By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN For anyone whose New Year’s goal is to get in better shape, Mark Pederson of Howard Lake has some encouraging words.
“Anybody can do it,” he shared. “It’s a lifestyle.”
Pederson, who went from 450 to 220 pounds in 18 months, is speaking from personal experience. For years, he struggled to eat right and exercise consistently, and had trouble making any lasting changes.
“I was on that whole yo-yo thing,” he said. “When you yo-yo back up, you feel like a failure.”
All that changed in May 2017, when Pederson was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. That was the wake-up call he needed to change his habits, and he remembers thinking, “either do this, or suffer the consequences.”
Pederson was advised to get bariatric surgery, but didn’t want to go that route. He knew he could do it on his own.
One of the first things he did was cut out processed sugar, including his favorites pop and donuts. He also found ways to make healthy food enjoyable.
“I like french fries, but I don’t like all the sodium and stuff, so I take regular potatoes and I cut them up like french fries, sprinkle a little olive oil on them, and put them in a Power AirFryer,” he said.
Keeping a food journal was another change Pederson implemented early on. He got the idea from Andy Krotzer, who was manager of Snap Fitness in Howard Lake at the time.
Krotzer also helped Pederson get more out of his workouts at Snap Fitness.
“He got me lifting right; it’s the concept of lifting until failure,” Pederson said. “The thing with the lifting is, that is the gift that keeps on giving. You’re increasing your calorie burn for up to 36 hours.”
A no-impact cardio machine at Snap Fitness called the Arc Trainer is another way Pederson burns calories. Cardio and strength training have helped Pederson maintain muscle as he loses fat, improving his overall body composition.
“I probably weighed what I weigh now back in 1990, but then I had a belly. I don’t now,” he said.
To give him energy for his morning workout, Pederson typically has a protein shake and a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. He tracks all his calories consumed and burned with a Fitbit. Each day, he aims to burn more than he consumes.
“I have a 2 p.m. goal of a 4,000-calorie burn. Then I know the day will be successful,” he said, adding that he eats about 3,000 calories per day.
Pederson credits his success to simple “diet and exercise no special programs.”
“Your intake needs to be less than you burn, but you need to eat a minimum,” he said. “It’s not rocket science.”
His advice to anyone starting a weight-loss journey is to forget about fads and quick-fixes, and instead develop new lifelong habits. Pederson added that it’s important to realize there will be setbacks, and that’s OK.
“One day is not going to mess you up. What’s going to mess you up is a habit,” he said. “Bad habits all add up, but the good habits all add up, too.”
Maintaining balance is also key. Every Friday, for instance, Pederson treats himself to a pizza. He also indulges in sweets once in a while, although he tries to eat healthy the majority of the time.
“You can’t totally quit everything you like,” he said.
Making good food and exercise choices is becoming more automatic for Pederson, and he doesn’t have to think about it as much.
“It was a learning curve to figure out what works, and what doesn’t work,” he said.
One thing that works for Pederson is “sneaking in” physical activity throughout the day. It might be using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in a far away spot, or stopping at Snap Fitness for 15 minutes in between errands.
“I take whatever opportunity I can to burn calories,” he said.
Now that he’s gone from a size 6X to an extra-large, Pederson said he’s never going back. He likes being able to do things he couldn’t do before like fit into a booth at restaurants. More importantly, his health has improved, and he’s no longer pre-diabetic.
“I chased it away,” he said. “I’m just feeling overall better.”