THIS IS ALEX ON CARBS
BLOATED, FAT, UNHAPPY, DEPRESSED, INACTIVE, MISERABLE
THIS IS ALEX ON KETO
HEALTHY, LEAN, HAPPY, MOTIVATED, ACTIVE, INSPIRED
I remember crossing the 200 pounds mark at age 12 on my way to “300” by age 16. At the age of 13 my father got me in the gym and helped me make a little bit of lemonade out of my situation. My dad is an intense kind of person and he taught me to train like a man rather than the 13 year old kid I was. Methods aside, he knew what he was doing because I got strong and very fast. In fact, I developed world-class strength for my age group. At the age of 17 I competed in two world-sanctioned powerlifting meets (APF & AWPC) representing the U.S. in the 17-19 year-old 140 kg division and as fate would have it earned two U.S. and World Records in the bench-press lifting over 200 kg (440 lbs.) an accomplishment I am proud of.
Although, the size and strength came in handy when competing in football, wrestling and track, weighing over 310 pounds created a different kind of isolation. I was still excluded from, well; everything, which as you would expect perpetuated my unending cycle of pain and internal suffering. It didn’t matter how much I was able to lift because I could never raise my social skills from the basemen, hence, no confidence and only suffering in silence.
One eventual bright note was developing a passion for exercise and nutrition. Amazingly, you would think that I could “fix” my problems but I jut couldn’t. Still, I carried my passion for training through college and in 2011; I went on to earn my certification as a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) from the International Sports Science Association (ISSA).
During this period, my father took me around the world to numerous health and fitness conferences and fares, among them, the Arnold Fitness Expos in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Madrid, Columbus as well as other events in Essen, Cologne, Australia, Holland, England, etc. At these events I met and was exposed to some amazing people, professionals from all backgrounds in the field and I made the most of it. Still, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. It was difficult to believe that people accepted me on my own merit, as I was and not because of my father.
In 2013, my father took me along to a video shoot at the University of Tampa. It was there I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Jacob Wilson, Ryan Lowery and the rest of the Human Performance staff. This day had a huge impressionable impact on me. These professionals were doing things from a clinical approach and not the hyped up and carnival like atmosphere that permeates the tradeshow circuit. It was here that I fell in love with the evidenced community and movement.
Still, I couldn’t shake my feelings of self-loathing now weighing 330 pounds. For me it was a dichotomy! The question always haunted me in an accusatory way: how could I be so passionate about fitness and still look and feel the way I did. Thankfully, my lack of self-esteem didn’t cripple me to the extent that I couldn’t pursue my passion.
Shortly after my visit to the University of Tampa I graduated college. Instead of pursuing my master’s degree, I used my post-college time to develop a sports nutrition brand and dedicated every waking moment to developing my skills and knowledge base. I studied everything from nutrition to industry (sports nutrition) research, i.e., ingredients, manufacturing practices, information systems, and software development. The entire time I was tormented by my inability to lose weight and a growing sense of hopelessness.
In retrospect, I think research became my drug of choice in dealing with how I truly felt about myself. However, like any drug the next day comes and all the same problems are still there.
Even though I felt I had built a wealth of knowledge, 18 months later, I still felt that I had learned practically everything except how to lose weight and love myself. None of this mattered if I wasn’t my first successful client, right? The end of 2014 was approaching and I find myself at the onset of a dark depressing quarter-life crisis as I had just turned 24 and was approaching 330 lbs. My weight has always fluctuated, but this time it wasn’t going back down. I was on a runaway course to severe obesity. I wish I could through the use of language create a sentence that accurately communicates the despair I secretly felt. It was suffocating.
The light at the end of the tunnel came shortly after Christmas when I was flicking through Netflix and luckily stumbled onto Joe Cross’s “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” weight loss documentary. Joe was the same height as me and started his journey close to the same weight I was at the time. I didn’t understand the science, but I recognized that it worked for him. I decided to take the next 30 days and go all in. Two days before new years, my mother surprised me with a NutriBullet blender to use on my 30-day juice diet. When January 1st, 2015 arrived so did I with a great deal of focus and commitment to a 30-day process.
Even though I felt great by day 30, and had lost XX pounds (326 to 283 pounds) it was the most brutal nutritious semi-fast I have ever experienced. On the 31st of January, I was thrilled to go with my father to celebrate with sashimi at a nearby restaurant. I remember telling my father that I was going to continue the diet for another XX but was concerned because although this works it is not sustainable and needed a viable diet strategy to transition to.
Later that month I drove to the University of Tampa to attend a conference held by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Gathered were some of the brilliant people I had ever met. At the conference I heard Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Dominic D’Agostino discuss a concept that I had never heard of called “Ketogenic Dieting.” Even though the idea was totally new to me, I was able to wrap my head around the basic concepts.
Despite my excitement, I didn’t start a ketogenic diet right away as I felt I could maintain my diet with relatively “clean eating.” Boy was I wrong. By the time June 2015 arrived I had already gained back almost 15 pounds creeping towards 300 pounds again. It was at this point that I was fed up and said to myself “this cycle has got to stop!” I reached out to Dr. Jacob Wilson and asked him to help me get started.
He helped me understand obesity for what it was, a “metabolic state.”
That is it, in most cases, a reversible condition. He introduced a concept called “nutrient programming” in which the macronutrient ratio (relationship between fats, carbohydrates and protein) of the first meal of the day impacts how the body priorities which macronutrients (anything with a caloric value) it will use (substrate utilization) throughout the rest of the day.
He went onto explain the importance of conditioning my body through diet to prioritize fat and ketones as a primary energy source rather than carbohydrates. My entire life I had trained my body to the opposite. He said this would be beneficial in two other ways: first, a ketogenic diet would help reduce my blood glucose and teach my body to be responsive to insulin (increase insulin sensitivity) again, second, ketogenic dieting would reduce my appetite and cause my body to feel satisfied from food again (increase Leptin sensitivity and satiety).I learned everything could in as short time as possible from Dr. Wilson and the ISSN community. What came next was critical: I made a commitment to make a permanent lifestyle change.
My father surprised me in June with a diamond ticket (front row seating) to be a part of Anthony Robbins’ “4-day” Unleash the Power Within seminar. This may have been the most intense event of my life and not just because of 12-hour days and walking on coals of fire. Little did my father know how timely the gift was! Being a part of the seminar empowered me with the capacity to take the massive steps I needed to take and more importantly with the internal substance to stay the course and change my life. I was two weeks into my Ketogenic adaptation when I attended the conference. I returned home with a transformed mindset; I had already won.
It wasn’t until week three of my “keto” experience that I finally started noticing the changes on the scale. You see, what I learned from Tony was that even though the scale didn’t confirm the changes I was able to live everyday strong in the knowledge that I had won and only needed to trust the process.
It wasn’t until weeks 6 through 10 that the scale could no longer conceal what I knew was happening inside: I was dropping four to five pounds per week. The lighter I became, the more things I could do that before was simply exhausting. I started going on long bike rides, slow jogs, and even started playing community soccer with the neighborhood high school and college kids. I was normal. I felt unstoppable, like there truly wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. There is nothing like that feeling.
By the time Christmas Eve arrived I reached my 100-pound weight loss goal! Actually it was 108 pounds. My father proudly shared a picture post of me on Facebook announcing my huge progress. Since then (9 months as of now) I’ve managed to not only keep the fat weight off, but also improve my body composition one day at a time.
Today my mission is to touch as many lives as I can. Everyday I am reminded of the pain and isolation I felt. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see despair hidden in the awkward smile of so many of the people that cross my path. People may not realize but concealed feelings of hopelessness and being stuck is evident to those who went through it. I’m talking about the despair of isolation and feeling like it will never change, the sense that it is only going to get worse. I am committed to building a career out of showing people the way out. I want to teach you what I did that will help you change the rest of your life.
If there’s one thing I can tell you, it is that you own everything you need to forever change your body, heart and mind. Our bodies are like anything complex. There are plenty of rules, guidelines and variables at play. If we equip ourselves with knowledge, passion and a supportive community, there’s no telling what we can all accomplish. YOU ARE NOT STUCK!