Doni had been big for as long as he could remember. He just got bigger and bigger as he walked away from sports and got into video gaming.
That all changed with a family trip to Disney World that showed him just how far he had let his physical condition slip. The weight training he had learned from his high school football days helped him lose almost half his entire body weight and start life again as the person he always wanted to be.
This is Doni's story.
How did you reach your heaviest weight?
I was a chunky little baby, a husky adolescent, and an overweight teenager. I entered high school at 240 pounds. In my sophomore year, I tried to get in shape by lifting weights and joining the football team. I lifted a lot—and ate a lot. By the time I graduated, I weighed 330 pounds.
After graduation, my doctor discovered I had an underactive thyroid. It took me a while to find the right dose of the medicine to stabilize it. But anxiety dug its claws into me when I got to college. I was tired every day, quit the college football team, then quit school. I wanted to quit life, too.
I began spending all my time playing video games, and became successful enough to earn a sponsorship. I got to fly around the country competing. It was fun, but the lifestyle bloated my weight to 450 pounds by the time I was 24.
At what point did you decide enough was enough?
It all started with a family trip to Disney World in Orlando. First, we had to drive all the way New York to Florida because I couldn't fit on the plane. Once we got there, I felt even more miserable and depressed; the air was so hot and humid that I was chaffing, I could hardly catch my breath just walking around, and my clothes were soaked with sweat.
A man walked up and asked me if I'd had a good time on the inner tube ride. But I hadn't been on any rides that day; I was just sweating. After the long car ride back to New York, I decided I'd had enough.
What steps did you take to begin your transformation?
I began with a very restrictive diet, which helped me develop self-control. I was able to avoid things like sodas—even diet soda—as well as sweets and other calorie-packed foods by telling myself how bad they were for me. I stuck to these restrictions until I reached a more comfortable weight and was finally able to control most of my other insane cravings. After all, you don't get to 450 pounds by stopping after one can of soda or one slice of cake.
By talking to people at the gym and spending a lot of time in the Bodybuilding.com forums, I learned how to cut way back on carbs and focus on fats and proteins, which helped me continue dropping weight.
Intermittent fasting worked really well, too. I could handle skipping meals all day, knowing I could eat steaks, butter, burgers, and avocados at night and still be under my calories for the day.
How did your fitness strategy evolve as you saw results?
With consistent weight training, supported by cardio and this restrictive diet, I lost another 100 pounds in six months. As my shape improved, I focused more on powerlifting. But instead of just hitting the gym every day, I started going to the beach, hiking, playing sports with my brother, and running with my dog.
At first, I felt like I was cheating on my workouts. But they made me feel healthier in the long run, giving me my cardio workouts and developing my social skills.
What strategies did you use to stay motivated?
I'd always dreamed of being just be a normal-sized person. Now I could go to restaurants and bars without worrying about fitting into the booth or crushing a chair. I felt like people looked at me differently now that I was so much thinner, and each one of the positive moments gave me more motivation to keep going.
Supplements that helped me through the journey
Training regimen that kept me on track
I would start my day with fasted cardio, usually a 2.5-3 mile run around my neighborhood. I ran the same distance throughout my weight loss, always working to improve my timing.
What part of your transformation has been the most difficult?
In all honesty, dieting and training are easy. Much more jarring was the impact my transformation had on my social life. I dealt with so many people who didn't share my goals, or were jealous of my motivation, or who said I was doing it wrong, and that my new routine was harmful and unsustainable.
It felt like every time I broke through a plateau and lost more weight, people would tell me "Enough already!" or "You've lost enough weight! You look sick! This isn't healthy!" Really? I was 450 pounds. and that was healthy?
My current maintenance diet is very different than it was when I wanted to lose lots of weight. Now I eat a variety of things, with plenty of protein, fats, and carbs on the menu. Nothing is excluded. After all the things I've been through, I've developed a good handle on portion control and willpower.
What future fitness plans do you have?
I'd definitely like to get into a health field, either as a nutritionist or a doctor. I really want to help others who feel trapped by their weight. I believe there's no perfect way to lose weight, so I want to help people find the way that works for them.
What are some suggestions you have for aspiring transformers?
Stop waiting. There's no perfect time to start: Just start. It doesn't matter how slow you move—as long as you're moving.
How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?
Bodybuilding.com saved my life. The people in the forums were my best friends during my weight-loss journey; I practically lived in the MISC (miscellaneous forums), the nutrition forums, and the weight-loss forums. Bodybuilding.com forums taught me about IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and how I could still enjoy "bad" foods in moderation.
During much of my transformation, many of my friends and family didn't understand what I was going through. I received almost all the positivity and support I needed from people on the Bodybuilding.com forums. They helped me so much—and they were all total strangers.