Diet & Exercise

An innocent comment from his 3-year-old inspired 1 dad to start walking. He lost 160 lbs in a year

Jason Henriques, 44, has a new mindset, lifestyle and career — and his family is reaping the benefits.

Jason Henriques

Jason Henriques clearly remembers what his 3-year-old son, Wyatt, said one day. “We were sitting on the dining room floor playing and he said, ‘Daddy, when I get big like you, I want a big tummy like you,’” Henriques tells

At the time, Henriques was a 37-year-old with obesity, and his weight and diet were affecting his health. His asthma was so bad he was hospitalized to treat it about once a year. He had allergies, herniated discs, torn ligaments in his knees and gastrointestinal problems like colitis, gastritis and gallbladder issues. And Wyatt’s comment made him realize he needed to be a better role model for his children.

For Henriques, a comment from his son about the size of his stomach was his motivation to make a lifestyle change. (Source Jason Henriques)

He started his fitness journey by walking and rowing

“I got up the next day, put Wyatt in a stroller, and started walking. From that day on, for months, we walked three to 12 miles a day. My mindset was, ‘I have to do this. I have to be a better parent. I have to be a better role model. I completely changed my mindset and went all-in,” he says.

When Henriques started walking, he was self-employed as a photographer. “I had my own schedule, and I made the time. Walking was my number one priority in the morning. I pushed everything else to the side for a little while,” he says.

While walking worked well for him for a few months, when the winter weather started to set in near his Monroe, Conn., home, he wanted to find a new way to improve his fitness. So, he joined a gym and took advantage of a free personal training session they offered.

The trainer asked him to row 1,000 meters on a rowing machine. He was hesitant at first. “It was new, it was challenging and I was in a routine of walking, jogging and cycling. Rowing shook it up, and change is hard sometimes. But I loved it because it didn’t have the impact of running or cycling on my joints. I felt great,” he says. He kept working out with the trainer, and he also joined a CrossFit gym. Rowing was often part of his workouts.

Looking for a challenge, he ran a turkey trot 5k that Thanksgiving. That got him even more interested in running and exercise. “I just fell in love with the whole world of fitness and how I felt afterwards,” he says.

He loved how rowing and running balanced each other: “Rowing is the perfect counterpart to running because you can build your endurance on the rower without the impact. And once you hit the streets, you can use rowing as recovery from your running.”

At 37 years old Henriques struggled with obesity, asthma, herniated discs and gastrointestinal issues. (Source Jason Henriques)

He inspired his whole family to find their competitive streak

As his fitness improved, he and his wife Maggie started competing in obstacle-filled Spartan races along with their children, Wyatt, now 11, Presley, 8, and Hudson, 3. Last year, his two oldest children finished a triathlon. “It was so cool watching that. It’s exciting to be into fitness as a family, and it strengthens our bond, too,” he says.

Henriques did his first triathlon on his own, running and biking near his home and swimming in a nearby lake. “I didn’t care if anybody knew about it. I just wanted to do it for me. That was something never in my life I thought I would do,” he says.

He recently did a 48-mile row, rowing four miles every four hours for 48 hours. He also pushed himself to run a half-marathon on his own, and eventually, he would like to run a full marathon.

Since shifting his mindset and prioritizing his health, Henriques has lost 160 pounds. (Source Jason Henriques)

He cleaned up his diet with a food journal and growing his own food

When Henriques started exercising, he and his wife also got rid of all the junk food in the house. He realized he needed to learn what his body needed and what triggered his asthma and allergies.

Tracking his macronutrients and keeping a food diary helped. He discovered that his body doesn’t like dairy, refined sugar or processed carbs, and onions make his gastrointestinal issues worse. He didn’t think he was an emotional eater, but he found he was turning to food when he was bored. These insights helped him eat in tune with his body.

He also started to pay more attention to where his food comes from. He and his wife recently bought a historic home that they are renovating. “We cleared a quarter-acre of land we’re going to use as a garden. We built a huge chicken coop, and we have 19 chickens so far. We’re basically starting a homestead,” he says.

They plan to grow a lot of their own food, and they also buy meat and produce from area farms. He acknowledges that buying fresh, local food can be expensive compared to the packaged and processed food he was eating before, but he feels it’s worth it: “I’m investing in my health now versus having to spend the money on healthcare later. I’m investing in the quality of my life.”

He and his family now prioritize meals together. “We sit at the table together to eat. We cook together a lot of the time. It has strengthened our family bond,” he says.

After losing 160 pounds, Henriques no longer struggles with asthma or joint pain. (Source Jason Henriques)

He’s seen huge improvements in his health

In the first year after his mindset change, Henriques lost 160 pounds, and he’s maintained his weight since then. Between his weight loss and his diet changes, he no longer has gastrointestinal issues. His asthma has mostly cleared up, his allergies are much better and most of his joint pain is gone. He still has herniated discs, but strengthening his core has helped protect his spine.

At one point, a friend who is a gastroenterologist suggested that Henriques might want weight-loss surgery. But after four months of focusing on his health, he had lost 60 pounds, and he no longer qualified for the procedure — they told him if he wanted to have it, he would need to gain some weight: “I walked out of that office and never went back. That was all the motivation I needed to keep going.”

And now? “I feel better at 44 than I did when I was 24,” he says.

His health changes led to a new career

With his focus on rowing, Henriques caught the attention of the team at Row House in Monroe, Conn. They invited him to audition as a coach, and he got approved and started coaching in the mornings before work. He says, “I got even stronger as a rower, and I had the potential to help other people who might be going through something I’ve been through. What’s better than that?”

He feels that his health struggles make him a better coach. “I can relate to people who have them, and I can be more strict on form because I know being out of alignment the tiniest bit can aggravate some injuries,” he says.

When he coaches, he shares stories about his life and his struggles. “Somebody else in that room might be going through something similar. They can relate. I really like to build those connections,” he says.

When the general manager position at Row House opened up, he decided to make a career change: “It was a little bit scary, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Looking back, he appreciates how an innocent comment from his son put him on a new path. “That moment is what changed not just my health and fitness, but the whole trajectory of my life,” he says. “And my three kids look at me in a whole different light. Now I’m doing this parenting thing right.”

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