Seven years ago, Mike Lee saw something he didn’t like.
It was 2010, and Lee and his family had just moved to the Denver, Colo., area from Detroit. On one of their first outings as a family, Lee took his family out for a fun day at a water park.
What Lee saw that day, in one moment, changed his entire world.
He saw a picture of himself.
“I actually saw myself shirtless for the first time in many, many years, and it was really eye-opening for me,” Lee says. “When I saw that picture, I was like, ‘I’m done. It’s over. I’m making a change for the better.’”
It was the first of many observations, as Lee calls them, that helped turn Lee from an unhealthy couch potato into a powerhouse bodybuilder, a social media influencer, and perhaps most importantly, a fit dad.
At the time, Lee weighed 232 pounds, had a 40-inch waist, was pre-diabetic and asthmatic, and as he puts it on his website, “terribly out of shape, out of energy and at an unhappy time in my life.”
Five years prior, in 2005, Lee’s father had passed away from complications from diabetes despite only being in his early 50s. Lee had spent five years drifting, knowing he needed to pay more attention to his health and that he needed to be more active and lose weight, but seemingly never able to find the consistency it took to bring about lasting change.
It wasn’t until that initial moment of observation, where Lee saw himself shirtless sitting by the pool at the water park, that Lee says his entire mindset shifted, and he saw his health and fitness as a priority in a way he’d never considered before.
“I told myself that I was going to simplify my fitness. That I was going to start small by making simple choices, and I knew that gradually, I would swap out more of the bad stuff for the good stuff,” he says.
He first tackled his diet. There were no drastic changes – nothing more than incorporating healthier habits into his daily food routines. Instead of eating fast food three times a day sometimes, Lee backed off of that and started trading chips and snacks for fresh fruits and vegetables.
As for exercise, Lee simplified that too. Lee had spent four years in the Army, and he relied on those experiences to put together his training routine – pushups, running, and “throwing around some weights in the gym.”
And he tracked everything. As Lee says, “if you can track it, you can change it.”
“I truly believe that if you observe something, you can change the outcome,” Lee says. “There’s a lot of power in observation … because nobody knows your level of intensity, nobody knows your true potential, except you.”
It worked. In less than five months, Lee dropped more than 30 pounds.
And that was just the beginning.
“When I lost that weight really fast, it gave me the confidence of ‘If I can do that, what else can I do?’” he says. “It really gave me that sense of accomplishment, to know that if I could lose that weight and keep it off, just having the discipline to do that, then I know that I can do other things.”
In the years since, those “other things” are an impressive list of accomplishments. After joining a gym – the first gym he’d ever been a member of – Lee settled into a steady weightlifting regimen. He entered his first physique show in 2013 … and won. He’s won nine more physique shows since then. He’s been featured in magazines and on websites. He has more than 17,000 followers on Instagram.
And best of all, he’s no longer pre-diabetic, and with a wife and three children to support and look after, Lee fully understands and appreciates the life-altering course he charted for himself and his family when he made the decision to better his health and fitness that day at the water park in 2010.
“Seeing that picture of me and saying, ‘You know what? That’s it. I can’t suffer the same fate as my dad. Something has to change for the better. I have to be an example for my kids and an example for my family.’ That was huge,” Lee says. “Obviously, it’s in our genetic makeup, that we can develop diabetes. The best way to cure something is to prevent it. If you never have to deal with it, it makes life just that much better.”
Lee – who now has a goal of helping one million people lose 20 pounds – wants others to know that taking that first step towards a fitter lifestyle is just the starting point, as it was for him seven years ago.
“You can use fitness to propel your life to a better place,” Lee says. “If you can get your body in a peak state, you can get your mind in a peak state. Then you can go about your day knowing that at least your body and your mind if taken care of, and you can go conquer the world. Health is imperative. The fitter you are, the greater chance you have of reaching your dreams.”