Don Canada was about 50 pounds overweight when it happened. He worked his usual 15-hour day managing his employee benefits business. For lunch, he quickly downed his favorite hamburger, French fries, and soda. After his long day at the office, Canada spent a little time with his family, then topped off the night with a bowl of ice cream and some TV. It was by all accounts an ordinary day for the Texas-born entrepreneur. But that routine was about to change.
It was 2010. Political conversations were buzzing about healthcare reform. He was keenly aware of the financial burden that rising health insurance costs placed on employers. And he knew something had to change. That fateful night, while watching TV, he heard then- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi address Congress and say, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." And she was urging members of Congress to pass the proposed Health Care Reform Act without a careful review of the 2,700-page document.
"I was so mad about what she said, that I decided right then that I would read every page of the Health Care Reform bill myself," Canada said. "All 2,700 pages. I basically went into hibernation to read it all. And I began to realize a wellness revolution was built into the legislation."
That's what motivated Canada to expand the reach of his 18-year-old employee benefits business. He launched The Wellness Difference to help companies develop their own wellness strategies to improve the health of their employees, control insurance costs, lower health claims and absenteeism, and increase productivity. And he partnered with Wellsource as a reseller to provide his clients with a customized website, health risk assessment, tracking tools, and resources to help people be healthier.
"I also decided it was time to make some real lifestyle changes for myself," Canada said. "I knew that if my wellness business was going to be successful, I needed to walk the talk. I was at a point where my belly was so big, my friends would make jokes about it. I would laugh it off, but I realized it was time to make some real lifestyle changes."
While Canada worked on growing his wellness business and helping other employers embrace the "wellness revolution," he started working on his own transformation. He began walking short distances with his dog. He hired a nutritionist to help him make better food choices. He kept a food journal. He cut out waffles and sausage. He ate less fast food. He encouraged his employees to take a closer look at their own diet and exercise habits. And his 50 pounds of excess weight began to disappear.
"When I launched The Wellness Difference, it really put some things in motion for me," Canada said. "I lost the extra weight I had gained from a decade of poor choices. I went from sitting in the office 15-hours a day to walking 10 miles at a time. Then I started running."
His personal success is part of the message he shares with his clients. "If I can teach people what I know, they can take those lessons and customize them to help themselves," Canada said. "If an employer can create an ecosystem or culture of wellness, it can have a huge impact on their workforce. Education, encouragement, engagement, and accountability can really help motivate people to change."
Canada has gained a following of corporate clients since he launched his wellness business a few years ago. And he's committed to being an example to others. But just like dropping everything to read the entire Health Care Reform Act, he's taken health and wellness to another level, Texas-style. The former workaholic who was 50 pounds overweight recently completed the St. George Ironman Triathlon by swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles to the finish line in each event. And in November, Canada will travel to Mexico to compete in the Cozumel Ironman event.
"During the St. George Ironman, I had to keep telling myself, 'I will not quit.' And I made it," Canada said. "I'm just an average guy who used to be a sedentary, overweight insurance broker sitting behind a desk. But I learned that if you really want to lose weight and be healthier, you can change. It's very rewarding to be in a business that encourages and motivates people to make healthier choices."