Until I was 24—I’m 34 now, so a full decade ago—I was an athlete. I love competition, and I’ve always loved the gym. But had a horrible diet. I was eating for strength (for competitive powerlifting), eating pretty much whatever I could get my hands on. I’d stuff myself with big meals, then snack on candy and soda; even after those big meals, my girlfriend would get mad at me for polishing off a whole sleeve of Oreos.
I gained weight fairly quickly, and it stuck around. I had a family and kids, plus a new job and moving—there was a lot of stress. I felt tired all the time. I got short of breath easily and really wanted to sleep a lot. I was strong, but my cardio performance sucked. My workouts, maybe needless to say, involved long rest periods. At 32, I was 255 pounds.
Covid swooped in and canceled my powerlifting events. So for almost a month I didn’t work out, but I was still eating like crazy. I saw a picture of myself and just had a real feeling that I’d let myself go chasing a dumb little local dream.
I knew I had to change my diet. I’d tried multiple fad diets before, but nothing stuck. I researched how professional athletes and bodybuilders approach their diets, which led me to focus on meal prep, counting macros, and timing my meals. I didn’t try to drop the extra calories all at once, but tapered them slowly. As I progressed, I could taper them a little more.
Underneath the extra weight, I knew I had a lot of strength—in some ways, changing my diet was about slimming down to reveal the musculature I already had. I switched from a powerlifting workout to a PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) routine. Eventually, I moved on to a bodypart split I created, doing that six times a week. I developed my own routine, without an official trainer, but I did tons of research, and people in the fitness lifestyle community helped me bounce ideas off of them. I was really inspired by bodybuilder Seth Feroce and YouTube fitness influencer Ryan Humiston.
In a little less than two years, I went from 255 pounds to a 188-pound weigh-in for my first bodybuilding show. I was excited to show off my shoulders, which blew up with the new workout regimen. And for the first time in my life, I have legit abs.
It’s been nice to see how people responded to the changes. For the first year or so, no one really said much, but after that year I began seeing changes and announced I was going to try bodybuilding. People took notice, and started asking me for advice about their workout routines and diet plans. My girlfriend was definitely happier and the kids started looking at me more like a superhero. I’ve got a whole lot more confidence and energy.
My advice to anyone trying to follow this path is make everything a habit. Eat the same things at the same time every day, and plan accordingly. Only eat what you plan. And when you go to the gym, work out with intensity and purpose. Don’t go there to waste your time. You’re there to change for the better.
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