The pandemic has really done a number on our exercise and heathy eating routines. Making small daily changes to improve your health rather than going all in can be effective in staying motivated. Here's how 31 year-old Damian Czyżewski took control of his quarantine body simply by moving more than before.
I've had my weight ups and downs during most of my life but thanks to quarantine, I had never been this heavy. The physical activity associated with my old job in gastronomy had degraded to practically zero and remote work from home hit me hard.
I had to go on a budget, and ended up introducing less healthy foods and more cheap junk into my diet. That included a lot of pasta, dumplings, ramen (both restaurant-based and instant), and other starchy processed carbs.
One day I woke up and felt completely burned out by my newfound habits. When I reached my peak weight of 280 pounds last November, I knew I couldn't wait anymore. So I got a second job doing delivery work.
This work was so intense during lockdown that the weight melted off me—I lost about 40 pounds by February. When I first started losing weight, I wasn't focused on workouts in particular, but just doing more movement than I was before. Since the gym wasn't sustainable for me at the time, I started working on my diet.
I got an intense health check doing blood work with my doctor looking at potential allergies, food sensitivities, hormone levels, vitamin deficiencies and more. After seeing the results, it became a starting point to track of how certain foods made me feel. I noticed that when I ate low-processed, low-carb food, I felt and looked my best. I eliminated dairy (something I found I was intolerant of) and by May, I ditched alcohol with some small exceptions (birthdays and holidays) and started getting healthier and slimmer day by day. This slowly developed into me going keto, swapping out the majority of my carbs for healthier alternatives like cauliflower and cabbage.
Since getting to the gym was hard for me, I took to calisthenics workouts with bands. Using a 100-pound force workout band, I do a daily two-set full body workout targeting mostly abs, core, and chest, like banded side bends, bent over rows, and dead bugs, at up to 50 reps each—on top of walking 14,000 steps a day to stay lean. Working out regularly was difficult at first, but once I got into the routine and habits, it went smoothly and I enjoyed it a lot. Both the process and effect was and is literally fun.
To make sure I don't miss a workout, I pack my band in my work bag and whip it out when I'm bored or sit too much for a long period of time—on the train, in an office bathroom...anywhere is fine.
After starting my regular workouts, I lost an additional 72 pounds by August of this year.
Easing out of quarantine, some old friends and family actually didn't recognize me at first. They greeted me as if it was their first time meeting me, and I'm like "Hey, we've known each other for over 15 years..." and they're "Who are you... Wait... Wow!"
As far as my fitness journey, I'm not finished in the least. I lost the fat, now I'm planning on gaining an extra 20 pounds of muscle in the long run. My advice to anyone just getting started: Embrace the small changes. Don't feel like you have to go hard or go home. Doing any change even if it's one percent of any workout or diet plan is better than none.
Just move, even if it's walking when talking on the phone. Diet wise, listen to your body and react. Take the time you need, just remember to keep going in the right direction. —As told to Taylyn Washington-Harmon
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