How I went from eating handfuls of mini snickers while playing Battlefield 2 to working as a personal trainer at a world class spa.

My favorite pastime as a young teen was to play hours of video games while shoveling in miniature candy. I would make sure to unwrap at least 5 at a time so I could cram them all into my mouth at once. This was also the most effective way of eating candy while playing video games; you can’t spend your time unwrapping candy when there are people to shoot. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just love miniature candy. King sized was also fantastic, as was poptarts, cinnamon toast crunch, anything with peanut butter, and other foods with calories. The only thing greater than my appetite was my slowly growing weight and man-boobs (also known as moobs).

Before any behavior change comes a tipping point, and its different for everyone. I had a friend who lost 300 pounds because his favorite sports jersey didn’t come in triple XL. I also know people who have had heart attacks but still stick to their unhealthy routine. Wearing large sweatshirts on sweltering hot days was my tipping point. I had an epiphany and came to the conclusion that I did not want to wear hoodies on hot summer days. So I went home, googled “how to get a six pack” and thus began a new healthy lifestyle full of exercise and quality nutrition. It really was that quick.

I taught myself everything I could about health and fitness, I was a fanatic. I read health columns in the NY Times and NPR, looked at studies on PubMed, and browsed tons of bodybuilding and weightlifting forums. When I was 18 I became a personal trainer, and at 22 I work as a fitness specialist at a posh fitness getaway spa.

So why did I succeed where so many others fail? Only 50% of adults in the U.S meet the cardiovascular exercise guidelines set by the CDC, and only 20% meet both cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening guidelines. Of course this data is self-reported, so the actual rates are probably quite a bit lower. Exercise adherence is practically an oxymoron.

My new healthy lifestyle was just that, a lifestyle. It was not an hour in the gym occasionally, or eating healthfully 50% of the time. I really wanted that six-pack and every hour of every day I focused on that goal and made sure my choices for the day would lead me to it.

Moral of the story?

  • Be sure your goals are goals that you really want. “I want to exercise to lose weight” is an extremely common statement, but the issue is that most often losing weight isn’t the end goal. Self-esteem, fitting into clothes, being able to participate in activities, all of these are more specific reasons for wanting to change your lifestyle.
  • Do your own research. There is a huge amount of broscience out there, make sure you know what you are doing.
  • Document your progress in a journal, preferably something handwritten. There is nothing more motivational than flipping through page after page of all of the healthful things you’ve done for yourself.
  • Enjoy the journey.
  • Of course, don’t be afraid to eat a few mini snickers here and there. They have nuts in them so there healthy anyway.