I have been an athlete for over 20 year and obese since I was 18. After many attempts at weight loss failed, I simply stopped trying and accepted myself for who I was. I exercised and figured that was enough to be healthy. It wasn’t. One day I became inspired to try Olympic Weightlifting. Obsessed with the sport, I set out to become the best in the world. To be the best, one has to train with the best, and on February 11, 2013 at 190lbs, my journey began with legendary trainer and athlete, Mohamed Makkawy. Nine months later, I was 120lbs; dropping 70lbs.
The irony of my transformation is that I never set out to change. I set out to become an Olympian and figured I’d compete in the 75kg + category. My Coach had other plans.
Within minutes of our first session, Mohamed instructed me to drop the weight. Weightlifting, Mohamed said, is easier when you are light, and he proceeded to putting me on a high protein, low carb diet, along with a proper training routine.
During the transition I found strength and inspiration in my Coach. Mohamed shared stories of his athletic life; the challenges he had endured and how he triumphed over them. I knew he understood what I was going through. As the weight dropped I discovered that I had found my “why” – “why am I doing this?” My previous attempts at weight loss had failed because I was doing it for myself and that was not enough. My addiction to unhealthy foods was more powerful than my desire to lose weight. My raison-d’être had to trump the addiction; it had to have greater purpose and I found it in my mentor. It is human nature to not want to let others down, and by making a promise to a man I admired and respected, it kept me accountable.
Sometimes we need to go outside of ourselves to fuel our discipline and motivation. Many people change their lifestyle so they can be around longer for their children and teach them healthy habits; for others it’s a doctor who has given them no choice but to change. When embarking on a goal, finding your “why” is critical. If one doesn’t work, find another until you have one that allows you to succeed. Everyone is inspired differently. What matters most is that you find your raison-d’être that brings you to your goal.
In the book Mind Gym, author Gary Mack says: “your attitude determines your altitude”. This statement stuck with me. Often times our self-defeating talk sabotages our chances of success before we even begin. Words such as: “I can’t….” “I will never be…” “I’m too…” set the stage for failure. This is often fueled by fear or a lack of confidence. Yet these emotions cripple our growth because we permit them to control our actions and therefore our lives. Taking that first step, even in the face of fear, helps you realize that you’re stronger than you think. Then you take two steps…and three and so on.
For example, one day during training Mohamed asked me to do an exercise that required me to hold on to the bars at the top of the squat cage and kick my knees up. When he gave me the instructions I froze like a statue and went completely white. Hanging from the ceiling was not my idea of a good time. Not only was I deathly afraid of heights, but it also brought back a childhood memory of when I was 7 and my teacher told us during Phys-Ed to swing from the monkey bars. I did not have the strength to hold myself up and fell, landing flat on my back. It knocked the wind right out of me and I could not breathe for what felt like eternity. Staring up at the 10 foot squat cage, I saw the same child falling. Trusting Mohamed, I stepped onto the stool, grabbed a hold of the bars and gave the most pathetic bunny-hop. To build my confidence, my Coach placed hanging wraps around the bars so I could put my arms into them and hold on to the straps. Feeling safe and anchored, I tried the jump again, and did so with more vigor. I now perform the exercise regularly without the aid of wraps. My self-talk originally told me I could not do the exercise, yet in trying and fine tuning my attempts, I proved that I was in fact capable.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
In addition to finding courage, I also learned a new appreciation for food and that you are not a victim of your eating habits. You have the ability to change and when you begin eating healthy, and start feeling the benefits, your body becomes very unforgiving when you stray from your regime. Food nourishes us on many levels. Therefore, the quality we chose is directly linked to our health, energy and vitality. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are nature’s perfect foods, containing all the nutrients from the soil and sun. In contrast, fast foods and those that are processed with high sugar, fats and chemicals strip us of our essence, making us feel tired and lethargic. This creates a vicious cycle that fuels our emotional behavior towards food and exercise.
It’s not say treats can’t be part of our lives, but quantity, frequency and timing are key.
Your support system is critical when embarking on any journey because those around you have a direct impact on your life. Success breeds success, therefor, surrounding yourself with strong, like-minded people is key. My gym, the Adelaide Club, has been extremely supportive and its members and employees have become like family. My friends and relatives have also been amazing. One of my best friend’s Helen, is so proud she tells the world of my success, including the waitresses in restaurants. My experience has also brought me closer to my mom who has been my cheerleader for opportunities that have come my way.
What will your quest be?
Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.