Rick Huffman says he was overweight for most of his life. He noticed when people stared at him, and found comfort hiding behind baggy clothes.
The father of six works at CNO Financial in Indiana. Huffman also serves as Worship Director at his church, United Family Wesleyan, where he sings and plays keyboards and guitar. Between church and his kids’ sports, the Huffman’s would often turn to fast food.
“We were just kind of couch potatoes,” Huffman says. “You know, watching TV and ordering pizza.”
In 2007, Huffman experienced the unthinkable: His daughter died in a tragic accident. Huffman says his focus turned to comforting his family through the pain. But he found comfort in food.
“During this time, I never really weighed myself because, to be frank, I just didn’t care,” Huffman says.
Over the next few years, Huffman says he continued to eat aimlessly and gain weight. He reached 360 pounds and his waist grew to a size 44.
In 2012, CNO turned to OurHealth to provide primary care and wellness services for its employees. Huffman hadn’t seen a doctor in several years, but he decided to participate in the company’s wellness incentive program, which rewards employees who complete an annual biometric screening. His results were a stark wake-up call.
“I found out my blood pressure was high and my cholesterol was high and I was starting to develop a risk for heart disease,” Huffman says.
He began taking prescribed medication for hypertension and high cholesterol, and tried to lose weight, but he says he was mostly unsuccessful.
“It wasn’t until August 2016 when my eyes where really opened for the first time,” Huffman says. “My wife was told that due to her arthritis, if she didn’t start losing weight that she wouldn’t be able to walk later in life.”
His kids were also gaining weight, and Huffman says he realized his choices had impacted his family’s health, too.
“I needed to show my family that it wasn’t too late for us, that we could make these changes and we can change our lifestyle for the better,” he says.
A second chance
CNO’s incentive program includes free health coaching for employees who don’t meet healthy biometric targets, so Huffman decided to give it a shot and started meeting with Keena Sowers-Zinn, a health coach with OurHealth.
“She helped me to learn how to eat healthier,” Huffman says. “I was never taught how to pick the right kind of food. She’s been the guiding light there to help me make that change.”
Huffman says Sowers-Zinn would ask him to set monthly goals. To cut back on eating out, she challenged him to buy healthy foods and eat home-cooked meals three times per week. At the end of each month, he’d report back to Zinn.
“The accountability was a big factor,” he says. “Just having that support gave me confidence I didn’t know I had. And when I did make progress, having that praise and that reassurance that you can keep going was a big help.”
Huffman says his family grilled a lot of chicken, and Sowers-Zinn recommended they always keep vegetables on hand for when the kids wanted a snack.
With his newfound confidence, Huffman started exercising at CNO’s onsite gym, eventually working his way up to 4 to 5 times per week.
Small steps, big results
Huffman admits their lifestyle changes weren’t always easy, but they stuck with it—as a family—and the results were life-changing.
“All of my children have lost weight,” he says. “We eat at home more often—we hardly ever eat out. We’re walking more and getting more activity.”
Huffman says he’s lost more than 100 pounds and trimmed his waist size by nearly 12 inches. And because he lost weight, his blood pressure and cholesterol have become manageable without medication.
“I really didn’t realize how bad I did feel until I started feeling better,” he says. “I knew I was overweight, but I didn’t think I had a big problem because I was healthy enough to do things with my kids.”
Huffman says he’s maintained his 100-pound weight loss for almost two years. But what’s most impressive is the Huffman family has lost a combined 300 pounds.
-Story by Mike LaFollette