I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Box, a personal trainer and health coach who helps men get healthy and feel their best. Stephen wasn’t always the poster child for fitness though. After years of retail management left him overweight, unhappy and not recognizing himself, Stephen gradually turned his health around. He shared his journey and top tips on my podcast.
The “Lightbulb” Moment
For years, Stephen struggled with his weight and energy levels:
“On the outside, I seemed like I had it all. I had a pretty decent paying job. We were always traveling, going to like football games, things like that. I had a beautiful wife. To the outside world, I had every checkbox that we're told as men we're supposed to have.”
But despite appearances, Stephen was miserable:
“I just wasn't happy. And I think a big part of that was... There was a miscommunication between who I was and my daily activities and behaviors and my identity.”
The demanding hours and unhealthy eating habits of retail management took their toll. Then one day, Stephen had a wake-up call when reviewing his store’s security footage:
“I forgot I had stopped by the store. And so I'm watching the footage from the weekend and I see myself coming to the store, walk behind our counter and do something on the register and walk out. But here is the catch, Nate. I didn't recognize it was me.”
Seeing his unhealthy self on camera finally pushed Stephen to make changes.
Small Shifts, Not Extreme Measures
Despite his “lightbulb moment,” Stephen didn’t spring into a Rocky-style training montage. At first, not much changed. But step by step, Stephen built momentum:
“I signed up I went to a local big box gym and I signed up with a personal trainer and you probably know this, but personal trainers at big box gyms do not get paid a lot of money. And as a result, a lot of them leave. And so between people leaving and a couple of people I just didn't mesh well with, I went through six different trainers.”
Frustrated after churning through trainers, Stephen nearly gave up. But wanting to avoid wasting money on unused training sessions, he committed to power through two sessions back-to-back each day.
Stephen ended up building a great connection with his trainer Rob. But even while improving his fitness, Stephen held onto his love of fast food:
“I knew I had to change my nutrition to, to start seeing results, but I wanted to prove that you could do it without giving up your favorite foods...I ended up losing my first 40 pounds. While still eating fast food every single day, just making smarter decisions at the fast food restaurant.”
Rather than fixate on rapid results, Stephen focused on tangible progress like increasing the number of push-ups he could do. An ill-fitting souvenir t-shirt became his benchmark for success:
“I decided that day. That I was not going to stop until I could wear that shirt. And literally every like month or two, I would put that shirt on and I would gauge like, is it less tight than it was before and to the point where I actually lost so much weight that the shirt was big on me.”
Get Unshakably Healthy
When I asked for Stephen’s number one tip for guys looking to improve their health, he said mindset is key:
“We need to stop beating ourselves up when we're not meeting what we think the expectations are because so many of us are basing everything in our life off the expectations that other people have of us.”
Rather than get distracted by others’ standards, focus on your vision for your best life. Stephen has his clients imagine their future fit self:
“Imagine that Doc Brown from Back to the Future comes and picks you up in the DeLorean, and takes you a year into the future where you want to be, and you get to see your future self...What does that future you do from the moment they wake up to the moment they go back to bed?”
This vision for your ideal healthy life should drive your goals and plans.
Stephen also warns against an “all-or-nothing” approach to health. As an alternative, he suggests using a “dial” mentality:
“Imagine that you have a radio. That never turns off. You can turn the volume up and down, but it never goes off...If you can consistently hit between a five and a seven, you're going to probably knock it out the park.”
In other words, be flexible and focus on progress, not perfection. Do what you reasonably can each day, not the absolute maximum.
Finally, Stephen takes a holistic view of men’s health encompassing mindset, relationships and environment too:
“Healthy isn't a certain look. Healthy is a mindset. Healthy is about being active. It's about having great relationships.”
A few key lessons from my great chat with Stephen:
Dissatisfaction with the gap between your identity and daily reality can ignite real change
Permanent lifestyle changes are about making smarter choices, not trying to be perfect
Focus on more than the number on the scale
Mindset is crucial - visualize your best future self to stay motivated
Take “dialed” action - do what you reasonably can each day, not the absolute max
Health encompasses mindset, relationships and environment too
I really enjoyed my conversation with Stephen. It's inspiring to see how he turned his health around. And as a bonus, his practical tips like the "dial" approach make getting healthy feel more achievable.
To hear my full conversation with Stephen Box about his journey from overweight and unhappy retail manager to fit and fulfilled health coach, check out the podcast. And be sure to visit Stephen's website Unshakable Habits for great fitness tips and coaching programs that can help you get healthy for good.