In this edition of the Fitocracy Member Spotlight, we talk to Uziel, who went from 410lbs to a lean and mean 225lb in just 3 years!
Username and current Fitocracy level:
Uziel, Level 13
Age and Sex:
Male, 31, 6’2”
What sports or fitness activities are you involved in? Do you compete at any level?
I am currently only involved in weight lifting. I don’t have any plans to compete; however, if I had some more free time, I’d love to do something like Strongman or Highland games.
What’s your story? When, how and why did you get into your chosen sport or fitness plan?
I was always a fat kid growing up. After college, I took a desk job and became very inactive, playing MMOs and eating cheap, processed fast food for my meals. During this time, I tried all of the fad diets. I would lose some weight, and then just return to old habits because those fad diets were not sustainable.
In a few short years, I had ballooned up to being incredibly fat, and was taking blood pressure medicine. My eating and drinking (beer, not Mt Dew) was out of control. I took a diabetes test and I was terrified, but I didn’t end up having it even though I knew that if I continued down this path it was basically inevitable. I was too afraid to step on the
scale and my weight no longer registered at my doctor’s office.
I hit bottom when I went on vacation in January 2008 to New Orleans. I didn’t fit in the plane seat. I was so fat and out of shape, I could barely walk around the city without being out of breath and in intense back pain. I had rolls of fat under my arms that were chafing. I had a conversation with a stranger in a bar, and he told me that he could see
in my eyes that I was ready and able to take what I wanted out of life. He could see that I was afraid though, and he told me that I would soon find the strength.
After returning from New Orleans, that stranger’s words stuck with me. A month later, I bought a scale that went up to 500lbs, put the batteries in, and set it on my bathroom floor. The first step onto that scale was the hardest step I’ve ever had to take. I made that step though, and saw 407lbs on the scale. The realization of everything that the number “407” meant swept through my entire being, and the guilt and regret from all of the denial I’d been carrying hit me all at once.
It was almost like I was on auto pilot. I knew that a comedy forum I frequently visited had a fitness related sub forum, but I’d never gone into it before. That day I did, and I started to read about some basic truths that fad diets never touched upon. As I was reading about calories, protein, fat, carbs and the importance of weight lifting, my wife came to me and showed me a pregnancy test, indicating that we were going to have a baby. Everything just clicked. That same day, we cleared out our refrigerator and pantry of all of the junk and put together a plan. We joined a local fitness club that had a swimming pool.
After a week of swimming, and tracking/limiting my calories, I had dropped 7lbs. I was motivated, I was ready. I started reading more and more about the importance of weight lifting and took another significant step into the weight room. I wanted to be strong and powerful so as to be able to better take care of my wife and child, but I was still afraid.
I avoided going into the weight room. A few months later my brother was able to go with me, to support me when I was weak. It was a humbling experience. Becoming morbidly obese had robbed me of my fat guy strength that every fat guy thinks they have. But I was determined, because this was exercise I could do right now, something that I enjoyed and would have visible results every step of the way.
The time flew past. The weight kept dropping off, and I kept getting stronger. I was now a dad to a beautiful daughter, I weighed under 300lbs for probably the first time since I was out of high school, and I was stronger than I was when I played high school football.
Unfortunately, I wanted both faster fat loss, and to get stronger and stronger and stronger. I lowered my food intake while increasing the weight and volume of my deadlift and ended up significantly hurting my lower back and hamstrings. The weight flew off after this point, but came at the cost of my strength. I was undeterred and pushed through.
I reached ~200lbs in May 2010, roughly 2 years after I started, having lost ~210lbs. I took a diet break and decided to eat higher calories than what I’d been eating and just focus on lifting again. I didn’t have a plan, and some of my issues with food reappeared and I ballooned up to 250lbs by January 2011. My wife and I were expecting a son in the summer, so I decided to refocus my efforts. I took what I’d learned about myself and tossed out what didn’t work, and I kept what did.
By the time my son was born in June 2011, I was back under 200lbs. I think that maybe I’d gotten there too quickly and that my plan wasn’t as good as I thought. By the time my birthday came this September, I was again back to 250lbs (my body seems to like this weight for some reason, but this was what I weighed in 9th grade).
I am now taking things VERY slowly. On days when I lift, I eat over maintenance. On days when I don’t, I eat at a very small deficit so the net result is very very slow fat loss but I’m simultaneously regaining my lost strength. While I’m not following Martin Berkhan’s Leangains to a T, I’m very very close and I believe that my final goal is finally
within my reach.
If you had told me in January 2008, before I left for New Orleans, that by the middle of 2011 I’d be a dad to two kids, back in school while working full-time, and enjoying life, I would have thought you were mocking me.
Now, I live life wondering what great adventure comes next. Whatever it may be or whatever challenges I must face along the way, I know that I am ready for them.
Current, and any ‘before’ photos:
Warning: shirtless, 400+lb man in his underwear for these first two:
410 compared to 225:
What are your current athletic or fitness-related goals?
I am aiming for being under 10% bodyfat and holding it there while continuing to gain strength.
What is your workout or training regimen?
I began with Starting Strength, then basically pissed around with various routines for awhile after an injury. I am currently doing the Leangains training style of Reverse Pyramid lifts focused on Squats, Deadlifts, Bench, Press and Chins.
What does your diet look like? Do you take any supplements?
Over the past few years, my diet has shifted all over the place, but currently I follow the Leangains/IF approach (calorie/carb cycling): cycle between eating at or slightly above maintenance on lifting days, and a few hundred under rest days. The difference in calories on rest days are from carbs, generally around 100 on rest days, 300+ on lifting days. Protein high on both days, and I try to get .45g/lb in fat.
Supplements, I use creatine and fish oil. I prefer to eat whole foods but use casein to make protein fluff.
What have you achieved so far? What are your ‘numbers’ (times, weights, heights, etc)?
I’ve lost 210lbs. I was previously ~410lbs and in the summer was at my all time low of 198lbs.
I am currently around ~225 after a dieting break and cutting back down very slowly this time.
I hit 275 bench/405lb squat/500lb deadlift prior to an injury, however this was during my weight loss so I was still at 275lbs at that time. I hope to get back to those numbers while being much leaner.
What is your competition and/or training philosophy?
Every failure is another chance to learn something. I’d rather fail and try again and push my limits rather than never knowing just how far I can push myself.
What challenges do you face?
Sleep. Young kids + work + school = no sleep!
I unfortunately still have the appetite I did when I was 400lbs. Leangains/Intermittent Fasting helps me deal with that. I also have a camel like ability to retain water; I assume that is due to the sheer number of fat cells I have. My record is 40lbs gained in 9 days, and then 35lbs lost in following 12 days.
I am also currently dealing with loose skin, which is my main reason for wanting to get below 10% bodyfat.
How do you motivate yourself?
My kids keep me motivated because I want to be around for them as long as possible and be in shape enough to keep up with them no matter what they do. I also want to be a positive fitness role model for them because I really didn’t have any fitness role models when I was growing up.
What advice do you take, and what do you ignore?
I generally don’t take or ignore any specific advice just because someone else has a study showing it’s “true” or someone else tried something and it worked/didn’t work. If something seems to have merit, I try it myself to see if it works for me or not.
What are some training or diet-related things you know are true but cannot prove?
Fruity pebbles as a PWO food are the secret to true power. They are also paleofriendly because there is a caveman on the box.
What injuries have you dealt with? What are the injury risks that come with your athletic endeavors?
I hurt my back pretty bad while I was stupidly doing way too much volume lifting wise while on a larger calorie deficit and my form broke down really badly. My hamstrings are now incredibly tight to this day, and I am still struggling with form issues on a few lifts because of it.
Any advice on how to deal with these injuries and risks?
Other than rest and seeing a doctor about an injury, I think filming my lifts and getting feedback on my form from others has been a huge help in avoiding future injury.
What are your favorite sports/fitness books/DVDs/websites?
I’ve learned up to this point is a combination of information from the SomethingAwful Watch and Weight forums (for the very basics of calorie counting), Lyle McDonald (www.bodycomposition.com, his articles, books and forums), Alan Aragon (www.alanaragon.com) and Martin Berkhan (www.leangains.com).
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you to my wife. This wouldn’t have been possible without you. Thank you for believing in me when others have given up, when I had given up. Thank you for staying with me when I was at my worst. Thank you for being there every step of the way, for holding me up and for pushing me to be who I am now. And thank you for our beautiful and wonderful children.