Andrew Mills is on a journey. And if you saw him only a few years ago, you might not recognize the man he is today. He’s lost 60 pounds, gained new confidence and agility, and gotten his diabetes under control. We recently sat down with Andrew to hear more about his amazing work-in-progress story.
Andrew and his family moved to Dexter in 2013, and the Dexter Wellness Center (DWC) opened just a month later. The Center, an initiative of the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation, is only a mile from Andrew’s home, and he became a member right away.
Even though Andrew had struggled with his weight for a long time, he knew the importance of an active lifestyle, and he had already worked hard to establish a steady exercise routine at a gym near his previous residence. He didn’t want to lose that momentum, so the DWC became a key part of his journey. “I really like the wide array of equipment at the Center, and it was also really appealing to have such a clean, non-crowded pool, since swimming was an important part of my cardio routine.”
Though Andrew was diligent with his workouts, he continued to struggle with his weight. Then, in May of 2014, an important piece of his wellness puzzle fell into place: he learned that he was diabetic, and that he would need to make some changes in the way he ate. He discovered that he’s especially sensitive to grains, so he replaced them with healthy vegetables, fermented dairy products, and healthy meats, fish, and eggs. “Vegetables, and not grains, are my staff of life.” he explains. “Once I made those changes, including medication to fight insulin resistance, my body began to respond to all the work I was investing at the gym. I was able to lose weight and get healthy,” he explains. “For me, eating this way also makes it easier to manage hunger and stay on track.”
Andrew also made it a point to change up his workouts to focus more on building endurance and muscle. He now incorporates a blend of strength and cardio workouts several times a week. This allows his body to continue losing fat while also becoming leaner and stronger. “As my body gets more used to the exercises I choose for myself, I’m becoming more reliant on the group exercise classes at the Wellness Center to help switch things up often,” he says. “Shout-out to Mara’s 6am HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) class on Tuesdays and Thursdays! There are so many workout opportunities at the Center, it’s easy to find something to enjoy, no matter what your fitness level. And if you’re getting bored or if you need more of a challenge, you can always try a new class, a new machine, or participate in one of the group fitness challenges.”
He also appreciates being able to get fitness advice any time he needs it. “The fitness staff at DWC are amazing resources and very personable,” he explains. “If I get injured, they teach me how to stretch better. If I want to learn a new exercise and am not sure how to do it correctly, they’ll show me how.”
An added bonus to his DWC membership is the sense of connection with others. “You feel safe there, and there’s a sense of community with those who are taking care of themselves. I may not know the names of all the people I see working out regularly, but just seeing their familiar faces makes me happy.”
Though his 60-pound weight loss is impressive, Andrew’s lifestyle changes have resulted in more than just a smaller number on the scale. “I went from wearing 2XL shirts to wearing XL shirts, and yes, even those are now very big for me,” he says. “The physical changes are important, but I’ve also been amazed at how my diet and lifestyle changes have affected my thinking. I’m a PhD scientist, and I now read exponentially faster, with much better concentration. I’m able to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible. Most importantly, I know that I’m providing a good example for my 1-year-old son, so that he can learn how to eat healthy, stay active, and stay healthy.”
Andrew and his family also participate in other community initiatives sponsored by the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation. His wife sometimes attends the free Yoga In the Park classes in downtown Dexter. He and his family have joined in on several of the monthly Dexter Wellness walks, which start at 9am at the Dexter District Library on the second Saturday of each month. (For more info on the walks, connect with the Dexter Wellness Coalition’s Facebook page.) Their family also enjoys growing their own produce in the Dexter Community Garden, a cooperative farming space on Dan Hoey Road supported by the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation.
When asked if he has any advice for others seeking to improve their health, Andrew has some super-practical words: “You are the one who bears the responsibility for getting and staying healthy. That responsibility doesn’t belong to the government, your family, your school, your employer, or doctors. You must accept that responsibility, and no matter what anyone else says, you have to determine what’s right for you. If a program isn’t helping you healthfully lose weight and keep it off, the program isn’t right for you. You need to learn how to research and implement healthy changes into your life that work for you, not someone else.”
Our hats are off to Andrew for his persistence and success in becoming healthy, strong, and fit! We’re excited and inspired by where his journey is taking him.