There are three mantras that can sum up my childhood: that fat kid that didn’t know he was fat, walk your talk, and fitness from within. I grew up looking different than my family…I was adopted, and my ethnicity was much different than my parents. Being “different” was not always a good thing. I was teased a lot for not looking like my parents, having darker colored skin, having “big lips” and “closed eyes”. At times I felt out of place, like an outsider…not “good enough”, not “cool enough” and not “normal”. I also grew up with food restrictions…I was not allowed to eat wheat due to a wheat allergy, nor sugar, because this boy would turn into a “little green monster” from too much sugar Unfortunately, back then, most every food had wheat or sugar in it…there was no such thing as “gluten free” or “sugar free”. A lot of kids saw my food restrictions as another reason I was “different” and teased me daily for not eating “normal” food. The teasing rehashed old feelings of being out of place like an outsider, which lead to rebellious and self-destructive behavior on my part. I began eating the foods I wasn’t allowed…and even began overeating them in record-breaking dares and binges. Kids starting hi-fiving me for my food-escapades and I found I was getting attention instead of rejection. Unfortunately I didn’t realize I was actually damaging my body and my integrity…just for the hope of being “accepted” by the other kids. So from the age of 11 through 15, I was overweight…as much as 50 pounds too heavy.
Although I had gained a significant amount of weight, this did not stop me from continuing my fervor for sports. I grew up a gifted young athlete that was usually captain of the team. I continued three sports when I got to high school and never thought twice about my weight affecting my love for fitness. But the other kids, and some coaches, didn’t share this attitude; they were not used to seeing a “fat kid” be able to do sports at a high level…so I became known as “the fat kid that didn’t know he was fat”. This nickname burned in my gut…it stung every time I would hear someone say it. But it started a fire inside me, a fire that finally ignited my freshman year. I never allowed my photo to be taken because I couldn’t hide my weight from the camera. The mirror would never show me what I didn’t want to see, but the camera showed the truth…I was overweight, in denial and needed to change. Freshman year, when the football team posed for one of our first team photos, I was brought face to face with what I had been running from…my weight, and not being accountable to myself. The first step for me to fully commit to changing my body and my life was acknowledging I had a problem. Once I accepted where I was, I could take responsibility for it. There was a power in me taking responsibility…I was not a victim anymore, I had the power to change my life and not let anyone else dictate how I felt. I made a lifelong promise to myself that day. I swore that I would uphold my word, no matter what, to take care of my body…and listen to the inner voice that pushed me to my greater potential. So I began to walk my talk: I stopped overeating and hiding food from my parents, I went to every practice and gave 100% every day until I had nothing left, I would be the last to leave the field so I could keep training, and even started allowing my picture to be taken. Walking my talk rekindled my inner-strength, and the fire in my belly was no longer a painful one of self-loathing, but a good feeling, a strong inner drive to improve myself and keep on my path. I weighed-in at football season freshman year at 170 lbs…I wrestled a year later at 120 lbs. Fitness had become my freedom and transformed my body and my soul. It started from inside me…fitness from within…and changed me for the rest of my life. I have been inspired by so many people and their story…I hope mine inspires you.