Like many of the busy folks we come across here in the DMV, Chris Upham’s life is a juggle of lots of important stuff – building a career, raising a family (2 boys), trying to stay healthy, carving snippets of time out for fun. Somehow amidst all that action, he’s managed to get in the best shape he can remember, lose 30 pounds and find renewed oomph for job, family and fun too.
Before the birth of his first son, Daniel, Chris’ family life was pretty strained and his career was still feeling the aftershock of the 2008 financial crash. 30+ lbs heavier than his happy weight, he was out of shape, episodic with his fitness and struggling to eat well with any consistency. All in all he was carrying around more than he wanted to on a number of fronts.
To shake things up Chris set out on a series of small shifts that over time landed him some really meaningful results, but not without plenty of effort along the way.
For starters, moving differently
Among his first moves, along with quitting drinking and getting back to being more involved at church, was trying out CrossFit. Something about the supportive group dynamic mixed with the intensity just worked for him and he was hooked pretty quickly. Not that it came easy. For the first six months he couldn’t finish most workouts in the prescribed time. “It was really challenging (and frustrating), I couldn’t finish a workout as prescribed,” said Chris. “I was sucking wind.”
Eating differently really stokes the furnace
Chris saw steady improvement at the gym in those early months but also noticed some plateaus happening and that his body weight and composition weren’t changing like he hoped.
He’d made some changes to his diet but discovered the various traditional routes he’d tried – mainly whole-wheat grains with low-carb foods like turkey and spinach - weren’t cutting it.
“I lived the Subway diet. That’s supposed to get you fit, right?” he says with a shrug. “It didn’t work. I went on a journey of going around the mountain over and over again, trying to get healthy.”
Undeterred, he started asking around for recommendations and heard some consistent, new, themes that made sense. In particular he realized he needed something more than healthy grains and spinach in the tank to keep him rolling. So he transitioned to a Paleo-inspired approach (including PS meals) with emphasis on proteins, lots of veggies and healthy fats.
Within a few weeks, the results started arriving. More energy, better performance in the gym (starting to finish workouts in the prescribed time!), and fewer pounds on the frame… to the tune of a couple pounds a week going bye-bye.
Chris attributes his breakthrough to nutrition. “You can’t outwork poor nutritional choices. For me, it’s easiest to get into a state of being “all in” on eating clean…you simply know what you do eat and what you don’t eat. It’s much easier than fighting the “will power” battle at each meal, snack time, party, event and gathering. When I’m tempted by something that would be a poor nutritional choice, I tell myself, ‘I don’t eat like that anymore.’”
A different kind of weight vest
Birthdays in a CrossFit gym mean a hard workout for the lucky birthday boy or girl and any of their classmates who join in. On Chris’s 38th, all his changes and labors showed up in yet another milestone on his health path. His mates at CrossFit Old Town suited him up with a 20lb weight vest to add a little more kick to the already spicy workout in front of him. As rough as it was, the birthday WOD reminded him of just how far he’d come.
His eyes widen as he goes back to that sweat-fest. “When I put the extra weight on my back, wow, it was hard. No wonder it was so hard to finish workouts. I was carrying all of that extra weight on my body.”
Here an impact, there an impact, everywhere an impact
It’s been more than three years since Chris started making these changes. He maintains a healthy weight in the low 190s and can sometimes finish workouts among the first in his class. His cholesterol dropped from the 240s to below 170. Above all he talks about just how good he feels everyday now that he’s dialed in his moving and eating like he wants.
“It’s an incredible feeling to wake up and pull on your clothes and realize your love handles are gone,” said Chris, a confident smile spreading across his face. “I feel good and confident, and am in the best shape of my life. I can do things that I didn’t think were possible, and feel like I can handle anything now.”
Feeling so good physically has translated into unexpected goodness in other parts of Chris’ life too. He has more energy for all sorts of play with his two boys, including a promising guitar duo act with his three year old. He finds the work-life balancing act easier. Even as his business grows, he feels he can be really present at home and enjoys a more active family life, including the occasional family CrossFit workout. And away from the everyday, he and his wife Julie are planning a ten-year anniversary excursion to Jamaica (lucky devils!).
Looking back Chris points to an open mind and desire to learn as the keys to his successes.
“The experience made me more teachable. I didn’t know what I needed to know or where to get help. That learning attitude has impacted my whole life.”
Kudos Chris. And thanks for sharing.
Share your small wins
This month at Power Supply we are celebrating our small wins, and we want you to join us. The first step is capturing when you make a small adjustment to your day — Did you walk up the metro escalator instead of ride it? Take one more push up? Cut soda intake during lunch? Take a photo of this sort of moment, post on Instagram or send us a tweet using the hashtag #mypowermoment and we’ll reward one changer per week with a $50 Power Supply gift card. Think of us as your accountability buddy!
More on Chris
Where he moves: CrossFit Old Town
7am - Progenex shake, banana and cup of almonds after my morning workout
10am - I eat my Power Supply lunch meal
2pm- I eat my Power Supply dinner meal
6:30pm - I eat a paleo dinner meal with my family consisting of meats and vegetables, often from the grill
9pm - I’ll often curb my pre-bedtime munchies with another Progenex shake and banana
Good-for-you eating tip:
Keep a handy supply of clean snacks and eat it before you find yourself reaching for less healthy comfort foods. For me, that’s a handful of plain almonds, a banana or a Progenex shake. Others might like a fruit, carrots, cucumber, etc.