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“Tell your wife you can’t go on vacation.”

Hearing that from my chiropractor was as devastating as the stabbing pain in my back.

That was June 2014. I was 39. For years, I’d been working 70 to 80 hours a week running my architecture firm. Eating too many fast-food meals and not exercising had caught up with me.

I was in a meeting when the injury happened: As I reached to stop a roll of tracing paper from falling off the table, my back went out. I couldn’t sit back up. I went to the chiropractor for an adjustment, but the pain wasn’t alleviated. It was so sharp, I couldn’t get out of bed.

It turned out I had a herniated disc. I felt like a failure. While my wife, Vicki, and our three kids headed off to California for “our” Disneyland summer vacation, I was stuck at home using a walker.

Excuse After Excuse

I was a relatively fit guy in my teens and 20s. In high school, I ran track and played basketball.

In architecture school, I played intramural sports, ran a five-minute mile, and bench-pressed 280 pounds.

I ran sporadically in early adulthood, but then my health and fitness began to take a back seat.

Once I started working as an architect in 2001, life got demanding. I put in long hours, doing whatever it took to keep my bosses and clients happy in a tough economy.

Then life got even more hectic. In 2007 I opened my own firm. The next year, our first daughter, Olive, was born. And in 2010, the birth of our second daughter, Misha, plunged us into new challenges.

Misha was born with spina bifida and spent her first two months in neonatal intensive care. After that, she required frequent hospital stays. The first three years of her life were almost nonstop doctors’ appointments. We ate on the go a lot, and I had legitimate excuses for not exercising.

By 2011, however, I weighed 322 pounds and was on medication for blood pressure and acid reflux. I joined Life Time Fitness that spring and lost 70 pounds.

In 2012, Vicki and I had a son, Izaac, and my business continued to grow. With increased demands both at home and at work, I found yet more excuses for not exercising and gained back some of the weight as my gym visits became less frequent.

Ready for a Challenge

By June 2014, all those hours at the drafting table had left me with an incapacitating back injury. I couldn’t make excuses anymore.

While my family was having a blast at Disneyland, I began my rehabilitation. My “workouts” consisted of getting in and out of the gym’s hot tub to loosen my sore muscles.

In July, I traded the walker for a cane and began walking in the pool for a few minutes at a time to strengthen my back and restore my posture. My back pain began to diminish.

Then I saw a sign in the gym announcing that the Life Time Weight Loss 90-Day Challenge was starting in August. I wanted to go for it.

My chiropractors and doctors told me to keep up my routine, and 10 days before the Challenge, I was cleared to walk, swim, and use the elliptical machines for 20 minutes at a time.

I literally limped into the Challenge. I weighed 293 pounds, but I was determined to change that. With the support of trainer Ryan Barbosa and weight-loss coach Christin Bell, I began transforming my life.

Fitting It All In

Ryan suggested using a fitness tracker to monitor my activity and food intake, and he helped me think of creative ways to get more exercise, like taking brisk 15-minute walks throughout the day. I gradually worked my way up to more than 20,000 steps a day.

I was also going to the gym at least three times a week to swim and use the elliptical machine.

By week four, I was cleared for strength training, so Ryan created a tailored exercise routine focused on building my core. As I got stronger, we added jogging, basketball drills, and even a few aerobics classes.

Meanwhile, Christin taught me about nutrition. She guided me through Life Time’s D.TOX program, and I got my portions under control. I ate healthy meals at my gym’s café, and through a grocery-store tour, I got tips on buying and preparing healthy foods.

Grilled lean meats and vegetables cooked with a little coconut oil or ghee became staples in my diet. I also added raw nuts, seeds, and healthy protein shakes as snacks twice a day.

During the first month of the Challenge, I dropped 33 pounds. But at one of the weekly weigh-ins, we realized I wasn’t eating enough to sustain the muscle I’d been working so hard to build. So Christin conducted a resting metabolic test to help understand my dietary needs.

We increased my daily calories from 1,500 to 2,000, along with my healthy fat and protein intake. My weight loss slowed, but my energy level was higher, my workouts improved, and I began to make quick strength gains.

By the end of the 90 days, I was running, playing basketball and tennis, and going to Saturday Danceaton classes with my wife. Working out was fun again. At home, I played tag and Just Dance with my kids. And I had more energy and focus at work.

I lost 82 pounds. But more important, I healed my body and changed my life. I learned how to incorporate healthy habits into my hectic schedule.

It turns out I can be a great -husband, father, and business owner — without compromising my health.

Success Summary


Meet:  Michael Adams, 40, of Dallas — architect, husband, and father of three.

  • Big Achievements: Losing 82 pounds, healing his back, and learning how to incorporate fitness into a busy schedule.
  • Big Inspiration:  When a herniated disc forced Adams to miss a much-needed family vacation, he decided to get serious about losing weight and getting back in shape. Once he was strong enough, he signed up for the Life Time Weight Loss 90-Day Challenge to continue his campaign.
  • What Worked: Consulting with a professional trainer who helped him figure out how to incorporate exercise into his demanding days, and with a weight-loss coach who taught him to keep a food journal and prepare simple, healthy meals.
  • What Didn’t Work: Trying to lose weight without making lifestyle changes. Not getting enough nutrition to fuel his new activity levels.
  • Words of Wisdom: “Exercise isn’t enough: Nutrition is key,” Adams says. “Keeping a food journal, learning to put spinach in my eggs instead of cheese — learning about nutrition was my biggest win.”

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