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Lifestyle changes can pay big dividends

“When my doctor takes my blood pressure now, he just smiles.”

Erskine Lytle has always been active and trim. So, when he decided to join the 90-Day Men’s Health Challenge a few years ago, it was primarily to support a friend. Instead, he discovered that the program offered a lot for him, as well.


Learning better eating habits

Erskine, 77, started the 90-Day Challenge three years ago when it first launched.


“I never had a weight problem, but I didn’t necessarily eat right,” admits the former MNPS special needs teacher. “I said, well shoot — I am retired. The program will make me cook. It was a nice challenge.”


“There were lots of surprises,” he adds. “I found that foods that I’d taken for granted in terms of nutrition weren’t good for me.”


Chicken was one of those foods — at least in the forms Erskine preferred.


“I love fried chicken,” he says. “And chicken wings.”


Erskine Lytle

Former MNPS special needs teacher

Before the challenge, those wings would come with a double serving of French fries. But as he learned about healthier choices, he took a practical approach, cutting out some foods immediately while weaning himself from others.


Although the 90-Day Challenge encourages plant-based eating, Erskine built in some wiggle room.


“Monday through Friday, I eat plant-based all the time,” he says. “On Saturdays, I eat fish or an occasional burger.”


Finding support in the program

When Erskine finished his first 90-Day Challenge, he felt he still had much to learn. And he appreciated the support of the group so much, he signed up for another round. During the pandemic, he regularly posted what he was eating on the group’s Facebook page.


“I didn’t think anybody was paying attention to me; I’m a lot older than many of these guys,” he says. “But occasionally someone from the group would call me and say, ‘Lytle, we see what you are doing. If you can stick to it, we can.’ And I thought, well, now I’d better stick to it.”


Commitment pays off

Since starting the program, Erskine has shed an extra five pounds, and his borderline high blood pressure slipped into the solidly healthy range. Additionally, he’s been off his medication for months and his blood pressure has stayed down.


“When my doctor takes my blood pressure now, he just smiles,” he says. “He calls me his poster boy for people over 60.”


He also moves more easily these days. His arthritis is less of a problem, and he recently increased his daily steps daily from 10,000 to 11,000.


“I feel better. I sleep better,” he says.


Tips to succeeding with the program

Erskine has some tips for anyone going through the program. Patience is at the top of his list, along with having an accountability partner for extra support.


“It took me every bit of the first 90 days to really embrace the changes,” he says.


Erskine still talks to others in the program and compares recipes. He keeps a cookbook and is continually adding to it.


“Don’t be afraid to try new foods,” he says. “If you don’t like it, you can always find a substitute. One thing I learned when working with special needs kids is you don’t just take something away. You replace it with something better.”

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