Daniel Rossi is looking different these days, and it’s not just the winter beard.
GeekWire’s chief business officer is in the fourth month of a quest to transform his health, with help from the latest in science and personal genetics, and the results are becoming visible. It’s not jaw-dropping, but it is noticeable, and that’s exactly according to plan.
Daniel is settling into a healthier routine, establishing the types of habits that he wants to maintain for the rest of his life. He’s exercising regularly and eating wisely — with some occasional food-related slip-ups, he admits — guided by information about his own genes.
We are tracking Daniel’s progress as part of this special year-long series, including his participation in the Arivale scientific wellness program. In our most recent installment, we explained how genetic analysis and personal coaching from Arivale is informing Daniel’s approach, especially in his quest to manage his Type 2 Diabetes.
This installment focuses on a series of pictures, starting with this one of Daniel and his sister, Maria. It was nearly 20 years ago, in the late 1990s. Daniel was in college, he weighed 175 pounds, and he and his sister were getting ready to run the Columbus Marathon.
Yes, that’s Daniel! I showed this to people around the office as a test, not telling them who it was, and they couldn’t figure it out.
More importantly, this picture is a sign of the support that Daniel’s family and friends are providing in his quest to get healthy. He texted it to me on a recent winter morning with this message, “A photo of me and my sister before the Columbus marathon a million years ago. She sent it to me to encourage me to keep on going. Now I send it to you to #1 prove I was handsome once and #2 get your ass to the gym!”
Daniel and I have been holding each other accountable on getting exercise, which is why he was passing the encouragement along. He has been doing well in sticking to his new exercise regime, as you’ll be able to tell in the time-lapse pictures below.
A different picture
But first, a picture that’s not quite as fun. In fact, it was kind of a downer. As part of this project, Daniel is trying a variety of high-tech approaches on his own, beyond the genetic analysis and coaching.
This is a DXA scan of Daniel’s body. It stands for “Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry.” It’s a highly accurate way of measuring body composition, including fat mass, muscle mass and bone density.
DXA scans are often used by elite athletes pursuing performance goals, or by people tracking the effects of aging on muscle mass or bone density. In the comments on our first installment, Seattle-based tech entrepreneur Eric Jain recommended getting a DXA scan as a more accurate and informative “before” picture, and I tagged along with Daniel a few weeks ago as he went to get one.
The DXA scan showed an amazing array of data, but the number that stuck with Daniel afterward was his body fat percentage of 38 percent, which put him in the 96th percentile of people of similar age, gender and ethnicity — meaning that only 4 percent of people were higher.
“I hated this whole process,” Daniel told me afterward. “I thought it was going to be this way. First of all, it shows all your curves. … But the thing that was tough about this one was when they told me, using statistics, what percentile I’m in. Basically, per square foot, I’m fatter than everyone in every room, everywhere. That’s tough!”
PREVIOUSLY: Genetic analysis unlocks the code as GeekWire staffer makes progress in quest to transform health
That psychological effect, and the potential for the data to create unrealistic goals, is why experts don’t recommend DXA scans for weight loss. (DXA scans are not part of the Arivale program.)
But here’s the encouraging part: Unlike many people in his situation, Daniel is already on the path to change his health. If he goes back for a DXA scan in nine months, he will be able to see exactly how his body composition has changed.
And in the meantime, many other numbers are much more encouraging. Daniel is now weighing in at less than 248 pounds — down about 12 pounds from his weight of more than 260 pounds in October, prior to starting the Arivale program.
He’s also seeing encouraging signs in his fight against Type 2 Diabetes. His blood sugar levels are down significantly from the measure of 143 mg/dL at the start of the program, now hovering in the 120s. The goal is to get that number below 100.
Daniel is still in touch regularly with his Arivale coach, registered dietitian and nutritionist Ginger Hultin, and he has another round of lab tests coming up that will provide an updated set of metrics to assess his progress and identify further areas for improvement. One area they’re watching closely in the meantime is his cortisol level, a.k.a the “stress hormone,” which has been higher than it should be, particularly in the mornings. Solutions include stress-management techniques, such as meditation, and adjusting meal timing and patterns.
“He’s very motivated and is making a lot of lifestyle changes,” said Dr. Jennifer Lovejoy, Arivale’s chief translational science officer, in a recent interview. “I just couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s doing and the effort he’s putting in. He’s really a rock star.”
And finally, here’s the coolest picture, a GIF documenting the change in Daniel’s external appearance over the past few months.
“I’m shrinking!” Daniel texted back when I sent him this. “I can’t wait to see it six months from now.”
Neither can the rest of us. Keep it up, Daniel!