicated. Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know where to start or if you are in the middle of a program that doesn’t work, ask for help. There are so many resources available that you should be able to find someone or something that can set you on the right track. For us it was Crossfit Modig and the amazing nutrition guru, Corey Townsend.
Whatever you do, find an exercise plan and a food plan that works for you. Find plans that fit your lifestyle and that you enjoy. We like CrossFit and we like to eat meat, veggies, bread, fruit and the occasional piece of pumpkin pie. Maybe your exercise plan is swimming or running or cycling or power lifting. Maybe your meal plan is Paleo or vegetarian or Keto, or something else. Find what works for you and do it for the RIGHT reasons. Continue to evaluate your reasons. They may change over time. In fact, they probably will. If you don’t evaluate them regularly and recognize the change, you could end up living your healthy lifestyle for the wrong reasons. When that happens, it’s really easy to fall back into your bad habits. If we can do it, so can you!
Thanks for reading and best of luck on your journey, wherever it may take you.
Lexi & Ben