Even after a long career as an athlete Madison resident Haywood Simmons discovered he was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle. Having graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in political science this native of Macon, Georgia entered the professional world weighing in at over 300 pounds.
“I realized about eight years ago that my weight was out of control,” Simmons said. “I knew nothing about food and my health was in trouble.”
Motivated by a desire to be a better role model for his two daughters Simmons sought out and received practical advice on how to improve his diet as well as create a regular workout routine. He earned several certifications in athletic training and completely turned his life around.
“After dropping 150 pounds the high blood pressure was gone. The diabetes was gone. The back and joint pain was gone,” he said. “But after I got this healthy body, I didn’t feel healthy inside. I still had a lot of unhealthy thoughts in my head that were encouraging me to explore the old way of life. That’s when I started getting into mindfulness.”
Simmons realized that it’s not enough to just loose weight. Bad habits from his “old way of life” could very easily undo all of his hard work to become healthy. A good diet and regular exercise are certainly important, but in order to create a lifestyle that will last, daily practices that are sustainable over time, one must also cultivate a positive mental attitude.
According to Simmons our minds govern much of what happens in our bodies. Good habits in a healthy lifestyle are sustainable when we acknowledge and appreciate the affirmative influence they have on our lives. Now as a holistic wellness councilor he operates a gym called Phitness Plus. Located in the Resilience Research Center Simmons provides guidance and training for those looking to create balance in their lives in order to achieve athletic, academic and professional success. Recently Phitness Plus chose to team up with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County in a campaign to increase the contacts that the community has with each other and promoting healthy living practices. Included in these intercultural and inter-generational plan is a new Free Your Health program that includes Sugar Free Me, a ground breaking program Simmons co-produced with partner Michelle Naff. Upon completion each person will know more about the sugar and salt content of the foods they eat and the scientific consequences.
“I knew I was always more than just a weight loss coach,” he said. “I’ve always been able to motivate people and get them fired-up.”
Along with fitness and nutrition Haywood is known for his ability to cultivate peace and compassion. This year you can join Simmons and his presentation partner Tracy Traeder by attending one of their Finding Happiness Workshops at location around Madison including Perennial Yoga, Badger Rock Neighborhood Center and the 3rd Annual Racial Injustice Conference hosted by UW-Madison Department of Social Work.