Shrugged Collective

Fat and back again

I was once very fat. 

No, I’m not exactly skinny now, and I was always a chubby kid growing up. But somewhere in those in between years things got out of control. 

I had a bad habit of snapping back at people when they asked about my weight. A hint of anger or superiority in my tone helped me feel better about what was happening. “Look, I’m training to become as strong as possible. I won’t dope, so this is the only shot I’ve got to make this dream happenI’m taking it.”

It worked.

I hit every peak around the age of 25 or so. If you’re thinking that’s a little early, you’re right. Typically a Powerlifter would reach their peak sometime in their 30’s. Many great lifters manage to do very well right on into their 40’s and beyond, but that’s not very common.

In my case I came into the sport with high mileage. A decade of American Football left me banged up and worn, but I was very experienced when it came to pain and discomfort. For 6th grade through College I didn’t really enjoy Football, but I wouldn’t dream of quitting. I knew that I needed to suffer for a while. I had to learn that you can always become something else if you’re up to the challenge.

I was never going to be among the best lifters, but the sport came easily. I always trained at a very hard and fast pace, but not out of ego. As tough as it all was, it was no August afternoon spent roasting away on a football field. I pushed my strength up as high as I possibly could, topping out at around 975 in the squat, 675 in the bench press, and about the same in the deadlift by the time all the chalk had settled.

There was a cost, of course, but luckily it was not my health. My joint health is fair for my mileage. Most things move right. I’m pain-free most of the day, minus those harsh morning’s. Because I avoided doping, I have zero of the potential downsides in vitality that one might expect.

I was super strong, and I had no idea of how fat I was getting. Once all these peaks were reached my life had become all about the barbell. Nothing more. I was consumed with programming for more strength. I pushed all loads higher. I was well aware that the higher my squat became, the less likely I was to get a date. It bothered me a lot, but not as much as the thought of being weak. That’s the thought that took me a decade to let go of.

When I did let go, it was the best feeling you could imagine. I jumped head first into new challenges. Diet. Cardio. A bit fighting, you name it. I was a little obsessed, yes, but I was successful. In about one year, I had lost over 100 pounds.

That was the best decision I ever made. It was brutal. It was therapeutic and liberating. It was the first time I had ever demonstrated to myself that, yes, “You really can do anything you want. You just have to put the work in and give a shit.”

You really can do anything you want. You just have to put the work in and give a shit.

It’s true. If you have weight to lose I want you to know that you can, and should lose it. But you should be smart. While I had a lot of success. I pushed myself far too hard. I rushed the transition. If I had to do it all over again – which I’m trying now on a much smaller scale – I would have focused on something else entirely.

I’ll let you in on a big secret. This is exactly how you can change your life for the better right now! I’m not fucking around. Are you ready? Here you goSTART LIVING THE LIFE YOU WANT RIGHT NOW!!!

This sounds a little cliche and all that, I admit. But let me explain it to you as simply as I can. Hopefully, that will allow the point to carry better. Here it is – If you want to change your life then you have to change your conditions.

How can you become a much leaner, much stronger version of yourself, starting right now? You could start living that way. Instead of this gigantic, seemingly insurmountable challenge, you could make this transition a snap. Automatic. A matter of habit.

Here are a few practical things I think you can work on right now that will greatly improve your chances of success (Please consider this advice carefully, I had to survive some rough years in order to acquire it for you).

1. For once, be kind to yourself

Maybe you’ve never trained, or at least, not very much. Maybe you’ve spent the last decade pushing your flesh to the absolute limit. Be honest, your diet could have been about a million times better for about 95% of your life, right? So why are you considering a crash diet and punishing conditioning regimen? Why keep kicking your own ass over and over again expecting strength and vitality in return? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s not fair. It’s bullshit, so do better.

2. Train for what you want to be, not for what you are or were

It was heartbreaking at first, right when I starting letting go of the strength. I tried to keep it, or at least most of it. I kept pushing my body even though the calories just weren’t there. I can remember how it felt – 400 pounds started to feel like 500, then 600. I didn’t take it well. I caught on too slowly, acquiring some physical and emotional injuries that were completely voluntary and silly.

Look, do you want to be a lean, fit, sexy guy or gal? Right on, well start by doing as they do. Hang out with them, shop for groceries with them, party with them, play with them, and of course, train with them. Change your expectations, regardless of what they are. You will change with them.

3. Self-love comes first

You might be considering any number of training programs, supplements, diet regimes, all that. It’s important, consider it all and learn as much as you can. But again, I might save you a hell of a lot of time with an alternative suggestion.

If you really want to change – if you really want to make the most of yourself – you will devote as much time and resource as possible to yourself. Not in a selfish, immature way, that’s silly. I’m talking about the kind of investment in yourself that will allow you to be way better at everything, the gym, your job, the relationships that matter most to you.

This is how you do itJust back off of the pace. Say no to everything in your life that isn’t a true priority (most of the stressful things can wait or be removed from your life entirely with little to no downside, try it). When your body and mind suggest rest over work, training, or anything else, you should abide.

Do your best to sleep 8-9 hours a night. Eat as much local, real food as possible. You know, shit that you can get at your local farmers market. Eat all you like, within reason. For supplements, you really should take some vitamin D, fish oil, creatine, maybe some ZMA and a multi-vitamin of your choice, that’s about it.

In the gym put skill above everything. Yes, even the cardio. You need to run, swim, row and WOD, true, but not nearly as hard and frequently as you would imagine. Do all that, but make it fun. The real focus will remain on strength.

4. Stay strong

Don’t train to failure. Don’t accept sloppy reps. Move well, whether it’s your body or the barbell. Be as efficient as possible. Keep your volume under control. Don’t worry with punishing sets, just lift heavy. Good, solid work sets of 1-5 reps. When the strength work is done, spend some time accumulating work in other ways.

Do some lighter sets of squats, presses, rows, lunges, all that. I would tell you to consider it Bodybuilding, but you would look down on it. So instead, let’s say that this is general work capacity training that will better prepare you for the heavy training, allowing you to remain very strong without those calories, without the wear and tear.

That’s only a start, but a start is all you need. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past. I have some more work to do now. If you have some losing to do, then you should start now. You can change, all you need is action and a good plan.

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Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?


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