Fourteen years ago I started my freshman year in college. Fourteen years ago, I weighed 320 lbs.
I wasn’t always overweight. For me, it started in 8th grade. I ate more than I exercised, so naturally, I ballooned. Pizza, chips, burgers, soda — I was a junk food aficionado. My parents tried to keep me away from junk food, but my mom’s homemade Latin dishes weren’t always the healthiest either. Especially not after 3 servings.
Naturally my high school years were torturous. I knew I was fat, and I knew I had to lose weight, but I just couldn’t do it. I’d drop 10 lbs only to gain 15 the following month. Gym class was a nightmare. Not only were my size XXL clothes tight, but I couldn’t even do one push-up. Not one!
Before starting college, I went to visit my doctor for a physical. He told me my uric acid level was dangerously high (from eating too much meat/steak). He told my my cholesterol was high. Essentially, he told me everything I knew — I was overweight and needed to lose weight fast. He recommended a vegetarian diet. Like I said, I had been on hundreds of diets before, and while many of them worked, none of them worked long-term. But when my doctor told me I could develop gout, something in me clicked. For the first time, I was really worried. So that Friday, I swore off meat. And soda. And all forms of fatty, unhealthy food.
I made it through the weekend on a strict vegan diet, but then came Monday, Labor Day, and I gorged like a mad man. Hot dogs, burgers, chips. How could I resist my uncle’s BBQ. That night I felt both fat and disappointed. Disappointed in myself. So I swore off meat again. I swore to myself that I would lose weight. Two years later, I weighed in at 180 lbs. My elusive, life-long goal was finally achieved. The first year, I admit, was difficult. I was tired all the time. Cranky. By my second year, I had forgotten what meat and soda tasted like. People gain their “freshmen 15.” I lost my freshman 140.
However, I couldn’t maintain 180 lbs. It was too light for my height (6′ 2″), so I gained a few pounds back. I managed to stabilize myself at 210. Around junior year in college I began working out at the New York Health & Racquet Club. The membership was a gift from my sister. I even got a personal trainer to help me get started. I loved it. I’d go to the gym at least 3x a week. Mon, Wed, Fri. Slowly, I started going 4x a week. I would run, lift weights, workout my abs, use the ski machine — I did it all.
After building up enough confidence, I took my first spinning class. What a rush! My instructor’s name was Jim Shallal. Suddenly my cardio workouts skyrocketed. Jim was an awesome instructor. It was in his class that I first put to practice “mind over body.” He was inspirational. He forced you to spin faster. And just when you were ready to give up, he’d crank up the volume on the stereo and inspire you into a frenzy. I made it a point of taking his class whenever I could. And then I ran Central Park. All 6 miles of it. Mind you, prior to that I would only run 3 miles at a time (and on a treadmill). So naturally after my first 6-mile Central Park run I threw up. Odd as it sounds, it felt great. It felt great ’cause I conquered the park. The park I had visited so many times as a kid. (I’m a born & bred New Yorker.)
Fast forward a few more years. I continued my workout regimen. I continued running in the park. And in 2001, I ran the New York City Marathon and completed it in 5 hours and 30 minutes. Till this day it’s one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I was scared to death running it. I didn’t train with anyone. To be honest, I had never even competed in a race. But after 3 years of applying, I qualified for the lottery and I ran the entire thing non-stop. It was life-altering. (My running weight was 215 lbs.)
After the marathon I continued running and eventually started swimming at my local NYHRC gym. Unfortunately, the pool was usually full, so I didn’t swim as much as I would’ve liked. About two years ago I left NYHRC for Equinox in Tribeca and that’s where I am now. I weigh 252 lbs, workout 5x to 6x a week, and for the most part, try not to eat red meat. I love seafood so I eat a lot of salmon, tuna, and lobster. The only time I’ll eat red meat is for special occasions like if I’m in another country and trying something new. Soda is non-existent in my life. I used to drink a lot of juice (Hawaiian Punch and Sunny Delight), but have given that up too. I mainly drink water.
Overall, I try to lead a healthy lifestyle mixing diet with a strict workout regimen. If I don’t workout, my body feels restless. Even when I travel or when I’m on vacation I manage to squeeze a workout in. It’s really become a part of my life.
So I’m starting this blog to keep track of my workouts. To talk about my goals, my progress, and hopefully maybe inspire someone. And to have fun, of course. Like I said, I love working out, and I’ve learned a lot — about my own body, my mind, my limitations — but I realize there’s a lot more out there to learn.