Michael (forum member Phoenix) had to overcome a host of difficult obstacles before rising from the ashes. After being ridiculed and teased throughout his entire life, Michael fought back and lost an incredible 134 pounds! Along the way he battled severe depression, illness and various other personal difficulties. No matter what life threw at him he never gave up. His story is an amazing one, and I'm positive that you'll find it as inspirational as I have. Major Transformation Stats Start weight: 134.3kg/295.5lb Finish Weight: 73.3kg/161.3lb Total weight lost & Time: 61kg/134.2lb in 3.5yrs In my final photos I got down to 4% body fat (74.8kg/164.6lb) and at my largest was about 52% body-fat so I lost about 48% body fat. Lost around 14-16inches off my waist. "Mini" Transformation Stats Start weight: 100.3kg/220.7lb Finish weight: 73.3kg/161.3lb Total weight lost & Time: 27kgs/59.4lb in 6 months BEFORE & CURRENT Why did you decide to make a transformation? I have been an unhappy, depressed and sad person for the majority of my life and saying that is not something I am proud of. A lot of that is linked to being overweight and self-conscious all my life; I was teased and ridiculed as a small child, a teenager, at university and as an adult. I tried many ways to lose weight and I would get temporary success but it would never last. I slowly began my overall transformation after I reached my heaviest weight - I changed from a 24hr shift-work based job to a more physical day time job which helped a little. I lost some weight but it still hovered from 110kg to 115kg for a couple of years until a series of events unfolded that led up to my final transformation push. I had a few things going on in my life at the time when I finally made the decision to change - I had dropped out of university, and not long after was diagnosed with moderate depression. I lied to the doctor with the depression questionnaire because I was so ashamed and embarrassed and scared of the drugs he was going to put me on that my diagnosis was moderate instead of serious. I do not advocate anyone doing that, but I am the one who has to live with my decision. My marriage was under a lot of strain and I felt as if I was more out of control of my life than ever. I had gotten under the 100kg mark and was feeling good. I then got a chest infection that would not go away, I would let it recover for two weeks then do a cardio session and it came back the next day - this happened three times. Coinciding with the depression, my weight started to go up and quickly. The depression medication did not help with the weight either. When it hit the 100kg mark something snapped, I decided that no matter what I was going to find out exactly what would work and would be sustainable for the long term for me to lose weight and gain the body I wanted. I knew that making me a happier person would make me a better husband and father as well. What sort of planning did you do before you started? I had attempted to calorie count and be accountable to eating the right way before I really knuckled down. This did not work but it allowed me to try things and do a lot of reading and learning on the web. I trawled sites and articles about weight loss, diet and muscle building until I felt like I had a good knowledge base to implement a sensible system. Once I did that then I used Excel and Calorieking.com to figure out what I was taking in each day and analyze where I was going wrong. What were your initial goals? My goal was a mental image of me with a ripped mid section or ‘6-pack’. That was really it - I knew if I could attain that body then I would have reached my body goals. I also wanted to know what it felt like to “like me”. It sounds simple but I had never actually liked who I was and I knew things had to change. I also wanted to gain a little muscle. I have to mention a big reason was to become a happier person and be a better husband and father. What was your diet and supplement intake like? Supplementation wise it was very simple - chromium picolinate, fish oil and mega magnesium was all I took. There was no one food group that I eliminated I ate everything and anything, but I ate it in the right amounts and at the right time to get the body-fat to be used as a preference. I had my staples like eggs and oats in the morning, lots of lean meat, vegetables, some fruit here and there and everything in-between. Everything was monitored and accounted for so I knew if I had eaten too much or too little for the day. I ate 5-7 times a day and kept my metabolic fires burning. If I was really hungry I would eat extra protein and vegetables. I still ate carbs but I would cycle them sometimes to shock my system. I must note I am a food-aholic and have been an over-eater my whole life, I decided to log everything to find out how much I could eat and in a sense get away with it. I learnt to work with my weaknesses instead of denying them and it helped me a great deal. What was your training like? I did a combination of cardio and resistance training. My cardio training consisted of a lot of running and stationary bike at the gym. I had a respectable level of fitness when I began and increased on that by having the resistance increased a bit. On the treadmill I always jogged on an incline. When I ran on the road I did a lot of hill work, running, jogging and walking (when I tired out). I did interval training, fartlek training, low, medium, and high intensity. I varied it so I would not get bored, I did get bored a few times but it happened less often. I was running, jogging, biking 3-5 times a week for 30-45mins. At one stage I wanted to test my aerobic fitness so I did a long hill run in the mid day sun during summer. I covered 15.7km in 2hrs 7mins. My resistance training was quite simple really; I focused on whole body workouts at each session. I tried to incorporate a sensible number of compound movements like, squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, pull-ups or chins, dips, military press, bench press and shrugs. I would train arms once a week if I could be bothered but this only consisted of barbell curls and skull crushers. I did not work abs for quite a while and when I did I would train them 2-3 times a week doing hanging leg raises, incline sit-ups, and elbow to knee crunches. I resistance trained 2-3 times a week, each workout would take 30-45mins. I kept the sets to 2 with reps at 8-10 for each exercise after a warm-up set. I built up slowly and used common sense as you can injure yourself easily with compound exercises if you do not give them the respect they deserve. What obstacles did you encounter, and how did you overcome them? I had the mental obstacles relating to depression and at the start it was really tough, I wanted to quit so many times. I questioned myself so many times as to what I was doing and if I was going to get anywhere. I got tendonosis of the right elbow early on and had to lighten up my training and it took about 3 months to totally come right. It was very annoying but I decided to stay focused. I injured my left knee from excessive running with badly worn out shoes, which was a really dumb thing to do. I bought good runners and had to really back off the running and switch to a lot of stationary bike for a couple of months before I could run again. I also had a lot of negative comments telling me that there was something wrong with me for going from fat to ripped and some people admitted that it made them feel more conscious. I ignored those people and did not give them the time of day. I knew as long as I was happy with myself that is all I would need. How has your life changed? It took a long time to adjust as I did not recognize myself in the mirror for a long time. I just could not fathom what it was like to not be an overweight person and out of control. Not controlling our own bodies must be one of the worst things we can be guilty of as it should be one of the things in life that we can control. I have a new outlook on life and am a much nicer person to be around for my wife and kids. I have found a real passion in my life and have decided to make a living out of the health industry as it is something I enjoy. This way I can be happy with what I do for a change. I am currently studying my Cert 3 & 4 in Personal Training so I can help people achieve what I have. I don’t want to be one of those trainers that just does it for the sake of it, but I do it because I love it and want to genuinely help people. How did JSF and the JSF Forums help you? JSF did help me by showing me that you can achieve your goals with hard work and dedication. It showed me that there were others out there with the same passions and goals in life, and that it was ok to be focused on your body for health reasons. To everyone who encouraged me and had nice things to say, thanks and I hope I can repay the favor to as many of you as I can. Thanks John Stone you are one of my heroes What advice would you offer to others? There are many ways to achieve your goals and no one way is necessarily the right or wrong way. We need to analyze our strengths and weaknesses and be honest with ourselves. Once you do that make a plan and start on it, then don’t give up, re-asses and change things that are not working for you. Do not just get down because you have a sticking point or things do not go your way, keep pushing through and work within your own limitations. Regarding depression and related illnesses, it is a tough thing to change yourself even at the best of times. I was the king of giving up, so if you are thinking of quitting then don’t - think of the end result and how great you will feel when you achieve your goals. Think of the negative emotions and all the unhappiness you have felt because of bad decisions and habits, then channel that into a powerful desire to drive you towards your goals. If you need to talk to someone and are on a small or large downer then do not be ashamed to get it off your chest or ask for help. I had to learn that I was not a freak because I suffered from depression and that it was really common and normal and I would rather talk about it and fix it then do something terrible and destroy my wife and kids lives. I even went as far as to research foods, herbs and teas that would help me feel better and it worked as I do not rely on drugs and use the natural approach. Food is a very powerful weapon for weight loss and muscle growth, I encourage all to steer away from prepackaged, heavily processed food. It is junk and will only hamper your results, study and learn about food and you will learn to respect it and your body. You do not have to use every supplement under the sun - I used no weight loss supplements and achieved good results. What are your future plans? I want to continue being healthy and living lean, staying in shape. I want to realize my natural genetic potential and continue to transform my body. I plan on being a positive role model to those wanting to beat obesity young and old. Any closing thoughts? Weight loss is a personal and a very hard journey. I fear we are only seeing the beginning of a very bad global trend. We can all play a part in helping a friend of family member better themselves and sometimes all it takes is one or two words of encouragement or belief which costs us nothing. I believe that sites like JSF will be seen as pioneers in the worldwide health and fitness industry. No matter where I end up or what I accomplish I will always give credit to where credit is due. Thanks John Stone and Friends. Thanks for sharing your amazing story with us, Michael. Congratulations on your incredible transformation!