The unfortunate thing for all athletes is that eventually our careers end. For 99.99% (made up statistic) of us, it does not come on our terms. It is forced upon us when we likely don’t want it to. That can be in high school, college or even a professional career ending because sometimes no one wants you anymore. Not matter when it happens, we are each left with a void we must fill. Well, try to fill.
For me, it was November 2013 when it officially ended. Though, it really ended before that, I just couldn’t give it up. This is that story and how I went from from 295 lbs with a body fat percentage probably tipping close to 40 at its peak.
I came into college with great aspirations of football dreams and glory. Yes, I was going to be playing Division III Football but still a guy can dream. All you need you need is a chance right? While I showed some promise through freshman and the first half of sophomore year, it quickly became apparent that those dreams were fantasies. And I guess it all started coming down sophomore year when I hurt my knee for the first time (well officially hurt it, turns out it probably had been hurt since high school). I rehabbed, worked out hard and came back for my junior season and actually saw some action, albeit mop up duty and being on the Field Goal unit, but then two pulled hamstrings and a high ankle sprain derailed the remainder of that season. When I came back in the spring healthy, bad luck struck again when I suffered a concussion and a broken nose. From there, it spiraled down.
I spent the summer bulking, trying to grasp onto the one last shot I had. I though maybe if I could get my weight up I could play more and my body could take the pounding. I was eating over 4,000 calories a day. If I saw food, I ate the food. However, I put on too much weight. I went from 240 lbs at spring break March 2013 to 270 by August 2017.
By this point, my knee was in pain again and I knew it was a matter of time. Turns out, it took one practice and one MRI for them to send me back under the knife. Clean up the knee they said and hopefully I’ll be able to finish out my senior season. Starting on the offensive line was gone from my mind at this point. I was hoping I could maybe just contribute. I rehabbed, I worked hard to get back but whatever ability I had prior was gone. I couldn’t move my feet as fast as I use to. Freshman were beating me in practice. Football and sports had been my identity for so long and now I couldn’t even do that well. I pretty much cashed it in. This is one of the hardest things for me to admit, but I gave up. So while we made the playoffs that year, and trust me I had zero contribution to that incredible playoff run other than the occasional joke and laugh in the locker room, my career was done well before that last November playoff game.
If you stuck with me to this point in this story, this is where it truly begins. NARP. Non athlete Regular Person. That is what we called people who weren’t on a sports team in college. At some point we all becomes NARPs. In my NARP life, I let myself go even more. I’d occasionally do a small workout or play some basketball but I still ate like I was bulking and drank PBR like a fish. I went from a beefy 270 to a blubber filled 295. Yes, on the day I graduated from college I weighed 295 pounds in May 2014. My body fat was approaching 40%. I was morbidly obese. Here I am at graduation. Yes, my gown was tight. Those things are supposed to be loose!
That day was the day I made a change. Bit by bit. Step by step. Honestly, the first 20 pounds were fairly easy. I know that probably won’t help people but for me it was. I still drank a lot and ate a lot, just a little less, but I got down to 275 and 36% body fat by July 2014. The next year was a slow process. I dropped 15 lbs then put 5 back on. Around January 2015, I was about 265. Then I stared kicking it in, I counted calories, got my steps in (thanks Fitbit), worked out 5 times a week. I busted my ass for that next 25 pounds over the next year. And then from January 2017 to now I really started to focus. I am now at around 218 lbs and under 19% body fat. The last time I weighed this amount I was 15.
I don’t have a secret for you. No special pills, trust me I have tried (though green tea fat burners do seem to help with the hunger). I still drink beer multiple times per week. If you offer me a cookie or a steak, I won’t say no. Every day is a process. As many people embark on their New Years resolutions and current gym goers complain about the crowd, I’ll give you each my two cents. For those that are already in the gym and are complaining, just remember we all started at some point. We all became meatheads, fitness fanatics, or whatever it is you do there by going the first time. If that was in January or June, we all had a first day. So be patient. For the new gym goers, stick with it. Don’t give up but don’t be to hard on yourself. It’s a long grueling process and it won’t be easy.
I’ll leave you all with what got me to where I am. It isn’t for everyone. You need to find out what works for you. I work out 6 days a week and twice a day probably 3-4 of those days and sometimes three, sometimes that just means an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical after work or playing basketball at night. I just like being active. What I do is definitely not for everyone but I knew I couldn’t drastically change what I eat so I controlled what I could. And that’s my first step for you. Control what you can. Try to cook breakfast at home. Pack your lunch. Plan when you will work out. Control what you can and live with what you can’t.
Second, track yourself. Set a goal, an achievable goal. It can be small or it can be grand, but be patient. Put what you eat daily into a calorie counter. Log your physical activity. When you start to see what you do each day, you become cognizant of it. Track yourself and you will make it.
Step three, you will fail and stumble at some point and when you do, don’t get on yourself. We do that enough in our lives, let yourself have that one.
Four, do what you like. I have come to legitimately like working out multiple times a day. But I do what I want. If I hate an exercise, I skip it. I eat what I want, I just limit myself. I love beer, chocolate milk and red meat. I still eat them, but I explore new things. Tofu and garlic and spinach have all become part of my diet and my mom, my dad and sisters are now reading this wondering who the hell has replaced their brother and son. Experiment, explore. Do what you want in life, you only have one so live it.
And finally, step five. The most important step in my process. The mantra that got me here: Don’t have two bad days. Life can be hard. Work can get difficult. Tragedies happen. But try to avoid the twos. You eat a lot one day? Try to get an extra long workout in the next day. You need to rest and relax after a long week? Go for it. Enjoy Friday night. Just try to get up by 10 AM so you can have a productive Saturday. And yes, sometimes you will have two bad days. Sometimes you will have two bad weeks. But making a conscious effort every day to try to avoid the twos, as I call them, is vital to the success in this process.
So that’s it. That’s my process. That’s my story. That’s how I went from lineman to lean(er).