Zane Hadzick grew up knowing everything about lifting things that weigh a lot, but nothing about lifting weights. As the 5-foot-9, 120-pound teenage son of a mother and father with a granite-countertop business, he'd carried more than his share of stone into homes in and around Weatherly, a coal town in northeastern Pennsylvania. But even as a young boy, he'd struggled to lose his lanky frame.

Living the Sugar-High Life

One day when he was 5 years old, Zane passed out while playing T-Ball. A doctor told Zane's parents that his blood sugar was low and that they needed to keep a ready supply of sugar on hand. From then on, Zane parents made sure he always had his "goodie bag" with him—a small brown paper bag filled with all kinds of sugary snacks. Zane was an active kid, and whenever he felt tired or woozy, he would reach into his bag and grab a snack.

Years passed, and Zane entered and then quickly dropped out of college. Unfocused and unmotivated, he stopped exercising. Even then, was never able to gain much weight. Always hovering from 120-130 pounds, Zane figured that if he was skinny, he must be healthy. But when he started eating entire cakes and half-gallons of ice cream at one sitting, he realized just how much his sugary diet was catching up with him. This time, he went to a different doctor, who noted that Zane had neither type 1 (the autoimmune disease) nor type 2 diabetes (the lifestyle disease). This doctor told him he needed to change his diet immediately. All Zane was doing by feeding on sugar all day was triggering an endless series of insulin spikes and blood sugar crashes. No wonder he was always tired and unfocused.

Eating and Training Like the Big Guys

The doctor gave Zane a list of the kinds of foods he should eat, and when Zane plugged them into a web browser to learn more, up popped

"I typed in things like chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes, lean red meats, and low-fat dairy," Zane says. "When the search brought up the site, I was so embarrassed that I closed the screen right away. I didn't want anyone to see that I was looking at a site filled with pictures of super-fit people. Considering how skinny I was, they'd think I was having delusions! Even when I went home and started browsing through the Bodybuilding site, I still felt uncomfortable looking at it—like I had no right to be there."

Living the sugar-high life.

Zane finally got comfortable with the site—even with the fact that the diet his doctor put him on was the same one that all these big, beefy guys chatted online about eating. Emboldened, he took the next step and started weight training, using the site as his sole source for information.

"I began to notice results from my training. It was like, 'Whoa, this is really cool! I want to keep doing this!'" says Zane. "But I'd never trained a day in my life. I knew nothing about supplements or how to read a nutrition label. I didn't know what daily percentages were, or the difference between fat, carbs, and proteins. I literally learned everything off the website."

Zane worked hard, and in 2013, in what he saw as the culmination of all his training so far, he received an invitation from to participate in its annual Spokesmodel Contest. He was more than thrilled to be invited. Even though he placed fourth, Zane took his top-10 finish as proof he was capable of making big changes in his life.

Taking the Gym Life Into Real Life

Zane's growing confidence expanded into the rest of his life. His girlfriend convinced him he should consider returning to college. He had always assumed that he would take over the family business, and now that he was bulking up, he would finally be able to handle the heaviest granite slabs. But he could already feel the toll that that kind of lifting had taken on his body, so he took his girlfriend's advice and went back to school.

Once in college, Zane took what weight training had taught him about dedication, concentration, and hard work and applied it to his environmental-science studies. Four years later, he and his girlfriend (now his wife) both graduated summa cum laude with matching 4.0 GPAs. After a year during which they both worked as research assistants at the University of Maryland, they went directly into master's-degree programs and graduated again with top honors and 4.0 GPAs, almost ready to begin their lives as adults. But not quite yet.

Taking the gym into real life.

Knowing that full-time jobs, a mortgage, and children were on the near horizon, Zane and his wife decided to take time off and travel. They made it to all 50 states and 8 foreign countries. Even as they travelled the world, they would make a point of finding the local gym, both as a way to stay fit and to meet the locals.

"We got to meet different people all over the world," he says. "And while it did seem like gyms in the U.S. were fancier and had better equipment, the general feeling among the people working out was always the same. We were all just people working hard to be the best we could be."

Today, Zane and his wife live northeast of Philadelphia. Zane is an environmental scientist for FEMA and a certified personal trainer with NASM. At 170-plus pounds full of muscle, he is also unrecognizable from his younger self.

"Now I have a wife and two little girls and I work full time," he says. "I still get in my workouts every day, except now they're at 4 a.m., because I'm a dad first."

About the Author

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan formerly wrote and edited for He also worked as a producer of health content for CBS Radio, and as a health-content specialist at Healthwise, the nation’s...

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