Every morning 36-year-old Robert Hicks is out of bed with the sunrise. Sometimes earlier. He fixes 2 eggs and 2 pieces of whole wheat toast with a slice of real cheese for breakfast.
“None of that processed crap,” as he puts it.
After a cup of black coffee, Robert puts on his Garmin vívosmart 3, and he starts walking. He walks at least 30 minutes in the morning. He gets in at least 10 miles throughout the day. Step after step, day after day, this has been Robert’s life over the past year. This is how he’s lost 100 pounds since February 2018, thanks in part to his health insurer’s incentive program with Garmin.
Up until a year ago, Robert weighed more than 400 pounds. For half of his life, accomplishing the most routine errands was a depressing struggle. Mindless everyday tasks that most people wouldn’t think twice about required him to sacrifice time, as well as emotional and physical stamina. Whether it was shopping for new clothes, dining at a restaurant, seeing a movie or riding in an airplane, it all has been a challenge.
“You know when people are looking at you. You can just feel it. You walk by and you can almost hear them thinking, ‘oh, here’s this guy,’” says Robert.
Robert was a high school athlete and a notorious one at that. He made the varsity football team his freshman year. He was also a powerlifter. At 6’1” and a formidable 220 pounds, the amount of energy he needed to perform required him to consume thousands of calories a day.
When he graduated high school, he quit being active. Everything related to sports or exercise came to a grinding halt. His eating habits, however, persisted. His friends would remark on his weight gain. As his weight climbed, people became genuinely concerned. He ignored them, arguing that he was fine while convincing himself that he was enjoying life.
“My go-to response was: you never know. You could get hit by a car or just drop dead. You might as well be doing something you enjoy. Before I realized it, I couldn’t remember what it felt like to move. To really be in motion.”
Robert lived in denial of his obesity and the associated health risks until the birth of his eldest son.
“I realized that my first son would soon be able to walk. Then run. If he put himself into harm’s way, there was no I would be able to catch him. I couldn’t do what I needed to do as a dad.”
It was a jarring realization for the former football player, and it was the first time he really accepted that he needed to do something about his weight. So he tried to diet. However, he couldn’t stick with anything and eventually gave up. Then he had his second son three years later, and the same instinct rose up inside of him.
Late in February 2018, he was driving home from work. His stomach was rubbing against the steering wheel of his truck, and he decided he’d had enough. The thought of his health impacting his ability to be a father was just too much.
At the time, his health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, was offering an incentive program that financially rewards members for leading a more active lifestyle. If participants walked a certain amount at certain times throughout the day, they could receive up to $6 per day. Robert gave it a shot.
He was addicted by the end of the first week, logging 4-5 miles a day.
Garmin is a part of the UnitedHealthcare Motion program, so Robert was able to save up the money he received from the incentive program and put it toward the purchase of a vívosmart 3 from Garmin.
“Dude, I jammed that puppy. I got the app and set up my profile. Then I started seeing all the different metrics and graphs and all the different ways you could analyze your workouts.”
Before going Garmin, Robert had never paid much attention to things such as heart rate. When he began using the app, he became obsessed. He would check his stats regularly, gleaning information to get the most out of his exercises. Through Garmin Connect app, Robert learned to prepare for and cope with his exhaustion.
“I was totally able to understand how those things work together to make me better.”
The weight began to fall off. Robert lost 17 pounds in one month; 12 pounds in another. Admittedly, he wasn’t happy with his fitness age, which at the time was 80. So he pushed himself harder. He started eating better. No more soda. No alcohol. Minimal sugar. He replaced his go-to junk foods with lean, healthy proteins, vegetables and healthy fats. All the while, Robert kept walking more and more. He was soon up to 12 miles a day. He even got his co-workers and family involved.
His oldest daughter runs track. He bought her a vívofit, so she could sync to the Garmin Connect app and the two of them could challenge each other.
“She runs track and cross-country and has several college prospects because of it,” says Robert, trying not to well up with pride. “Both of my daughters are brilliant.”
As of January 2019, Robert has lost more than 100 pounds. He currently weighs right around 300 pounds, and his fitness age has lowered to 57. He no longer shops at the “big and tall” stores. He sleeps better. His work is easier. He enjoys life more. While he’s proud of the weight loss that he’s accomplished, that sense of modesty remains.
“I used to be a depressed, sad and pathetic fool. Man, now I’m just a fool,” jokes Robert. “People don’t realize that your body craves motion. It needs movement to thrive. You gotta get out there and move. You’ve got to.”
Robert’s not going to be content until he’s closer to his high school weight. He plans to lose another 60-70 pounds this year. His goal is to run a 5K with his daughter.