Username and current Fitocracy level:
Vainglory, level 23.
Age and Sex:
What’s your story? When, how and why did you get into your chosen sport or fitness plan?
I’ve been at least chubby my entire life and I’d classify as officially fat since I was 8 or so. I spent my formative years in Falls Church, Virginia, which is a near of Washington, D.C. My father decided he hated city life and moved my family to Culpeper, Virginia onto 40 acres of Blair Witch style forest. My closest neighbor was a mile away and my driveway was three quarters of a mile long.
I turned to computers for much of my social interaction. Started off with a local dial-up BBS (Hi, I’m old.) and worked my way to the Internet and IRC eventually. As I became more sedentary and more cut off from people, the more weight I gained. I played some organized little league sports like baseball and basketball, and played quite a bit of pickup touch football at school but not enough to counter what I was doing to my body at home.
When I was 12, my little league baseball team all weighed themselves for fun before a game one day and I weighed in at 220 lbs. I was at least 30 pounds heavier than the next heaviest. At the time, obesity wasn’t really an epidemic per se. I was probably the generation right before that happened but I did a lot of the things kids are doing wrong now, for sure.
I basically dropped out in the 8th grade, right before I was about to be held back again. I’d been held back twice prior because I’d always had problems in school. I was technically a “home schooler” at that point but my parents didn’t teach me anything. I just spun my wheels, passing placement tests each year, until I received my GED at age 18. I was well over 450 pounds at that point.
When I was 19, I found out how much I weighed for the last time until I was 28. I weighed in at 511 pounds at the University of Virginia, where I’d gone to get an ear infection looked at. They just happened to have a scale that could weigh me. My mother had been trying to talk me into going to get myself weighed at a butcher shop prior to that.
I also met my future wife when I was 19, just barely before MMOs really got a hold of me. I’d been playing EverQuest regularly for a year or so at that point, but I hadn’t dedicated my life to them yet. My wife and I went on one date – to see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – before I became agoraphobic. For the next nine years, the only public venue I stepped into was a gas station one time to use the bathroom. I ate indescriminately, I played – and got very good at – MMOs, including World of Warcraft. I was a guild leader and a raid leader. I eventually wound up in a few different top 50 world guilds.
When I was 28, I’d moved to and been living in North Carolina for a few years, and my wife bought me a scale with our tax return. We both expected me to be well over 600 pounds, so the scale she bought went up to 750 pounds. It cost $250 and was probably the single greatest use of $250 in the history of my life. I weighed 538 pounds, which was actually a relief, as sad as that is. My wife had been dieting herself and I decided to try it for a week because I’d never actually seen myself lose weight. I’d tried a couple times but it was hard keeping up with anything when I couldn’t see the progress. She was on what I think was the South Beach diet. Her co-worker had given her a printout of things to eat for a week.
After the first week, I lost 10 pounds, and something in my head clicked and I was off to the races. I went from not giving any amount of a damn to living and breathing weight loss. During that time, I discovered a subforum on SomethingAwful.com called Watch & Woot, which contained fitness megathreads. One was a thread that had pictures of SA transformations. The other was the Low Carb Megathread by a forums user named Sizzlechest. The latter literally saved my life.
Lowcarb.foodisforfuel.com – Here’s a link to his mirror if you’ve never seen it. It’s really an amazing resource.
I started a fitness log on SomethingAwful.com’s forums and took the pseudonym Vainglory because I didn’t want to use my real forum name. Vainglory fit well because I desperately wanted to be proud of something I did for once. I lived my entire life to that point ashamed of who I was. Later, I kept using Vainglory because it became a badge of honor for me and I didn’t want to use my real name because my best friend didn’t know – and still doesn’t know – that I’d been trying to lose weight. At some point, I decided I wanted to surprise him. We’ve been friends since I was 16 and he literally broke up with one of his girlfriends because she was making fun of me for being fat. To his knowledge, I’m still fat. I didn’t want him to randomly google my real name and find the weight loss stuff. It’s going to be a huge surprise and should be awesome. I plan to show him what I’ve done in January, at which point I’ll drop my real name.
I live in North Carolina now and he’s still in Virginia and has kids, so we don’t see each other much, which is why I’ve been able to keep the secret going. It’s starting to kill me though because I miss him a lot and he’s one of the only people I ever felt comfortable around. January can’t come fast enough.
Anyway, in the last year and a half, I’ve lost 254 pounds to this point and I’ve grown to love fitness and nutrition. I’ve found something I’m good at other than video games, finally. I’m looking to make a career out of it and I’m really interested in helping kids – kids who learn to hate themselves because they think being fat is just genetic and irreversible – to realize that they can do something about it before it ruins them. I never even dated in school because by the time I was old enough to care about girls, I’d already been so defeated that I just figured the answer would be no and never had the courage to ask. Every single social negative leads right back to obesity and it shouldn’t have had to.
I just didn’t have any adults around me to put me on the right path.
Current, and any ‘before’ photos:
What are your current athletic or fitness-related goals?
Athletic goals include being able to join some adult competitive leagues. Flag football, ultimate, softball, basketball, and whatever else I feel like playing. I love team sports and haven’t been able to play them since I was younger. I miss them a lot.
What sports or fitness activities are you involved in? Do you compete at any level?
I play basketball, tennis, and have been known to toss frisbees around. Nothing competitive, though. I either play basketball by myself or tennis/frisbee with my wife.
What is your workout or training regimen?
Currently, I lift 4 times a week using Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 system. It focuses on the 4 major lifts: military presses, deadlifts, bench presses, and squats. The system its self promotes gains over time rather than gains immediately, which is a belief I strongly encourage for obese people. As I lose weight, I’m also losing muscle. Because 5/3/1 uses a percentage of my 1 rep maxes, I don’t have to guess when my strength is waning on a particular lift and risk injury. I know exactly which lifts are getting weaker and when I need to adjust them, usually long before I hurt myself trying to lift a bar I might have been able to lift last month, but just hasn’t got a chance in hell of going up today.
www.foodisforfuel.com/documents/VG531.xls is my spreadsheet that I keep updated each time I change it – once a month. I tend to mess with my assistance lifts every cycle.
What does your diet look like? Do you take any supplements?
I started low carb and transitioned into a ketogenic diet (under 50g of carbs a day) not too long after I started. I identified my terrible relationship with food was directly tied to sugar early on. Everything I binged on was full of it. So I just dropped it from my diet to see what happened and I haven’t looked back since.
I somewhat naturally transitioned into a more paleo style approach recently when I dropped dairy because I had problems controlling myself with cheese. My approach to diet is basically to cut out the things I have a trouble controlling myself with. Artificial sweeterners are also gone based on the same principle. I think everyone has to do the same thing to find the right diet for them, personally. I don’t think there’s one really universal approach to weight loss. I’ve never read any books on weight loss. I’ve watched a couple videos here and there and read that Low Carb Megathread I mentioned earlier.
As for supplements, I take a multi every day, fish oil, vitamin D, and green tea extract. I use Creatine and Beta-Alanine for lifting and I also cycle on and off of an EC stack. Thinking about dropping the ephedrine and just using the caffeine though. Cost related.
What have you achieved so far? What are your ‘numbers’ (times, weights, heights, etc)?
So far, I’ve gained back the ability to face the world. I can go places again. My wife has a partner for the movies and restaurants now. I’ve gained self respect and an optimistic outlook on life. I go to bed looking forward to waking up at 6:30AM so I can train instead of going to bed at 6:30AM praying to a God I don’t even believe in to kill my ass before I can wake up at 1PM to go through the same exact day of excess and depression for the umpteenth time.
It’s pretty nice to want to be alive.
What is your competition and/or training philosophy?
Go slow and be patient. Losing weight is like starting to unwrap a present on Christmas morning with the knowledge you might be unwrapping it for the rest of your life. You just have to trust there’s something good in the box and the time spent finding out will be worth it.
What challenges do you face?
Myself. I’m human and have moments of weakness but it’s my challenge to view those weaknesses as the contrast that makes my strengths really pop.
How do you motivate yourself?
I look in the mirror and see who I’m going to be in 6 months and then in 6 months, I do it again.
What advice do you take, and what do you ignore?
I ignore dietary arguments like I try to ignore political and religious arguments. People seem to be equally unerring in their beliefs when it comes to those three topics. I take the advice that seems to fit my life the best at the time. In general, I kind of do my own thing though.
What are some training or diet-related things you know are true but cannot prove?
I believe that sugar should be regarded with the same caution as alcohol is. If you consume it to any amount of detriment to your life, you should identify yourself as an abuser and try to fix the problem. I can’t prove it to you but I did prove it to myself. As for training related things, I know there’s a Thor looking dude chilling out behind a couple more layers of my fat. I’ll be proving this soon.
What injuries have you dealt with? What are the injury risks that come with your athletic endeavors?
Early on, I had a couple of minor back issues going on when I was just learning to lift using a 5×5 routine. I think I’ve worked most of that stuff out though. Now the only injuries I get really are sore abs after I ignore them for awhile and decide to do a bunch of wheel roll-outs randomly.
Any advice on how to deal with these injuries and risks?
I don’t know, I just picked a routine that seemed to offer the lowest risk of injury and so far, it’s really paying off.
What are your favorite sports/fitness books/DVDs/websites?
Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 book is awesome. Born to Run by Chris McDougal is also a favorite of mine. Beyond that, I don’t actually read too much. Fat Head is a decent documentary about the benefits of a low carb diet but the way he presents the information is a little cheesy and hard to swallow.
My favorite fitness website is probably the aforementioned Watch & Woot sub-forum on SomethingAwful.com. I’m growing fond of Reddit’s communities as well recently, such as /fitness and /loseit.
Anything else you want to add?
Just that I really appreciate the opportunity to get my story out to more people and that I have a blog and a podcast at http://www.foodisforfuel.com along with full progress pictures and a better breakdown of my diet/exercise routines.
Thanks a bunch and I’ll see you all on Fitocracy.