All of the changes I made below didn’t come from dieting. In a very real way, when I quit being a “dieter”, everything clicked.
What I am supposed to do here is show you guys the “before” pictures of me walking around at 200+ lbs., then show you the “after” picture of me at 9% body fat, and tell you how easy it was to accomplish. I am not going to do that though. That would be a big fat lie. I can tell you this: knowing me will make your journey a hell of a lot easier because after years of burying my head in the sand, I decided that I was too smart to be fat.
On at least four or five separate occasions, I was able to get under 200 lbs. by dropping Cokes and M & M’s, and if I ate some vegetables on occasion, I could get under 190 lbs. I ate when I was stressed, I ate when I was happy, I ate when I was sad…It was a rare occasion when I didn’t have an excuse to eat. The pictures you are seeing are from about 2004/2005; the poker picture embarrassed me so much that I actually did something about it and got down to a skinny fat 175 lbs. with almost no exercise at all. It’s laughable to think of it now because I enjoy activity so much, but as you can see from the pictures, I knew “fat loss in 30 days” wasn’t in the cards for me. It was going to be hard, and I went all out.
I basically starved myself to lose weight at this point. (To be fair, I wasn’t exactly starving myself – I was really just low carbing and under eating.) You can get by with this kind of diet in short bursts, but if you stick with it and really start to hammer away, you begin to do severe damage to yourself. In the end I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
Worst of all, the weight loss didn’t stick. By limiting carbs, you probably won’t take in adequate calories (especially if you’re active.) You limit protein synthesis and it’s hard to put on muscle. Your BMR drops and you need to eat less and less to keep losing weight. The funny thing about starving yourself is that eventually, you stop and you begin to eat again (at least most people do.) Once I started eating normally, the weight came back with interest. I probably spent close to a year getting to 175 lbs. through a starvation diet, and it only took me a couple of weeks to put it all back on.
I could ignore my health; I could ignore all of the family photos of me being heavy, but once I started showing up on television and in magazines (as a professional poker player) I realized that this was how people were going to view me for the rest of my life. I didn’t want that to be the case. More importantly, I am a successful person in many aspects of life, and I didn’t want my daughters and family to be blinded by the one area of my life where it appeared I didn’t care.
Whatever It Took
All of the times before this, I had all of these qualifiers…I had a list of all of the things I wouldn’t do. I knew this might be my last shot; I had to go all in. (Get it? Poker picture? All in?) Focusing on body fat measurements made a big difference for me because the scale didn’t always show me the progress I was making with muscle. If there is one thing I would like to get across to you guys it’s this: Try to reach your fat loss goals, but don’t do it without respect for your muscle. Don’t be obsessed with the numbers.
Looking back, if there is one thing I would change about my fat loss journey, I would choose not to get so small. Doing the math with body fat percentage calculations (focusing on getting to single digits and getting ripped) just became obsessive for some reason. In the picture below, I weighed 149 pounds. Currently I weigh 175 pounds. I suspect my body fat is higher than 15% at the moment. The reason is simple: my goals have changed. I am a 44 year old man. Next year is my first opportunity to become a Masters competitor in the 45-49 age division. If I want to have any shot at all, I need to be strong. Our sport rewards strong people. The reality is that my strength goals are lofty, but you have to dream big to lift big.
People Want a Formula…
…But we don’t teach a formula. We try to meet people where they’re at now, and give them the information they need to get where they want to be. I’ve (obviously) been at both ends of the spectrum, and I honestly believe I can help practically anyone reach their goals. Understand this though: ”lose 30 lbs.” isn’t a goal. If it is, it certainly isn’t one you wake up excited about and ready to tackle each day. It isn’t specific either; do you want to lose 30 lbs. of fat? Muscle? Where do you go after you’ve lost the 30 lbs? How will that change who you are? ”Lift 500 pounds from the floor for a single repetition” is a goal that will have you in the gym/kitchen/bed every day getting the training, nutrition, and sleep you need to make a change in yourself (both inside and out.) You can’t sit back and ignore your body when you’re focused on performance; you spend each day honoring your commitments and it shows in your character as well as your physique.
One thing I had going for me is that I already liked myself. Trust me, I know why this site is popular. A lot of people idolize Chris Spealler, but they see me as someone they can relate to. I take that responsibility serious. If people think I was some miserable fat guy, they are wrong; you would like me today, and you probably would have liked me then too. I was competitive and smart, but I just wasn’t focused on health at that point.
Let’s make it clear that after all this change, I am not a finished product. To a certain extent, Eat To Perform has been enlightening for me as well. I had pretty much tapped my potential as a 165 pound man, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to pull 500 pounds off of the ground I might need to change the way I had planned my own journey. Allowing myself, mentally, to put on 10 pounds wasn’t easy, but I am much stronger as a result and I didn’t get fat doing it.
I am as guilty as anybody of limiting my potential by letting my fat layer dictate my goals. The best version of me is strong and capable, irrespective of weight (and to a certain extent irrespective of my body fat percentage.) For too long I allowed that to limit me. This isn’t an argument for being irresponsible; it’s an argument for changing your mindset related to what the best version of you looks like in the mirror. The best version of me is strong and athletic. I am no longer chasing weight and body fat as a means to validate my success.
No one wants to hear sob stories about how I didn’t eat vegetables until I was in my thirties. Frankly, I grew up in households where convenience was the priority, and I had to work to re-wire my brain to get to where I am today. Which brings me to my next point:
Not everyone is going to make it.
I said from day one that my problem was that I didn’t understand the WHY’s of nutrition; “Why do carbohydrates make you hold excessive water?”, “Why are they necessary for a healthy metabolism and protein turnover?”, “Why does fat store as fat without the presence of insulin?”, and maybe most importantly for this site, “WHY does high intensity exercise breaks down muscle and cause you to hold onto fat when you aren’t eating enough?”
The simple fact is I can spend every red cent I earn with this site to pay the best PhD’s, strength coaches, and psychologists to help you understand yourself but none of them can do it for you. It’s just information.
“The people that don’t make it simply quit on themselves.”
Trust me, I get that part. I did for many years. The first thing I had to do was give myself a clean mental slate. I realized who loved me and who had to leave and I remade every single part of my life. Training was the missing piece of the puzzle though; when I hang out on weekends, I like to hang out with my fit friends. Not because it’s some devious plan, but because I like hanging around people like me. I like mentoring new folks; I don’t allow negative sentiment to develop in the private group. My train is headed in one direction and that direction is positive.
I’ve never put these pictures out there before, but Maggie (the business developer for this site and to a certain extent the female version of me) thought people needed to know where I came from, that it would help put some perspective on what I write and what I teach. Secretly, I think she wanted my story out there because I keep putting up her story. Make no mistake about it though; one of the most inspiring stories you will ever hear related to CHANGING EVERYTHING is that of Paul Nobles Jr. I love these pictures, because they serve as a symbol of how far I have come. (That’s an example of me being positive!) Certainly, I could allow myself to view them the opposite way if that is what I chose, but that’s not how I roll.
It’s hard doing what it takes when you are confused and you’re allowing negative messages to dominate your psyche. If you are new, your journey starts now. Go to the front of the class and turn around to address them; trust me, you will give everything you have because you will see a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing. As coaches, we need to do a better job of keeping new people interested, involved, and dedicated to a better “me.” Allowing those people to hide in the back of the gym is something that needs to change. No one is going to judge you for where you are at, but they will judge you for quitting on yourself.