Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Jason's Amazing Transformation!
FORWARD: I recently asked my good friend Jason to share the story of his amazing transformation. As I've said in previous posts, I don't believe that juicing is the only way to achieve your nutritional and fitness goals. It just happens to be the thing that worked for me. For Jason it was a complete lifestyle change in diet, exercise, and mentality. Jason's story goes to the core for the reason I started this blog. Normal guys/gals who have decided to make a change who take charge of their life while navigating the maze of "healthformation overload." Jason's ongoing journey and success is nothing short of inspirational. We both hope that his story will motivate other's to get moving in the right direction. You can learn more about Jason and his journey on his blog: 1RMiracle.blogspot.com 1 Day and a lifetime to go!
Hi there. My name is Jason. I’m a little unsure how to begin writing this thing for Juice Avenger. I guess my hesitation comes from the fact that I haven’t finished my “transformation” by any means. In fact I tend to be relatively down on what I perceive as my lack of progress and backsliding in my quest to get fit. However, it is clear that over the past decade I’ve made a lot of progress and changed my body pretty significantly, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
I am currently 33 years old, 6’6”, and 287 pounds. I was always big as a kid—I grew fast and was six feet tall when I started high school. I was also always overweight. I recall being pretty fat as a younger kid, but I know for sure that when I got to high school I became extremely overweight. Even though I played sports, I was terribly unhealthy—not just overweight, but asthmatic and weak. I used to have RIDICULOUS eating habits, like stopping at a fast food joint after school and eating a huge meal in between lunch and dinner, spending a week’s worth of school lunches on Pizza Day at school, eating boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls and drinking Coke by the two-liter. These habits pretty much continued in college, except I didn’t eat quite as much fast food because I spent that money on beer, vodka, cigarettes, and drugs instead. I don’t recall even drinking a glass of water in college. I met Ray (the Juice Avenger) when we were working for the same pizza place while I was in college and after I graduated. It was a great job for a fat guy because I got discount pizza, got to eat pizza at work, and got to take home screwed up orders on occasion to eat later. So suffice it to say I was extremely unhealthy.
Eventually I got a corporate job and moved away from my college town. I was also fortunate enough to meet my wonderful wife and get married. I stopped doing drugs and drinking so much. As we started our more “adult” lives, we began to get concerned about our health and the future. I think at this point I will answer the questions provided to me.
Where did you begin the journey (weight, fitness, etc)?When I began being concerned about my weight and health, I probably weighed close to 400 pounds. I never weighed myself then but I’m sure I was north of 350. I was also a smoker, a soda addict, and suffered from hypertension.
What made you decide to change your lifestyle?In my job as a social worker I was exposed to a lot of consequences of long term bad decisions. I saw people with diabetes, diabetic hypertension, heart disease, destroyed joints, etc. I think that had a lot to do with it, along with just being tired of being tired, fat, and sick all the time. When I was younger I didn’t realize it so much, but as I got older I realized I basically felt like crap all the time.
How did you change your lifestyle?In the beginning, my wife and I became vegetarians, which had a dramatic effect on our dietary choices. We began to learn to like vegetables, and avoid fast food. After I quit smoking (which was a struggle and I have had numerous slips over the years), we decided to work towards a goal of running a 5k. So we started a program to get us up to running a 5k, which seemed like an impossible goal for me. After all, I was the guy who couldn’t slowly run a mile in high school football; the guy who had to stop and use his asthma inhaler during sprints at the end of every practice. But we stuck it out and gradually crept up from running a half mile to running 3 miles, and successfully ran in a 5k, which felt great. It was probably the first time I had set a fitness goal and achieved it. During this time I had also sort of casually tried to lift weights, but eventually I got more serious about it and began to devote some brain power to getting better at it and improving on that level.
What dietary changes have you made?
I have been a strict vegetarian, a low-carber, a slow-carber, and a lot of different dietary things over the years. Full disclosure, I have never juiced (in either sense of the word). But what works for me now is pretty simple. I track calories and try to hit a protein goal. I try to eat grass-fed beef and small amounts of locally-sourced meat rather than pounds of crappy feedlot meat. My wife and I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, organic when possible, local when possible. We eat mostly whole foods and avoid things that are heavily processed. I do feel that limiting carbohydrates is important for weight loss, but I don’t go extremely low-carb or worry about “ketosis” or anything like that. I avoid most sugar regardless of label (white, brown, raw, agave nectar, etc) and try to limit grains and flour. That’s pretty much it. For me, tracking really works because I still can’t trust my body’s signals about hunger, they’re pretty screwed up. Especially with carbs and bread—I could eat an entire large pizza and be hungry an hour later! So the tracker helps me get my brain involved rather than just my instincts.
What fitness routines have you added?
I am a huge proponent of strength training. I think there is a lot of resistance to heavy barbell training, but it has worked the best for me. Right now I weight train 3-4 times a week with a program based around compound lifts like bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press. For those that are familiar, I do Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. I follow up the main lift with higher-volume accessory work. I also do conditioning work with kettlebells and barbell complexes. In warmer weather, my wife and I ride our bikes and walk our dogs; I also plan to start running again now that it has finally warmed up. My main point here is that there is no conflict between training for strength and weight loss. I think a lot of times people think of weight loss in terms of “burning calories” and think that strength training is irrelevant if you “just want to lose weight not get jacked.” But getting strong, besides being tremendously rewarding itself, also can’t help but make positive changes to your body. And really, none of us wants just a pure number on the scale—we want to look and feel good. For me, strength training has made me feel better, improved how I look, improved how my joints work, and basically been the best thing I’ve done for myself in years.
What gains/losses have you seen?
Over the past 10 years, I’ve definitely gone down around 100 pounds. This represents long periods of yo-yo dieting, figuring things out, getting frustrated, abandoning all diet and exercise, etc. I feel like my real progress happened in the last 3-4 years as I began to lift more systematically and regularly, and moved out of the 300s (I hope permanently). I have also gained tremendously in strength from where I started, to the point where I am beginning to think of myself as “strong.” Numbers don’t really matter but I can bench 225, squat 225, and deadlift 385. I can also make it through a 30-minute kettlebell circuit masterminded by the devil himself (Ron at the Lansing YMCA) and run 3 miles. A big step for me was actually to be able to do pushups and dips, exercises I was never able to perform until I was in my 30s. I also used to suffer from severe back pain, which is basically gone. My asthma inhaler mostly sits in my pocket unused (except during high pollen count days). I’m not a rampaging caffeine addict and have broken my addiction to diet sodas and energy drinks. Overall, I feel GREAT even though I still have some weight to lose.
What are your goals?
I’m having a bit of trouble settling on a goal weight. Right now, my goal is to take about 30 more pounds off and reevaluate at that point. I’m not quite sure where I’ll end up, but I’ve learned not to be so stressed out about it. I am satisfied with continuing to lose weight while being healthy and getting good numbers on my blood work—cholesterol, blood sugar, testosterone, etc are all good as per my last checkup. I also have some strength goals I’d like to accomplish, but they are secondary to my weight loss goal right now. This year I’d like to achieve a chin-up (I’ve never done on) and deadlift 405. Next year I’d like to participate in a powerlifting meet just for fun. I’d also like to do a Warrior Dash, but I’m not sure if it will be this year or next year.
What advice do you have for someone sitting there thinking about making a change?
Not to sound clichéd, but just do it. I mean, you have to start at some point. Analysis-paralysis can set in on these things, but you don’t have to start “perfectly” to make improvement in your life. You will make mistakes in figuring out what works for you—don’t worry about it! It’s pretty unlikely you will do permanent damage to yourself if you try a diet that doesn’t work for you or try an exercise program that doesn’t pan out for you. You can start small, but I wouldn’t start too small. Some people do better with a dramatic gesture, other people do better ramping up slowly. Don’t beat yourself up for slipping, but don’t let yourself off TOO easy either. I would recommend trying to use social support to make a change, whether that’s a site like Fitocracy.com to track your fitness progress, or one of the many food tracking sites with social aspects, or just telling your friends and family that you are making a change. Any physical, mental, financial, etc limitation can be overcome—you don’t need to be able to complete P90X workouts to get in shape, you don’t need to be able to afford a gym or organic food, you don’t need a Fitbit or Nike+ or any gadgets at all in order to do it. You just need some motivation and a willingness to apply your mental abilities to the task of improving your fitness.Thanks very much to Juice Avenger for allowing me to ramble on about my story. If you are interested in my journey, you can follow my own blog (which I am restarting thanks to this motivation) at 1RMiracle.blogspot.com, or follow me as jmiracle on Fitocracy. Thanks for reading, and remember that some clichés are deeper than they appear—one day at a time, the only thing stopping you is you, etc, etc.