Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Journey, My Transformation - A Look into the the last 12 months

What a week this has been. I had no idea that a simple before and after picture would have such an impact in the online community. It was such an amazing feeling to know you guys could sense the motivation I put in my life in the past year to achieve a new way of life and at the same time I could feel the love from each and every one of you in support. It was unbelievable to see that photo get shared and re-shared and tweeted all around, reaching different parts of the world. I just saw this morning it went around parts of Brazil and London. My sole intention was to inspire the few that may have needed inspiration, but this reaction is way better. Because with this reaction, it reached more people then I myself single handily could have reached. I can't begin to thank you all enough, for it is because of people like you who help push people forward with positiveness, which ends up being why success is never that far.

I'm writing this blog post for many reasons.One of which is that I got so many emails on the "How" of my year journey and the "Why" I tried to email everyone back, so if I missed you, my apologizes. Another reason i'm writing this is because a lot of you wanted to understand my mentality, eating habits and overall goals. I found myself writing to people semi-similar responses. So by this format, it can reach those who want more.

For the longest I can remember weight has been an underlining problem I faced. I was never the biggest kid in class, but as all of us know growing up can be tough, being an overweight kid makes things tougher. I always said to myself one day I would change my body for the better. I just never knew it would take me 28 years. Better late then never right?

The day I made up my mind and the journey that followed:
I remember the day I decided to change things up. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the day. I was just tired of the pain and the tiredness my body was showing. My blood pressure was starting to rise, and my joints was always hurting. I use to read about people on a monthly basis that changed their lives like in the Belly Off Club in Men's Health Magazine. If they could do it, why not I?

The first day in the gym was hard. I felt out of place, a bit confused and overwhelmed. I was certain on 3 things, I had to start weight training, I needed to do cardio and I needed to start eating correctly. You often see these commercials that promise you weight lose if you take a pill or a special shake. I'm smart enough to know that's not the way it works. So cardio, weight training and eating was the way to go.

The first mile I ran was like the never ending mile. I jogged most of the way and got through it. I threw in some weights in the mix right after and I was happy about how I felt. The next day was probably just as important as the first...because if this was the way to physical happiness, then excuses were no longer permitted. I was tired and sore, but regardless I made it to the gym. I went almost everyday that month. A 1 mile jog became a 1 mile run. After a month, spending time on the elliptical as well, that mile run became decent 2. I was on my way....

The biggest thing I learned in this year was that even though the gym is important, building healthy eating habits was just as important, if not more. Cutting out all types of enriched white flour, processed foods and lowering my carb intake was huge. It's not as hard as it sounds. There is no reason any of you guys need to eat white bread, or some snacks that are made in a factory with ingredients that you have never heard of. Imagine what impact it is having on your body as it tries to break it down for energy. Most likely your body is simply going to store it and in time, make it into fat. Make the smart choice, I'm not saying limit everything because that is a sure way to fail. Just be smart. You always have a choice. The more natural you go, the better you feel.

I learned a saying this year that guides me daily. I think if there is a such thing as a "Secret" it would be this. In life when ever you are faced with a decision simply ask yourself, how can I make this better. It applies universally but in the case of food choices, it will save your life. So a simple example would be having the choice of white bread, or multi-grain bread. Once you ask yourself that question, you will always go for the better choice. Or maybe you find your self thirsty, you can go for a coke, or go for club soda. Ask yourself the question, and you will find yourself making the correct choice.

A few months passed and I was in the swing of things. I was going to the gym 4 to 5 days a week. My schedule is always hectic as a professional jazz musician, but just as I always had enough time in the day to surf the web, check my facebook or catch some TV, I simply knew I had no excuses to not go to the gym. I ended up seeing an advertisement for the Men's Health Urbanathlon 10 miles of running that included obstacles through out. I never ran a race in my life, and deep inside i'm a competitor so I felt this would be perfect in keeping me focused on my health. Once I paid the registration fee, it almost made me feel even more obligated to work out. I didn't want to do a race that I simply couldn't finish. So training wasn't a choice, it became a lifestyle.

I think it's important to find something that you love fitness wise and really jump in to it. It might be swimming, biking or running. Whatever it is, know that their is a community out there that will support you. Running did it for me. I haven't stopped running since.

Surrounding yourself with like minded people is huge. How can you change your lifestyle if everyone that you hang out with eat a certain way and drink a certain way. You have to make a decision. What's more important. Living a long healthy life, or party hard and end your existence early? I chose life. I'm not saying you get rid of your best friends by any means. But in the beginning it's important to surround yourself with a support system. Being unhealthy and or overweight is no different then having a drinking problem or a drug problem. Having that support is what gets you through the tough times. The key is to develop a confidence in knowing what works for you. Building the confidence that if you go out with your friends falling to peer pressure is not an option. Your friends are your friends, and if they understand your struggle, they will be their to support. If not, find yourselves new friends.
I was fortunate that I had a great friend who decided to do the same races as me, train with me when we had the opportunity and  talk about how to train. Andrew Hadro was my "partner in crime" as the saying goes. We haven't looked back.

Finding the right foods for to fuel you is another important factor. I do not eat red meat or pork, so chicken and fish is a big part of my diet. I also found out that certain veggies made me feel even more amazing then before, asparagus is my go to snack.

Eating through out the day is key to making your body in to a fat burning machine. People often think opposite. The less I eat the less I weigh, granted the bottom line of losing weight is amount of calories in versus amount of calories out (hitting the gym, walking around, daily activities) But If you concentrate on a larger number of smaller meals a day you will never feel hungry, your metabolisms starts to speed up and in turn you start to lose weight. A key in doing this correctly is increasing your amount of protein in your diet. If you are really trying to change your ways, this will push you exactly where you need to be. There are some good protein shakes available that taste great. And if you are on the go, I found a company who's bars literally taste like a crunch bar. It's called Eat-Smart bars by ISatori. This has been my saving grace because since it taste so much like a dessert/snack it kept all my serious cravings away. It's not the dirt taste most bars have. Not quiet sure how they have mastered the art of it, but trust me this is the one to go with.

Setting up small goals:
To many people think about the overall larger goal. "I wanna lose 80 lbs by the summer" This almost always sets you up for a bit of failure. Think smaller goals that are attainable. What everyone needs to know is that if you complete a bunch of  little goals, eventually you will have reached every goal you ever wanted. No one expects to be able to run a full marathon on the the very first try with out running a few smaller races beforehand. You build up to it, and when the opportunity arises you crush it. With no doubt in your mind because you took the time to prepare. It's no different for weight lose. Slow and steady wins the race. I lost 75lbs this year, but the way I lost it was by losing 1 at a time. For every 1 pound lost, the dream of becoming fit became a reality.

On a side note, some of the extra keys to my fat loss was Interval training It is one of the best ways to do so. (just click on the link for a detailed description) and muscle confusion for those who end up being very dedicated will also guarantee results. (Think P90x) My suggestion is taking bits and pieces from things that you like and create your own work out. Consistency is key.

There is not one thing that I can tell you that will make you change. I can simply give you advice on the how. In the end it is up to YOU to decide that you want a change. No one can trick you into running, or eating healthy. In the end, it is you who decides to sweat. You have to think about what is important to you. I decided that I wanted to live a full productive life, both mentally and physically. I have to much that I care for, to many things to do, to many people to help to end my time on this world prematurely. I knew that making this decision saved my life in the long run. It was my decision in that I wanted to live that really sparked the flame. Figure out what that means to you. Maybe you have a newborn child, recently married, or a new career that you love and want to enjoy. What ever the reason is, make it a good one. It was my reason to want to live that got me through the days of not wanting to  continue, or being to tired to go on. I made it count, and now I make everyday count.

Signing up for the New York Road Runners was a great decision I made. In a way it holds me accountable if I don't stay in shape. Races are on going and I compete with myself to get a better time. My goal is running the ING New York Marathon in 2013. A year ago 26.2 miles seemed impossible, but in a year impossible easily changed it's meaning. 

Don't be the person that makes excuses why you shouldn't. Excuses are easy ways to hide. Having kids, a career, a family or all valid points, but I too sustain a very busy schedule through out the year, travel often, always working on various projects and days always seem to be to short. So if I didn't use any of those excuses...what's yours?

Be the change you want to become, say out loud that you are "worth the time and the effort to become the better you". That person inside of you is waiting to come out, at times it is screaming to come out..just take a listen. I was just like you, i'm just a normal guy who put my mind to it. There was no secret game plan, no expensive trainers or coaches. Just me, and my mind knowing that every sore muscle in my body was it's way of thanking me. That every drip of sweat that flowed out of me was my body excited at the potential of what could be and what will be.

Be the inspiration that I hope I am for some of you. Change your life because life is worth it. Let the doubters in your life disappear. Let the of the ones that tell you that it's impossible. Because if there is one thing I truly learned in my journey, it is that "Impossible is just another reason not to quit"

I would like to thank everyone who has been part of my journey-
Andrew Hadro, Isatori, Men's Health, The entire team at LPA, My B Smith Crew, Ali, NYRR, The entire Facebook Family, Planet Fitness for being so affordable and an extra thanks to all of you that have shared this story! Let's continue to be a positive force.


  1. Cant tell you how proud and happy I was to read this bruh. I remember that guy on the left. The guy on the right sounds re-energized, refocused, content, and just in an amazing place right now. I hope this serves as inspiration for all of those who say they can't or won't. Kudos sir!

  2. Very Inspiring! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. All you guys from around the world reading this is simply words! Feel free to comment, I will try to answer everyone.

  4. You inspire me....Im proud of you :)