Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Justin is 28, 6’2” tall, and currently weighs 185 pounds. In 2016, after the end of his marriage, he weighed upwards of 300 pounds and realized he needed to be fitter and healthier to live the kind of life he wanted. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The turning point
I was always a bigger guy. I played defensive end in football during school and kept eating like one even when I stopped working out. In 2016, I ran for Georgia’s House of Representatives, and at 27 years old I caught myself skipping houses that were on top of hills during voter canvassing and getting chest pains going up stairs.
In August 2016, my now ex-wife asked me for a divorce. This forced me to withdraw from my political campaign, and my day job was stuck in a rut. I decided I wanted a new life and couldn’t continue how I was heading if I wanted to live a happy life past 40 years old.
Day one, I started doing CrossFit for fitness. I started at CrossFit Addiction in Kennesaw, Ga., and am currently a member at CTC CrossFit in Marietta, Ga. I’d always wanted to do CrossFit, since it combined weight lifting (my favorite) with cardio (my nemesis) and was awesome at making you lose weight. For food, I counted my calories using MyFitnessPal, kept myself at or below 1,500 calories most days (no cheat days were planned, but they happened a handful of times), and tried to maximize protein. I kept it simple so I could stick to it.
There were really awesome days (my first CrossFit competition, my first 5K, when I hit 250 pounds, etc.), and there were really awful days (my first time cheating/bingeing and eating 4,400 calories one day, how ridiculously hungry I sometimes felt when I first started, etc.). What kept me moving forward was my own internal motivation to prevent an early death, and my fellow members at the CrossFit gyms. If I didn’t show up to class, they’d call me and ask where I was. When I would finish a workout (and do terribly most of the time), they’d all high-five me and cheer me on. The friendships are the best part of CrossFit.
My life couldn’t be more different than it was just a year ago. I have a job in the fitness sector, my current romantic relationship includes physical activity as dates (hiking, parks, etc.), and I know I can do anything active I want. Currently I am looking for an adult soccer league to play in when my schedule slows down. The number on the scale doesn’t make me happy — what I’m able to do with my body and time is what makes me happy.
This time around, the simplicity of losing weight is what surprised me. “Eat less food and move more” was my motto. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always simple. Before this lifestyle change, I had always been the fad diet guy. I would pursue diets that were complicated and unsustainable.
Now I train five to six days a week for two to three hours a day in CrossFit, weight lifting, and yoga. I’ve really fallen in love with my training, and I’ve actually become that guy who goes crazy if he can’t make it to the gym. For food, the last year has given me the knowledge and experience to let me intuitively eat. I know what 500 calories of food looks like, so I can automoderate my intake even when I go out to eat with friends. However, since I train so much, Skittles and doughnuts are a little more common nowadays.
I like go to the gym every day except for Sundays. Even if I don’t train or workout, I still go to the gym. Ninety-nine percent of the time, even on days where my body aches or I’m stressed or I just don’t want to do it, I end up training.
I only weigh myself once a week. It’s really easy for my weight to fluctuate pretty wildly day to day, and it can cause stress. With a weekly weigh in, I can track where I’m at without it taking over my life.
Other people in my gym keep me motivated. I work out with some people who have been training for over a decade, and they can do some amazing things with their bodies, like walk across a football field on their hands, run a sub-five-minute mile, or squat 600 pounds. I want to have that experience in my life, and the only way to obtain that is to work every day toward that goal for a very long time.
I still see myself as the fat guy. My body has completely changed from just a year ago, but I still sometimes only see my fat when I look in the mirror. On the days when I feel bad, I look to my before pictures on my phone. When I see those, I don’t recognize the guy in the pictures. It’s a good reminder of just how far I’ve come.
A couple of mottos I lived by during my weight loss are: (1) Food is 90 percent of weight loss. If you run a 10K, or 6.2 miles, the average person burns about 1,000 calories. That’s around 10 Double Stuf Oreos. Which one sounds easier to do or not do? (2) You can only do so much damage in a day. A pound of fat is around 3,500 calories. That means, even if you go out and eat 10,000 calories, or seven large pizzas, that’s only three pounds of fat. On days where you screw up, leave them in the past and keep moving forward. They aren’t that big of a deal in the long run.
All photos courtesy of Justin Holsomback.
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