Omega: How did you transition from being a chronic dieter to finding a more holistic approach to weight loss and life?
Jon: I came to a place of desperation, where I was 400 pounds. I was exhausted. I was stressed out. And life had just given me a second chance: I was almost on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11. I thought to myself, “Here I am killing myself and the universe just gave me a second chance.”
So I decided to stop putting off what I had been wanting to do for a long time, which was to live a different life. I had a brokerage company on Wall Street, and I was living that life, which made a lot of sense from a mental perspective, but it wasn’t speaking to my heart at all. I didn’t like my life. I wanted to live a really simple life in nature.
I had bought a house in Western Australia with a little bit of land and always thought that someday I would move there. I decided there were no more somedays for me—I was living on borrowed time. I sold my business and I left. As soon as I did that, I started losing weight automatically.
Omega: Had you been trying to lose weight before you made this big change?
Jon: I worked face-to-face with Dr. Atkins. I used to go to his office every Monday morning and meet with him. He would yell at me and tell me I’m killing myself. I had fitness trainers. I went to the Pritikin Institute, and I tried one diet after the other. No matter what I did, I just kept gaining and gaining and gaining.
As soon as I left New York and started living this really simple life, and I just lived each day as it came, I felt safe. I stopped trying to lose weight, and all of a sudden the weight was melting off of me.
That’s when I understood the message that you’ve got to look at other things in your life. I started researching and learning as much as I could about nutrition, digestion, meditation, stress, visualization, and more.
My whole approach is based on this question: What’s forcing your body to gain weight?
Is it a mental thing? Is it emotional safety? Is it an inflammation thing? A lot of different things can cause your body to gain weight. Once you address those issues, the weight comes off. My approach is based on getting your body to want to be thin.
Omega: What did you discover about stress and weight gain?
Jon: There are different types of stress. One type of stress is if you are out in the jungle and a tiger chases you—you have 30 seconds to sprint as fast as you can or you die. That's not the kind of stress that's a problem for us.
The other stress is chronic, low-grade stress. You always have to pay your mortgage; you always have to get to work on time; your kids have to do well at school. This can cause a body chemistry that activates what I call your "fat programs," or your survival adaptations, originally there to protect you against famine. A famine is a chronic, low-grade stress. If you were out in the jungle 10,000 years ago and it was a cold winter with nothing to eat, you couldn't run away from that. From a physical survival standpoint, this chronic, low-grade stress signals the body to store up fat.
Omega: Stress seems to be a badge of honor in modern society. How can people let it go?
Jon: In our society, it’s sort of like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I’m so stressed out.” It's almost like we feel it’s a feather in our cap to be stressed out.
First you have to realize why it's important to manage your stress. And then, once you do that, addressing stress management is easy.
Stress is like taking a pill that makes you gain weight. If you don’t take it seriously enough, you won’t address it.
Once you get that stress is important, the solutions are easier. Meditation is really effective, as are visualization and yoga.
The next step is feeling like it’s important enough to incorporate these solutions into your life. If I said to you, “Okay, you’ll make a million dollars a month if you do something for 10 minutes a day,” you would do it, right?
Omega: What has kept you motivated to stay on this healthy path?
Jon: Everything changed in my life. As my body changed on the inside, my life changed on the outside. Every day started to become more beautiful. I was feeling all this amazing calmness and bliss and joy from my meditations. I felt so much energy from healing my digestion and eating healthier foods. I could run on the beach. I could swim, and I could be in my body again.
I was an athlete once, and there’s this incredible joy that you get from feeling strong and healthy and being able to run like the wind. So I started to connect with that feeling again, and feel the joy that I lost when I lived in New York City and was sitting down all the time, and living in my head.
My approach is more than getting stomach surgery and having the doctor say, “Just eat 100 calories a day.” Or having milkshakes for lunch and feeling exhausted and depleted and having your hair get all dry and your nails falling out. It’s a totally different thing. You have all this energy and excitement and creativity to do things that you never thought you could do before.
© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies