Simmons sees health success with lifestyle change
Cherokee Nation citizen Gregg Simmons exercises in the weight room at the tribe’s Male Seminary Recreation Center on Oct. 9 in Tahlequah. Around seven years ago, Simmons changed his eating habits and start exercising. He now goes to the gym five to six days a week. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Gregg Simmons uses a machine on Oct. 9 in the weight room of the tribe’s Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah to work out his arms as part of a health regimen he started seven years ago. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Before taking a healthier approach to life, Cherokee Nation citizen Gregg Simmons said he used to smoke, eat fast food and not exercise. He is pictured here about seven years ago before deciding on a lifestyle change. COURTESY
COOKSON – Cherokee Nation citizen Gregg Simmons’s favorite meal used to be a package of hot links wrapped in tortillas and dipped in cheese sauce. Now he’s inclined to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better and going to the gym.
He said what triggered his change about seven years ago was overhearing his two older children, teenagers at the time, talk about when they would each get married saying “If Dad’s still alive…”
“That just hit me. My kids were so worried about it. It was an if. I was like I’ve got to do something,” he said.
Simmons was in his late 30s when he decided to change his lifestyle. Not knowing where to start, he called a friend who got him in touch with the tribe’s Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah.
“I came in here and a personal trainer came and they just took a measurement of everything. I smoked a cigarette in the parking lot before I came in here. I was just mortified. He took me through stretching and I couldn’t touch anything I was supposed to. I couldn’t hardly breath. Like the baseline assessment, I could barely do. I couldn’t get it done,” he said.
He started lifting weights, cardio and taking classes such as CrossFit and yoga.
Before starting, Simmons said he used to smoke, drink, was on antidepressants, ate fast food, had high cholesterol and was about to be put on medication for high blood pressure.
“I had a stressful job. I smoked like a pack or more a day. I ate fast food all the time. When we didn’t eat fast food and we ate at the house, it was fried. It was like high-calorie processed food, very little fresh fruits and vegetables. It was just convenient food,” he said.
After obtaining a health plan, he started following it. “I made it for a couple of weeks without too many hiccups and I started noticing a difference.”
He was put on medication to quit smoking and began focusing on eating healthier.
“My diet was bad. And I just started making it a priority. I said ‘you can’t put this much work in and not do these things.’ I cut way back on my drinking. I quit the smoking. Then I just started small on the food,” he said. “My favorite meal used to be a whole package of Mountain View hot links. I’d wrap them in tortillas and dip them in cheese sauce. And that was my favorite thing to eat. It was probably 1,500 calories.”
He cut out fried foods and added vegetables to each meal. He said he found things that work well with his body. His diet now consists of lean beef, chicken, turkey, vegetables and whole grain pastas and rice. “At this point, this is the food that works well with my body and it just tastes good to me. So it’s not a diet, it’s just how I eat now. I have found things that I like to eat that are good for me.”
He said people have a lot of misconceptions that they will not like foods that are healthy.
“To me that’s the most important part because you can work in the gym all you want to, but the food really just pushed it over the top. It really makes a difference. I really just try to find something that works for me,” Simmons said.
He said he’s noticed a major difference from the time he started his health journey to now. He primarily lifts weights, but adds other forms of exercise occasionally.
When he started, he said weighed more than 200 pounds and his body fat was nearly 30%. Now, he weighs 185 pounds and is under 10% body fat at 43 years old.
“When I started, I hurt in the morning when I got up. My joints hurt and I was out of breath. Like I’d walk up the stairs and I’d be out of breath,” he said. “(Now) I can run and play with my kids. I always tell my older kids ‘I’m sorry you got the out of shape, smoker dad.’ My younger kids actually get someone that can run around and play. It made a huge difference in my life. I was in my late 30s when I started. I think a lot of people also think it’s too late.”
He said he’s thankful for the people at the MSRC for helping him and his answering questions. He exercises there five to six times a week and praises the staff for helping him.
With his transformed body, Simmons plans to enter his first bodybuilding show next year.
“I’ve been training really hard for the past year and half getting some things tuned up, and I think I’m almost ready. I didn’t change everything overnight. It’s just been a little here a little there. But seven years ago if you told me I would be training for a bodybuilding show I would have told you, you were crazy. Like it didn’t even seem possible to me.”