Meet Wes, an Apple Certified Mac Tech at a university Apple Campus Store, and a freelance trombonist.
Wes was a never very active kid. From an early age he was always a little overweight and developed some bad diet habits:
I was resigned that I would always the fat friend with the wicked sense of humor.
By the time Wes started college, he weighed 250 lbs. There his unhealthy habits only continued. After years of junk food and no exercise, he eventually found himself at 325 lbs. Then he decided to make a change.
Let’s learn how Wes lost over 115 lbs and transformed the rest of his life in the process.
Steve: Thanks for joining us to tell your story! So what was the old you like?
The old me was always tired. Struggle to get out of bed with barely enough time to get ready for work. Skip breakfast at home then eat fast food or pastries from the convenience store at work. Sit through my day yawning. Fast food lunch and sleepy by 3:00. Grab an energy drink or soda to get through the last couple hours, then head home to watch TV or play WoW. Order pizza or Chinese takeout. Stay up till midnight or later, then repeat.
Steve: Was there a specific moment when you decided to make a change?
April 17, 2012 was the exact day. I just remember thinking, “I am tired of being a fatass.” I had always been the big (read: fat) kid/guy, and I think something just exploded in my head that day. I realized I was tired of making excuses and settling with my lot in life. I told a coworker that we were going to walk the track at a local middle school. And we did. That was my first step.
Steve: What’s a typical day like now?
A total 180 from my old life. I wake up around 5:30 each day. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go to the gym to lift heavy things. Tuesday and Thursday I meditate, play some trombone, or grab an extra little rest before getting up. I cook breakfast each morning (scrambled eggs topped with homemade chili, anyone?) and pack my lunch. I am alert at work, and I have a timer set so I get up from my desk and walk around every 45 minutes. I eat my lunch around 12:30 each day and have no crash in the afternoon. No energy drinks or sodas. I do have an occasional coffee or tea. When I get off work, I walk for 30 minutes most days. My evenings have home-cooked meals, small exercise bouts (pushups, squats) and foam rolling/mobility work while watching TV or listening to music.
Steve: Wow, you’re a brand new person. What has been your exercise strategy?
My exercise strategy has changed incrementally. I started with jogging/walking. I did C25K and ran my first 5K in September 2012. That got boring really quickly for me. Sometime during C25K, I found Nerd Fitness. I started doing your Beginner’s Body Weight Circuit on my non-running days.
The best thing I have found for me is strength training. I joined the school gym at work. I started with StrongLifts 5×5. After several months of that, I read Starting Strength and began incorporating some Olympic Weightlifting movements into my program. My conditioning work revolves around Strongman style work, things like Farmer’s Walks and stones. Stones are REALLY fun, even though I am only doing light ones (about 50 kilos) right now.
Steve: What’s been your diet strategy? Healthy eating? Paleo?
I started with Atkins, because this had worked for me to lose a bunch of weight in college. But that was never sustainable, because I like sides. Hamburgers with a side of chicken and bacon gets old after a while. So I tried “healthy eating” for a while. Whole grains, yogurt, low fat, etc…I was ALWAYS hungry, so that didn’t last long.
That was when I found Paleo, and realized it was like Atkins (meat and fat ARE good) but I could have veggies and some fruit. The key to my diet was I didn’t just accept any single plan. I tried each new idea for a month to see if it was sustainable, even healthy eating where I was starving. Paleo just ended up being the most sustainable and enjoyable, not to mention the best at shedding fat.
Steve: What was the toughest change for you to make?
The toughest change for me has been accepting the new person I have become. It’s tough buying clothes, and not automatically looking for baggy things to hide my body. I have to constantly remind myself that I am a new man and act accordingly.
Steve: How did you track your progress? Did you take any other measurements?
I weighed myself once a week at my parent’s house. I didn’t take pictures initially because I thought the scale was the best measure, and I was embarrassed of my body, even with just me in front of the mirror. But I quickly realized that my pants were a superb measuring tool, meaning they wouldn’t stay on me. So I used my jeans as a measure. I went from a tight 42 to a loose and comfortable 36 currently.
Also my shirts became party tents. Now I measure my chest, legs, and arms (vanity, I know, but I want some jacked guns to go along with my smaller body). I also take pictures every couple of months now to compare.
Steve: What was the most important change you made that helped you succeed?
Preparation. Eating right is hard enough with all the delicious, awful, foods out there. I started pre-cooking on the weekends so I was never in a time crunch in the mornings. I just had to grab the Tupperware, and lunch was taken care of.
Steve: Great point. It’s amazing how much easier the choices become on what to do when we PLAN AHEAD! What kind of support system did you have?
Well, my mom for starters. She said she would buy me a new suit if I lost 50 pounds. She still owes me that suit, but I think I may ask for some lifting shoes instead. Also, the NF boards were huge for me. My first 6-weeks challenge was great. I met a friend on the boards, and we have been inspiring each other ever since. I would be remiss if I didn’t give SambieWlks a huge shout out here. She has been a huge inspiration to me since beating me down in a Beginner’s Body Weight PvP challenge. And My accountabilibuddies team is really great. The Down and Dirties (D&D for short) are awesome.
Steve: Have you tried and failed to get healthy before in the past? What made this time different?
Yeah. In college I did Atkins, lost like 70 pounds, then slowly put it back on as I went back to eating fast food and trash. This time was different because I found some better answers (Paleo) on how to eat, I found some people to support me in what I was doing, and I found an exercise program that I love.
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?
Go for it. What is the worst that can happen? If you fail, you are just where you started, no worse off, and you have new information about why you failed. But if you succeed, you will be in a much better place. It is a win win situation. So go for it. Walk around when you get off work or out of class. Ditch soda for a week. Start small, get some solid information (you are already here at Nerd Fitness, it is FULL of great advice), and make the decision. You CAN do it.
Steve: You’ve already changed so much man, congrats. What’s next for you?
This year I am going on a train excursion with my friends. I have never been able to go because of money, but I have started getting my budget figured out as part of my life change so I can go. I’m also squirreling away money for a trip to Scotland, the land of my ancestors. That trip is about two years out, but the big picture of a Scottish castle in my room is inspiration to save money.
Steve: What are you excited to do now that you weren’t physically able to do before?
My buddy wants me to run an adventure race with him, and I feel I can do that now. Riding my motorcycle long distances, carrying a canoe, paddling, running, and swimming all now sound like a blast!
Steve: Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?
Friends have told me that I seem a lot happier now and that I laugh more. That is pretty cool. To just be happy with who I am. And having a desire to be better is a positive thing now, not a negative thing.
Steve: On to the nerdy questions: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
Some of my earliest memories of my Dad are watching Star Wars on videotape and listening to Led Zeppelin. I get my geek side from my Dad, and those memories of him and Star Wars really make it the winner.
Steve: Jason Bourne or James Bond?
James Bond, hands down. He doesn’t have to use force to get the job done. He always has a way of outsmarting the bad guys.
Steve: If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?
Regeneration, like Deadpool or Wolverine. You could work out SO MUCH!
Steve: Quote to live by?
“Most of the problems with the bodies and minds of the folks occupying the current culture involve an unwillingness to do anything hard, or anything that they’d rather not do. I applaud your resolve, and I welcome you to the community of people who have decided that EASY will no longer suffice.” – Mark Rippetoe
Coach Rip has some of the best quotes out there. This one has been a guiding light for me since I read it.
Steve: Coach Rip is the man. Tell us something interesting about you!
I have two steel rods in my back to correct a 65 degree curvature of my spine. Scoliosis is for the birds. I had the surgery between my junior and senior years of high school. I tried to have pictures of my post-surgery x-rays as my senior picture to give to my friends for their scrapbooks. My mother vetoed this idea completely.
Why Wes was successful
Wes struggled with unhealthy habits for YEARS before getting healthy, resigning to daily takeout and a sedentary lifestyle. Then he decided to change, and eventually found a path that gave him enormous success.
Let’s take a look at why he was successful:
Find what works: When Wes knew he wanted to get healthy, he didn’t give up after the first diet and exercise routine he tried. First he adopted the Atkins diet, but knew that wasn’t sustainable. Then he transitioned to the conventional ‘healthy’ diet, lots of grains and low fat food. When this diet left him feeling unsatisfied he finally made the transition to Paleo and found himself actually enjoying healthy eating and all the energy that came with it.
Small steps: Wes didn’t jump straight into a 5-day split with 30 isolation exercises. When he made the decision to get healthy, he literally walked around the track at a local school. Rather than get frustrated, he saw this step as progress, a new level gained. After his initial experience he started to walk more and eventually run. Then he ran a 5k. Then he found the beginner body weight workout. Then he started Stronglifts 5v5. Then Olympic weightlifting. Then the world.
An emphasis on diet: If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for a while, it should come as no surprise that EVERY success story placed a particular emphasis on their diet. For Wes, junk food and a poor diet was what put him in a bad place to begin with, and that’s where he decided to start his journey.
Willpower: Wes became the master of willpower, realizing that it is a limited resource. Changing your diet and sticking to a new regimen can be tough. So he started pre-cooking healthy meals and made sure he had NO excuse. Just grab the prepared meal and head to work. He kept this concept in his workouts too; Wes works out first thing in the mornings, before the drain of the workday has a chance to demotivate him. As a result he finds he has far more energy throughout the day as well.
Sustainable changes: No matter how he started his journey, Wes pursued long term, sustainable changes. He wanted a diet in which he wasn’t going to regain all the weight months later…he’d been through that already. So he pushed his boundaries, found a lifestyle that allowed him to effortlessly eat real food and enjoy exercise. He understood rule #2 of the Rebellion: you’re in for life.
You can’t fix yesterday, and you can’t control tomorrow, so why not focus on today?
I don’t care if you have 400 pounds to lose, or the final 10 pounds, today is the perfect day to do something about it.
Don’t get overwhelmed; remember that any action is better than nothing. Wes wasn’t sure where to get started, so he went for a walk. He tried out different styles of exercise before settling on one he liked. He tried different diet styles until finding one that worked for him.
Yeah, some of the methods he tried didn’t work out; rather than saying “I’m a failure,” he said “This is a method that doesn’t work for me. On to the next one!” Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it and move onto another plan of attack. Everyone finds success a bit differently.
A HUGE thanks to Wes for putting Nerd Fitness principles into place and sticking with it. I’m incredibly honored to have him in our community and can’t wait to see what he’s capable now that he’s leveled up his life. I’m looking forward to that next dragon he’ll slay…
PS – We’re gonna try out something new: For Rebels who haven’t left the newbie area, the prospect of “getting healthy” can seem incredibly overwhelming. If you have already found some success, where did YOU start? Food? Habits? Exercise? What was the first step you took to get started?
Email your answer/suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.