“I was always strong and stocky as a kid, but it wasn’t until middle school where the weight really started piling on. Growing up the ‘accident child’ with 4 older siblings, my food choices were whatever was easiest and most convenient. I essentially lived off of sodium and preservatives in the form of frozen burritos, Hot Pockets, Top Ramen, etc. I also played sports most of my life and really excelled at baseball. After games my parents would reward me for playing good with a Big Mac, super-sized fry and Dr. Pepper. These habits continued most of my childhood which led to my 5’10” tall frame maxing the scales at a blubbery 250 POUNDS by my senior year of high school.
I didn’t feel like I was this person but I had no real motivation to change. I had some really promising baseball talents that were getting me attention from college recruiters and I had my high school sweetheart girlfriend. I was complacent and life was comfortable.
In the summer before senior year, I was up to bat in a baseball game. I swung the bat and felt a POP in my back and tingling down my legs. I didn’t know what was happening. I kept telling myself it was just a stinger as I finished the game. Later that night, I experienced some of the worst pain in my life.
My back was spasming, my legs were numb, and I had what an injury report would deem ‘gastrointestinal discomfort,’ or as we like to call it, good old diarrhea. My dad always taught my siblings and I to be tough and not complain, but I knew something was seriously wrong with my back. The next day, I tried let my parents know I was having issues. ‘Your back is probably just bothering you because you’re overweight,’ my dad said. I wanted to be tough and not disappoint him and was a little worried about what a more serious problem could mean. I tried to ignore it and continued to play baseball through the summer and my senior year. I was dealing with the back issue the entire time but not complaining.
Despite my weight and back issues, I was still getting attention from some college baseball recruiters, and I ended up playing for San Diego State College. At that point, I had always been able to coast by on my talents alone and hadn’t needed to put in much effort at practice or training. Soon enough, I went from being ‘The Guy’ on every team I played on to just another dude fighting for a starting spot. All of the extra work and training just put much more stress on my back. Soon, it started to significantly hinder my athletic abilities.
Two weeks before my freshman baseball season started, I had to get my physical. I wasn’t thinking anything about my back. I was maybe a little nervous for the pant-dropping, coughing portion. For better or worse, we didn’t even get that far. The doctor asked me to hold my knees up while she pushed down on them. My legs couldn’t handle any resistance and immediately gave out. She asked if I was having any pain issues and I told her about the back issue that had been bothering me for about a year at this point.
She wanted to get me in for some x-rays. I let my family know what was going on but they still believed it was an issue of being ‘fat’. Once the results came back, the doctor walked in the room and bluntly said,’ Welp, you have a broken back.’ WHAT? My promising college baseball career was over before it even started.
I continued to gain weight and started to become depressed. Then, after five years, my high school girlfriend and I broke up. Those crutches in my life that helped me ignore how unhappy I was with my body and lifestyle were gone. I knew I wanted and had to change, but I didn’t know how.
My mom was starting the HCG diet which, was extremely popular at the time, and wanted to me do it with her. I thought sure, why not and half-heartedly decided to try it out. Day One: I eat half an apple and 3 ounces of chicken. I’m starving. I have a migraine from hell. I NEED my Dr. Pepper. Day two: I wake up and say ‘screw this’. I drink 2 blue Powerades, a Dr. Pepper, and two large chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. My brother-in-law walked into the kitchen as I was massacring my gas station breakfast and told me to just stick with the HCG diet. ‘I’m doing it my way!’ I shouted back at him, spilling cookie crumbs. Needless to say, my HCG diet was a failure.
My true moment of clarity and motivation didn’t happen through some large life event. It didn’t come from family and it didn’t come from a diet fad. It came in a small moment. It came while sitting on the toilet where I imagine most of the best ideas come. I felt the pile of dough that was my stomach resting in rolls on my hips. It disgusted me and I decided enough was enough. I flushed (and thoroughly washed my hands), and immediately went to work educating myself on working out and nutrition.
I knew the basics and started from there. Soda? Bad. Veggies? Good.
I cut out the soda, and limited processed and fried foods as much I could. I started taking notice of the ingredients and labels. If I couldn’t even pronounce something, I figured it best to stay away. I didn’t know much about nutrition, but I assumed if I started looking at foods that were picked, grown, harvested, or caught, I could build from there.
When I began, I actually ate loads of carbs (my apologies to the keto kids out there). My regular food choices consisted of oats, berries, potatoes, rice, chicken and vegetables. I did and still do have my fair share of ‘earned’ foods like pizza and an ice cream pint on occasion. It’s just done on a reward basis in moderation. I use the word ‘earned’ instead of ‘cheat’ for a few reasons. Is it okay to cheat on your spouse or significant other? Not at all. So, why put the negative connotation on something you’ve worked hard for and therefore have earned?
At my heaviest I weighed 253 pounds. I now hover around 170. A lot of people who have gone through similar transformations talk about feeling like a whole new person. And while I have a lot more confidence in most aspects of my life, I feel like the same goofy chubby overgrown man child that I’ve always been.
When I meet new people, they don’t often expect me to act how I act. After some get to know me, they tell me they expected me to act like a super cocky, egotistical person just by the way I look. Before, when I was the thick chubby kid, I felt I had to try to be funny or else nobody would like me. Now I feel I can just be myself (which is still a hilarious person I might add) but I don’t have to try and be over the top.
All in all, I feel I am the same person inside just a little happier and healthier. I still struggle with insecurities and body dysmorphia, but recognizing those issues allows me to better control them and build goals around them. My mental health transformation has been as drastic as my physical one and that is what I feel is a huge key to making a long-lasting change.
If you’re looking to make a lifestyle change you have to do it for yourself and nobody else. If the motivation doesn’t come from within you, it will not last. Once you eliminate or push pass the mental hurdles of fear and excuses you will realize your potential is limitless. Don’t say you will do it next week, next month, or next year. You need to start as soon as you have your ‘toilet moment’.
And if you’re reading this and you’re a parent, please make sure you are teaching and incorporating healthy habits in your household. Kids clearly do not know what’s best for them and it’s so much harder to come back from an unhealthy childhood.”
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