In this edition of the Nerd Fitness Reader Spotlight, I had to opportunity to interview Matt (67Alecto on the NF Message Boards), a guy who has lost 157 pounds in ONE YEAR. Yup, Matt is the man. I love his story because it wasn’t just “running on a treadmill for four hours a day,” it was an adjustment in his diet, mindset, and weight training!
Steve: Hey Matt! Thanks for the interview man. If you could, describe a typical day before you decided to change your life.
Matt: Apathy is a good word. I could detail eating 4000-7000 calories on a regular basis, but what it really came down to was apathy. I’d eat without thinking, eat without even really being hungry, and then snack simply because it was the usual time to have a snack.
My activity level was basically nil. I had torn my rotator cuff a few years ago and it took me from playing tennis 5x a week, playing on softball and flag football teams, plus working out at the company gym to nothing. My shoulder wasn’t much better after finishing physical therapy, and I only made a half-hearted effort the following year to try to workout again. It was “hard”, so I quit.
I went from being active enough to where I could at least keep up with the fork, to zero activity and no change in eating habits. I was already overweight, but over the next 4 years it added 100+lbs.
I’d go to work, come home, play computer games, go to bed sometime after midnight, wake up 6 hours later and start all over again.
Steve: What was your motivation to make that change? What put you over the edge?
Matt: The infamous “Ah hah!” moment that all obese people have when they decide to lose weight – I didn’t have one. I knew I had to lose weight, and that my health was horrible (I was taking 4 medications for cholesterol and bloodsugar). I just always told myself I’d get to it later.
I had been vaguely aware of Tyler over at 344pounds.com starting his weight loss blog. Consumerist had a few updates over the course of 6 months, and I had been curious as to how he would do. When he hit 100lbs lost, my thought was “If some random blogger can do it, I sure as hell can”. I set aside the excuses and got to work. I wasn’t happy, wasn’t feeling good, and it was no longer an option to continue this way.
Steve: So that was you a year ago. What does your life look like now? What’s a typical day for you?
I value time I can spend outside being active. I started in July of 2009 and it was a mild summer. I could work in the yard, go walking in the neighborhood, and hiking on the weekends. I went from playing computer games 20+ hours a week to less than half that. It’s not that I’ve felt I had to sacrifice playing on the computer, it’s just that if I’m going to do it, I want it to be a richer experience rather than doing it just to do it.
Oh, and picking clothes out to wear is actually an enjoyable experience…or at least doesn’t suck like it used to. In 1 year, I have lost 157lbs, went from 48″ pants to 34″, and in shirts from 5XL to 2X/XL (depending on the cut of the shirt, I wear either an XL or a 2XL to accommodate my shoulders). Shopping for clothes, needless to say, is much easier.
Steve: Congrats man, that’s a hell of a transformation in just one year. If you could pick, what’s the one thing you think that had the most impact on your weight loss?
Matt: Setting aside all of the bull****. One of my favorite scenes from both the graphic novel and movie “Wanted” is with The Repairman. When asked by Wesley what he repairs, he simply states “A lifetime of bad habits” and then he proceeds to punch him over and over. That’s it right there.
At some point, we all need someone to tie us to a chair and beat the crap out of us (metaphorically speaking) until we realize we have to be accountable for our actions and stop making excuses. [Steve's note: AMEN.]
“I’m tired. I’m hungry. I gained 10lbs after eating a Hershey’s kiss last night. It’s hard. It hurts. I’ll just circle the parking lot one more time to see if that spot opens up. I drank 12 beers and ate 40 wings over the weekend, but I don’t understand how I didn’t lose weight this week. It’s a holiday, so I’m federally required to eat 10,000 calories.”
If you can’t be accountable to yourself…if you can’t stop lying to yourself, then you just aren’t ready to change.
Steve: That’s a helluva attitude Matt, I love it. This is question I couldn’t wait to ask: wow important has weight training been to your success?
Matt: Extremely. I started out walking, and supplemented it with resistance band workouts every other day. Eventually, I discovered the “No Gym, No Problem” post at Nerd Fitness and started doing level 1. I couldn’t do a pushup, but instead of skipping it because it was hard, I tried it on my knees. Nope, not happening. Should I quit? Nope…do them on the stairs. I started about 5 stairs up and was able to do the sets with wide and close grips.
I couldn’t do pullups, nor inverted rows, so I had to skip those. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t do the squats, lunges, and so on.
Once winter was truly here, I went ahead and joined a gym since walking outside wasn’t an option. The gym is 24×7, and I started with a mix of dumbbell and machine work. Farmer’s carries, squats on the smith machine, cable rows, bicep curls, tricep extensions, seated shoulder press, and so on. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t as good as it was once I discovered Stronglifts 5×5. I started out doing the overhead, bench, and squats in the smith machine because the freeweights were always being used by these two guys who worked out at the same time.
Like most gym goers they eventually stopped coming, and I switched to the free weights.
I started out with the bar, and have worked up to overhead 115, squats 340, bench 165, and deadlift 235. The ego kicks in every now and then about how my bench and overhead are so far behind, but I remind myself that I am running a calorie deficit and can’t expect big gains. I’ve currently deloaded on bench and deadlift and am working my way back up to ensure my form is good.
Steve: Had you tried losing weight in the past? If you had failed then, what has made you succeed now?
Matt: When the mood would strike me, I could lose weight by portion control and working out 5x a week. About 10 years ago I started working for a company that had an on-site gym, and I lost about 50lbs over the course of 2 years. As my job changed, I’d like to say that I didn’t have time to workout, but really what it was was the apathy…I let it drop down in my priorities. I remember just before I started the new position, I bought a pair of 38″ jeans that I couldn’t quite button. I figured that I’d be in them in the next month. Never happened. Donated those jeans a few years later.***
As a young person, you always think that you’ll have time for everything you want to do. 10 years later, I know that I can’t be wasting my time anymore.
The reason why it is working for me now is because I’ve cut out the excuses.
Steve: Do you have any specific advice for other guys in the same boat, trying to lose a large amount of weight?
Matt: 4 things are essential:
- Figure out what your calorie needs are. There are tons of online calorie calculators out there. The one at http://www.phord.com/cc/ is great. Losing weight is “calories in < calories out.”
- Set your calorie goal at a point where you will lose weight regardless of your activity. Don’t let being sick, or getting an injury be an excuse to shovel food in your mouth.
- Keep a food log and track all of your calories. I use http://caloriecount.about.com/ because they were always coming up near the top of searches when I’d look up calorie information. All free, it has online logs for everything, and a giant database of foods and activities that are easily accessed.
- Be more active. Get at least 30 minutes of some sort of activity a day. I started out walking, and shooting around on the basketball court. But do the little things, too. Take the stairs, park in the first spot you find, walk to the mailbox, and so on.
Steve: Thanks Matt, that’s great advice. Onto the Nerd Stuff: favorite video game of all time?
Matt: Toss-up between Max Payne 1 and 2, and GTA: Vice City.
Max Payne 1 and 2 had amazing writing and great gameplay. I keep them together because the sequel had practically no changes to game play and just extended the story. The user mods for it like Kung Fu 3.0 took it even further. I used to love making gameplay movies since the developer keys enabled you move the camera around, slow things down, and more. Here’s one of my videos that has gotten a lot of attention over the years:
Vice City was such an immersive world. I’m still floored about how much they put into the 80s radio stations. Being the nerd that I am, I have ripped those files out of the game and have MP3s of VROCK, Flash, and Wave 103 that I still listen to regularly. I’d just drive around listening to the radio stations and try insane stunts. A big advantage of playing on the PC vs the consoles is having built-in replay functions which allow you to save out all the insanity.
Steve: Are you playing any game right now?
Matt: Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 are the ones I play on a regular basis.
Steve: If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?
Matt: Super strength. Chicks dig it when you can open jars for them.
Steve: Hahahahaha, touche’. What’s your movie to live by?
Steve: What’s one piece of advice you would give to a random stranger?
Matt: Set a goal and start yesterday.
There ya have it folks – this is what’s possible when you “put aside all the bull****,” start to eat better, and pick up some weights. And if you’re a female reading this article, don’t think weight lifting is only for guys – just ask Moe: the powerlifting gamer-girl you didn’t know existed.