Meet Daniel, the 24 year old from Austria who formerly worked in the video game industry.
Like many that read Nerd Fitness, Daniel was the overweight kid growing up.
When junior high came around, he was bullied and had a hard time fitting in. So he did what many of us did in the awkward adolescent phase of life: retreated to a life of living vicariously through video games.
Taking this passion and escape further, Daniel went to work for one of the largest video game companies in the world. And wouldn’t ya know it, a video game company didn’t present the healthiest environment in which to work.
After heading down a cycle of unhealthy eating and inactivity, Daniel found Nerd Fitness, along with the path to a healthier, leveled up life.
Although he tried to get healthy many times throughout the years, this time it stuck, dropping a TREMENDOUS amount of weight, turning his life around, and having a damn good time with it.
Let’s learn how he did it, and what you can learn from his successes and struggles.
Steve: Thanks for joining us Daniel and telling your story! What was the “old you” like?
I had several attempts until I managed to fully commit myself to the lifestyle change, there are several versions of the typical day for the old me. I’ll describe the newest “old” me and his typical day:
I would wake up around 10 AM, do some work, and watch random stuff on Netflix. By 12:15 PM I’d ride the bus / subway to the station close to work and grab a doner kebab. I would work until 10 PM, and at lunch I would take a break with coworkers and go eat at the next door Chinese restaurant or burger joint.
After work I’d go out (occasionally) or go home and eat more crap, while watching something on Netflix or playing a videogame, getting to bed by 3 AM.
Steve: Wow, quite the night owl. So what inspired you to change all of that?
I was sick and tired of being a lunatic, which was due largely to being homesick. Almost three years after I moved to Germany to work in the video game industry, homesickness hit me for the first time. It made me depressed like I never was before and I began to eat junk food and sweets all day; I just wanted it all to end. I didn’t care, I just wanted the feeling to be over, and food was my therapy.
Fast forward 3 months: I was sick and tired of how pathetic I’d become. Having shot back up to 136 kg bodyweight (or 299 lbs) and back to shirt size XXXXL, on July 12th, 2012, it finally hit me like a rock. I saw how and why all my previous attempts at losing weight went wrong and decided decided to finally fully change my lifestyle, in order to succeed at losing weight and getting healthier.
Steve: What made this attempt at getting healthy different than the previous attempts?
What made this time different was that I finally became mentally ready. I finally began to value myself and realized I could change things. I took personal responsibility and realized that I didn’t need anybody else’s permission to get healthy…I could just do it.
Steve: I know you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for years so it took you some time to find the method that worked for you. So what is a day like for the NEW you?
Now I’m looking to reorient my career; I didn’t want to spend any more 8 + hour days in front of a computer. These days I have more time to focus on health.
I wake up, turn on my PC, and start up Spotify (I listen to music while working out at home.)
Then I do a bodyweight workout (here’s a beginner NF bodyweight routine) using an iPhone App I enjoy called “You Are Your Own Gym”.
Once that is done, I go cook a breakfast and make coffee. My favorite breakfast are banana omelettes:
- 1 Banana
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp of ground vanilla
- mixed in the food processor
- Fried on a pan
THEN the rest of my day starts.
Steve: Has working out in the morning always been your strategy?
Well, until Winter 2012 there was no strategy at all. I mainly lost the weight until then by just eating Paleo. I only knew that I was too scared of doing strength training, due to shoulder joint issues thanks to scoliosis. In December I started to run (using the Zombies! 5k Training app) and riding the bike to work. That helped to continue to progress with weight loss while not doing any calorie counting at all.
Since then, my strategy has changed entirely.
For the past six weeks, I’ve been doing bodyweight calisthenics workouts because I’m happy with the weight on the scale (86.4 kg), I want to get strong. Really strong. I dropped most of the cardio, except for daily walks and riding the bike for daily commutes.
My success at weight loss impressed my father so much that we decided to turn one of the rooms in my parents house into a freeweights workout room now as well.
Soon we will start bench pressing, deadlifts and all the other good stuff 🙂
Steve: Love it. You focused on cleaning up your diet, and then got that under control…and then started mixing in exercising. BABY STEPS FOR THE WIN! Deadlifts are the best! What about diet? What has been your strategy there?
I like to say that I’m 95% Paleo. I have a cheat day once every few weeks, but once a week I drink alcohol, based on Martin Berkhan’s recommendations. The only non-paleo food I eat on my cheat days is dairy, but as I have stomach issues, I do not eat grains or any allergenic food on these days.
Steve: What was the toughest change for you to make?
Definitely fully committing to a Paleo lifestyle. Because my coworkers still kept on eating refined food, I didn’t go to 90% of the lunch breaks with them anymore, as I always ate my own food. Although I spent less time with coworkers, I don’t regret it at all, seeing especially how much more social I am now anyway compared to twelve months ago.
Steve: So, after adjusting your diet, you started fixing a few other things. Was there a method to your madness?
Yes, I started tracking my progress on a few things to make sure I was leveling up. The running progress I tracked through “Zombies, Run!” website. Other tracking I did was only with the scale and clothes sizes. Now I also track my strength training.
Steve: What was the most important change you made that helped you succeed?
In finally deciding to get healthy this time, for real, I began to value myself higher and respect myself more. I made my health a priority. I never gave in when people wanted me to go out eat with them or eat some of their sweets, because I found out that my health was more important.
I still have a hard time saying no to a lot of things. But when it’s about my health and my mental well being, I have no issues telling people anymore, when I know something that people want me to do would affect me negatively. I’m okay with being the odd man out sometimes.
Steve: What kind of support system did you have? Friends and family? NF Community Boards?
Because I had already failed attempts at getting healthy before, the support from friends and family was so-so. They did support me, but I know that deep down they didn’t believe that I’d make it. Now of course, they’re all impressed and support me more than ever.
Also I was active on the NF Forums, and participated in a lot of challenges.
Steve: What would you tell somebody who was just like you – somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?
Do it. You’re worth it.
If you don’t think of yourself like that, chances are that you might fail again. But hell, if it happens, just take another break and after some time have another try.
With each attempt you learn from the previous mistakes. That, combined with the mental readiness to accept that you’re absolutely worth it will will turn the attempt into a permanent solution.
Steve: It sounds like you’ve leveled up your life in many different ways. What are you excited to do now that you weren’t physically able to do before?
One activity I’m REALLY excited about is that within the past two weeks I went from being able to do wall-push-ups to knee-height push-ups. As I always was such a weak person, this is one of the most incredible changes for me.
Aside from this, what else excites me is that now I’m able to do the simple things in life:
- Being able to touch my toes,
- Keep up with my nieces when we’re playing outside
- Jump with them on the trampoline without having to worry about exceeding the total weight limit.
Steve: Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?
Thankfully a LOT. I am now way more confident and a lot more sociable now (though I’m still awkward, just much less awkward, haha). These days I love to buy clothes; the past 13 months also increased my perseverance and my discipline by a LOT. I respect myself now and each day I’m becoming more and more comfortable with myself. I feel thankful and happy for every day, appreciating the people around me much more.
When my self esteem used to be way too low, I couldn’t talk to any girls, no matter what she looked like. Now I can talk to any lady, because I’m comfortable with myself. I’ve realized that they’re just humans too…although I have no idea on how to flirt, so I’m beginning to exercise that now haha.
Steve: So, what you’re saying there is hope for those of us that struggle in the social skills department. And don’t worry man, women are still a mystery to most of us :). What’s next?
Along with changing how I look and how I act, I’m also in the process of reorienting my career. Now that fitness and nutrition are big passions of mine, I want to combine it with another passion, which is helping people. So I want to start an apprenticeship as personal trainer.
Shameless plug: I’ve started my own blog and am working on a book!
Steve: You sound like a completely different person, in the best way possible. Congrats with all of your success Daniel, you should be incredibly proud. Ok on to the real important stuff: Jason Bourne or James Bond?
Neither. Chuck is the best secret agent of all time!
Steve: Favorite video game of all time?
Although it used to be Super Mario 64, I really love Telltale’s Walking Dead.
That opinion changed because Telltale’s Walking Dead was the first game ever that really got to me emotionally. The first media ever that made me cry. And I cried a lot. Like a little girl. No other game, book, movie or TV show did something like that to me before.
Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?
Currently I’m on a mission to read all of the modern classics in literature (I just finished Brave New World today and will start The Catcher in the Rye tomorrow). Aside from that, I love to geek out on nutritional science. I spend hours upon hours listening to fitness and nutritional podcasts, reading studies over at PubMed.
Steve: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?
Running fast enough to be able to run on water. Then I’d travel the whole world haha. Unless there’s a Sharknado.You don’t wanna mess with sharks.
Steve: Quote to live by?
“The worst thing I can be is the same as everbody else. I HATE that” – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When my self esteem was so low that confidence seemed like a foreign word to me, I just wanted to be accepted and be like everyone else. Now that with the latest “attempt” at getting healthy it finally clicked in my brain, and the longer the journey took, the more I realized that I have no interest in being like everybody else.
I am a geek and proud of it. I have no interest in becoming diabetic or dying from a heart attack. Also I don’t want to be skinny or sick. I want to be strong. Exceptionally strong. And I want to keep continuously improve myself in terms of personality and education as well. According to society this makes me different, and let me tell you, I absolutely love it.
Why Daniel Was Successful
Daniel transformed his life, losing over 49.5 kg (109 lbs) in the process. After having failed in the past, he found changes that stuck. Let’s take a look at why Daniel was successful.
Daniel had grit. He started Nerd Fitness in Autumn of 2010, about five months into his first weight-loss foray. We had just released the Rebel Fitness Guide, and a few months later Daniel picked it up. He spent 2011 participating actively on the NF message boards; he struggled, failed, started over, tried new things, and kept pushing. By the middle of 2012, he noticed he had been using food as an outlet for his homesickness. He decided to make a change, and started trying different things to lose weight.
He didn’t look at failures as personal flaws, but rather simply stepping stones to future success: “Okay this method didn’t work for me, I’m going to try another one.” Like being a difficult final boss in a game, he kept honing his skills and techniques until finding the one that allowed him to win. That technique?
He respected himself. Up until his most recent attempt, Daniel truly struggled with his self esteem, and didn’t respect himself. He didn’t deem himself worthy of a better life, which depressed him further, which turned him towards something that made him temporarily happier: more food and more gaming.
One day, he woke up and said to himself: “Damnit, I am good enough. I do deserve a better life, and I know nobody else is going to give it to me. I have a personal responsibility to get healthy. Might as well get started.”
He focused on his diet: Like most NF success stories, Daniel focused his efforts around his diet. Before he started ANY exercise, he adopted the Paleo Diet (and then started shedding pounds). He knew that building too many habits at once was a recipe for disaster so he set out to use his willpower for his diet. Only after getting that under control did he start exercising.
And wouldn’t ya know it…
Daniel developed a passion for fitness: Daniel realized that after a few weeks of exercising, he became addicted to the feeling of a great workout; he fell in love with the concept of getting stronger. He just leveled up in his push ups and it was one of the best feelings in the world. He plans to start following the Rebel Strength Guide after he’s finished with his current challenge.
Now, he counts health and fitness as one of his nerdy pursuits, reading PubMed and having interest in becoming a personal trainer. He even built a blog to share his own story.
He used technology to help him stay on track: As a gamer, Daniel understood the importance of tracking his progress, and used a variety of applications and nerdy tools to track his workouts and keep him motivated. Without tracking your results properly, he would have had no idea whether or not he was getting stronger or faster.
It’s hard to build motivation, momentum, and long term habits when you don’t know if you’re improving.
Daniel leveled up his life: As Daniel leveled up his routine and diet habits, he found other areas of his life started to improve as well. He found himself suddenly with more confidence; he was less awkward around others and had fun in situations which previously only produced anxiety.
Momentum is a powerful thing, my friend. I can think of dozens and dozens of cases where people were in a crappy spot in many areas of their life, so they just focused on fixing their health, one thing they knew they could control. As they fixed that part of the puzzle, they discovered that fixing other parts was far less daunting than initially imagined.
Daniel channeled his nerdy passions and turned them into real world success.
He spent years reading Nerd Fitness, trying different methods until he finally looked in the mirror and realized that his biggest hurdle was mental. After giving himself the permission to want a better life, and expecting a better life, he set out to make it happen.
…And then he made it happen.
I realize this kind of sounds like Stuart Smalley, but it’s absolutely true: you deserve the best life you can dream up for yourself. You are good enough to have the things you want. But nobody is going to hand that life to you.
No matter how bad your situation is now, it’s your personal responsibility to dig yourself out of that hole.
This is the greatest thing in the entire world.
You don’t need to wait for anybody’s permission. You can start right now. Like, right now. Do some squats in your cubicle. Make a better decision for lunch today.
Journeys begin with a single step.
Have you struggled like Daniel?
Are you struggling with believing you’re good enough to live healthier?
What questions do you have for this Austrian Rebel?