This story is part of our ongoing “First Steps” series, where we share extraordinary stories of men who transformed their bodies, minds, and lives with a focus on the first steps it took them to get there (because, after all, nothing can change without a first step!). Read all of the stories here.
Bayarjargal Bayarsaikhan was tired of feeling tired, and when his weight hit more than 500 pounds and a visit to his doctor confirmed a long list of health issues, he decided to make some big changes. Consistent low-impact cardio at the gym evolved into branching out into other activities, and now he's completed more than one triathlon. Here, in his own words, is how he made it happen:
BEFORE MY WEIGHT loss, I struggled with just enjoying my life. I couldn’t have fun with my kids and wife or do anything with them each day because my weight was over 500 pounds. I had been dealing with food and sugar addiction for 10 years. The tiredness and exhaustion was the toughest part.
I had an extensive list of health problems: hypertension, high cholesterol, severe sleep apnea, skin discoloration, type 2 diabetes, and low testosterone. This long list of health problems were the main turning point for me to change my life. After talking with my doctor at age 29 on January 15, 2021, I started to take my health into my hands. Here’s how:
I Started Doing Low-Impact Activities
MY FIRST STEP in everything was to focus on my cardiovascular health. I knew my heart was really weak. I started exercising in March 2021. I got a membership to Life Time Northbrook. What got me into the gym was thinking about my kids growing up and my wife living life without me. I knew I couldn’t be there if I didn't make any changes. The most challenging one was just getting to the gym and overcoming my own self.
Since I live in the Chicagoland area, it can get cold and tough to get out of the house and go to the gym. But having a place to go where I could avoid the elements helped motivate me.
All I did at first was walk on the treadmill and swim in the pool (both low-impact activities). I slowly started to integrate strength training and started attending small group training classes for more guidance. I now do four days of strength training and weightlifting, in addition to cardio.
I Didn’t Deny Myself Favorite Foods
I'VE ALSO WORKED hard on developing a new approach to eating. When it comes to food, I always say do not be too harsh on yourself. I still eat things that are labeled unhealthy, but you can still eat them with little portions and learn to satisfy your cravings and not overeat.
For me, that meant that I reduced my intake of unhealthy foods, but never cut out the foods I loved completely. I have learned to still eat my favorite food like chips and ice cream. When I buy my bag of chips, I only eat what fits in my full hand and have learned to kill my cravings and not overeat. The exception is sugary drinks and alcohol, which I cut out completely.
"If you FAIL, that’s OK—you learn to GET UP."
Since I was obese, I was lazy on many days, so our family would do carry out three to four days a week. I now eat home-cooked meals, and on a few occasions a month carry out. I have learned to fall in love with healthy protein like chicken.
My life has turned 180 degrees, and I’ve lost 245 pounds. To all the others looking to start: Do not look and be intimidated by other people. Whatever journey you are going through, it is your own journey. It is also never late to start. There will be days when you do not want to do anything. Learn to say that is okay. If you fail, that’s OK—you learn to get up.
I Completed a Triathlon Two Years Later
IN AUGUST, 2021, I did a supersprint triathlon. I never thought I would be able to accomplish it, since I had at one point been so heavy I had a problem with walking. But that day, I defeated my old self. I stayed consistent and kept believing in myself.
In August 2023, I competed in the international distance—a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike (about 25 miles), and a 10K run—at the Life Time Chicago Triathlon.
In 2024, I am planning on doing a half marathon. In 2025, I have a goal to do a half Ironman-distance triathlon. The reason why I picked 2025 is I’m waiting for my brother to come home from his service overseas.
When it comes to making changes like this, I recommend that people find something little (or big) in your life to make you 1 percent better than who you were yesterday. There was, are, and will be days where things will be tough, but with believing and prayers I know I can overcome anything.
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