When Christopher Simms, a 40-year-old from Greenwood, MO, got divorced, “it caused my health to quickly spiral in a way it never had before,” he says. He grew up in the New Orleans in the restaurant industry, eating a lot of Creole cuisine. As he grew up, though, he ate healthy and stayed active, going rock-climbing five days a week. Then came the divorce.
His ex-wife relocated a thousand miles away, and he followed to be near his daughter. “I was happy to be near her but felt my life had been turned upside down,” he says. Without a support network, he felt like he had to go through a serious life transition all on his own. “I started using food as a coping mechanism,” he says. Food was therapy; that meant take out, lots of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. He stopped climbing rocks. Within a few years he topped 270 pounds.
Carrying all that weight meant near-constant knee and back pain. He tried ice skating with his daughter, only to find it made his ankles feel like they were on fire. It was moments like that—when he felt like he was failing to be a good father—that most got to him. “I always wanted to be the best father I could be,” he says. When he saw a picture of himself next to his daughter—“I looked like a bum”—he decided he needed to change.
He joined the health and wellness program OPTAVIA, which gave him support as he fixed his habits, from eating to sleep to hydration. He threw away all his junk food and cut back on TV, replacing it with books and podcasts. He started finding healthy alternatives for Cajun classics, such as substituting cauliflower rice in gumbo and jambalaya.
At first, he couldn’t really exercise—he was too heavy for rock climbing. As he progressed, he took up moderate exercise, including walking, which then led him to weightlifting at the gym three or four times a week. Finally he was able to get back to rock climbing, and he also took up hiking.
In eight months, he lost 80 pounds. “I found myself again,” he says. He reclaimed his confidence and recovered his healthy habits. “ It’s a journey from head to heart,” he says, “a healing process for both mind and body.” Now he’s able to be a better, more present father—he’s even passed on healthy habits to his kids, and he convinced one of his brothers to lose weight. He’s now an OPTAVIA coach, and he’s remarried.
From here, Simms plans to hit his ideal weight, then start to build muscle. He wants to inspire others, including his family, and keep getting better. “It’s a journey that’s never finished,” he says, “and I’m looking forward to growing and learning more to become a better version of myself.”
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