To Tom Kocanda, staying well is less about how many reps you can do at the gym or perfecting portion sizes and more about one thing – your mindset.

“In the past, I tended to overcomplicate things when considering how to best approach a wellness lifestyle,” said Kocanda, enterprise security education consultant at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE). “Keeping it simple helped with the most important thing: being happy.”

For him, the pandemic was the last push he needed to start his wellness journey.

“For several years, I knew my wellness was something I needed to get around to,” said Kocanda. “A turning-point was reading about the significantly increased risks associated with COVID-19 for those with other health issues, like high blood pressure. Well, I had high blood pressure. At that point I decided to use the extra flexibility of our working-from-home situation to really focus my wellness efforts.”

Kocanda used BCBSNE resources to take the first step through WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers. BCBSNE provides a discount to eligible employees who use the program.

“It’s wild how much of my wellness journey was made easier by just making a few small adjustments to what I ate—the benefits were more than I expected, both physically and mentally,” said Kocanda.

He found that WW helped him stay on track while adjusting to working from home.

“2020 could have very easily been the year of Chipotle delivery with wellness taking a back seat,” said Kocanda. “However, since BCBSNE offered the opportunity to focus on my wellness, I was able to realize improvements in almost every aspect of my well-being.”

Food was not the only obstacle of working from home, though.

“Working from home and the reduced social interaction of being out in the world has been one of the toughest hurdles for me,” said Kocanda. “I tackled this by staying active and social, while also staying safe during the pandemic. My best friend and I, for example, would have weekly driveway get-togethers that would last hours—each of us on our lawn chairs, him in the driveway, me up on the patio—just talking about whatever came to mind. Now we do them on Xbox as the weather gets colder.”

Kocanda has made great strides in his wellness as he puts this all together.

“Since March I’ve lost 70 pounds,” he said. “As you can imagine, that has made a noticeable impact on other aspects of my life. It’s a great feeling when you realize you need to buy new, smaller clothes or when you lift a 40-pound bag of mulch and realize ‘hey, I lost almost two of these.’” As my wellness lifestyle became more routine, positive realizations like that started to pile-up, encouraging my focus on wellness.”

Kocanda notes that 2020 was a rough year for all and recognizes how he pushed through it.

“I found something positive to focus on and to spend my energy on and that was key,” he said “BCBSNE steered me in the direction of making that ‘thing’ my health and wellness. I’m incredibly thankful for that.”

To read more stories like this one, visit Health and Wellness.

*Wise & Well is a monthly wellness series highlighting BCBSNE employees and their dedication to health and wellness.