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The Day I Stopped Drinking

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I should preface this piece by saying that I am not an alcoholic.

I exist in that weird limbo between being a casual drinker and an alcoholic. I don’t have a physical addiction to alcohol, and I didn’t drink to the point of getting drunk every day. But ever since I was legally able to drink, I would go through spurts where I’d have a few drinks a week, sometimes more than one a night, and would spend a lot of my weekends drunk and hungover. Stressful situations would lead me to drink either at home or at a bar or at a friend’s house party, providing a faux panacea and an unhealthy alternative to coping with said stress.

In early August, I was under a decent amount of stress due to some personal changes in my life. Good changes, mind you, but the process of reaching them proved to be very intense and very stressful. And when I get stressed, I drink. And when I drink, I eat. Alcohol and comfort food are my own personal match made in hell.

I had gotten back into a trend of eating, drinking and not being merry after a semi-successful month of working out again. Despite my persistent self-reassurance that I was happy, deep down I knew that I had started throwing away every ounce of physical and mental progress gained from working out and eating (slightly) better the month before.

And then I hit my own personal bottom.

Most people think of hitting bottom, in the scope of drug and alcohol addiction, as committing an act so embarrassing or destructive that it forces them to open their eyes and changing their ways. Nothing that extreme happened to me, thankfully, but I did undergo an intense physical wake-up call known as a splitting hangover.

I’ve been hungover before. Many times. Hell, I’ve had worse hangovers than the one I’m about to discuss. But this one was different. To this day, I still can’t quite explain what it was about it that told me, “Dude, you’re better than this.”

The day before, I got pretty drunk. I was bar hopping and chasing beer and tequila with decadent bar food, plus some donuts that I scarfed down as soon as I got back to my apartment. I don’t remember falling asleep. Hell, I don’t even remember why I got drunk, other than the fact that I could.

I woke up the next morning feeling like a guy who had three tall beers, a tequila cocktail, an undercooked burger, and 4 donuts the night before. The sunlight beating down on me from my bedroom window mocked me mercilessly. My own body mocked me. My stomach felt like I had swallowed a tiny uranium bomb. My head spun; it churned a dull, poisonous sensation throughout itself chastising me for my less than stellar life choices.

That day, I decided not to drink for a while.

I had entertained the notion of quitting drinking plenty of times before. I heard stories about people who felt, thought, and lived much better after limiting their social drinking. But what always stopped me was the fear of missing out, of not being able to socialize and hang out with friends and go on dates without the aid of a stiff drink. After all, I’m only young once, right? YOLO, as my fellow millennials say. You can quit drinking when you’re older. Just enjoy life, man.

The only problem? Drinking didn’t make me enjoy life. It dulled life. It dulled me. It made me even more of a physically and emotionally imbalanced person. It didn’t decrease my anxiety, it exacerbated it. It messed up my sleep patterns. It created a vicious circle of drinking (often hard liquor), making me hungry and thirsty for crap, buying greasy, salty comfort food and soda, finishing with some kind of dessert, passing out, and doing the same thing later that week. It sapped my daily energy. It made me unmotivated to go to work, to write, and to work out and eat right. Because if my diet isn’t good, then why bother working out, right?

Cut back to the morning of my brain and gut taking turns kicking my ass. I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized I had only two choices: (1) Do nothing, and continue to make half-assed attempts at eating better and limit my drinking, only to inevitably relapse, or (2) Commit to clean eating for a firm period of time, including NO drinking at all.

I don’t know what was different this time around. I had given myself that same ultimatum God knows how many times before, and always chose the first option out of complacency and a fear of self-improvement. Maybe it was fate or the stars aligning or just a spontaneous coordination with God and whatever forces at work internally and externally, but as of writing this, I have gone 31 days without a single drop of alcohol and a substantially improved diet and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In just over a month, I’ve noticed my skin is glowing, I think more sharply, I want to write more (hence the slightly more consistent blogging),I have a lot more energy and desire to work out, and therefore my body fat has significantly diminished. I’m still not at my goal body type yet, but I am in FAR better shape than I was a month ago. As for my weight, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t weigh myself much anymore. I may hop on at the end of the week just out of curiosity. In short, I feel pretty damn great.

Speaking of working out, in addition to the whole “no drinking” thing, I knew I had to get back on the ball with my diet and exercise, which suffered by proxy. I severely curbed my intake of processed food and sugar, replacing fast food with home-prepared meals and more green stuff, zero-nutrient sugary crap with dark chocolate almonds/berries and dried fruit, and soda (a lifelong addiction) with unsweetened green tea, the occasional tart cherry juice, and *GASP* … water!

I started working out one week later. I revisited Hip Hop Abs through Beachbody OnDemand, and decided to do the month 2 workouts to jumpstart my metabolism again. I eventually toyed with my schedule and added different workouts into the mix, but my calendar was a fantastic starting point just to get me moving again. I remembered that if my workouts were fun, I would be even more committed to leading a healthy lifestyle, and I was right. I’m following this modified four weeks of a Hip Hop Abs calendar with a CIZE/Les Mills OnDemand hybrid, and I cannot wait. Curbing my drinking for a while has given me so much energy and enthusiasm that I actually WANT to work out again. For real. I haven’t actively wanted to work out in so long that I forgot what it felt like.

To anyone reading this struggling with your diet or drinking, it’s important to realize that you are WORTH the change. Every bit of it. It is never too late to turn your life around and make a game plan. There are so many easy, healthy recipes out there (which I’ll also blog about), affordable and free workouts you can do at home, and of course, support groups for drug and alcohol addiction. My drinking dependence never got to the point where I needed those groups, but there is absolutely NO shame in reaching out to them if you need them. It’s one of the most beautiful and amazing things you could ever do for yourself.

No matter who you are, or how far gone you think you may be, you are worth living your life to its absolute fullest potential. When you honor your body and give it what it needs, you are honoring yourself. You are showing yourself the love and respect that you deserve. You are cultivating an incredible existence, and by overcoming those demons of food and drink, you aren’t just strengthening yourself, you’re inspiring those around you to potentially do the same thing.

Now let’s go out and kick some ass.

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Update and thoughts on Les Mills COMBAT so far

So sorry for the absence! It’s been a hectic past couple of weeks, but rest assured I have been getting my workouts in except for 3 days when I was out of town at a convention, busy as heck and low energy. However, I’m back on track with COMBAT and currently doing a 3 day Shakeology cleanse to kickstart my nutrition back up. I also have a cold though, so working out has been the LAST thing I want to do, but I’ve been pushing play anyway.

So, I have to say that Les Mills COMBAT might honestly be what my Beachbody Coach calls a “soulmate” workout: a program that you actually kind of look forward to doing on a daily basis. I thought INSANITY was my soulmate workout, but I just don’t really have the same passion for it that I do for COMBAT. I keep saying this, but I just love the sense of control and power it inspires without wearing me down mercilessly or taking up a ton of my time. I’m most likely going to be doing a Les Mills PUMP-COMBAT hybrid this fall, which I’m really looking forward to even though I don’t love PUMP quite as much as COMBAT. I’m confident the addition of more weights will be good for my body. Hell, I might just do a P90X-COMBAT hybrid instead. Hmmm, we shall see.

I can’t promise I’ll be updating daily during the coming weeks due to some big changes going on in my life, but I will chime in whenever inspiration strikes. I owe it to you guys, and myself.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 9: Power HIIT 1 and T-Rex Tuesday!

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Greetings, Nonathletes!

Today, I met my nemesis in battle again, and while I may not have been able to perform every single burpee-pushup-jump-squat and had to modify the occasional lunge and lower my weights again, I did a LOT better this time around than before!

This should have been more obvious since I did INSANITY, but I’ve found that the secret to overcoming high intensity interval training, especially workouts like this which utilize both calisthenics and fast-paced weight training, is a clear mind and an absolute determination pre-workout. That applies to any and all workouts, sure, but personally, these plyometrics and clean and presses required me to psych the hell up and NEED to win, NEED to finish as much as I can, NEED to meet my friend fatigue head on!

Oh, and I may not have completely overcome the workout, but don’t worry…I’m doing it again on Thursday. Oh, joy.

My nutrition today was spot on, although I got another really bad craving, this time for Buffalo Wild Wings and their infamous Wing Tuesday, or as I like to call it, T-Rex Tuesday (Chickens evolved from T-Rexes, right?). I’ve been getting nightly cravings a LOT recently, and tonight’s was stronger than ever. I wanted nothing more than to slam 12 wings, tossed in their signature Hot sauce, juicy and falling off the bone, accompanied by some crispy and soft potato wedges covered in cheddar, paired with a nice little side of blue cheese dressing and some Seagram’s 7 whiskey.

But as I’ve said, I want to transform my body, my soul, and my mind more than I want a quick junk food fix, and that’s why I didn’t eat that despite wanting it more than ever. It takes strength to prioritize what’s important long term over what’s important in the heat of the moment, and I might slip up and indulge now and again, but not tonight. And not tomorrow. Not anytime soon. Not until I feel that I truly have EARNED the right to indulge, after I’ve put in work and done something GOOD for myself because that’s what I deserve. That’s what we all deserve.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 8: Combat 60

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I have to say, doing Combat 60 (which is more like Combat 54, but that’s ok), I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the night before. I felt powerful, unstoppable, completely focused. My front and back kick combos were on point, my footwork was getting noticeably faster, and in general I had a really solid workout. While the MMA workouts might not be as excruciatingly exhausting as INSANITY (that’s what we have the HIIT workouts for), they require an intense amount of focus and discipline if you want to burn as many calories as possible. Maybe it’s in my head, but thanks to LMC, I’m already noticing myself slim down a bit.

Later that night, I had some cravings again. It’s always in the evenings, I very rarely want Taco Bell in the morning or afternoon. I guess it’s just the psychology of wanting a reward like that at the end of the day, since I’d reward myself with food like that almost all the time after class ended during college. But you know what I did? I talked to my Beachbody Coach. She’s always been there for me and is an amazingly kind, intuitive and strong individual, and she helped break down why I was craving that food, and explained that eating crap like that isn’t cool or awesome or funny, it’s disgusting and not indicative of what makes a person strong. Now working out 5-6 days a week and eating things your body loves, now that’s a different story. I just want to take this time to thank her from the bottom of my heart, and thank all of you for the likes. Feel free to comment and engage in discussion as well, this blog isn’t just for me, it’s for nonathletes (AND athletes!) everywhere who have something on their minds.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Days 5-7: Combat 45, Lower Body Lean Out, Rest

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WARNING: Self-entitled rant in 5…4…3…2…

So, on Friday I worked out with Combat 45 but gained 6 pounds that night because I had the audacity to go to a friend’s going away party and indulge in a little junk food. 6 pounds. Let that sink in. That’s a baby. I became 9 months pregnant in 12 hours.

Sure, it’s just water weight, but it’s water weight that’s refusing to go away even after drinking tons of water and dancing my @$$ off at a night club AND doing Lower Body Lean Out on Saturday. So what did I do? I ate some more. Boneless wings, 18 of them.

I make no excuses for my actions, eating more junk the wrong route to go and I acknowledge that. I suppose through my skewed reasoning, it just felt like a personal attack against all the progress that I made. Working out consistently and eating right only to gain back every single pound I lost and then some in the course of one evening. It is true that I made the decision to have that food Friday night, but I’ve never ever gained that kind of weight in one night unless I had a buffet or something, and even then 6 pounds was a lot.

As I type this, it’s Sunday evening and I don’t feel good at all. I have a headache and I’m hungry to the point where my body is itching and I really, really crave some Taco Bell and a couple shots of some form of hard liquor, both resting comfortably at the bottom of Michi’s Ladder. Literally, the very thought of having those things is sending chills through my body and I am having to do everything within my power to stop myself from driving there and buying a 5-layer burrito and the nachos grande. This is food addiction, people. It’s not minor and it’s not imaginary, it’s real and it f***ing sucks.

I apologize for the delay in posting, I just haven’t felt up to typing out my thoughts but I owe it to all of you to express my emotions and everything I’m going through. There are going to be days like this, but I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following me and putting up with my crazy @$$.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 4: Shock Plyo HIIT 2

Greetings and love, Nonathletes!

I don’t know if I “killed” today’s workout per se, but I know I sent it to the f***ing ICU!

Not to say Shock Plyo HIIT 2 didn’t put up a fight, that would be a lie. It’s tough. Really, really tough. But I was bringing the energy today, y’all. I met this workout head-on and did the burpee-squats like a pro. Ski moves like a pro. Pushups and mountain climbers and weighted squats like a PRO. I felt great, and after my workout and shower I was STILL sweating! And I went into COMBAT thinking, “Pssh this isn’t going to be all that tough.” That’ll teach me to judge a DVD jacket by its cover.

Also, some honesty time for my readers…I had a drink last night before bed, some gin. NO FOOD though! I feel as if I’ve reached a new point in breaking my food addiction where I can enjoy a drink without having to pair it with food, particularly greasy and salty food that’ll make me feel bloated and gain weight. Not to say drinking is healthy, but breaking the addiction to salt and grease that goes along with it will help tremendously with my goals. Hell, the Jersey Shore guys drink all the time and they’re ripped, right? That was partially in jest.

Additionally, I’m watching the live stream of Team Beachbody Summit and I am excited to announce that they have FINALLY crafted Vanilla Shakeology! Once I feel like I’ve had my fill of Vegan Chocolate, I’ll definitely be trying this out. I love vanilla ice cream and shakes, so to have it for breffis (yeah, I said breffis, what?) every morning sounds absolutely wonderful.

Keep it real, and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 3: Inner Warrior + Core Attack + Combat 30

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Folks, I’ll be honest. This wasn’t my best day.

Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night or take in enough calories before the workout, but I was running on fumes from the get go. Not to mention my allergies decided to act a fool today, which impeded my breathing, which impeded my overall performance.

I started with the Inner Warrior stretch and strength routine because I forgot to add it yesterday, and I worked up a sweat almost immediately, which is admittedly a good thing. The bad news is that my whole body was sore from lifting yesterday and the stretches and low-seated poses burned like crazy.

Core Attack didn’t fare much better. I’m typically not the best at ab and core exercises as is, let alone when I have to do moves on my stomach involving stretching my arms and legs in a cramped living room. I did feel a burn throughout most of the workout, though.

By the time I got around to Combat 30, I was toasted. Seriously, I couldn’t go for more than a couple minutes without having to take a few deep breaths and regain focus and stability. It was my weakest performance so far.

But that’s not all…Due to some minor stressful events tonight, I’m having some serious cravings and they’re getting worse and worse by the second. The thought of some ice cold Jäger and a couple hot wings or random items from the Taco Bell menu is making me giddy with excitement, and all I can think about is the fact that I “can’t” have it, as opposed to the fact that I “can” make good dietary and lifestyle choices. Me and comfort food have a long and complicated history together, and I’ll definitely be going into more detail about that soon.

I need all of you to remember, however, that there are going to be days like this, days where you’re not performing at your A-game, nights where you just want to eat, drink, and be merry to take your mind off of the stress in your life. That’s the easy way out, that’s what everyone else does. You’re here and reading this now because you’re NOT like everyone else, and there’s something inside you that’s going to make you NOT go on a late night food run when the going gets tough. I’m not doing it tonight, even though every bit of me wants to. I know I’m going to feel like crap the next day if I do, and it’s going to impede my progress. I’m prioritizing what I want in the long term over what I want right now. It’s a healthy meal with ice water and video games for me tonight, and my body is thanking me for it.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 2: Power HIIT 1

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Good day, Nonathletes! I want to take a moment to thank everyone for the likes so far. I’m new at this blogging thing and I appreciate the support so far and being able to connect with others going through their own fitness journeys.

Today, I completed Power HIIT 1, a non-MMA themed workout designed around high rep weighted workouts and calisthenics. It’s also one of the toughest workouts I’ve ever done in my entire life. Not even kidding.

The short warmup alone will get you soaking with sweat, especially from its its body weighted squats to its suicide runs. I was shocked at how quickly I broke a sweat, especially considering it takes me longer do to do with INSANITY. Then the weights came out, and Dan the Man made me do deadrows, cleans, and a LOT of clean and presses and power presses. My arms were fried like bacon after this, and I had to temporarily downgrade my weights from 20 to 15 just to get through it. Then he and the crew threw in some plyo lunges just to make me suffer a tiny bit more. They must have been able to see I was still breathing a tiny amount and were like, “F*** that noise, jump around some more!”

And then there were the burpee-pushup-squats. Fast ones, no less. That should be self-explanatory enough to tell you about the terror my body went through. I did maybe 3 or 4 whole ones and modified a few more when I wasn’t on the floor gasping for air. Then Dan started jumping between his squats. I almost sent my Powerblock flying at him through the TV.

My food consisted of:

Vegan Chocolate Shakeology, almond butter, almond milk

Almond chicken and grilled veggies x 2 (plus half  a sweet potato)

Greenberry Shakeology and a Promax bar

You might think that because of how I just described it, I must hate Power HIIT 1. But I don’t, I actually love the challenge it gave me. I thought this would be a breeze given I’ve done both INSANITY and some Les Mills PUMP, the former with its emphasis on super speed and the latter with its constant use of high reps.

Imagine having those two elements combined in one workout, going from an extreme amount of high reps to plyo lunges to burpee-pushup-squat-jumps. Set to a tempo. It ain’t easy, I can tell you that. But instead of making me feel dejected, it makes me want to improve and kick the workout’s @$$ next time. It’s like Dan says in the video: “The burn is called fatigue, and fatigue is my friend. ‘Hey fatigue, would you like to go to dinner?’ ‘Yeah, I’d love to!'”

Fatigue and I will be having dinner 6 days a week for the next 60 days.

Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight.

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Les Mills COMBAT Day 1: Combat 30 Live

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I couldn’t have asked for a better first day of my Les Mills COMBAT journey. Overall I was surprised that I had very few cravings throughout the day. Even as I type this at night when the cravings are the worst, I feel full, hydrated, and ready to kick it into high gear for tomorrow’s workout!

The calendar calls for Combat 30: Kick Start but I chose to do Combat 30 Live instead just to see how much I enjoy it in comparison, and it’s a real @$$-kicker of a workout. Having said that, it went by remarkably quickly and I really fed off the energy that Dan, Rach and the crew were exuding in front of the live crowd in Bristol.

As I briefly mentioned before, I’m coming off of INSANITY (rather, the first month of it again), so I’m used to working out to the point of total exhaustion and pushing myself further despite it, which is a fantastic way to burn calories. COMBAT isn’t like this at all. You’re pushing yourself and digging deep throughout, absolutely, but you always feel like you’re in control. The proper coordination of the punches, kicks, etc. really adds to that feeling, and when you’re using your back muscles to dip and perform a sick uppercut, you know you’re getting a solid workout.

One area in which I surprisingly succeeded was performing back kicks, something I thought I needed to practice more given my general lack of coordination. They’re not perfect but they get the job done. I do feel I need to improve my quick footwork, especially moving forward for the front kicks as well as those high impact jump kicks. Oh well, that will definitely come in time, and I feel that INSANITY has already prepared me for such agility anyway.

My food consisted of:
Vegan Chocolate Shakeology with almond milk and almond butter
Chicken bacon salad and low carb yogurt
Chicken with a crushed almond crust, a few steamed vegetables and a sweet potato
Greenberry Shakeology and a protein bar

Not a bad day diet-wise. I feel like I could’ve introduced more vegetables into meal 4 but the two shakes more than made up for it. I also added my daily green tea extract in the morning and two servings of apple cider vinegar throughout the day, plus a lot of water.

I’m really excited about doing HIIT 1: Power since it’s been a while since I’ve lifted. The moves seem to be very closely related to Les Mills PUMP with a little more cardio/plyo thrown in. I have the PUMP barbell but I’ll be using my Powerblocks instead to properly break them in. More on all of that tomorrow, though.

Thanks for reading, fellow nonathletes, and be sure to check out tomorrow’s recep and my upcoming posts about fitness issues I find the most important. Keep it real and *kisses fist* stay with the fight!

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Welcome, Nonathletes or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discipline

One day in college, a classmate of mine mentioned an idea for a new student organization called “The Nonathletic Club”. Now, as an unabashed couch potato, this sounded great: a club celebrating the joys of dismissing the elitist institution of athleticism. After all, in high school I could barely make a shot in basketball, let alone dribble the damn thing down the court.

But as he continued, it became clear he had a different idea. It wouldn’t be about not playing sports, it’d be about playing them as best as we could. It’d just be us amateurs playing to learn, to improve our athleticism, and most importantly, to have fun.

“Oh okay, cool,” I replied, and gradually changed the subject. As I said, I hated athletics because I thought I was naturally untalented, but I’ve realized there’s more to it than that.

I hated them because I lacked discipline.

I used to play little league until I turned 7 but stopped caring about sports and running around in the fresh air. I became complacent; playing sports was hard, but watching cartoons and playing video games was easy! Besides, schoolwork was hard enough. I felt like I deserved to sit on my butt and do things I liked when I wasn’t busy.

Inevitably, my lack of discipline caught up to me in the form of added weight. When I turned 11, puberty hit me like a ton of bricks and I started gaining even more. Not to mention I LOVED to eat, particularly all those yummy comfort foods: sugary breakfast cereal, burgers, fried chicken, ribs, ice cream, nachos, LITERALLY the whole enchilada. Oh, and my 5-6 daily sodas and no water. Add that to a strict regimen of Nintendo 64 and watching South Park reruns till 4 AM and you have one unhealthy, obese young man.

This continued into my teenage years. In junior high, my poor decisions made me the target of jokes and insults, leading me not to change my ways, but to keep on eating to ease the pain. I eventually decided enough was enough and I sought to lose weight in summer 2003, and I did…through artificially sweetened meals, snacks, and sodas, but it was a step in the right direction, sort of. But that didn’t last long, since without a real long-term plan, I returned to my old ways.

When I was 16, however, I lost a ton of weight, probably due to a naturally heightened metabolism; I never worked out aside from the obligatory one day a week of gym class. I even lost a little more by graduation, finally making me a size large on a good day. Thanks to chance, I spent my summer full of confidence, and I felt amazing.

Then I went to college. I’m sure most of you know where this is going.

I became a full-time student with a part time job. I was introduced to the necessity of any college student not living in Amish country: alcohol! I experienced dating, and its disgruntled sibling rejection, which inevitably led to more alcohol! And because man cannot live on whiskey alone, add delicious comfort foods into the mix. Most of my meals seriously either consisted of McDonalds, Taco Bell, and wings w/ potato skins with hard liquor and a river of Coca-Cola. It doesn’t take a genius to know this knocked me up more than a few pounds and down a few pegs in terms of my self-esteem.

This culminated one summer evening as I was having dinner with a friend. I was attracted to her and not the other way around. She told me that while I displayed confidence asking her out before, she added that in order to show even more when talking to other girls, I should lose some weight. It offended me on a personal level, even though I didn’t let it show. She apologized but the damage had been done.

I told myself what upset me was that she called me fat, even though she didn’t. What really upset me was the fact that I actually was overweight, even obese, and I had refused to acknowledge it. To my own credit, I WAS a full-time student, and even if I could find time to work out, I’d have no idea where to start and I couldn’t afford a personal trainer. I could do cardio, that makes you lose weight, right? No weights; I don’t want to become a bodybuilder. I have to watch what I eat, but vegetables? Gross! I don’t want no discipline! I’ll just be obese forever, it’s in my genetics after all, so why not eat, drink and be merry?

Cut to February 2012, weighing in at 265 lbs. I hadn’t seen my friends since the week before Christmas break, and I was shocked to finally see they were both in noticeably better shape than before. I asked them how they did it, and both gave me the obvious yet overlooked reply of “diet and exercise”.

That’s when something happened.

Seeing my peers take control of their lives and embracing their own discipline sparked something inside me. Call it healthy competition among friends or a sudden realization of my own power and self-worth, but something within me told me to MOVE.  Stop making excuses. Stop going through the motions. Stop eating crap all the time only to feel like crap the next day and just MOVE. And so I did.

One cold February evening, I went to my college gym and got on a treadmill. And I walked. Then ran a little. Then walked again. Then ran some more. By the time an hour and 15 minutes had passed, I had put in more consistent physical work in that block of time than I had in months, even years, and I was absolutely exhausted and drenched in my own sweat.

And the weirdest thing was that I loved it.

Dopamine. Serotonin. Norepinephrine. Brain-derived neurotropic factor. All released, having a party in my brain. It gave me a high that eclipsed any swig of alcohol or any bite of comfort food. It was the sweet fruit of my harvest, and I felt absolutely incredible. Invincible. Powerful. On top of the world! So the next day, I did it again. And again. And before I knew it, I was walking and running multiple nights a week. It became my new “addiction”, which unlike drinking and bad eating, was actually really good for me.

I soon joined Planet Fitness and improved my cardio skills with their treadmills and ellipticals over the next 2 months, occasionally playing with the weight machines and taking a few personal training sessions. And lo and behold, along with a slightly improved diet, I was losing weight! I went from 265 to 235, and I experienced a surge of confidence I had never felt before in my life. Additionally, I noticed I had improved focus, and even started seeing the world in a more positive way. After all, when you like yourself, you like the rest of the world more. Discipline, something I had shunned for over a decade out of fear, was finally playing a role in my life and making me happier than I ever expected.

My college graduation gift was INSANITY, something I fell in love with after first watching the infomercial: a 60-day total body conditioning home workout, dubbed the hardest ever put on DVD. I was beginning to plateau with my routine anyway, and it looked like exactly what I needed: a rigid, well-designed routine with plyometrics and body resistance training, not just cardio. Even sprinters need to mix up their workouts, right?

INSANITY was the hardest thing I ever had to physically commit to in my entire life. I could barely finish half of a workout for the first few weeks! I found myself gasping for air and taking tons of breaks, calling the instructor Shaun T every insult in the book. But my body was transforming despite the pain and the fatigue and the weaning away from unhealthier foods thanks to its strict nutrition plan. Over the next few weeks, I noticed I could last a little longer each workout and perform moves I previously couldn’t. By mid-July, I lost around 25 more pounds. I had gone from pushing 270 to bordering 210 all in a few months through digging deeper and eating cleaner than ever before. Not bad for someone who used to down orange soda and burgers on a daily basis, right?

Over the next few months, I continued INSANITY and even added in weight training with resistance bands, which I learned aids with fat loss just as much as cardio. There were times when I slipped, sometimes for weeks, even recently, but what never changed was the fact that I had the knowledge I needed to pick myself up: exercise, proper nutrition, and of course, that stubborn little friend of mine, discipline. Starting next week, I am committing to 60 days of LES MILLS COMBAT, an MMA-inspired cardio and strength routine, and recharging my diet with 80-90% nutritious foods again, including Shakeology. I am also lucky to have the support of my family and friends, working toward their own fitness goals, and an amazing Beachbody Coach who has challenged me, inspired me, and kept me accountable every step of the way, reminding me of how strong I am when I don’t realize it.

So, why did I name my blog The Nonathletic Club? Basically, I’m using my colleague’s idea and putting it into motion for people like me: The nonathletes. The nerds. The “fat” kids. The awkward kids. People who were picked last in gym class. People who have an unhealthy relationship with food. People who don’t know the first thing about how to work out. People who used to work out but forgot how to. People who WANT to change their lives and their self-images and their confidence, but were never able to embrace their own discipline.

If you fit any of the above at all, I have this to say:

Despite popular belief, fitness is not just for the elite. It’s not for the athletes we root for on Sunday nights, the Abercrombie and Victoria’s Secret models plastered on billboards, the actors with money to blow on personal trainers. It’s for every single one of us, ready for us to take and use to become the best “us” we can be. We don’t have to be celebrities or people with 6% body fat and washboard abs who can crank out pullups and crunches like they’re going out of style. We are allowed to be “imperfect”. We can struggle with our workouts and our nutrition. We can have love handles and loose skin and (gasp!) even stretch marks. What matters beyond anything else, is that we follow as Tony Horton says: “Do your best and forget the rest.”

Most importantly, never, ever forget that you are beautiful, at your heaviest, your weakest, your leanest, your strongest. You are more powerful than anyone, including yourself, says you are. You have the ability to change your life, to do things you once thought were impossible. I don’t care if the only exercise you’ve ever done was run to the donut shop, you are capable of the infinite. You can take that discipline, that thing you always thought was a monster, and use it to transform your life. You can demolish your cravings and free yourself from the prison of comfort eating. You can get into shape and become the best athlete you can be. And I can help, because like you, I struggle more than I care to admit. But regardless, I pick myself up because I know I’m worth it, and so are all of you.

Thank you for reading, and welcome to The Nonathletic Club.

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