How did it all begin?
I grew up in Dublin, Ohio in a tight-knit football family with a strong work ethic. I started working when I was 7 washing cars and shoveling snow. I moved up to washing dishes at an Italian restaurant then became a "sandwich artist" at Subway, the best job ever for a hungry teen athlete because it came with free food.
My dad played football at Michigan and my older brother, Dave, was an offensive lineman in the NFL for six seasons. Dad always encouraged us to focus as hard on academics as athletics to become what he called "the total package." His advice was spot on. I won a four-year scholarship to play linebacker at Northwestern University and earned a B.S. and M.A. in communication studies.
How did football prepare you for business?
Football coaches owe a debt of gratitude to Henry Ford for creating the assembly line. I wasn't building cars, but I was on the assembly line at Northwestern. We each had our own specialized jobs and worked tirelessly to improve our individual performance. It was the first time I saw the power of small, seemingly insignificant individual improvements add up to a stronger, higher performing team.
That discipline and team-building experience eventually helped me become Head of Foreign Exchange at Eagle Seven, a global financial trading and technology firm in Chicago. Finance is a lot like football in that its hypercompetitive and takes a lot of discipline and long hours to master.
My job at Eagle Seven was fast-paced, challenging and leveraged my football mindset and analytical nature. But I was working overnights in front of 10 computer screens trading the European markets. I was drinking a pot of coffee a night, eating junk and my sleep schedule was really messed up.
That sounds brutal. How'd you handle the stress?
Eventually I started having some health issues. I was still working out at the gym and looked fit on the outside but I didn't feel healthy on the inside. I went to my doctor and learned I had the hormonal profile of a 90-year-old man. I had blasted testosterone counts, suppressed thyroid level and antibodies through the roof. I was on the verge of major health problems, including cancer.
How did you get healthy?
I didn't, at least initially. I looked to our healthcare system and the "experts" for answers but was instead led down a dark path of declining health, confusion and fear. So rather than pointing fingers, I decided to try and do something about it. I began researching my symptoms on my own.
I was shocked to learn I had all the signs of Hashimoto's disease, which I'd never even heard of before. I asked my doctor for a few tests and confirmed my diagnosis. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder that causes hypothyroidism. But luckily it's treatable. Looking back, I can clearly see I've had undiagnosed Hashimoto's all my life.
How'd you come up with the idea for DexaFit?
After my Hashimoto's diagnosis I became obsessed with educating myself about health, nutrition and fitness.
I discovered a medical diagnostic tool called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or a DXA scan. At the time, the scanning machines were found almost exclusively in hospitals and used for measuring the bone density of osteoporosis patients. But scans could also pinpoint the exact breakdown and location of fat tissue and lean muscle throughout the body.
I started experimenting with different ideas about my diet, training, and lifestyle. I made sure to quantify and track how my body composition, biomarkers, and cardio fitness changed whenever I changed how I ate, worked out, or any other lifestyle hack I thought might influence my health.
The feedback throughout it all helped change my life. I was finally to take control of my health by fine tuning my diet and fitness plan and focusing on the environment I lived my daily life.
But the biggest influence on how I felt was learning more about circadian biology and its significance. Working a night shift as a trader wrecked mine, so fixing my circadian rhythm was key.
It also occurred to me that most people don't have access to accurate, high-level health data like this either, unless they're college or pro athletes with access to a sports lab. I launched the first DexaFit in 2011 near Wrigley Field in Chicago with my former Northwestern teammate Matt Ulrich.
What was the reaction in the health and fitness community to DexaFit?
It wasn't long before we started getting great feedback from clients. One woman said: "I lost 34 pounds of fat and gained 4 pounds of muscle in 7 months. I would not be the person I am today without DexaFit. I used to come home from working a 12- or 16-hour day and go through the roulette of Wendy's McDonald's, Popeyes, or Taco Bell for dinner. That seems like a long time ago and I can't imagine going back to that life." Another client was a distance runner who fine-tuned her training program with our help and shaved 30 to 45 seconds off each of her race miles.
It was exhilarating hearing stories like this in the early days. It still is. We're empowering people with information and resources previously limited to elite athletes, professional teams and sports science labs. We've add other biometric tests over the years such as resting metabolic rate testing, V02 cardiac fitness tests and blood panel testing. We're also launching DexaFit X, a health and fitness problem-solving community that leverages the power of all of us—the "crowd"— to solve individual health issues.
Why are you here?
I'm here because everyone deserves to be healthy and happy. We now have 10 DexaFit centers in eight states with plans to expand into two more states in the next few months. But I don't want to be a business. I want to be a community of people empowering people. Because I know from experience there's nothing in the world more valuable than self-knowledge to know your body and transform your life.