Name: Michael Branda
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Why I decided to transform
I got the biggest slap in the face during my first year away at college. I was on my own and had new responsibilities, all in a brand new city where I didn't know anybody. During this time, I lost touch with a lot of my closest friends from high school, and found myself feeling trapped and alone. I was unprepared for school and essentially lost all sense of control in my life. I really wanted to regain some semblance of control of my life, so I took over the one thing I knew I could: my body.
It first started with being more conscious of what I ate and exercising frequently. Later, it developed into caloric restriction, and finally reached my lowest point with binging and purging. In about 5 months, I went from 185 pounds to 153 pounds. During this time I was weight lifting, but didn't see any progress due to this eating disorder. I absolutely hated looking in the mirror and seeing what looked back at me.
I felt awful about myself and knew I couldn't keep this up, so I decided to finally make the change for the better. I wanted to be healthy again and I wanted to become a better me. I missed going out with my friends or having a dinner date with my girlfriend. I wanted to have a normal and healthy life again.
How I accomplished my goals
Since I am a Certified Personal Trainer under the NSCA and was studying Exercise Physiology, training and programming came easy to me. I learned about the science—not the "bro science"—behind power, strength, and hypertrophy. As a result, I didn't have to rely on other resources for that, but I really needed help with my diet. Staying consistent with my calories and ensuring I didn't shortchange myself were probably the hardest things. I knew I had to eat a lot to not only grow, but to make up the 28 pounds I initially lost.
Slowly but surely, I taught myself to love food again, train for a purpose, and learn to love and accept who I am. Gradually, I incorporated more calories into my diet, but more importantly, I incorporated more variety of food into my diet. I had my last episode in 2012, and am almost two years through without any relapses. It feels amazing.
My girlfriend, Kelsey, has been my biggest supporter, and has been there with me through thick and thin. She was (and still is) my biggest influence when it comes to living a fun and healthy life. She was the first person to tell me that there is nothing wrong with me and that we'd get through this together. I wouldn't be where I am today without her, and for that I'm forever grateful.
What aspect challenged me the most
Suffering from bulimia and my contorted view of food probably presented the most challenging aspect of my transformation. Food wasn't just food to me and the mirror wasn't just an image anymore. I didn't see what other people saw. I couldn't help but acknowledge every single flaw I had and felt disgusted with myself. I even hated eating, and only used food to ensure I had enough energy to get through the day. Taste was a luxury for me, and if any food tasted good to me, I threw it up.
Teaching myself to love food and myself was not easy. Hell, it took me three years! College made it even harder because I was living in a dorm with a limited food selection. The journey wasn't easy, but I stayed consistent, looked to my support system, and told myself every day, "You're going to be OK." And sure, there were countless number of times I felt disgusted and guilty about what I ate or the workout I missed, but I had to conquer my fears. Frank Underwood (House of Cards) said it best: "Even Achilles was only as strong as his heel."
My future fitness plans
Someday I would like to compete in either a men's physique or fitness model competition. Competing isn't something that I am dying to do, but it is a goal that I would like to at least shoot for once.
I also would like to start a support group or give public talks about bulimia. Many people think that only females suffer from it or that someone can just "snap out of it." It is more complex than that. I want to be a resource for people to feel comfortable discussing what is going on in their life or how they feel. Everyone should have someone who knows what they are going through. No one ever wants to feel alone.
Suggestions for aspiring transformers
Find a good support system—a group or an individual that can be there for you whenever you need to confide in someone. I was lucky enough to have the support of my mom, my brother (Labeat), and my girlfriend (Kelsey).
Also, learn to become your own coach. Sometime you can't always rely on others to get you to go to the gym or stay on track with your diet. Consistency and discipline are two of the biggest traits of any great athlete. If you can follow those two traits, you are set for life.
How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals
I've been using Bodybuilding.com for all my supplements since I was 18 and I still use them to this day. The customer service is excellent, they have great prices, and I have never had an issue with them once!
Again, BodySpace is a great resource for tracking your goals, progress, and finding people in the community who will cheer you on throughout your journey. It doesn't feel like a Facebook, where people will put down your comments. It's more like an extended fitness family.