Over 5 years, Jonathan lost 135 pounds (which includes him losing 20 inches & gaining 25 pounds of muscle). In the interview below, he shares what it’s really like to lose the weight: the struggles, the triumphs, and the messier parts that most people don’t talk about.
I share his story in hopes to inspire, educate, and empower others to do the same.
He’s bravely answered some of the tough q’s about his journey and included some insider tips for those looking to lose weight for the long haul. No sponsorships, no gimmicks, this is the REAL deal Q & A.
With both excitement to share and compassion for those struggling with their weight goals, here’s our interview:
- What was your relationship with food/history before you began your Weight Loss Journey?
I was overweight my entire life. I would be athletic, but I was always overweight and not exactly “Fit.” Growing up I remember feeling compelled to eat fast so nobody picked off of my plate and I had to finish my entire meal before getting any kind of dessert, which promoted some bad habits of overeating.
When I entered grade school I was often picked on and bullied for being fat and dared to eat more food at school as a bet. None of this established a good foundation for my relationship with food. Moreover, when family life and social life got difficult food helped me cope with anxiety. Although I also participated in martial arts and soccer, I self medicated my depression with food and overeating.
In Adulthood, my lifestyle took a dip when I dropped all exercise. I gained over 150 lbs from the time I entered high school to my sophomore year of college, going from ~200 lbs to having nearly 6 months where I couldn’t weigh myself because the scale didn’t go above 350. I have no idea what my heaviest weight was, but I imagine it being closer to 400 than 350. At my worst, I had a 56″ waist and a 54″ chest.
Social endeavors and relationships were pretty much unavailable due to my own self-esteem issues and the fact that my lifestyle wasn’t conducive to changing anything. I would escape into online video games as a means to dodge dealing with my issues and inner demons. I had a gym membership but let little excuses (bad weekend hours, no towel service, kept forgetting my lock, bad facilities, fear of looking stupid, etc) prevent me from taking advantage of it and taking control of my health. In 4 years time, I went to the gym on eight occasions.
- What inspired you to begin this journey and what thoughts motivated you?
I had a relationship end poorly and some daggers were spat at me from my girlfriend at the time as she picked up on my insecurities. That resulted in a heart wrenching end to what I considered a potentially meaningful relationship. A week later, I got angry for letting myself get to this point and I joined a gym which removed all of my previous excuses. It was 24/7, no need for a lock, no need for towels/shampoo/etc. The only thing I had to do was to get myself going.
- How did you talk to yourself and motivate yourself as you went through the process?
For me, no positive thoughts entered my mind for over a year into my journey. I had a lifetime of self-inflicted failures to deal with and I struggled when I started. I committed publicly to friends and family that I was committed to this and that I was going to be in my own head space for awhile.
What resulted was a year of tearing my self down, saying to myself all of the hurtful and disgusting things that others had said to me my entire life whether classmates, family, or the passing comment when walking around campus. Every part of the “old” me had to be destroyed for me to rebuild from the ground up into who I wanted to be. There was a sermon I heard around that time which asked the simple question, “Are you the person that the woman you’re looking for is searching for? If not, start changing things now or you’ll never find that woman.” I had a lot of work to do; everything about who I was needed to be replaced with who I wanted to be such that I could be in a healthy relationship.
I had survived all the crucibles of life and been successful at everything I ever put my mind to except not being overweight. I wasn’t going to give myself an inch of respite as I course corrected my life.
4. What were your sources of motivation and inspiration?
I started an accountability bet with one of my friends and his brother. We all had weight to lose and we created an incentive plan where those in the pool paid out to the individual who accomplished various metrics. Some examples included:
$20 per 10 lbs of weight lost
$20 for improving 1-mile time by 3 minutes
$20 for completing a 5k
$20 for completing a 10k
$20 for improving 5k time by 5 minutes or more
$20 for improving 1-minute AMRAP on pushups and situps by 25% or more
I also scoured the internet for good inspiration – UFC Fighters, The Rock, Crossfit athletes, motivational music, angry music for those “pump you up” songs, whatever I needed such that I didn’t let myself stay idle.
5. What do you wish someone told you when you began and during the highs and lows of your journey?
Change doesn’t happen overnight. I didn’t get fat in one day, I wasn’t going to get fit in one day either. Cheat meals and indulgences should be more about managing hormone levels than “rewarding yourself” for doing what you were supposed to be doing your entire life anyways. Establish a clear reward program for yourself which never allows food to be a reward; break that cycle one day at a time.
Habits take a long time to form, and you cannot just workout for a month and consider yourself good-to-go. It took nearly 6 months for working out to be compulsory and it required setting priorities with my boss at work as well as removing bad influences in my life. I lost MOST of my friends during this journey because they always wanted me to go out and drink, eat fried food, or considered what i was doing – getting healthy and losing weight – to be “unhealthy” and “obsessive.” It’s pretty simple, for you to achieve anything you need to be obsessed with obtaining that result, everything requires work!
6. What parts of your journey surprised you?
I was surprised how many people left my life during this process. By dealing with my inner demons it sort of put them in focus as NOT dealing with theirs. Many people judged me for finally taking care of myself and that was a jagged pill to swallow. That said, my life is much better without them.
7. What worked, what didn’t? (This can be emotionally, support-wise, or food and exercise related)
For me to lose weight i had to do intermittent-fasting with a Ketosis diet. That resulted in the bulk of my weight loss. I worked out 6 days a week with one off day and one of those days being light cardio. Every 2 days I had something which was compulsory for me to participate in – a free class I enjoyed at the gym, Personal Training session, group training classes, etc – where if I didn’t show up I got a phone call asking me where I was. I invested substantially in my health, and it’s been the best investment i ever made.
On the dietary subject I had to commit to a plan for 8-12 weeks. It was difficult, and i struggled, but I took the ego out of it and just did what i was told. I got a nutritional coach that I met with monthly to tune my diet and ensure that my trigger foods were identified as I learned to better listen to my body and how I felt based upon what I ate. I did a food journal with myfitnesspal and it also served as an accountability measure if i wasn’t keeping up with it or if i was overeating.
When I struggled at the start of my journey I decided to get a personal trainer. This required certain lifestyle sacrifices but my health was important to me so for my birthday I committed myself to 18 months on this journey. I had 3 fears:
1.) That I couldn’t do the work because I was so overweight
2.) That I could do the work but didn’t see results
3.) That I would see results in a program but couldn’t financially support it throughout the 18 months
My dad told me that he wouldn’t let money get in the way of my journey, but he also knew that I would make the necessary sacrifices to make ends meet. Removing that worry/stress was very helpful. I had many emotional breakdowns in the parking lot where I didn’t think I could go, but there was quite simply nothing more important in my life than getting my a** into the gym to reforge myself into the man i wanted to become.
From a support standpoint, the first year in the gym I didn’t wear my glasses because i hated what i saw in the mirror. I didn’t want to hear that I was doing great, or that i was progressing so much, because I still hated my reflection and no amount of positive reinforcement was going to support that. Until I looked in the mirror and saw the guy I wanted to see – which took nearly 18 months – I was disgusted by my reflection and how much I had let myself go.
Lastly, I had to NOT keep food in the house. I kept food to support disciplined meals, but I didn’t ever get junk food or any sort of indulgence in the house. If I had an indulgence it was never something I brought home. I tried to keep my home a healthy food environment because I knew that any junk food that was in there would be devoured and that wouldn’t help my goals.
On my rest days I needed a mental stimulus to ensure I didn’t just eat out of boredom, that was challenging for me to identify originally but over time I had several options – not the least of which was investing time in forming new meaningful relationships with other like-minded people.
8. How has your journey impacted other areas of your life?
By finally getting happy with what I saw in the mirror, I was able to get into a very healthy relationship, and happy to say that I got married this past year to a wonderful partner and companion who has, from day one, been supportive of me pursuing my goals and taking care of myself first such that I can provide for our lives together.
Professionally, I had to tell my boss that I was going to leave work early or on time every day to support working out. That I would come back to the office as needed, but i was going to take care of myself and he needed to be okay with that. Since starting this journey I have soared professionally, and have doubled my salary and been promoted three times. I’m happier, people treat me with more respect, and I’m much more confident in front of others which pays dividends in all areas.
9. What are some things you are still working on, future goals?
When I started my journey I dug into a very negative place to find motivation. I’m very happy now in life, which resulted in some complacency. I still workout, but I’ve had two knee surgeries – life takes its toll when you’re > 100lb overweight for more than a decade – and I’ve gained a few % of bodyfat and around 12 pounds since I first met my wife. I need to find a source of positive inspiration and motivation to keep fighting harder for that extra inch and take care of my joints and body as I work towards a long-term sustainable path. I still indulge on occasion with food, and that is also something which is a stress trigger and I need to be more considerate with myself and not side-track my goals like that.
10. What are some things you learned about yourself through the process?
When I was in the depths of this process I couldn’t be around unhealthy people. I saw the “old me” in them and I was abhorred by it. I’ve since gotten much better at not projecting my own fears of the old me when I look at others. Since then I’ve also gotten to the point where I stop introducing myself as someone who was losing weight or going through a transformation. I no longer feel need to make excuses for who I am and that change really sneaked up on me.
11. Is there anything you wish you had (or had more of) during the process now that you look back on your journey?
I would have loved to be kicked out of the kitchen and have my meals prepared for me. If I can decide what I eat then usually i’m going to make a bad decision. I’m still a food addict, but it’s hard to portion control and that’s something I continue to work on.
12. What would you tell someone beginning this journey or thinking of beginning it?
It’s not easy, and it never will be, but it’s worth it and it was the best decision I ever made. If you want to transform yourself, you need to start believing in yourself when you look in the mirror. I would often flex in the mirror and puff my chest out like superman; eventually I started to feel like I wasn’t just pretending anymore.
Fake it until you become it; there’s a TED talk on this subject too…
TED TALK here: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
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