As Allen Lundy crept past his 50th birthday a few years ago, he had a gnawing sensation he was meant to do more to help others enjoy a healthier and productive life.
His journey started in his very late 40s. Allen and his wife, Margie, along with their three teenage children, had been living full-time in a recreation vehicle. The kids were being “roadschooled” through a series of adventures, and Allen supported his crew by operating an online business.
“But, I reached a point where everything became a burden and RVing lost its luster,” Allen explained. “I started making excuses about all the aches and pains I was experiencing, as well as my lack of energy. I rationalized that’s just how things were meant to be when people got older and their metabolism started slowing down.”
However, the issue went far beyond a feeling he was aging. Allen was bored with his life. His family had been RVing for five years, during which they visited places people dream about, and experienced things that would make others envious. He couldn’t figure out why he felt so, “blah” about life.
“The reality is they were all lies I had been telling myself because, as we get older, we often forget what it felt like to feel good,” he explained. “So we cover it up with excuses, and that was exactly what I was doing.
“I knew I really needed to lose weight. Then, I watched some friends lose a lot of weight rapidly on the Optavia program, and I decided I needed some of that in my life,” he added.
Allen set a modest goal to lose 20 pounds. When those pounds sort of melted off, he wondered what it would be like to shed 30 pounds.
“After the first week of the program, I found it was so easy to lose weight that I didn’t even care about weight loss that much anymore. I just wanted to keep feeling the way I felt because it had been so long since I felt that good,” he explained.
But, Allen kept losing weight and eventually shed 65 pounds in five months.
“That was 8 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since,” he said. “I enjoy my healthy, active lifestyle so much more than I did. I may be 8 years older, but I am much healthier and in a much better place as a result of getting healthy.”
Coaching a healthy lifestyle
Allen said it breaks his heart every day to see older adults just going through the motions of life because they lack energy to do anything productive.
“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to become a coach, and why I love being a coach so much,” he explained. “Before starting the Optavia program, I saw people who saved and invested their entire lives so they could travel in an RV.
“They were retired, but pretty much confined to the campground. They couldn’t get out and hike or enjoy the national parks. Nor could they do any of the things they originally planned to do,” he added. “For many of them, they were riding around the campground in their little scooters because they couldn’t even walk to the clubhouse.”
Allen squarely puts the blame on the food industry, which failed people by producing high-fat, high-calorie, but easy-to-prepare, low-nutrition food. Yet, people share the blame by adopting a sedentary lifestyle where watching television is more fun that taking a walk.
“People have not been taught how to use nutrition as a tool,” he explained. “Doctors don’t even help us like they should because they are not as well-versed in nutrition as they need to be.
“On the flip side, I see some people who are very active and very healthy into their 80s and even their 90s,” said Allen. “I played pickleball this summer with a 91-year-old gentleman in Washington as we were traveling,” he added. “He was quick in his movements and had some great shots. That was inspiring to me.”
The good news is, for most people, their current reality is the result of choices they made – and they can create a new desired outcome by simply changing their daily habits.
Desiring more freedom
Before starting their RVing adventures, Allen had a well-paying job as the operations manager for a coding company. But, he wanted more freedom in his life.
“On paper, I was very successful, but I wasn’t happy,” he explained. “Getting to help people and have a positive impact on their lives brings me a level of fulfillment I never had when I had a ‘real job.’
“There is a big difference between going to an office, clocking in and working at least 8 hours versus what I do now,” he explained. “Today, I schedule my own hours and I’m very active rock climbing, canyoneering and playing pickleball or softball on a daily basis.
“I enjoy doing those things, and work fills in the cracks on my schedule,” he added. “I decide when I want to be busy and when I want to take calls. I love the reward of just helping people.”
The Optavia program
Allen said his wife is an avid researcher and the couple tried many weight-loss programs over the years, but they haven’t found one that is nearly as effective as Optavia.
“In the past, I would lose 10 or, maybe, 20 pounds, if I was lucky. I never imagined losing 65 pounds,” he explained. “The sad thing is that I honestly thought I didn’t need to lose any weight. Because I was still somewhat active, I thought I was healthy enough for my age.”
Allen estimates he and Margie have helped more than 2,500 people adopt a healthier lifestyle over the past few years.
“It’s not really about the numbers because it is a joy when one person experiences an ‘aha moment’ as they become healthy again,” he explained. “Who doesn’t want to be healthier?
“It doesn’t matter who you talk to, every single person wants to take his or her health to the next level,” Allen added. “Why would you not want more of that? The sad reality is that many people don’t believe they can, and that’s why they fail.”
Most weight-loss programs are not sustainable over the long term, he noted. People may experience short-term success and drop some pounds, but quickly gain it back when lifestyle changes haven’t been part of the weight-loss goal.
Diet or die, healthy and heal
Food has the power to kill people or heal them, depending upon how it is used. One of the key components of the Optavia system is to get people to change their eating habits away from consuming three bigger meals a day and loading up on carbs, sweets and salty snacks in between, Allen explained.
“With Optavia, people eat six times a day, which works to speed up their metabolism,” he said. “As we age, our metabolism slows down. By eating low-glycemic meals, people lower their blood sugar and stabilize their vital signs. That way their body starts functioning at a higher level.”
Optavia was created in the 1980s specifically to treat Type II diabetes. A side effect was weight loss. Today, the program is used primarily to help people lose weight, but it also helps with treatment of diabetes.
Start where you are
While some seasoned citizens may not be able to climb mountains or go canyoneering, that’s okay. Allen said they can still walk around the block a few times or do pushups against the wall.
“As we age, we lose muscle and bone mass, but you can gain those back no matter what your age may be,” he explained. “So start where you can. Do pushups against the wall, then against a chair and, eventually, you can get down and do a pushup on the floor.
“Just do something! Healthy motion is one of the macro habits of good health,” he added. “Eating six times a day to speed up your metabolism, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep are the other macro habits of health we really focus on with the Optavia program.
“There is always something you can do to begin building back muscle and bone mass,” said Allen. “As you build muscle, you are burning fat as well.”
What is healthy eating?
Most people have no idea what healthy eating involves, said Allen. But, they do recognize healthy food and think if they just eat more of it, they will lose weight and be healthy.
“But, that’s not always the case. You can be a vegetarian and be overweight,” he explained. “It’s about getting the proper balance of nutrition to promote weight loss. That’s what the Optavia program does.”
It’s not a matter of eating more fruits and vegetables because people also need to get the right amount of protein and carbs.
“Carbs are not the enemy. Too many carbs are the problem,” said Allen. “The cheaper and more convenient food is, the unhealthier it tends to be.
“It’s hard to believe, but the less ingredients a food has and the less processing it takes to prepare it, the more expensive food tends to be,” he added. “It should be the other way around.”
Next time you go to a grocery store, compare the price of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables with made-for-you foods at the deli counter or items in the bakery section. Eating better is not cheap, but not doing so comes with an even bigger price later on.
“Having a health coach is vital because you have someone who can guide you into making the correct choices, and suggest course corrections as you go,” said Allen.
“There are some foods that are good for you, but bad for weight loss,” he explained. “Fruit is an example. Fresh fruit is incredibly healthy and fantastic for a healthy lifestyle. We have all heard the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
“However, if your goal is weight loss, then fruit is not good for that because it is high in sugar and carbs. Eating fruit will kick you out of the fat-burn stage,” he added. “Carrots and brussels sprouts are good, healthy foods. But, they are not good for weight loss. Instead, you want to eat broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach and green beans.”
Four buckets of energy
Allen helps people envision how weight loss works by getting them to see how their body burns energy from four different buckets.
“I love this analogy because people don’t realize how their body works, and why most diets fail,” said Allen. “When you are trying to lose weight, one cheat day works against you.”
He gets people to imagine four buckets in front of them, each containing fuel from a different source.
- Bucket No. 1 contains sugar and free carbs that come from calories people digest. This is the most readily-available fuel source for the body, and it’s the easiest for a body to burn.
- Bucket No. 2 is glycogen. It is the stored carbs, which some people refer to as “water weight.”
- Bucket No. 3 is fat.
- Bucket No. 4 is lean muscle. People should never touch that. When people are dieting, but not getting enough other fuel or overexercising, they start to burn lean muscle.
“Most people don’t ever get out of Bucket No. 1 because, by the time the bucket gets close to empty, they fill it up again with processed foods or high-carb foods ,” said Allen. “If you keep that bucket too full, the excess gets processed into fat.”
Everyone wants to focus on burning fat, but Allen explained it takes a few days to get to that level because the body has to exhaust all the fuel in Buckets 1 and 2 first.
“The Optavia program is designed to protect lean muscle while burning fat,” he said. “But, it takes three or four days to get to Bucket 3 and experience a good fat burn.”
The problem occurs when people enjoy a few days of persistent weight loss, so they “reward” themselves by going off their plan to eat something they shouldn’t, if they are trying to lose weight.
“Once you do that, all you are really doing is emptying Buckets 1 and 2, then filling them right up again,” said Allen. “So, your body needs to repeat the cycle in order to empty Buckets 1 and 2 again before it can burn fat from Bucket 3,” said Allen.
“You might step on a scale and start seeing some good numbers because you are losing water weight,” he added. “You might lose a pound or two, so you get excited and decide to reward yourself with a treat. Then, boom, your weight is right back up because you halted the fat burn.
“As a result, you never really conquered Bucket 3 because you were just emptying and refilling Buckets 1 and 2 with sugar, free carbs and glycogen,” he said.
Anyone who has ever attempted dieting understands the frustration caused by sitting at a weight plateau for several days or even a week. They are eating the right things without cheating, yet the weight never seems to go down.
“Plateaus are very normal and a natural thing that happens. However, it does not mean you are no longer in a fat-burning stage,” said Allen. “The scale may not be an accurate indicator. Many times, when the fat goes away, it is replaced by water. So you don’t see any movement on the scale, which causes frustration to set in.
“The reality is you are still in fat burn during a plateau when you continue to do everything right. If you stick it out, something remarkable eventually happens,” he explained. “It’s called a ‘whoosh effect,’ and it’s similar to a storm cloud. The fat, which turned to water, condenses and gets so heavy that, at some point, it has to come out. You feel like need to urinate all the time. The next day, you’ll have a really good weigh in.
“This is another good reason to have a health coach because many people hit a plateau and feel like the program is not working anymore, so they quit,” he added. “Or worse, they go back to what they were doing before.
“In reality, you were in fat burn the entire time and everything was going perfectly even though you weren’t seeing it on the scale,” said Allen. “Then, one day, whoosh, you will drop several pounds.”
Healthy motion is one of the macro habits of a healthy lifestyle. But, it has to be an effective level of motion. If it’s too aggressive, motion becomes counterproductive.
“Fat is a very slow-burning source of fuel. If you are exercising aggressively by doing more than 10,000 steps a day or spending several hours at the gym on in a cardio program, your body cannot keep up with that by just burning fat,” said Allen. “Anyone who exercises to that level needs to stay in close contact with their health coach in case the plan needs to be tweaked. It’s often as simple as adding more fuel in the form of nutrition to support the extra load.”
However, for someone who is engaged in a normal walking routine of 6,000 steps per day or in a typical exercise regiment, the Optavia program will provide enough fuel to support that movement while still burning fat instead of lean muscle.
Allen said studies have shown people who have a coach to help them with exercise and movement are 10 times more likely to succeed than someone trying to figure it out on their own.
“Exercise and movement is not a one-size-fits-all type of program. Different things will work for different people,” he explained. “Having a support system is valuable.”
Team coaching model
Allen said he became a health coach the same day he started the Optavia program. But, thanks to its team coaching model, he was still able to help others while he was losing weight himself.
“When someone suggested I become a health coach, I scoffed,” he explained. “No. 1, I was not the picture of good health. No. 2, I really had no idea how the program worked.
“But, the team coaching model is a brilliant concept because it allows us to reach more people,” he added. “Because of what the program has done for me, I want as many people as possible to experience the way I feel. I regift that feeling by paying it forward.
“I can only coach a certain number of people. But, by helping to coach other coaches, I can have a greater impact,” said Allen.
Learning to be a health coach was not that difficult. In fact, it was simple to learn.
“After you have coached two or three clients, it’s pretty much wash, rinse and repeat with someone else,” said Allen. “Many people have the same questions and similar problems.
“The program is simple enough to follow. You are just showing people how to do it,” he added. “You do not have to be an expert, but you become one through the process. Besides, it’s fun to do.”
The old saying practice makes perfect doesn’t tell the whole story. Perfect practice makes perfect. That’s why Allen wants people to get started in the program the correct way.
“Generally, people don’t need a lot of hand-holding. So, I just stay close the first few days to make sure they get into the fat burn stage and ensure they aren’t missing a step anywhere,” said Allen.
“After that, I just check in periodically, but I am always available to them,” he added. “Some clients contact me frequently because they need the encouragement and support, which I am happy to give them. Others want to be left alone. They know what they’re doing and they are seeing success. It’s an individual thing.”
Motivation dies quickly
Maintaining a proper mindset when engaged in a weight-loss program is essential. Willpower and motivation can only go so far.
“One morning, you wake up and decide to get healthy. So, you hit the gym and start to work out,” said Allen. “A week later, after tiredness and sore muscles set it, the motivation is gone. Motivation and willpower are like batteries, they die very quickly.
“What serves you much more is ‘why power,'” he added. “There needs to be a purpose or end goal for wanting to get lighter and in better shape.
“If I could wave a magic wand and make someone 60 pounds lighter and buff, what would be different in the end?” he asked. “That’s their real why.”
For Allen, he wanted to be a more active father when going on RV adventures. He also wanted to climb mountains and go on hikes with his kids. It worked to motivate him at that time. Today, he has a different motivational goal.
“I am very active in pickleball and trying to take my play to the next level,” Allen explained. “That requires more drilling and being on the court in order to achieve my goals.
“Once you decide why you want to do something, the how becomes much easier,” he added. “That’s why people get it wrong when all they focus on is how to do this. There is so much power in having a good why.”
Allen suggests people find a picture representation of their why and make it the lock screen on their phone because people generally check their phones more than 200 times a day.
“We are always looking at that device. So, if every time you check your phone, you see a picture of your why for doing something, you get emotionally attached to that. I helps you through the tough times,” he explained.
“You will end up facing the giant of temptation at some point. You will go to a party or someone brings donuts to the office. There will always be something trying to trip you up,” said Allen. “That’s why having a strong why drives us forward and takes us through those times when your motivation is dying and will power is almost non-existent.”
Clients don’t pay anything to Allen directly for his coaching services. The only cost people incur is the food they purchase through the Optavia plan, and the company compensates Allen from that.
With the plan, people eat five small meals, called fuelings, every day along with one larger meal, called a “Lean and Green,” which they prepare themselves.
“The food purchased from Optavia is nutritionally-balanced for clients. That way, they aren’t having to get into counting calories, carbs or protein. It’s all done for you,” said Allen. “Each person receives a dining guide which helps them eat out at restaurants or in substituting foods, upon occasion.”
Both Allen and Margie serve as health coaches. So if women would rather not work with a man, they can work directly with Margie.
“When they cross into their 50s, many people start paying closer attention to their financial investments. But, they really need to invest in their health, too,” said Allen. “Without that early investment in good health, it becomes an expense later.”
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.