For former college football player Claudio Cobian, obesity came on slowly—so slowly, in fact, that he almost didn't notice it was happening. But, looking back, he remembers what kicked off his unhealthy habits. "The last time I had any real, serious physical activity was more than 10 years ago, when I played Division II football," he says. "After I graduated, I wasn't as active. Before long, I started smoking and drinking a lot, got lazy, and lost motivation."
Claudio's diet wasn't any better than his activity level. "I was primarily eating fast food for all three meals: McDonald's, Jack in the Box, and Taco Bell. We didn't ever really cook."
Claudio remembers the moment he realized he needed to change, and he credits his wife with making him see how unhealthy he had become.
"I met my wife in college, so she had seen all of this take place," he says. "When we met initially, she knew me as active and fit. When she saw how far I'd let myself fall, she got pretty concerned and told me I needed to see the doctor. It was at that doctor's appointment where I learned that I had type 2 diabetes. If I continued on that path, I was going to have serious health complications. It was a big eye-opener."
That was all it took to set Claudio on the right path. By cleaning up his diet and getting in the habit of exercising, he was able to turn things around. Now, he's fit and diabetes-free.
This is Claudio's story.
What was the biggest challenge in your life when you were overweight?
I have two young kids who have a lot of energy. I started to notice that I didn't have the drive to keep up with them. As a dad, that's really hard to accept.
Weight: 246 lbs.
Body Fat: 25%
Weight: 175 lbs.
Body Fat: 8%
After you decided to change, what was your game plan?
I knew I wasn't going to be able to pull off any big, sudden changes, so I made a plan to stick to a series of baby steps. First, I stopped smoking and drinking. At first, that was a big social setback, because I had to step out of that environment or I'd fall back into old behaviors. After I kicked those habits, I looked up how many calories I should be consuming in a day and realized how messed up my diet was—it's crazy how many calories you take in just from having one margarita.
Exercise became a family thing, and we started slow; we'd take walks around the neighborhood, or I'd throw a football with the kids. It was all about small steps in the beginning.
How did you create your meal plan?
I did a lot of research online. I logged on to Bodybuilding.com in the mornings or when I couldn't sleep and read articles about nutrition. I just started gathering knowledge and implementing it into my diet bit by bit. I think the first article I read was "12 Surprising Fat-Burning Foods". I saw a few items I liked, and started eating more of them.
What was the hardest thing about sticking to a meal plan?
At first, my body had a hard time adjusting to the diet. I wasn't starving myself, but I was eating really clean. I would get hungry in between meals and get cravings for junk foods. Then I'd become irritable. That was tough.
How did you overcome those challenges?
Every week, I reassessed my diet. I changed up my recipes, added new foods to try, and eliminated foods I didn't like. I paid attention to what kinds of clean food kept me fuller longer. The constant changes—mixed with a lot of willpower—were enough to keep cravings at bay. Through trial and error, I was able to figure out a meal plan that worked.
What does that meal plan look like?
Egg whites 2
Oatmeal 1 cup
Berries 1/2 cup
Spinach 1 cup
Chicken breast 6 oz.
Green vegetable 1 cup
Vanilla nonfat yogurt 1/2 cup
Leafy green salad 1 bowl
Cucumber, sliced 1
Wild-caught salmon 4 oz.
Almonds 2 oz.
Did you use any supplements?
How did you overcome times when you wanted to quit?
When I wanted to quit, I just looked at myself in the mirror and remind myself why I was doing this. I also tried to stay focused less on the results and more on making healthy changes as often as possible. Whenever I wanted to quit, I challenged myself instead. I'd try to eat a new vegetable that week, or something like that. Then, I could focus on the victory from that short-term challenge and keep going.
How did you incorporate working out into your schedule?
I remembered a lot from football. I also did a ton of research. I read programs from Bodybuilding.com and built my workout to combine tips and training techniques from some of my favorite athletes, such as Jim Stoppani and Kris Gethin. I was really drawn to their programs because of the intense, full-body workouts that allowed me to burn a lot of calories.
What did your workout plan look like?
How has your transformation affected your family?
We get to spend a lot more true quality time together because I have the energy now. They see my improved mood and positive outlook. We're also able to do things we couldn't do before.
I started going to taekwondo classes with the kids a few times a week, which I'd tried and failed to be able to do before the weight loss. Now, I can participate fully. We also take hikes as a family on the weekends. We can do a few miles without a problem, which is something we never could have done before.