How to Be Happy, According to Ben Does Life

Reader Contribution by Emily Glover
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At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, living healthfully goes hand-in-hand with having a healthy world. A group of us take a walk every afternoon. There is a refrigerator stocked with wholesome snacks in the break room. We are already eager about spring hitting so we can get outside and tend to the garden…

We know that, small as those habits may seem, they make all the different. That’s exactly what Ben Davis, of the Web page Ben Does Life, emphasized during a speech at the nearby University of Kansas earlier this week.

The Story of Ben Does Life  

In late 2008, Ben finally confronted an issue that he had spent the better part of his life avoiding: he was unhappy and his obesity was the primary cause.

Riding the wave of motivation, Ben impulsively decided to start a blog, enlist the support of his family and lose a little bit of weight. Three weeks later, he ran — or, in his words, “waddled” — his first 5K. Then he signed up for a 10K. Then a half-marathon. Then a full marathon.

At that point, Ben figured he had hit the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

His dad and brother, who ran with him all along the way, thought otherwise. At the post-marathon celebratory dinner, they convinced him to sign up for a full Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

Reluctantly, Ben agreed. Just more than one and a half years after setting out to lose some of his 365 pounds, Ben crossed the finish line of an Ironman competition. To this day, he lists it as one of the greatest accomplishments of his life — and that’s a life that includes being featured on the Today Show, appearing on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine and landing a book deal.

Losing Weight as a Side Effect 

As for the weight loss goal, Ben has shed 120 pounds. But, according to him, the journey has been less about what he’s lost and more about what he’s gained: happiness.

When standing in front of the University of Kansas students as part of the University’s “Celebrate EveryBody Week,” Ben was refreshingly normal; he is afraid of flying and still gets nervous about public speaking, even after traveling across the country as part of his “Do Life” tour.

But, he also came with a message that we can all learn something from.

“This isn’t about me. This is about life,” Ben said. “Not just enjoying, but spreading it.”

To some people, Ben said that may mean finding joy in running. For others, it may be biking, swimming, volunteering, etc. Ultimately, the goal is not about the “how” or the “what.” It’s about the “why” — and the answer to that is moving forward and embracing life rather than watching it slide by.