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This week the Stronger U Member Spotlight is shining down on Rick Bell, who has been working with Coach Tanner Baze. Congrats, Rick!

What’s your name? (First and last names, pretty please)

Rick Bell

Who was your Coach? 

Tanner Baze

If there was one thing you could say to your Coach, what would it be?

Thank you for being easy to work with, honest, straightforward forward and open to working this out together.  It’s great to have the guidance and assurance when I need it and the ability to get “off-plan” from time to time.  The “off-plan” times can be super beneficial along the way as long as they are kept in check and the end goals are kept in perspective.

Tell us a little about you. Where are you from? Are you a parent? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I was born and raised in Houston, TX.  I graduated from the University of Houston College of Engineering in 2008 at the age of 33 after spending the beginning of my professional life in the restaurant industry and finding my motivation after getting married to my wonderful wife Stephanie.  We have one, most excellent son Jack, who is in the seventh grade.  I stay pretty busy with work but really enjoy camping, hiking, fishing and hunting, backpacking, paddling, running, and mountain biking.  Pretty much anything outdoors.  I am very much looking forward to getting into Adventure Racing in the near future.

What was the moment that made you decide to join Stronger U?

I knew I had to do something to get my health back under control.  I was bigger than I had ever been, weighing in at 325 lbs.  I was stressed, eating horribly, not sleeping and having bouts of depression.  My wife started with Stronger U and was doing well.  I had gone a different route with another program that wasn’t really making any substantive change.  I had lost weight in the past through rigorous exercise like running, Crossfit, lifting, etc. but as soon as work picked up and I stopped killing myself in the gym I’d immediately put the weight back on.  I knew I had to learn how to eat.  I had counted calories a lot in the past and it never worked and I never understood why.  I saw what Stephanie was doing with Stronger U and it made sense to me, so I signed up.  

Is there anyone from the SU community you would like to shout out?

I don’t know of anyone in particular, but I will say seeing the huge success stories that regularly come across Facebook were a big source of motivation in the beginning.  I had a long journey ahead of me and it was great to see it was possible and other people were accomplishing it.

What dieting experience did you have previous to Stronger U? 

I had signed up for Habit prior to Stronger U.  The one that did a DNA test on you to help you know how things affect you or if you have any genetic things that may be holding you back.  It was pretty useless in the end.  There was nothing wrong with me other than my own personal bad habits and lack of nutritional knowledge. 

We had both gone Paleo several years back and that worked for a bit – until it didn’t and we wanted to eat like normal people again.  I have tracked calories on various apps at various times in the past as well, however, I never weighed anything.  My best weight loss efforts had always come from killing myself in the gym, but that isn’t always possible and I’m not getting any younger.  I can’t depend on that as my sole way of staying healthy.

What were your eating habits like before joining Stronger U? Did you prep your meals? Did you eat out regularly? Did you think you were already eating healthy and in moderation?

Well, when I started Stronger U I knew my eating habits were horrible. I was eating out regularly, including copious amounts of fast food.  I have always been a stress eater and my work stress level had been on high for a couple of years.  It was the default for me to make the quickest, easiest, most “satisfying” choice for food at any given moment.  I didn’t have the mental space to think about any other choice and needed the immediate boost of satisfaction a sleazy hamburger would provide to help push back all the other stress in my life.  I knew I was making bad choices but didn’t have a workable solution at hand and didn’t have the mental space to find one.

Why do you think Stronger U worked so well for you compared to other programs or diets?

It’s hard numbers based.  I’m an engineer and I have hard data to work with now. Food’s effect on my body is no longer a hidden food voodoo.  I have macros to hit every day and I have been given the tools to properly know how to track and manage them.  It’s a little puzzle to put together.  Days are fairly constant for 3-7 day stretches and then I mix it up again and rework the puzzle.  I want to eat smoked salmon for breakfast – okay.  Where’s the extra fat for that going to come from? One less egg?  Mustard at lunch instead of mayo?  Chicken breast for dinner instead of that pork loin?  It has to come from somewhere.  It makes sense to me.  I can see where the numbers come from and how they directly affect my day.

What was the biggest challenge or change when you first started with Stronger U?

The biggest challenge was getting the systems in place.  Learning how to plan my day around my schedule was a challenge.  I tried planning and prepping the next day in the evening prior but that was always a hassle and would often get forgotten. 

 I learned to plan and pack my breakfast and lunch in the morning and leave enough macros “on deck” for dinner so I could arrange that however, I felt later that evening. 

Stephanie and I both had to learn to keep a variety of “single macro” foods on hand that we can piece together in various forms at any time.  We also had to figure out that we were all going to eat different things at almost every meal.  Stephanie would make her dinner, I would make my dinner and Jack would get something he liked as well.  We rarely make a big dinner that we all eat at the same time.  These types of meals often involve a recipe and that takes much more effort to “macro it out”.

What was something you regularly ate while on Stronger U that people wouldn’t expect you to eat on a diet?

Yasso bars daily. This gets logged first every day and the rest of the day works around my Yasso. I would also think the amount of carbs you actually get to eat is not what conventional “dieting” wisdom these days expects. I’m eating two full sandwiches (4 slices of Dave’s Killer bread) at lunch with Lays Poppables regularly. I’ll admit, it was a sandwich and a half (3 slices of bread) prior to maintenance macros unless I wanted to cut somewhere else.

What does your typical week of eating look like? How many days a week do you meal prep? Do you have certain meals you make most often?

I won’t really say I “meal prep” right now.  I have been working from home since March due to COVID so meal prepping isn’t really required.  I did prep breakfast and lunch in the morning each morning when I had to be in the office every day.  If I knew it was going to be a long day I would include dinner but that was rare.  That all being said, we don’t really meal prep anymore at all.  We cook large amounts of protein on a weekly basis.  This will be chicken breast, cooked in various ways buy typically either broiled with a seasoning blend, smoked or grilled outside or tossed in the pressure cooker and shredded.  We trade the chicken off with pork shoulder roast (Kirkland brand from Costco is great because it is lean) or pork tenderloin.  We keep shrimp and various fish filets around as well that can be defrosted and cooked when one of us gets a hankering for fish.  We will also make turkey burgers or brown up some taco seasoned (or similar) ground turkey or lean ground beef to use however we want.  From these, we keep salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other various salad components around at all times.  We live off of frozen Kodiak waffles and chocolate chip flapjacks, Dave’s Killer bread and English muffins, Lavash bread, Frozen Lightly Sauced Steamable Vegetable packs of various varieties, other frozen veggies like Normandy blend, green beans, cauliflower rice stir fry blend, etc. and of course Yasso bars and other small ice cream bars.  We keep various sauces and condiments on hand for fats including guacamole cups, curry and Asian sauces for stir-fry and curry and whatever else we are in the mood for.  I’ve also learned to adjust my eating schedule.

I do not eat lunch when most people do.  It really helps me keep the hunger at bay throughout the day.  A typical day for me these days starts with my Kodiak waffles sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 AM.  Then I eat the rest of my breakfast at 10:30.  This has consisted of an English muffin, over-easy eggs, tomato, jalapeno or bell pepper, and a little low-fat cheese.  This may get mixed around when I decide I want smoked salmon or guacamole for breakfast.  Lunch is sometime between 2:30 and 4:00.  I typically try to push it back to 3:30 or so but if I’m really hungry it’ll be 2:30.  This varies quite a bit, but lately, it has been a sandwich and a half with mayo or guacamole, deli turkey, or our pre-made chicken breast or pork, tomato, jalapeno, or peppers, lettuce or broccoli slaw, and low or no-fat cheese.  This will be served with Lays Poppables or fruit of some sort.  Dinner is between 7 and 8.  This is either a “Big Ass Salad” or some version of curry, stir-fry, or a mixture of frozen vegetables, our pre-made proteins on hand, and various sauce/condiments of choice. Yasso happens at 8:30 – mandatory.  

If you exercise or train for a sport, did Stronger U have any impact on your training? Or did Stronger U have an impact on your decision to start exercising or training for a sport?

I started back at the Crossfit box nearby at the beginning of this year and have done some of the Stronger U Fitness workouts off and on throughout.  The Crossfit box closed for COVID and I haven’t been back since it reopened.  We built a pretty awesome gym in the house since COVID, so I doubt I’ll be back to Crossfit anytime soon.  This year, since quarantine in March I have completed a 30 mile/24hr Ultra Challenge and the Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K.  The 635 miles of the 1000K was completed in 76 days, which was a little over 8 miles a day.  I have been running regularly and just today ran a 8 minute mile and completed a 5k in 30 minutes for the first time. I bought a mountain bike a couple of weeks ago to celebrate losing 150 pounds and I am looking forward to getting more into mountain biking as well.  With my love of outdoors and hiking, I am looking forward to trying my hand at adventure racing in the near future.

How much weight did you lose with Stronger U?

150 pounds!

How did your waist measurements change with Stronger U? 

My first waist measurement with SU was 56 inches.  I registered 33 inches this morning.  I was squeezing into a size 44 pants when I started and now my size 30’s are falling off at the end of the day. 

What were 3 major non-scale victories you experienced with Stronger U?

First and foremost is the much, much better sleep, reduced stress, and no longer needing to use a CPAP machine at night.

Second is going from having very limited options for clothes at the store (or no options at all in many stores) to knowing I will be able to fit in any brand or style out there.  I can walk into any store and not have to find the “Big and Tall” section or choose from the two pieces that’ll fit.  Hell, in some cases they haven’t had something small enough for me – imagine that!

Third is the increased energy and feeling that I can do anything.  I was going to skydive for my 40th birthday but backed out because I was at the limit of the “weight capacity”.  I’ve never ziplined before because I’ve never felt comfortable doing it while being so large.  You better bet they are both going to happen now!  

Outside of the scale, inches, and previously mentioned NSV’s, how has your life improved thanks to your time with Stronger U?

I am more confident in general. I don’t feel uncomfortable in groups anymore. I’m not the “fat guy in the room”.  No one has referred to me as “Big Guy”!  That always bothered me.

What are 3 tips, based on your experience, that you’d give to new members of Stronger U to help them see success early on?

Be patient and figure out the system that works for you.  All the planning, weighing and tracking can seem daunting at first but you will get a system that works for you down if you be patient.  Pay attention to your hunger, whether it is strong or not, and don’t be afraid to change your eating habits from what is customary to help you manage your cravings.  My eating schedule is strange to a lot of people and is not customary, but it works for me.  Find what works for you.  Don’t be afraid to get away from eating large prepared family meals together.  You can eat together without always eating the same thing.  

If someone is thinking about joining Stronger U, what advice would you give them before beginning their journey?

Get your family or roommates on board with what you are doing.  They don’t have to be doing it too, but make sure they understand what are doing and how it may affect them.  Also, ask for them to be patient with you while you figure out your systems.

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