By Mike LaFollette
For years, Mike Hartle put his body through the ringer. As a welder for BraunAbility, he’s used to 10-hour days working with his hands.
With little time to spare, Hartle would often grab lunch from the vending machines at work. By late 2017, he says he tipped the scales at 330 pounds.
“I was consuming 4,300 to 4,800 calories a day, and that’s how I got so large so quick,” he says. “A lot of that was just careless eating out of the work vending machines.”
Hartle also works a side gig in the carnival circuit, and his weight made it hard to keep up with the other performers.
“I was so unphysically fit and unhealthy that I was starting to get injuries,” he says. “I just couldn’t perform, and I was just tired of being tired all the time. When you’re that large, just being on your feet 10 hours a day is a chore.”
Hartle knew he needed to get his weight under control, not just for himself, but also for his son.
“I’m a single father and my boy just turned 14,” he says. “I want to be healthy enough to take care of him and not worry something bad will happen to me. My mother never made it to 60. She was overweight her whole life. I thought, ‘If I don’t change now, I won’t either.”’
Hartle was ready to make that change. A friend persuaded him to try the Isagenix diet, a protein shake-based diet. At first, the weight seemed to melt away, but Hartle says he eventually hit a plateau.
“I hit 300 pounds and I was just kind of bouncing there between 290 and 300,” he says. “I wasn’t really sure if I was doing it right. I thought, ‘You know, I just need a little more advice. Someone with a little more experience to guide me.’’’
Hartle saw a flyer at work advertising free health coaching through his employer-sponsored OurHealth benefits and decided to give it a try.
He began meeting bimonthly with Connie Foerg a health coach at OurClinic @ Braun, an on-site clinic for Braun employees, spouses and dependents.
“If you talk to someone with experience they can help you filter out the bad ideas and bad information and tell you to keep doing what you’re doing on certain things and to stop doing others,” Hartle says. “That was really what I was looking for, and what I thought was helpful. Anybody who’s ever done the protein shake stuff knows you get burnt out pretty quickly.”
Foerg helped Hartle find healthier alternatives to foods he liked, and he started monitoring his calorie intake. At each meeting, Hartle says he’d weigh in to gauge his progress and Foerg would ask him about his eating habits. Hartle also began working out at the gym four times per week.
The combination of exercise and healthy eating worked and by the Spring of 2018, he’d shed an additional 50 pounds.
“Mike was determined to lose the weight and I feel like that was why he was successful,” Foerg says. “He had all the tools — he just needed a little help and accountability.”
Hartle agrees the accountability helped him stay on track.
“You can do stuff on your own motive, but when you’ve got to come in and check with somebody, you’re going to weigh in and explain why you gained weight or why you lost weight,” he says. “It’s the accountability. It’s easy to let yourself down but when you have somebody else who’s in your corner, you don’t want to let them down.”
Hartle says he’s happy with the progress, and his ultimate goal is to get below 240 pounds. His clothes now fit differently, or no longer fit at all. But best of all, he feels better.
“I have a lot more energy now, especially after I started working out,” he says. “I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the body aches. I feel more mobile, more energetic, just a lot healthier.”
Looking back, Hartle says he’s glad he changed his lifestyle, and hopes others will take advantage of the health coaching benefit.
“I encourage others to do it,” he says. “People just need to realize how easy it is to enroll and how nice the people are and not to be intimidated.”