5 Life Lessons After Going From Skinny to Fitness Expert

Why the benefits of fitness go far beyond fitness.

Anthony J. Yeung
Feb 28 · 5 min read

When it comes to being super thin, I’m an expert—I was always the shortest and skinniest kid in my entire school.

And it wasn’t until after college I committed to changing my body, getting fit, and gaining muscle. It wasn’t easy—gaining clean, healthy weight isn’t as pleasant as it sounds—but after a few years, I eventually became a fitness expert for Men’s Health, GQ, and Esquire and a fitness coach for celebrities and professional athletes.

Life changed in many ways. Obviously, my physique transformed, which was nice; but the skills I gained in the gym carried over to virtually everything else outside of it. And in this article, I want to share the lessons I learned—that have nothing to do with fitness—that came from a dedication to fitness.

I hope they inspire you to get into the best shape of your life.

Believe in free will

“That’s just how I am.” “You can’t change who you are.” “I’m too old to change.” These are all things I heard constantly when I was growing up from my family.

But it wasn’t until I started changing my body that I realized how control I have over my life. Because for all the complaining I did when I was younger about my height, my genetics, etc., there was still so much I could change and improve—there was still so much potential I had that I didn’t even maximize yet.

I no longer had to accept things as “the way they are.” And that had a cascading effect on the rest of my life as I started my journey of personal development. I didn’t have to tolerate my current life, circumstances, or personality; I could get rid of traits I didn’t like and cultivate ones I did.

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will.”

— Jawaharlal Nehru

Fitness helped me gained free will over my life and, from there, anything was possible.

Consistency is the key to success

When I started my fitness journey, I used a powerlifting program with three workouts a week—and I never missed a workout, despite rain, heat, snow, wind, or illness. And when I spent years working to add a lot of weight, I brought all my food and shakes with me so I could make sure I got all the calories I needed to grow.

But that’s the “secret” to success in life, isn’t it? Picking something, committing to it, and staying consistent until you achieve your goal. After all, there’s nothing “quick” (or comfortable) about gaining 30lbs of muscle, losing 10% of your body fat, or going from struggling to do a pushup to benching a lot of weight. It takes consistency and a lot of patience.

Same goes for life. If you want to build your dream lifestyle, have an awesome career, and have great relationships, you can’t just show up and expect to have it. You have to work at it day after day—even when you don’t feel like it—and eventually, you’ll get there. The great thing is, once you do it with your fitness, you’ll probably find it gets a lot easier for other areas of your life too.

Genuine confidence comes from within

My fitness journey gave me a lot more confidence in my life, not because of how I looked, but because of what I accomplished.

It gave me confidence from knowing I set my mind to something, achieved it, and can do it again. That comes from shattering your comfort zone and thriving with discomfort. That comes from within.

I know what it’s like to be a complete novice and look like an idiot. I know what it’s like when people laugh at you in the gym. And I know what it’s like to feel embarrassed to ask for a spot when you’re benching only 115lbs.

But by doing those things—and by succeeding from that starting point—it will make you stronger within. You will believe you can achieve things that you can’t see just yet. You will have the self-assurance that you can learn the skills to overcome any obstacles in life because you’ve done it before.

And that’s how you build real confidence.

Your social circle makes or breaks you

As I improved my fitness, I started getting a few negative reactions from my social circle—Some labeled me as a “health freak” and pressured me to do self-destructive things like drink, do drugs, etc.

But remember: You cannot out-willpower your social circle. (In fact, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, if your friends are obese, the odds of you becoming obese actually skyrocket by 57%.)

As you go on a journey of self-improvement—whether it’s fitness or life in general—the people who don’t want you to improve will make themselves known. If you get a better job or travel the world, you might notice some people criticizing your idea or acting jealous. (I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.)

Even though it might hurt in the moment, they would’ve never come out if you didn’t become a better version of yourself so be thankful for that.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

—Mark Twain

And as I changed my fitness and my life, I naturally spent more time with people that positively influenced my fitness, mental health, careers, finances, and more. They unapologetically pushed their lives forward and shared my love for personal development, and it helped me succeed too.

Think longer term

Thankfully, fitness isn’t super complicated: If you eat the right foods, do the right exercise program, and stay consistent for an entire year, you’ll be in great shape.

All you have to do is commit to it for 12 months and you’ll most likely be exactly where you want.

Many people, however, don’t want to make that long of a commitment and that’s exactly why they struggle. Because they want the quick-fix solution without making the lifestyle changes necessary to achieve their dreams.

Life is similar. Self-improvement usually doesn't come from a few massive a-ha moments; instead, it’s usually a diligent and gradual process of getting rid of old habits and beliefs and learning new ones. It’s about having a long-term vision and the dedication to stay committed throughout the journey.

This takes humility and patience, but if you spend the time, you’ll eventually get there. After all, that time is going to pass no matter what so you might as well have something amazing to show for it.

Time compounds all your habits, whether they’re positive or negative. Start thinking more longer-term with your habit changes and you might find that all your actions today can lead to something amazing in the future.

Ready to upgrade your success? I’ve created 5 free life hacks that will boost your results. If you use them, your life could change very quickly.

Get your 5 Life Hacks here.

Better Advice

Experts Advice on Self Help and Self-Improvement

Anthony J. Yeung

Written by

Featured in Esquire & GQ. Founder. Full-time traveler. Ready to upgrade your life? Get my 5 life hacks to boost your results here → https://bit.ly/2IDx15y

Better Advice

Opinions about life, self-Improvement, personal growth and valuable life lessons. Humans need motivational spark and illumination to strength moral ascent. For that you need better advice.

Anthony J. Yeung

Written by

Featured in Esquire & GQ. Founder. Full-time traveler. Ready to upgrade your life? Get my 5 life hacks to boost your results here → https://bit.ly/2IDx15y

Better Advice

Opinions about life, self-Improvement, personal growth and valuable life lessons. Humans need motivational spark and illumination to strength moral ascent. For that you need better advice.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store