As a young boy, Tyler Batcho was always on the heavy side. "My family generally just carries heavy genes," he says. But his diet growing up didn't exactly help. "We're Italian and German, so we ate a lot of noodles and things with heavy sauces. We were carb loading every day without knowing it."
But Tyler’s health took a major turn when he was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 11.
"It made me afraid to do anything because I never knew when a seizure would strike,” he remembers. "I gained weight pretty steadily during my teen years, but I would say it started catching up to me in my early 20s."
"I never worked out—I was always in front of my computer. On top of that, I was drinking a lot of alcohol. I'd get cravings for fast food and eat burgers and fries up to three times a day. I also had a major sweet tooth, so I ate lots of candy. Everything I ate was for comfort."
The epilepsy diagnosis left Tyler with a hopeless outlook. He became depressed and stopped making any effort to care for his body. "After a few seizures, I realized epilepsy was something I'd be stuck with forever," he says. "There's no cure. I gave up on myself and on my health. I decided that if I couldn't beat it, I should just give into it. That's when my health started going downhill quickly. I wasn't taking care of myself at all because I just couldn't see the point in doing so."
By the time he turned 23, Tyler's weight had climbed to 265 pounds. Because of his rapid increase in size and poor eating habits, Tyler nearly had a stroke. It was the wake-up call he needed to take back control of his health and his life.
This is Tyler's story.
Did you make any attempts to lose weight while growing up?
Once in my early 20s I tried to eat healthier, and I did well for a couple weeks—then my cravings just took over. At the time, I had no idea how to fight those urges, so I quickly fell back into my old habits.
Weight: 265 lbs.
Body Fat: 32%
Weight: 182 lbs.
Body Fat: 15%
What was your turning point or "ah-ha" moment?
When I almost had a stroke at 23. I was hospitalized and my wife brought our son, Dominic, to visit me. I hated letting him see me in the hospital. I was ashamed that I had let my health go to that degree. I thought about the kind of father I wanted to be. I realized that, if I didn't change, I'd be leaving him without a dad. What kind of father does that? I was pretty hard on myself at that point, but that's what I needed.
What did you change first?
I went cold turkey on absolutely every bad food. I used the Internet to learn about different dieting techniques, and the first thing I tried was a low-fat diet because that was pretty trendy at the time. When I Googled "How to lose weight," I found Bodybuilding.com. Reading articles here made me realize that tracking macros was the way to go. I started swapping out unhealthy carbs for things like brown rice and sweet potatoes. I ate clean proteins, like chicken and fish, and I ate lots of fruits and vegetables.
Did you use cheat meals at all?
I lost 110 pounds in my first year, and I didn't have a cheat meal for that entire year. It was miserable. Now that I'm in a good place and I have a good routine, I have cheat meals once or twice a week. Those vary, but I love pizza.
How do cheat meals help you stay on track?
I truly think that cheat meals help you keep your head on straight, at least for those of us who need them. You have to give your body a break from dieting now and then. Not everyone needs cheat meals, but for me, I find that indulging occasionally in moderation makes it possible to stick to my healthy lifestyle the rest of the time.
How do you keep your diet on track?
At first, I just tracked my meals in a fitness notebook that my gym had given me. Now I use MyFitnessPal. It helps me stay conscious of what I'm eating. It also helps me figure out patterns, like what foods I should avoid before a workout because they make me feel bogged down in the gym.
What does your meal plan look like?
Oatmeal 1 cup
Chicken 8 oz.
Broccoli/green beans 2 cups
Fish 8 oz.
Broccoli/green beans 2 cups
Progresso Light Soup
Red Kidney Beans
Sugar-free gelatin packs
Do you use any supplements?
What made you want to join a gym?
I watched the documentary "Pumping Iron," and as soon as the end credits rolled, I went to the gym.
Were you nervous or intimidated by being in the gym for the first time?
I was definitely nervous. My friend from high school is a trainer there, and he's the one who signed me up. When I walked in there for the first time and saw all these muscular people, I remember looking at everyone and wondering how I would ever fit in. It seemed impossible. Having a friend there was a huge help—he helped me design some workouts to get me started.
After that, a lot of my workouts came from Bodybuilding.com. While I was exploring the site, I found Jim Stoppani's 12-Week Shortcut to Size, and I liked Jim's physique, so I decided to start there.
What does your workout look like now?
Reverse Bent-Over Barbell Row (close-grip)4 sets of 10 reps
Cable Cross-over (alternating height each set)4 sets of 10 reps
Have you had any major setbacks?
I actually planned on entering my first competition in October 2015, but I had too much loose skin from losing so much weight. I knew I wasn't going to place, so I didn't want to spend the entrance fee. After bulking, my skin tightened up a little bit. I imagine it will take more cycles of bulking and cutting to really see a big difference. I'm just trying to be patient and plan on competing in October 2016.
What made you want to compete?
I few of my buddies compete. Once I got into fitness and saw that they were able to compete, I thought it would make a tough but achievable goal. It also allows me to look up to people who compete and see what I can achieve if I keep working hard. I'm looking forward to being able to step onstage and show off all the work and dedication that goes into this. People who don’t compete have no idea how much blood and sweat it takes to get ready for a competition.
When I first joined the gym, I didn't see noticeable results in my first month. I started to wonder why I was working so hard when nothing was changing. I had to take a hard look at myself and realize that the weight didn't come on overnight, so it wasn't going to come off overnight. Competing is all about reaching for the perfect version of yourself. If you rush it, chances are you're going to have to do it over, because quick fixes just don't work. You might as well do it right the first time.