Every week we highlight a Rise member whose story inspires us. Todd lost 39 lbs in 41 weeks by upgrading his eating habits at home and while traveling. Under the guidance of his coach Karen Klimczak, Todd has shifted to eating a larger volume of food than before—but with more vegetables, so he still feels satisfied by his healthy meals.

We’re especially inspired by how Todd has used this change as an opportunity to expand his creativity in the kitchen and find more joy in cooking!

What’s your typical day like?

I live in Toronto, Canada and I work in the pharmaceutical industry.  Most of the time I’m working from home, which gives me loads of flexibility. When at home I’m mostly writing. Lately I’ve also been doing lots of business travel. When I’m out in the world my day involves a lot of meetings and business development.

If I have a routine, I’m good. I know some of the things that can keep me from being successful, and I watch out for those traps. Keeping a routine around shopping and meal planning keep me on track. But traveling can throw me off that routine.

During trips I do on-site work at places like chemical plants and construction sites, where the food options can be tough. Other days I’ll be in board rooms with a corporate cafeteria. I’m often in the situation where I’ve just landed and have to find some food, or I’m out eating with clients. Those situations were much more challenging for me before I started working with my coach Karen Klimczak.

What has your health journey been like before Rise?

When I was really young I had the metabolism of a rabbit and could eat anything. That mindset stuck with me—that idea that I could eat whatever I want!

I do a lot of long-distance cycling in the summer and I can be burning an extra 3-4k calories per day while training. But back in the off-season, the same habits I build in training and cycling go away. When I’m just doing an hour of spin class at the gym, I’m not burning as much as when I’m training.

What prompted you to make a change to your lifestyle?

I took a trip to visit a client in Louisiana in December this past year. The food down there is excellent, but the portion sizes are gigantic and pretty much everything is fried. If you ordered on autopilot it would be the opposite of what my coach Karen suggests. While eating out on an expense account we would order an appetizer, then a giant entree, and then dessert—just out of control, not really paying attention.

I gained 8 lbs in 10 days on that trip, and hit a milestone of 220. I had never been that heavy before. I felt like I could continue on that track and have health issues and it wouldn’t be easy to lose it—or I could take stock and make some changes before it got even harder.

How did you decide to try Rise, and what was it like for you in the beginning?

My brother-in-law had done Rise and it has worked excellently for him. The beginning felt quite easy for me. Ironically, it turned out I wasn’t actually eating enough in terms of volume. I’d eat 3 meals a day, light on veggies and light on healthy fats. Then I’d be on a sugar roller coaster all day so that at lunch and dinner I’d feel like I needed a lot of food to get satisfied. Now my coach Karen has helped me shift to eating roughly 5 meals a day so I’m maintaining my blood sugar and hunger levels better throughout the day.

The first 20 lbs dropped crazy fast. I went from 220 down to 181 now. I could probably drop a little more, but I’m also in the process of training for a half marathon.

How has your behavior changed?

Through this journey I’ve learned a lot about adaptive eating and adaptive drinking. Now I’m more mindful of my calorie burning rate, and I’m learning how to fuel myself based on what I need and what I intend to do with it—not just eating the same stuff on autopilot because I’m used to it.

I also had to look at what habits needed to change. I couldn’t look at it as being just about portion control or needing to snack more often, but also about preparation and planning. My coach Karen helped me understand that if you take ten minutes once or twice a week to sit down and plan the next few days’ meals, and make sure your shopping includes healthy snacks for the week, then you’ll always have what you need on hand.

I like cooking if I have what I need. Setting myself up for success early on was something I had to learn to make cooking more convenient.

What has been your favorite tip or trick?

My biggest change was shifting from eating very few veggies to lots of veggies on a daily basis. My plate changed from including a couple of token veggies to a good generous portion.

It made a big difference to discover what makes me feel full. I used to think I was eating healthy when I’d have something like a vegetarian curry on 2.5 cups of brown rice. Then I learned I could cut it down to half a cup rice with a whole lot more vegetables, and that would leave me feeling much more satisfied while also being better for me. I really had to recalibrate in my head what makes me feel full, because I hadn’t thought of veggies as being so hearty.

How has your cooking changed?

When it comes to cooking, I tend to have conflicting tendencies to either just get it done or find something new to cook (which is a little more work, but also more fun).  I’m finding it to be an extra fun challenge to work more veggies and variety into my cooking.

I’m learning how to adapt Indian and Thai cooking. For example, when I’m making a recipe for red curry with tofu and coconut milk and a few carrots, I’ll think “maybe I could really load it up with vegetables” (instead of just the carrots). Experimenting with those kinds of tweaks is fun, and it’s really working well.

I like taking photos of my meals, because it gets me to take that one little extra moment of mindfulness and reflection about what I’ve prepared. For instance I might think “Hmm, that looks ok, but it would be an even prettier photo if it had a few extra colors in it.” I think that a pretty dish looks good because it’s something a human being should be eating!

How has your mindset changed during your journey?

I tend to be an introspective person, and I’ve been noticing interesting changes in what I’m doing food-wise. When I cook for myself it’s generally very utilitarian. But when I cook for someone else—for family or guests—I feel like I’m taking care of them, and that feels good. I can literally take an extra 5 minutes to make it better, and that feels special. Recently I’ve realized that I can also treat myself that way, like I would treat my guests.

If I were just looking at the scale for motivation I would have been done in a few weeks. For me, this journey has been more about the other benefits—learning to eat properly and satisfy myself. I’m eating more in volume and more often, but I’m also enjoying it more, and it’s making me be more creative.

You’ve lost 39 pounds—but could you tell us about your non-scale victories as well?

I have a lot more energy day-to-day. Getting lighter has been part of that, but it’s more about building better habits. I used to make time for exercise out of a feeling of obligation (e.g. I should go to the gym or should run or whatever). Now I’m not running because I feel like I should run in order to keep myself fit and keep my heart healthy (even those things are true). Now I do it mostly because it feels good. When I come back from running I feel fantastic.

I’ve realized I also feel that kind of short term gain when I eat a healthy meal now. It feels good and I’m not hungry an hour later. If I’m hungry two hours later, then I have one of my healthy snacks.

I’m also performing better athletically. I ran a 5k last summer and did the same race 5 minutes faster this summer.

What role has your Rise coach played for you?

Having my coach Karen there has given me the extra push to start and maintain new healthier habits when they’re not routine yet. She’s super positive and balanced. She calls me out on my mistakes when I need it but is also tremendously encouraging. For instance, if she notices I’m cooking the same dishes she’ll ask if I’ve thought of trying a new recipe this week—because she knows that cooking new dishes helps keep it interesting for me.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to get healthy and lose weight?

Focus on what makes you feel good about your choices. Don’t just focus on the scale—that’s just one piece of it. You have to watch your own habits and notice what makes you feel good beyond the scale and do more of that positive stuff.

What are your tips for eating healthy while traveling?

The thing that got me through the door initially was that trip where I went out of control. I didn’t realize how many more options there are, if you know what to order.

You can ask for peanut butter at breakfast to add more protein to your plate. You can ask the kitchen to swap out things—they’re cooking for you, after all. Before a flight, get some nuts and bring a water bottle. These tiny little habits that make a difference have been really helpful for me.

I’ve learned what kind of dishes to look for on the menu and what will still taste good, even though it’s healthy. You can notice there’s a broiled fish on the menu and ask for the sauce on the side, so it’s not so rich. Those little tweaks have been really easy. Now I can survive and be satisfied and enjoy the local food as well.

How have your changing habits affected your family?

My wife has always liked my cooking but also likes that there’s a lot of new stuff happening. She appreciates that I’m cooking more stuff that’s new and interesting. Now when we go out to eat and find something tasty I’m more likely to say “that doesn’t seem too hard to make” and try to recreate it at home.

My son is 17 and starting to cook. As I’ve started adding veggies to my breakfast to make it a more balanced meal, I’ve see him starting to include veggies in the breakfast he makes for himself too, and my wife as well. All of our habits are changing, and that’s neat to see!

You could be our next member of the week! Work with Karen Klimczak, Todd’s awesome coach. When you signup with her, you’ll get $10 off your first payment.