I grew up as a fat kid. I was a fat teen. I am still a fat man. My friends told me this. The mirror showed it plain as rain. Since I knew it was true, I started to tell myself, in derogatory tones, that I was fat.
I played all sorts of sports growing up and was placed in fat-kid positions. I played right field and catcher. I played center, guard, tackle, and end. I took up space in the paint and used my size to box people out. I never did cross country, track, or soccer, y'know, because running.
My body kept me from achieving my potential. I had a great arm, and later learned that my quick eyes and sharp mind made me a great quarterback. I could handle a basketball and should have been playing point guard, had I not been so rotund. None of my coaches ever saw me in those positions and, what's worse, neither did I.
It was hard on me as a kid, and it's even harder now, knowing that 30 years later I still suffer from the same inferiority complex. I don't want to even run a 5K because I've never known myself as a runner. My views of my body have limited my potential and kept me away from activities I never thought my body could handle.
Last winter, I wrote an essay to become an employee representative for the Dymatize $100,000 Transformation Challenge. Bodybuilding.com supports an annual, simultaneous employee transformation, which I have failed the last two years. Two years ago I sprained an ankle; last year I just quit.
Since I started the 2014 challenge, I've dedicated my entire existence to changing the complex inferiority I've been building in my head for 30 years. It's not easy. It takes some serious self-examination, brutal honesty, and effort I haven't given in years. I'm not there yet, but I feel better than I have in a long time.
Check out these five lessons I've learned on my quest to become my superior self.
You Really Are What You Eat
I grew up on a sort of half-farm. We grew a big garden with corn, red potatoes, green beans, squash, carrots, melons, strawberries, and raspberries. We also had fruit trees: apple, pear, peach, and plum. We had two huge walnut trees that delivered massive yields. We raised chickens, young bulls, and an old appaloosa named Rose. I always had fresh or canned vegetables, fruit, nuts, jams, grass-fed beef, all the eggs I could eat, and chickens we butchered ourselves.
But my old man also worked at a potato processing plant, so I always had French fries. I'd come home from elementary school, melt some Crisco in a frying pot, and eat half a pound or more of fries. I loved barbecue potato chips, cheeseburgers, and those daily, greasy fries, chased down by fountain drinks. I weighed 185 pounds in fifth grade.
I've lost 20 pounds this winter by monitoring my meals like I should have all my life. I eat two B-Elite Fuel meals every day. I have had no soda, no juice, no fast food, and plan to never eat a fried potato product again. My cheat meals are steak. I've eaten nothing processed, and my body has been dropping fat as a result. You are what you don't eat, perhaps.
Eat A Different Vegetable Every Day
Because of the B-Elite Fuel meals, I've eaten more asparagus in the last six weeks than I have my entire life. The meals also come with green beans or broccoli. On the side, I've experimented with as many different vegetables as I can stomach. I've eaten chard, beets (greens included!), rutabaga, spinach, jalapeno, collard greens, mushrooms, red and green peppers, and I am looking for more. I had to go to Whole Foods to find some of the more obscure veggies that my local market didn't carry.
I can't wait for my farmer's market to open again in downtown Boise so I can try more and more varieties. Each vegetable, like each person, has its own qualities. The variety of nutrients has helped me stay balanced, and I feel healthier than ... well, ever. Learn more about vegetables, and challenge yourself to go beyond the basic menu. There is a beautiful world of vegetables waiting for you.
Protein, protein, protein!
Each night before I go to bed, I make a Dymatize Casein shake—I adore the cinnamon bun! I often blend it with Adams Natural Chunky Peanut Butter, cinnamon, and sometimes blueberries, even though they're out of season and super expensive. I usually mix my shakes with water and low-fat milk.
In the middle of the day, if I'm not too excited about eating a full meal but my tummy gets all rumbly, I'll make a shake from Dymatize Iso-100. I have the smooth banana flavor, which eases many of my cravings. It dissolves well and tastes great, and of course the protein is exceptional for a transformation. Instead of eating something terrible, I'll have the shake and get on with my day.
Of course, I still eat meat! Chicken, salmon, tilapia, and sirloin burger are the main ingredients of the B-Elite meals. That's at least two servings per day of lean meat for me. I'll also have a good steak once each week—like a New York or rib-eye—and I'll cook up a few pounds of chicken breasts to keep me on task at home. I keep albacore tuna packets in my desk drawer, in case I forget my foods at home. You must always have a back-up plan.
Follow The Plan, Adapt
I did MFT28 for the first four weeks of my training, and it whooped me good. It's two workouts per day, so my body was beaten good and hard. I found in the third week, however, that my body adapted very well. It was really important to me to follow my plan to its fullest. I did the abs workout every morning, and if I conveniently forgot, I'd work it into my weight room routine.
I'm now using Kris Gethin's DTP program, which includes some insanely high reps. It would be really easy to do 38 reps instead of 50, but I'll take an extra 20 minutes of rest-pause to complete every rep. If I want dramatic changes, I have to obey the rules of my program.
However, there are times when I add rules. For example, I like to insert HIIT cardio between some of my resistance sets. If I ever feel my sweat cooling off, I sprint for 1-3 minutes on the bike to get it rolling again. One minute of HIIT on the bike—30 seconds slow, 10 seconds faster, 10 faster, and 10 sprint—doesn't sound like much, but when you do multiple sets, those minutes add up. Yes, it's hard, but I want to burn off this fat and change my self-image.
Honestly appraise your progress
My friends call my house, "The big guys' place." My roommates and I are all XL guys. I've always been big. I can't sky-dive because I weigh too much. I can't shop at Abercrombie, as if I wanted to, but some of these things are changing. I put on an XL shirt yesterday instead of an XXL, and it didn't make me look chubby. I can wear most of the shirts in my closet now. I bought four pair of new Levi's jeans this weekend, size 36; I've been a 38 since junior high.
it good. I don't want 'good' anymore. I want superior."
These are good things, but just because I've lost some weight doesn't mean I am done. A lot of people see some success and call it good. I don't want "good" anymore. I want superior. I know I have incredible value as a person. I am a writer, a reader, and a smart guy, but I've clung to those terms because I wasn't fit or sexy, and even though I possessed remarkable value, I felt inferior.
Don't get me wrong, I've learned to be confident and tried to overcome my image. Years ago, I stopped giving a shit about what people think, what they say, how they look at me. I started to only care what I thought about myself. But, I am terrible at telling lies, and even I saw right through this flawed defense. I knew that I didn't like my body. I tried to hide it the best I could, but I'm done hiding.
Transformations are complex. My mentality is complex. Integrating a new diet, a new lifestyle, and a new training system every four weeks is complex. I wish I could make it simple. I wish I could elevate myself from inferior to superior, but I don't have any more wishes. All I have is this body, this mind, and this eager desire to make improvements.
I will read books, lift weights, sprint to workout stations, search for new veggies, eat better, work harder, and express my thoughts and emotions honestly. It takes all these complex efforts to arrive at a simple conclusion: I am changing my life.