The story of the month for January 2011 comes from David Bower.

David has been a regular reader of and also ran his own health blog called “Crunch Your Health” for several years. He has decided to turn his life around, changing his health and eating habits completely after a major wake-up call in his life. His blog was created with the intent to inspire others to achieve a healthier lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.

David is a husband and a father who is very much like many men in our society today, except for one big difference. David decided to take control of his health and wellness. He chose not to sit by passively, fill his system with anything and everything and leave his health to chance or luck, perhaps becoming one of the disease statistic numbers we see out there today. He looked at his life brand new. He revisited his priorities and made some major changes.

What follows is David’s story, as he tells us in his own words, why he changed his lifestyle around and how:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

I knew I was 40 pounds overweight. I needed to lose weight. I woke up with headaches every morning; tossed and turned at night from acid reflux; battled back problems; and my joints throbbed with pain.

My first thought was, “What are you doing, Dave? You have three young kids and a lovely wife but you’re a horrible role model for your family. By letting your health go to hell, you’re an idiot!

Then, I put myself in my kid’s shoes. I thought of what they might tell their kids later in life. You hear this story too often… “Yeah, my dad died of a heart attack when we were young. We never really new him and don’t remember him. He wasn’t there for us and we feel cheated. We grew up in a single-parent home and our mom did everything she could to raise us.” This was my wake-up call.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

There were a few strategies I implemented to address my wake-up call.

First, I had a physical exam with my doctor. I was introduced to the prescription drugs, Lipitor and Nexium. In hindsight, I was very fortunate that I developed severe stomach problems during the first month from taking these prescription drugs to the point where I had to discontinue them. This was a poor way to achieve good health and I knew I had to educate myself and be more responsible.

Second, week by week, I gradually replaced unhealthy foods (i.e., processed foods, sodas, chips and bakery) with healthier ones.

Third, I slowly added exercise to my daily routine. I started exercising by doing simple crunches and push-ups based on a workout video. Then, I increased my activity level by using a treadmill and an elliptical machine.

Fourth, I avoided listening to anyone who made derogatory comments such as, “Eat healthy, exercise, still die”. It still remains difficult to avoid such negative attitudes that other people have, especially during the holiday season when savoring dishes and delectable desserts are tempting. I am self-motivated to resist such temptations and am self-disciplined by reminding myself of the time and effort I have put into changing my lifestyle along with the progress I have made.

Currently, I take karate classes and vary my week with kickboxing and interval elliptical, and treadmill routines. I’ve maintained my weight and health through integrating crunches, push-ups, and lifting weights throughout my week. By eating healthy and incorporating exercise, I was able to successfully address my wake-up call and eliminate my health concerns.

How My Changes Benefitted Me

Within less than six months of implementing strategies to improve my health, the changes I’d made have benefited my overall health and wellness in a few significant ways.

First, upon exercising daily and taking baby steps to change my poor eating habits, I lost weight and was able to gain energy and flexibility. I believe that as a direct result of the changes I had made, I was rid of my headaches along with other aches and pains that ravaged throughout my body and I no longer experienced acid reflux. I had begun to feel better.

Second, a follow-up visit to my doctor verified that my overall health had improved. Laboratory results showed that my cholesterol, glucose, and triglyceride levels drastically decreased. I feel that the test results have allowed me to regain my self-respect and continue to be self-disciplined to move towards the path of optimal health.

Third, I am emotionally at ease. Through eating properly and exercising, which have both allowed me to maintain my weight; I know that I am doing everything humanly possible to increase my chances of living a more active, longer life with my family.

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

One way I have begun to lead a more active life with my family is by riding down a zip-line. Last summer, my three children helped me build a zip-line, which became a family project. It is a dual 230 ft. line that runs across our backyard and over our pond. The team effort took a lot of hard work and energy.

Through losing weight, I feel my increased energy level and mobility allowed me to physically complete the project. Now that the project has been completed, my weight loss will allow me to enjoy riding the zip-line. Otherwise, without the weight loss, it would have been very difficult for me to have climbed the 10 ft. ladder to enter the tower.

Another family project that we accomplished together was creating a water feature in our front yard. It’s an evolving project that encompassed lifting 1,300 rocks (approximately 25 tons), which also involved being able to be fit to complete building it. The water feature is an evolving project in the sense that it will have to be maintained (yet, another added plus that I am now physically fit). It includes three small ponds, 60 ft. of stream, and 12 small waterfalls.

The water feature is something that allows us to relax by enjoying the sounds and the movement of the water and nature surrounding it. These projects have allowed us to bond and keep a positive attitude by reducing daily stress.

In reflection, both the zip-line and water feature are good ways for my family and I to keep active, relieve stress, and have fun. I am continually looking for ways to keep active and improve my health through exercise and diet. Through reading Evita Ochel’s health and wellness articles on her website, she has inspired me to continue taking steps toward optimal health.

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

One piece of advice I would give to you if you are struggling with losing weight and trying to improve your health would be to surround yourself with positive influences and avoid negativity at all costs. This way, you will be more apt to make progress in a positive direction.

Second, set your first goal by taking baby steps to improve your daily nutrition. Avoid unhealthy foods and slowly replace them with raw, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts and avoid processed foods. Educate yourself on what defines “healthier”. Avoid the unhealthy habit of deluding yourself by thinking that eating in “moderation” is acceptable.

Third, incorporate exercise into your daily routine, increasing the duration and intensity over time. It is important to stay focused at all times and not get discouraged.

Fourth, stay motivated to follow through with your goals. If you fall off track because time does not permit you to fit exercise into your schedule, have self-discipline to get back on track the following day.

Last, maintain a positive attitude to overcome any obstacles that you may encounter. Acknowledging self-respect and inspiring others should allow you to continue toward the path of optimal health and not regress.