This week I’m highlighting the health journey of a member of the Try This community and a longtime friend of mine, Mihir Kothari (pronounced Me-Here).
Over the past few months, Mihir has gone all-in on optimizing his metabolic health using the strategies we talk about in these newsletters.
Today, I’m excited to share the top five takeaways Mihir has learned so far on his journey and how they’ve helped him lose weight and get closer to achieving his health goals.
Everyone’s health journey is different, and weight loss may not be the goal for everyone. But I believe Mihir’s story is worth sharing because it shows how gradual lifestyle changes over time can help us step into a better version of ourselves.
Let’s jump right in!
Mihir’s Journey: How It Started
When I first met Mihir, we were roommates during our freshman year of college. I remember Mihir expressing to me back then that he was dealing with some creeping weight gain ever since he stopped swimming in high school.
After Mihir graduated college, he entered the restaurant business as an entrepreneur. He was living a high-stress, on-the-go lifestyle, and that went on for many years. In 2017, he reached his highest weight to date (260 pounds) and knew he needed to do something about it.
Lesson #1: The Power of Sleep
I’ve talked about the importance of getting good, quality sleep on my podcasts and in past newsletters, but we can’t forget about how critical of a role it plays in our metabolic health too.
When our sleep is not dialed in, it’s a lot harder to get the results we want—whether that’s weight loss, more energy, better mood, or balanced blood sugar. In the case of my buddy, Mihir, he was a snorer and had undiagnosed sleep apnea, which increases the risk of having poor sleep quality as well as cravings for sugar and carbs the next day.
Back in 2018, Mihir told me he was having trouble sleeping, and being the sleep enthusiast that I am, I connected him with a doctor who got him hooked up with a CPAP machine. After just a few weeks, Mihir lost nearly ten pounds by improving his sleep—nothing else. How crazy is that?
Snoring and sleep apnea are also a sign of mouth breathing, which can pose serious health risks over time. To learn more about mouth breathing and what you can do about it, click here.
Lesson #2: Tackle the Root Cause of Your Stress
Around the time Mihir started getting better sleep, he also changed career paths and moved to Philadelphia. In this new job and location, Mihir was experiencing way less stress than in his restaurant days—and less stress meant less stress-eating and drinking, which helped Mihir lose another ten pounds!
Now, I don’t want you to walk away from Lesson #2 thinking you have to change career paths or move to a different city to get healthy or lose weight. However, it is worth taking note of the underlying stressors in your life that are causing you to engage in unhealthy behaviors and trying to find positive outlets to better manage that stress.
Lesson #3: A Little Movement Goes a Long Way
Another benefit of Mihir’s move to Philadelphia was that it put him in an environment that encouraged him to start walking more. City life was easier to navigate on foot, so he started walking every day, and all that walking was adding up.
On average Mihir was easily hitting 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day just by consistently walking more. Mihir would walk to his office, take walking meetings, and he would intentionally walk to the grocery store instead of opting for grocery delivery. This was huge considering Mihir’s life was pretty sedentary before this.
This simple change in Mihir’s routine snowballed into him incorporating more and more movement. He signed up for a yoga class and started going to the gym regularly to see a trainer.
We’ve talked about the benefits of walking for your metabolic health and how a little movement can make a big difference in past podcasts and newsletters. You can check them out here:
- Walking More Will Radically Improve Your Health, Here’s How!
- Try This: Walk Your Way into Optimal Physical and Mental Health
- Try This: How a Little Movement Can Make a Big Difference for Your Metabolic Health
Mihir is a great example of why a strong foundation (i.e., dialing in your sleep, finding healthy ways to manage your stress, and incorporating daily movement) is critical before adding anything else. You can only get so far on your health journey before doubling down on the basics.
Lesson #4: Get Routine Lab Work Done
Making these positive lifestyle changes kick-started Mihir’s weight loss, but right around the start of the pandemic, he hit a weight-loss plateau.
To Mihir, this made no sense because he thought he was doing all of the right things: eating healthy, working out, and getting good, quality sleep. After we talked a bit, I suggested it might be a good idea to get some lab work done so he could see the impact his diet was having on his metabolic health.
While Mihir was working on getting set up with a new doctor, I suggested he start off by getting his full Metabolic Health Panel from Levels. This is a service that Levels offers its members as a way to encourage regular testing.
This panel is a great start because in addition to a standard metabolic panel it also includes results for fasting insulin, which many experts believe to be the number-one predictor of metabolic health status.
The results showed Mihir’s fasting glucose was 90 mg/dL, which is a little elevated but still considered “normal.” His fasting insulin, on the other hand, was 12 mIU/mL (the optimal range is 2-5 mIU/mL).
So what exactly does this mean?
Normal fasting glucose and high fasting insulin means the pancreas is working extra hard to keep blood sugar stable by pumping out more insulin—a sign of insulin resistance. After Mihir saw and understood his lab results, he realized, “Oh shit! Maybe I’m not eating as healthy as I thought I was…”
Note: If you want to learn more about optimal metabolic health labs, click here.
Lesson #5: Making Healthy Swaps
By using a continuous glucose monitor (he used the Levels CGM system) for just a couple of weeks, Mihir found that there were places sugar was creeping into his diet, and he had absolutely no idea!
His oat-milk chai latte sent his blood sugar through the roof, and he was having that almost every day. Other chart-toppers included sugary snacks (e.g., chocolates, candy), mixed drinks, and the bread or rolls he had with dinner at night.
After seeing how his diet was impacting his blood sugar, Mihir began cooking at home more and making healthy swaps. He replaced oat milk with unsweetened almond milk and leaves the chai lattes for special occasions (maybe once a month). Instead of candy for snacks, he has low-glycemic fruit for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
When Mihir does eat out, he avoids fried foods and orders dishes that have colorful vegetables. For his salads, he asks for extra virgin olive oil and vinegar on the side in place of the inflammatory omega-6 seed oils restaurants typically use. He also added more protein to his diet, which helped him stay fuller for longer throughout the day.
When I asked Mihir what foods he removed from his diet that made the biggest difference, he said added sugar, dairy, and gluten. Excess consumption of these foods can create inflammation that drives metabolic dysfunction, insulin resistance, and weight gain, so it’s no surprise that removing these (plus getting good sleep, reducing stress, and exercising) helped kick-start his weight loss again.
Note: You don’t need a CGM to know what foods are potent blood sugar spikers! There are plenty of culprits out there that are already well-established (for instance, check out these healthy swaps for high-carb staples from a previous newsletter).
With that being said, experimenting with a CGM for just a couple of weeks can help you tweak your diet even more. This is why I’m such a big fan (and investor) of Levels. Their on a mission to give people real-time data on how their food impacts their metabolic health. If you want to learn more about their membership and CGM system click here.
Speaking of healthy swaps for balancing blood sugar, I have some super exciting news!
My dear friend and co-founder of Levels, Dr. Casey Means just launched Levels Kitchen, a free 5 part cooking series that teaches you how to transform your favorite comfort foods into delicious, metabolically healthy dishes that maximize fiber, micronutrients, omega-3s, and nutrient density.
You have got to check out the first two episodes that just went live!
Episode 1 is an overview of why food matters for metabolic health, tips for prioritizing proactive healthcare, food swaps for metabolic powerhouse meals, and how to maximize nutrients in every meal.
Episode 2 is an instructional cooking video on how to make low-glycemic tacos in under 30 minutes for under $30 (both the grass-fed beef and walnut mushroom veggie versions left me drooling 🤤).
If you want to optimize your metabolic health like Mihir, Dr. Casey Means has got you covered with this free metabolic cooking class!
Sign-up here to get notified when the other recipes drop!
Upcoming recipes include a stable blood sugar brunch, metabolic power bowl, and no-spike brownies. (Yes, you read that right, no spike brownies! 🤤 🤤 🤤)
How It’s Going
Now Mihir is more aware of what’s in his foods and has a much better idea of where “problem foods” hide. He also started working out more with a greater emphasis on strength training.
Mihir has gotten follow-up labs done every few months to track his progress with these new lifestyle changes. In just five months, his fasting insulin has dropped a whopping six points (from 12 to 6 uIU/mL), putting him close to the optimal reference range (2-5 mIU/mL).
April 8, 2022 Fasting Insulin: 12 uIU/mL
July 3, 2022 Fasting Insulin: 8 uIU/mL
Starting in August, Mihir began working with Dr. Cindy Geyer at The UltraWellness Center and his last metabolic test results showed:
September 1, 2022 Fasting Insulin: 6ulU/mL
The Most Challenging Part
For Mihir, the occasional cravings are the most challenging part of staying on track, but he has a system in place that helps him navigate this. When he has a strong craving and chooses to act on it, he jots down how it makes him feel afterward so he can remember it the next time a craving happens and decide whether or not it’s worth it. Hey, sometimes it is worth it, no judgment!
Lesson: The goal is not to deprive yourself. The goal is to become more aware and honest about the way food makes you feel.
Mihir’s Key to Sustainability and Success
When I asked Mihir how he planned to stick to this new lifestyle, he said being aware of the foods that spike his blood sugar and insulin is key, and minimizing them is almost second nature now.
He also sets specific goals for himself. For example, he told me he wanted to weigh less than 205 lbs by his 39th birthday, and he asked his friends to hold him accountable and help him achieve this. For every pound he loses under 205 lbs, his friends donate money to the charity of his choice. For every pound over, Mihir has to donate to charity.
And by the way, this strategy totally worked! Mihir hit his goal weight by his birthday (congrats, brother!!).
And last but certainly not least, Mihir has close friends struggling with health issues related to diabetes. Knowing the power is in his hands, he is choosing to invest in his health to avoid going down that same path and hopefully be an inspiration to those around him.
Mihir’s story is an incredible testimony of the results you can get from making small changes to your diet and lifestyle. His journey toward figuring things out took time. He’s not perfect (nor is anyone), but he has the right mindset and continues to educate himself. And when what he’s doing isn’t working, he’ll continue to be open to making adjustments.
Here’s to your health,
P.S.: I would love to hear what’s worked for you in your health journey. It doesn’t have to be the things we discuss in our newsletters; it can be anything!
Fill out this form with your name, email address, the hack or change you’ve made in your life, and the results you’ve experienced.
Who knows, you might be hearing from us to be our next Try This featured subscriber!