Justin Ricklefs


How I Lost 21 Pounds in 13 Months

Get ripped in 7 minutes. Get skinny in 21 days. Become a whole new you in 3 months.

We’ve all fallen for the fad diets and workout plans that offer quick fixes and instant results.  And if those have worked for you, then there’s no need for you to read any further.  But those didn’t last for me, at least not over the long haul.

My plan wasn’t sexy and it won’t sell many workout DVD’s.  It took a long time.  It wasn’t quick.  But it worked and it will last.

high top
Now that I’m an old man, the super high top basketball shoes are a must so I don’t break my own ankles.

We moved to Florida in April of 2013.  I was 196 pounds.  Flabby and lame as I affectionately call myself from those days.

We moved back to Missouri in May of 2014.  I was 175 pounds.  Lame still but less flabby.  I’m certainly not the picture of strength, but I’m far healthier than I was a little over a year ago.

With five kids, an amazing wife, and a ton of daily responsibilities, I had let my physical self go.  I made excuses that I was too busy building my career and my family, but in reality it was a sign of laziness and misplaced priorities.

I’m certainly not saying that focusing on your physical health should ever be your very top priority, but I was veiling my laziness as a “good thing”.  I was also allowing my food cravings (nice word for addiction) to rule me as I was eating for comfort and not wellness.

A typical day (as it relates to food and exercise) for me before stuff started changing looked like this: hit the snooze three times, skip working out, feel sluggish and tired getting going, pour a huge cup of coffee with lots of cream, skip breakfast, eat lunch with a client, drink an afternoon cup of coffee with more cream, eat dinner with our family, drink a beer or a glass of wine, eat a snack after kids went down, and then finish the day with some ice cream or cookies as we watched a show on Netflix, go to bed late, sleep less than seven hours, repeat.

I was constantly tired, stressed, uninspired. Lame and flabby.

When we moved to Florida, for the sake of my own health but also so I could be a better dad and husband, I knew something had to change.

It wasn’t earth-shattering.  But I began to reorient how I viewed eating and exercise.

Because I knew myself well enough to know that a crash diet or a crazy exercise plan wouldn’t work for me, I started simple.

Six on, one off was my mantra.  Six days of eating well and doing something active.  And then one day completely off. Instead of thinking in long, sustained time-frames, I knew I could do just about anything for six days straight.

There were five main pillars of my plan:

  1. Eat Clean – I cut out wheat, sugar and alcohol for six days.  No bread, no coffee creamer, no ice cream, no beer, no pasta.  My body kicked and screamed for these as it adjusted, but it did adjust.
  2. Sweat Three or Four Days – this typically came in the form of running three-four miles before the kids got up in the morning.  I also played basketball at the Y once a week for one hour.  Sometimes it came as doing 100 push-ups in the living room before bed.  Or even going on a bike ride with one of our daughters.  It wasn’t crazy or super intense, but it was consistent.
  3. Sleep Seven Hours – Honestly, this needs to be eight, but I at least got to seven hours a night most nights.  My body was tired and run-down.  It needed rest and still does.  I’m a dependent being, but I was acting like I could handle everything on my own willpower.  Practically, we cut down on the mindless TV watching we were doing. We still love certain TV shows, but rarely are we up past 11pm anymore.
  4. Have a Buddy – I’m not at my best when I’m out on an island thinking I can handle everything myself.  To keep on this long, slow, mundane path, I needed a buddy or two to remind me that it was worth it.  A text, email or voicemail every few days would encourage me to keep going.
  5. Free Day – on Saturday, the first three pillars above get crushed.  I eat whatever I want, don’t workout, and sleep in (at least until kids start waking us up).  And it’s amazing. I look forward to putting away a ton of sweets and carbs.  And the amazing thing is that this free day actually further assists in the progress of your plan. People much smarter than me have the research to prove it.

I was far from perfectly consistent those 13 months.  But that’s the beauty.  I had a solid framework around me, but I gave myself grace for the times I blew it.

Again, it wasn’t shocking or headline-worthy, but it worked.  21 pounds over 13 months averages out to be 1.6 pounds per month, 0.4 pounds per week and 0.06 pounds per day.  You get the point.  Little, consistent, methodical behaviors added up to a major lifestyle change for me.

This framework has now applied in other areas of my life, at work and at home.  Meaningful, sustained change doesn’t happen overnight, at least not for me.

Keep putting in the miles, doing the work, showing up, and enjoying the journey.

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