Learning a Healthy Lifestyle

“Before I die, I want to experience what it’s like to be thin,” I told a friend a couple of years ago.

I’ve lost several hundred pounds over my lifetime but I always found them again. Like most overweight people, I’m too familiar with diets.

At the risk of highlighting me too much, I’ve decided to share my recent journey in response to people’s questions. Maybe there will be encouragement for someone else.

November 2015

After weighing in at 229lbs, I sat in my friend/physician’s office to get the lab results of my blood work. This was our conversation:

Dr: Mark, your triglycerides and cholesterol are too high and now your sugar is increasing. It may be time for you to begin taking regular medication.

Me: I really don’t want to do that. What if I went on a diet? If I lost some weight would that fix my problem?

My friend stares at the ground for a minute trying to form the right words.

Dr: Mark, we had this same conversation two years ago. I suspect losing weight will help but there’s no guarantee. But this is harder than you just losing weight. You need to embrace a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable. That will probably be a two-year process. If you aren’t willing to take on that kind of challenge, we need to begin the medication soon.

I felt my jaw clinch from determination. This sounded hard. This sounded true.

Me: Give me one more chance. I want to try the two-year healthy lifestyle approach.

January 2016

Here are six things that were catalytic (no particular order):

  1. Self-control: I chose to focus on this one fruit of the Spirit as my New Year’s Resolution. I asked my small group to pray for me, which was humbling but helpful.
  2. Ginger: Since this wasn’t just another diet but a two-year healthy lifestyle change, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. Ginger chose to embrace this challenge with me. Bonus surprise? This gave us another point of connection in our marriage.
  3. Shelli: We connected with a life coach, Shelli Birdwell. I needed to raise the bar if I wanted different results. This was the best decision we made! Ginger and I are convinced that we would not have succeeded without Shelli.
  4. Manual:* Along the way, Shelli offered a healthy lifestyle manual which changed how we shopped at the grocery store, how we cooked, what we ate, how much and how often we ate. We had to reread it again and again to change how we thought about food. Ginger pointed out early on that eating healthy meant our pantry was almost empty and our refrigerator was full. (Fresh foods vs. processed foods.)
  5. Workouts: I walk regularly, hike a little, paddleboard a little. I simply need to stay active. However, I lose weight in the kitchen not in the gym. My eating is where I need to focus for now.
  6. Transparency: I had never shared my weight with anyone . . . not even with my wife for the twenty years we’ve been married. It was too embarrassing. For the first time in January I told my wife my specific weight. I needed to own my weight and quit pretending it wasn’t the real me. A few weeks later I told Shelli my weight. This was terrifying but somehow it released some of my secrets and helped me more fully embrace this new healthy lifestyle approach.

*Shelli helped us identify goals, develop a strategy to achieve them, and offered an avalanche of support and ideas along the way. If you’re attempting to change your lifestyle, reading a book (or a blog post) isn’t sufficient.

May 2016

I reached “One-derland” by weighing under 200lbs for the first time in 20 years.

September 2016

I reached the “normal” BMI range. I’m still pretty giddy about that.

October 2016

I revisited my physician having lost 50 lbs. This time he said with a smile, “Mark, your blood work reveals that you are completely healthy. Every category is now in the normal range. Congratulations, you’re hard work has paid off.”

I’m proud of my wife who has lost 25lbs.

Here are a couple of pictures I found of me speaking that represent the “before” and “after.”





We’re almost halfway into our two-year transition of learning a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for your prayers.

Our conversation will be better if you participate.

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10 thoughts on “Learning a Healthy Lifestyle

  1. Hey Mark, So proud of you. What an accomplishment! Thank you so much for sharing your story and encouraging all of us to eat and live healthy. Your hard work has really paid off.

  2. Mark Riggins, you and Ginger worked so hard to achieve the goals you set for yourselves! Thanks for sharing your journey with so many people who will be encouraged by your struggle and transparency. At first glance, many people may see the outward appearance of physical change in you. I can also say that your “thinking” has changed. That is a huge step towards long term health. I am so proud of the impact you guys have made on your family as well. Generations of healthy Riggins’! ?

  3. Having led recovery groups for eating disorders (including emotional overeating) I have seen that prayer and accountability really are the keys to overcoming the damaged emotions that lead to poor lifestyle choices, whether using eating, drinking, drugging or relationships to medicate our pain. We have a saying “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and having non-condemning and “safe” people like Shelly and the support of friends and family are such a blessing. I also like the idea of a two year transition into hopefully a lifetime of healthy living. Once I made the commitment to the lifetime goal, the transition time seemed worth the inconveniences and saying “no” to the unhealthy choices. Thanks for sharing Mark!!

    • Thanks Connie. The transparency about my weight is harder but more helpful for me than I imagined. It’s still hard. I went paddle boarding last spring for the first time and I asked one of the instructors at the harbor a question about my board. She asked, “How much do you weigh?” I suddenly felt small and wanted to run. The board has a 225 lbs suggested weight limit. At the time I weighed around 185 lbs. But I didn’t want to say it out loud. I felt paralyzed and then I told her. Each time it’s a little more freeing.

  4. Thx Mark for sharing your journey… You are a gifted communicator! Won’t you be glad when we get our Heavenly bodies?! Well, you’ll have yours within the year, but looks like I will have to wait for the Kingdom!! Blessings and keep up the great work!

  5. That is SO great, Mark. You look so different and this is such a strong statement to your children as well. Ron and I are eating much more healthy as well, even though the weight issue wasn’t the problem. But feeling healthy, looking healthy, and being a good steward of our bodies is a priority for our whole lives. I read at least one book per year that emphasizes healthy living in order to get my compass back on track since I often start our with long-term resolve but then begin compromising and before I know it, my lifestyle is more excuses than resolve. So, thanks for sharing that and we will all hold each other accountable to stay the course!

    • Linda I love your insight. Being healthy, feeling healthy and a good steward of our body is the goal isn’t it? I love the idea of reading a book emphasizing healthy living every year. Great idea! Thank you Linda!