The last time Joe Batic felt comfortable with his shirt off, he was four years old. "That was the last time I looked back at photos and didn't have a gut," he says. For Joe, weight has always been an issue. Back in fourth grade, when most kids were more concerned with what toy came in their Happy Meal, Joe was already embarking on his weight-loss journey.
"In elementary school, there was one time I tried to lose weight, and managed to drop 10 pounds," he says. The numbers on the scale continued to dwindle throughout Joe's junior high and high school days and left him with a trim 170 pounds on his 6-foot-tall frame at the start of sophomore year. "I was in the best shape I'd ever been in, but then college inactivity set in," he says, reminiscing. "All of my friends were partying and eating pizza and cheeseburgers, and it was like, 'Why can't I do that as well?' By my senior year I'd gained 100 pounds. I knew something had to change.
What Joe chalks up to genetics might have put him at an initial disadvantage, but with perseverance and the positive impact of a motivational friend by his side, he was able to change his habits and shed more than half of his body fat.
This is Joe's story.
Joe Batic, What Was Your Spark? | #TheSpark
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You Mentioned That Weight Was Something You Always Struggled With. Do You Think It Was A Lack Of Activity As A Child Or Tied To Genetics?
I definitely feel genetics played a part. My mom ran and did local marathons in Indianapolis when I was growing up, but she still struggled with her post-pregnancy weight gain after having my brother and me. My dad weighed in at about 210 pounds, but he always had a belly.
It wasn't nutrition. I never felt like I ate more than other kids, and my mom made all of our meals at home. Knowing what I know now, they were obviously higher in carbs and fat than what's ideal, but they were still better than a McDonald's cheeseburger and fries. I wasn't always snacking. I ate like everybody else but, apparently, it was too much for me.
What Role Did Physical Activity Play?
We were always outside and playing when I was younger, but I just happened to be the fat kid. Later, my activity slowed down and I wasn't outside nearly as much. In the seventh grade, my parents divorced, and there wasn't much to do where my mom lived. I ended up playing more Playstation 2 with my brother, which meant I moved less.
But my inactivity didn't last long. When I was 15, I picked up BMX riding; this wasn't just sitting around at a skate park, I was riding for 4-5 hours a day. Still, I never lost any weight. When it comes to me losing weight, everything has to be so dialed in. My body just wants to hold a higher body-fat percentage.
How Was Your First Foray Into Fitness?
Initially, it was all about the numbers. I dropped from 200 pounds my freshman year of high school to 170 pounds at the start of my sophomore year. The weight loss was great, but the way I went about it wasn't. I saw that my mom ran three miles a day to keep things in check, so I did the same.
didn't understand nutrition, but I understood that if you eat less food and exercise more, you're probably going to use more calories than you're taking in. The problem was how I went about it. My mom was in good shape, so I ate what she ate—the same portions and everything—but she was a 5-foot-4 woman. Looking back, it's no wonder I was hungry all the time.
All my buddies would be eating normal meals and I'd be there with a piece of grilled chicken and some vegetables and be starving afterwards. I ended up yo-yo dieting, and by the summer before junior year, I'd gained back 20 pounds.
Were You Able To Get Back On The Fitness Wagon After That?
I just yo-yo dieted for a while after that. By spring, I lost the 20 pounds I'd gained, but then I got into my first serious relationship. I slipped back into less-healthy eating habits. She'd want something to eat late at night, and I had no problem taking her, but I slowly started indulging too, and the weight crept back on. We broke up once college started, and at that point, I just really didn't care. Everything compounded. By the end of college, I was 300 pounds.
What Was Your Wake-Up Call?
To gain 100 pounds you have to make a lot of excuses for yourself. I didn't step on the scale for four years—clothes kept getting tighter, but I'd try to stretch them out and convince myself that there was no way I was that big. My weight always bothered me, but I just pushed it away. But when a whopping 300 was looking back at me, I knew my habits had to change or I'd soon be looking at a much larger, scarier number on the scale.
I also knew the human body wasn't meant to hold that kind of weight—especially in adipose tissue—and if I wanted to have a healthy future, I had to start building some healthy habits. I did not put my words into action until my childhood buddy started working out; that's when I found the drive to start my own fitness journey.
How Did He Motivate You?
My friend had gained about 20 pounds or so. He was a little out of shape, but nothing drastic. He started working out, and when I saw him that summer, I was shocked at the amount of progress he'd made since winter. He came to live with me, and that was enough to make me realize that I had to do something. If he could work 10 hours and then go to the gym and get his running in, I had no excuse. At that point, I was only doing five hours of classes a day, so there was no reason I couldn't take an hour out of my day.
How Did You Ease Back Into It?
I laced up my sneakers and started running. I figured I'd pick up where I left off in high school and run 3 miles. I got half a mile before I realized that wasn't going to happen. So I just started building up my endurance by running every day. By the third day, my shins hurt so freaking bad that I thought I wasn't going to make it back to my apartment.
I scaled back my running to three times a week, but the occasional post-run victory beer made losing weight hard. I didn't even realize the impact until a friend pointed out to me one night that I wasn't helping myself at all. What made the biggest difference, though, was when a buddy in the reserve officers' training corps (ROTC) got me into lifting weights with him at the university gym.
How Did Having Access To A Weight Room Affect Your Progress?
I always enjoyed the weight room the few times I got to use it in high school, and I always felt like I would be capable of adding muscle to my frame if I ever had a gym accessible to me. Purdue had an immaculate co-rec that they had just recently opened that fall. My buddy in ROTC at Purdue routinely lifted in there and knew I was trying to get started, so he offered to help. I slowly built myself up to a five-day lifting routine that, looking back now, was full of holes.
It was filled with flat bench, push-downs, and curls. The typical bro routine, but at least it kept me in the gym. I don't think I performed a single lower-body movement that entire first year. I felt like running was good enough for my legs, since I was so big. I tried to educate myself on nutrition, but I honestly felt like I would eventually just lose the weight if I kept lifting. I did manage to lose 50 pounds, but after a year of training, I was ready for something more.
How Did You Modify Your Training Once You Finished College?
When I went home after spring semester, I did Insanity instead of joining a gym. I didn't really loose much weight, but my endurance went through the roof. When I got back to school, I stumbled upon those Laron Landry daily routine workouts that MusclePharm put out. I knew that if I committed to them, my body would grow and I'd definitely put on muscle.
I cut cardio out completely and started putting everything into my lifts. I wanted to get my heart rate up and go as hard as I could through these workouts so that I was getting a pump while adding an element of cardio. That's when I decided to commit and really started shedding the weight.
How Did Your Nutrition Change?
When I saw my progress halt at 225 pounds, I finally made the decision to completely dial in my nutrition. I learned about flexible dieting, and began tracking everything I ate. I started eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight, and with all of these small changes realized I finally had control over my results.
Fast forward to August of last year, and I managed to obtain a fitness level I never believed I could reach. I finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and everything fell into place. I became a true believer that it's 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent training.
Diet Plan That Guided My Transformation
When I finally dialed in my nutrition, I stuck to 2200 calories a day—220 grams of protein, 90-100 grams of fat, and 110 grams of carbs, six days a week. I made sure that my meals were made up of a variety of clean foods. I allowed myself one cheat day every six weeks to "refeed," which I noticed provided a great benefit as long as the day following my cheat day was 100% on track.
Supplements That Helped Me Through The Journey
What Was Your Biggest Fitness Milestone?
Getting under 200 pounds was huge. I remember stepping into a Complete Nutrition with my buddy and stepping on a top-of-the-line scale that read out body fat. My friend went first and read at 12 percent. I was nervous to go on, and figured I'd be around 15 percent, but to my surprise, it read out 10.5 percent body fat. When I heard that, I thought, "There's no way!"
I had a new zest for life and a new love for training. I couldn't get enough of the gym, and I had never been so stoked about an accomplishment in my life. I actually had abs, something I assumed I would never see. I had accomplished my ultimate goal, and I was left wanting more.
I want to be a trainer. I've been contemplating it since last year, and it's time to make a move and get the ball rolling. I plan on getting my certification through NASM and starting my own coaching, training, and nutrition company.
I'd also like to compete sometime next spring. I'm not sure whether I'll compete from that point forward, but it would be an amazing experience to push my physique to that extreme and experience standing on a bodybuilding stage.
What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Transformers?
I would suggest anybody trying to adopt the fitness lifestyle simply take it a step at a time. I came from an extreme end of the spectrum, and I can empathize with anyone who feels they have too tough of a hurdle to tackle. You have to start making little changes and smart decisions. Try changing one bad habit at a time. First, I quit partying and started running, then started lifting three days a week, working my way up to five and eventually six.
The final piece of the puzzle, and probably the most difficult, was totally dialing in my nutrition. It took an entire year and a half before I got to that point, but I still managed to shed 75 pounds simply by making smarter choices with my food. I truly believe it's all baby steps; I would have given up had I tried to take on all aspects at once.