Meet Dave Ferguson, a 23 year-old Canadian living on the Gaspé coast in Eastern Quebec.
Dave is currently working as a webmaster, radio host, and as the assistant to the music director at a local radio station. Plus, he’s a volunteer firefighter.
Dave started his journey at 418 lbs. Stuck in a cycle of weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle, Dave decided to try something new. He didn’t go about getting healthy like he had the millions of times before. This time was different, and he’s been documenting his progress through Nerd Fitness along the way.
After losing 170 lbs, he’s a different person.
His transformation is freaking amazing, so let’s find out how he did it!
Steve: Hey Dave, thanks for being here and also for being awesome. What was the less awesome version of you like? What was a typical day?
Dave: I’d drag myself to school or work, eat, and do social activities. Lather, rinse and repeat. One of our favorite activities in the summer was basically driving up to the nearest village to a drive-in restaurant where they serve you in your car. Social activities were often around food, and not often the best choices! You ever hear about poutine? Fries, gravy, cheese curds.
I was wearing some 4xl shirts (being happy when I found some), size 48 or 50 pants. Being really tall is hard for finding clothes, but being as wide as tall was making that even harder.
Steve: Wow, you’ve come quite a long way. Was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change?
Dave: Well it’s hard to say, but I always remember a moment when I was with some friends in the hot tub, and they were talking to me about their concerns for my health and trying to convince me to move a bit more each day.
The next moment came when I need to see a doctor for a medical paper to start my firefighting course: he told me everything was ok, except for my weight (which I did not realize at that moment). I weighed 418 pounds.
My father died 7 years ago from heart failure after a firefighter competition. And there I was, not being able to do common activities having to say no to certain things. It sank in.
Steve: That’s pretty powerful man…so how did you get started?
Dave: I started as I am sure everyone did…with running start and going to the gym to use the stationary bike. Eventually I got fed up with the bike and clueless weightlifting.Then a good friend of mine suggested I go do some cardio boxing with her and a local coach in courses. I tried it…it was HELL, but I pulled through, and continued once per week for the first month or so. Then I started going twice a week, then 3 times a week. As of now I can box 5 to 6 times a week.
There came a moment when everything went not towards my weight loss but towards my goal of being better at boxing. It was a progressive start, but I gained speed over time. Being well surrounded by my family (notably my mother who follows me in all of this), friends and a super boxing coach, it all got me going even faster.
Steve: Sounds like you slowly learned to embrace leveling up and striving to be better. That’s awesome. So, what’s a typical day like now?
Dave: Well, I work a lot. I spend 8 hours a day in an office, doing what I love in a GREAT environment.
Afterwards, I mix it up. It can be running for about 10 km’s, biking, or 2 hours of boxing (which includes so many burpees, pushups, sit-ups, HIIT stations, and sparring and mitt work).
I started amateur boxing fights (3 already) and about 3 weeks before one, I cut off all alcohol, eat clean foods, train even harder than usual. The keyword here is discipline. I have new habits, but still get a chance to listen to my favorite tv series and play video games with friends, but these have become optional overall.
Steve: Sounds like you really found something you love. How did you do that?
Well, my exercise strategy is to try as many new things as possible and to not back down before hand. Last summer I decided to climb a 1500 m mountain (the tallest in my region) back when I weighed 330 pounds. If I would have listened to myself I would have not done it, but still I tried, and accomplished it. Whether it’s boxing, running, lifting, or even gardening or playing airsoft outside, I try to keep this philosophy.
Steve: Awesome, no sense in spending hours on a treadmill if you don’t enjoy it. So, what about your diet?
There is no such thing as a cheat meal for me. If I feel like eating something that wasn’t the best, I won’t call it a cheat meal, and will keep on training. Over time my eating habits changed…now what is a big meal for me is only a fraction of what I used to eat, and that’s when I eat ‘’a lot’’ according to my new self.
I love chicken, I have a bunch of chicken breasts in the freezer, throw it in a pan with rice or potatoes, maybe add some veggies, and a lot of different spices (which saved me). A lot of credit has to go to my grandma who prepared me A LOT of food which I freeze. I never really followed Paleo strictly. Though, when in doubt on the ‘’healthiness’’ of food, I ask my self…Can a caveman have it? And that question has often solved grocery dilemmas I’ve had.
Steve: Sounds like you found a winning strategy. So where did you struggle?
Staying constant in my habits. Temptation is hard at first, it’s ruthless, it wants you to fail! Staying on target became much easier as time went on. Luckily I had good friends and family to keep me on the path, and also a lot of personal motivation. Stopping excuses was something I had to work on really hard. Another tough challenge was getting over my fear of ‘’ you can’t do that’’ It’s crazy how the human mind can be conditioned to NOT wanting to try new things, and I eventually got a thrill from challenging myself to new activities.
Steve: What about tracking your progress. Did you weigh yourself? Take photos?
At first, the doctor’s scale set me at 418….then I guess a few solid months later, I went back and BOOM 75 pounds less. Then 85, and so on and so on. Once I got to 330 pounds my scale stopped saying O-LD (overload) and started showing numbers.
I regret not taking measurements and more accurate stats on the first 75 pounds, but hey I lost it so, that’s what’s important 🙂 The fact I had to buy 2 full new wardrobes and for a while wear clothes too big was a measurement in itself, going from 4xl to L and Medium sizes. I learned not to be obsessed by the scale, it’s a tool in measuring progress, NOT a torture device! Remember that.
Steve: What kind of support system did you have?
The number one reason why I’m still here today is friends and family. Someone once told me, ‘’you are the average of the 8 closest people to you.’’ I can say I was very well surrounded, my now 51 year old mother started boxing, hiking, running, and anything else I would do. Even though at first she said ‘’I’m too old for that.” Even with a half knee replacement she follows me.
The community boards are a really nice place where every step was important along the way! Here’s a thread I’ve been posting on since last year. Seeing others push their limits is an additional motivation.
Steve: Here’s what I’d love to know: what made this time different? Why did you succeed this time where you may have failed in the past?
I learned that trying to implement drastic changes for a fixed amount of time can never work. Instead I slowly changed the foods I ate and added activities gradually. The secret, for me, was to work on what I enjoyed. THEN add what you like less. I almost resorted to trying those miracle diets, but instead I took the time to not rush things.
Steve: What would you tell somebody in your situation right now to help them? Somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?
Find something you like doing, find people who like doing that too, work with people, and don’t let it all rest on your shoulders – it can be a heavy burden. Good friends and family will never let you down. OH and buy a spice rack, you’ll thank me when you start cooking.
Steve: You’ve accomplished so much already…what’s next, brother?
As i’m writing this I am at 245. M goal is to go down near 230, cut off some body fat percentage, add more cardio. All of this is for my future boxing fights; it’s just amateur boxing, and it’s just 3 fights, but it gets me to another level. I have dreams of traveling (Europe), opening a boxing gym with my coach, and eventually coaching others…the weird part, I would like to run for politics before my 30’s.
Steve: Your physical appearance has changed…did anything else change?
My outlook on life. I am much more optimistic, now it’s not a question of having goals…it’s knowing which one I want to attack first. I have to say my confidence has gone WAYYYY up, buying a suit helped that out too.
Steve: Ok, on the the important stuff: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
Star Wars all the way! Lord of the Rings is great…but choking people with the force? Try and beat that Frodo 🙂
Steve: Jason Bourne or James Bond?
Come on….James Bond, 1..he has the gadgets, 2..he has the ladies 3..he is a spy
Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?
Too many to mention! I do LARP’s here in Quebec (medieval-fantastic, even trying out an apocalyptic zombie one this summer), I collect trading cards MTG, hold minecraft events at home, dream of getting a full sized vader suit for home, and I have a level 14 cleric in D&D who flies a magic carpet.
Steve: Favorite quote to live by?
It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life. I believe this is from Star Trek. I find it uplifting, even though it speaks of failure.
STEVE: Here are Dave’s weight loss stats, for those that are curious!
- 418 – 08/01/2012
- 337 – 07/22/2013
- 330 – 08/10/2013
- 328 – 08/20/2013
- 318 – 09/13/2013
- 297 – 11/10/2013
- 289 – 12/12/2013
- 278 – 02/06/2014
- 273 – 03/03/2014
- 268 – 03/26/2014
- 262 – 05/15/2014
- 251 – 06/10/2014
- 245 – 07/12/2014
Why Dave Was Successful
Remember, we’re all in this together. When one Rebel succeeds, we all have the opportunity to learn something.
Dave broke the cycle and found a path to get healthy that didn’t leave him discouraged and wanting to revert to his old habits. Let’s take a look at what exactly led to Dave’s success.
Dave had a strong “why”: Having a powerful “why” can keep you going even in the most difficult of times. When Dave was told by his doctor that he needed to lose weight, it struck especially hard. At 418 pounds and looking to get his medical papers to start his firefighting course, he thought of his father who died 7 years ago from heart failure in a firefighting competition. Thinking about his own sedentary life, this sprung him into action.
Dave focused on activities he loved: Dave had an amazing philosophy: try everything, because something is bound to stick. And guess what? It did! Eventually he found boxing, found in love with the sport, and all of a sudden “exercise” didn’t feel like “exercise.” It was just having fun.
If you hate the treadmill, get off the treadmill. If you hate lifting weights in a dark gym, stop lifting weights in a dark gym. There are a million different ways to move more. Find one that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself in the foot, as exercise is a SMALL part of the equation. Your diet is 80-90% of the battle, no joke.
Dave fell in love with leveling up: Dave failed in the past because he tried to adopt drastic changes very quickly. This time, he did things differently. Instead he fell in love with the concept of leveling up. Instead of doing everything at once, he took small steps and leveled up at a pace that was sustainable and enjoyable.
Dave had an awesome support team: Dave’s support team was world class. Not only did he have a community of nerds supporting him from the start of his initial 75 lb loss, but his friends and family were with him all the way. In fact, when Dave tried a new activity, his mom learned it too. Even boxing. According to Dave, this was the biggest component of his success.
Dave focused on the process, not the daily ebb and flow: Dave did not put his focus on his daily weight or micromanaging his progress in workouts. Instead he put his head down, tried to do a little better every day, and found himself down 50, 75, 100+ lbs months later. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Keep it simple and focus on the big wins. Dave fell in love with the process – he loves the thing that gets him out to move more. You too can fall in love with the game, I promise.
Level Up Like Dave
Dave is like a real life character from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Like Little Mac, he fell in love with the idea of getting a bit better and pushing himself further, increasing the challenge, and upping the levels of difficulty as he went.
Although we’re big fans of leveling up and strength training (which is what we do with the Nerd Fitness Academy), one of the major philosophies of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is “do what makes you happy.” Dave found boxing, and that fueled his drive to be fit and fast.
How about you? Instead of focusing on “I need to lose weight,” where can you throw your energy? What activities truly bring you joy and don’t even feel like working out? Remember, as your diet is 80-90% of the battle, the exercise should be stuff that makes you happy.
What sort of questions do you have for Dave?
PS: This past weekend close to 200 rebels descended upon the mountains of Georgia for Camp Nerd Fitness. We’ll be posting a full recap with TONS of videos and photos in the very near future, but I wanted to share one photo that encapsulates the energy and excitement from Camp Nerd Fitness:
This weekend changed my life. I have never been more proud to be part of the NF Rebellion. We did it all: kung fu, parkour, tricking, yoga, healthy eating, late night dance parties, power lifting, bodyweight training, video games, handstands, and more. I seriously cried twice on my car ride home on Sunday because I didn’t want it to be over.
If you are interested in joining us at next year’s Camp, make sure you sign up for the Camp NF interest list!