I used to be overweight. Not just a little, but on my way to obesity. From nearly my earliest memories, I was bigger than my brother and other kids. I was treated differently and soon enough, perpetually made fun of by my peers. By the age of 16, I was 5’10 and weighed 245 pounds. I had, for all intents and purposes, never touched a weight or played a sport in my life. I detested running. I loved sitting around playing video games and snacking for hours on end. I suffered from a harsh upbringing in many ways that I don’t need to get into here, but suffice to say I was angry from my parent’s divorce at a young age, angry about the abusive alcoholic step-dad who eventually died at 40-some years old from his alcohol abuse; angry about my entire life being spent with a close family member addicted to heroin, that person going to rehab and/or nearly dying on more than one occasion.
Once I reached about age 14, I hated my appearance and hated how people treated me. I had zero interaction with girls, all of the “cool kids” either disregarded my existence or made fun of me, there was no in-between. Some popular names for me were “fat ass” “fat nick” and the hilarious “faticklaus”. I would spend quite a bit of time in the mirror looking at my stretch marks, pulling and pinching my fat. I felt a need to wear two t-shirts or a sweatshirt to hide my man-boobs. I would always have the neck of my shirt pulled over my chin to hide my double-chin. Until one day, I stood in front of the mirror angrily palpating and pinching myself for the last time. I vowed that I would not, could not live like that anymore. I was not going to allow myself to continue getting fatter, to continue having zero contact with girls, to continue being disrespected, disregarded, and made fun of. I was not going to condemn my future self to that kind of a life. And I made this life-changing decision entirely on my own, with no support or prodding from family and friends.
Enter weightlifting. Enter dieting. Enter finally taking my own life by the horns and steering it in a positive, functional, non-overweight and non-self-deprecating direction. My dad bought me a little home-gym setup (a bench press, lat pull combo, some adjustable dumbbells and plates, and a heavy punching bag), and I jumped in head first. I had no idea what I was doing, I would just do what I could figure out. I didn’t follow any particular diet trend, I didn’t have somebody helping me along the way. I ate less…a lot less. No more two bowls of cereal after school, no more second helping of spaghetti at dinner, no more milk overdoses. I had no concept of proper nutrition, of macros, of getting my vitamins and minerals. I just ate less, and started exercising. Fast forward about 18 months: I’m 18, 165 pounds, and 6’0 tall. To be honest, my uneducated, gung-ho, head-down approach to losing weight worked…a little too well. However, for my purposes, it worked. I was no longer made fun of, girls who used to barely know I exist all the sudden wanted to talk to me…I felt like a real person for the first time in my life. I felt like I looked good for the first time in my life! It was such a tremendous, radical change that I literally didn’t recognize myself in the mirror and felt “phantom fat” still on my body that wasn’t actually there anymore.
By this point in my life, the drug-abuse from my unspecified family member was about to hit a dark climax. This person ended up trying to quit cold turkey, or maybe just couldn’t find more for too long…at any rate, they snapped and suffered from what is called temporary psychosis syndrome; they went crazy and I was the one left to deal with it. I had to admit them to the psych ward at the hospital, where they stayed for over two weeks before being released after coming back to normal. The reason I am telling this story is because all of these terrible family issues had a very strong impact on me, I was angry and unsettled. And there’s only one thing that saved me and continues to save me to this day: exercise. If I hadn’t fallen in love with lifting weights and exercise, I would have fallen in love with being bitter and hateful, with drug abuse and smoking, with fighting and causing trouble. Instead, I had already found something that had saved and changed my life (losing weight with exercise), so I faithfully continued on with it, sensing that it would also save me from this other incredible battle I had been going through. And it worked. (Not to worry, at this time, this person has been clean for over eight years from all substances but nicotine and caffeine.)
Exercise saved my life, in two dramatic ways. It turned my life upside down, allowing me to feel comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who and what I am. And it provided me a safe place to go to, to expel my demons regularly so I don’t expel them in a negative way on my body and on other innocent people around me. I still harbor demons, anger and general anxiety at all times…and to this day, exercise saves my life. I owe it my life and my gratitude, forever. I suppose there’s a third way it changed my life, as well: It inspired me to begin my journey toward becoming the personal trainer I am today; I want to show people how to change their lives like I changed mine.
Thank you, Exercise!!!