“I Lost 50 Pounds Making One Simple Change”

More than one-third of Americans are obese: We're facing a national crisis, and solutions are in short supply. Here's how one man turned a personal tracker into weight-loss success, one step at a time.

Courtesy David BaderEven though David Bader had followed a vegan diet since his early twenties, his life-long struggle with weight remained. There are many great reasons for going vegan, but Bader, a 48-year-old Georgia Tech professor, couldn’t keep the pounds off eating that way. “I’ve had a weight problem my entire life—in college I weighed 243 pounds at my heaviest. I lost weight when I became vegan, but quickly gained it back as I raised my daughter while working full time.” Bader says that everyday tasks became a challenge due to all the extra weight he was carrying around. “Even a walk would leave me out of breath. My life was focused on my daughter and my professional career. I put everything ahead of my own life and health, and had given up on ever losing weight.” Diet alone wasn’t getting the job done, and Bader was growing frustrated. Then he made the move that would change everything.

Perplexed by the pounds that refused to budge, Bader bought a Fitbit tracker on a whim. Using the device, he was able to track steps taken, distance traveled, and his heart rate. He explains: “I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR that records my steps, heart rate, and activities, and soon I began tracking my daily steps. Just about a year ago, I started walking as a way to simplify my life, and focus on what was important—raising my daughter as she finished high school,” he says. “At first, I was walking 10,000 steps every day, yet my weight remained the same. I began by walking between two buildings at work, and getting used to wearing the Fitbit tracker. During this time, I learned how to use features of my smartphone, such as talk-to-text, and voice commands. That allowed me to multitask while walking, such as answering emails while walking on safe paths where I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic.” Motivated by his newfound ability to work while exercising, Bader continued to raise his personal exercise goals. “Quickly, I was able to increase the distances I was walking each day, until after two or three weeks I was walking a minimum of 27,000 steps per day—the equivalent of 12 miles. I was determined to walk at least that number of steps daily, and usually walked about 13 and a half miles a day. I started losing about two pounds a week.”

Inspired to include walking in all areas of his life, Bader began involving others in his exercise routine. He says, “Many of my meetings with students and staff turned from sitting around a conference table to taking walks around campus. On days with bad weather, I would walk around the hallways of my building, or around the organic foods section of my local supermarket!” He had tapped into one of the proven ways to shed pounds: Walking your way to weight loss.

A computer science professor, Bader applied his love for technical analysis to his new healthy habit. “I find that I walk about 7,000 steps an hour, so I try to walk about four hours a day. That’s approximately two hours in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night.” Maintaining this schedule requires some planning for Bader. “Since I tend to have a number of phone calls at work, I time these calls and teleconference meetings for when I can walk. I’ve also made a number of changes including avoiding elevators when I can take the stairs, parking at the furthest parking space, and walking for errands as often as I can.” Not every day is as conducive to physical activity as he would like. He says, “The most challenging days are when I’m flying for travel, or at a conference where everyone sits all day. I’ve found strategies for getting in walking even then, such as pacing in the back of the lecture hall. I just cannot sit anymore.”

Since purchasing the Fitbit, Bader has lost 53 pounds and life is better than ever. He says, “I weighed 223 pounds before I began walking. I now weigh 170. My waist, which was 46 inches, is down to 34! My resting heart rate has decreased from 74 beats per minute to 60. This is the lightest I’ve ever been in my life, and I don’t get tired.” Bader has no plans to stop walking—the benefits are much too great. “I could walk forever, and I love to dance all night long! My stamina is out of this world. I feel like I’m getting younger, not older,” he says. Bader’s advice to others hoping to follow in his 27,000 daily steps? “Don’t give up! Anyone can get healthy. Get a Fitbit and walk! It doesn’t matter how much—just get up and take some steps!” Try starting with these eight easy walking strategies for weight loss.

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