Although this a blog was created with Indigenous women in mind, we will include men’s health stories as well, especially if there’s a special tie. In this post, I introduce Mike Stewart: my ex-husband and the father of my son. He’s the only person to watch me give birth besides medical professionals, so surely that counts as a special tie. He’s seen me at my best and worst and vice versa. And we both lived to tell about it.
Like many of you, Mike and I have had our ups and downs over the years, but we have evolved into a healthy post-marriage relationship and we will always be a family. That means sharing the full house so our son Hunter will never have to pack a weekend bag to see the other parent and encouraging each other in our health journeys.
When we met, Mike was teaching at Haskell Indian Nations University and I was teaching at the University of Kansas, so like many folks throughout Indian country, Lawrence holds a special place. Hunter is technically a “Haskell rascal” – one of those inter-tribal kids who is here today, because Haskell existed as an institution.
Although his results are extraordinary, his story is less about a radical diet change and more about seeing that every single choice you make, every single day, has a positive or negative consequence. We all know that cokes and fast food will kill us. But still changing old behaviors is really hard work. Mike is a great example of how making better choices pays off in the long run. I’m so proud of him for sticking to it.
So here’s to seeing more Choctaw old men!
“In 2017 I decided I needed to change some of my lifestyle-behaviors. At that time, I was at my heaviest weight at more than three hundred pounds. All my clothing choices required anything with a 2XL label and an extra-large belt. This heavy weight was a result of my choices to overconsume both food and alcohol, notable lack of exercise, and just a general bad attitude towards life. My then-habits were impacting my health, my disposition towards life, and outlook.
Sadly, I noticed that many close Native friends and acquaintances, particular men, were dying younger than expected. Their deaths were often linked to their life choices like mine. And as an overweight Choctaw male in my mid-forties, I too was no exception since I had just started taking medication for hypertension. So, in August 2017 I made some changes over a few habits which I had control. I hoped these changes might prolong my life beyond my forties and allow me to spend more years with my son.
The first change I made was to get more exercise. Fortunately, two new exercise centers opened in my town – so I joined one. The second change I made was to monitor what and how much food I was consuming every day. So, I found a free application (which I still use) to document and count my daily intake. And the third change I had to do was to commit to these changes as new adjustments to my life. As I slowly adjusted to these shifts, I did notice changes to not only my physical appearance, at to a greater extent, my mental health.
Please know my weight loss journey took almost two years to attain and I still must consistently work to maintain since that time. How did I achieve the goals? One, I developed a routine at the gym between weights and cardio. Two, I tracked what I consumed. The tracking allowed me to stay within a certain daily caloric limit. And three, I did my best to adjust my habits to fit in within my life. Now, instead of spending time at local bar and grille – I chose to spend that time at the gym and being conscious of my choices which might deflect from those habits.
My initial goal was to get to 225 pounds. I did not have a particular timeframe, but I had a goal. Within a few months I noticed my clothing, particularly my pants, were starting to get looser. As I noticed the physical changes, I began to post these small milestones weight-changes on my social media pages. I would post small steps like 10 pounds lost, 15 pounds lost, and so on. Eventually, I did lose the 75 pounds and reached my 225 goal. I decided to reset my goal and get to 200 pounds as a goal. Once I reached that goal, I proudly posted my 100 pounds lost post. Subsequently, I lost another 20 more pounds which got me to 120 pounds lost overall (my weight at that time reached 184 pounds). However, as my body adjusted and with the pandemic restrictions, I am currently below 200 pounds. I still try to maintain an active gym schedule during the pandemic in addition to tracking my food choices. My habits are now my routine and hopefully it will be useful in adding more years to my life.
However more than just the physical mass lost, I also noticed other changes in my life. My shirts went down from 2X-Large to a Large and my pants went from a 44 Waist to a 32 Waist. Also, at my last medical checkup my blood-pressure had dropped below the hypertension scale. Plus, I do have a bit more energy to keep up with my 12-year-old.”