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From fat to fit

This post shares the fat loss journey of David Wilson who has battled obesity since childhood. Having lost weight and found it again in the past, today he is once again on the path to overcome his childhood nemesis and, so far he is winning! Read on to find out more about this champion's story and methods.

This morning, as soon as my eyes opened, I was aware of discomfort in my lower back.  As I reached over to grab my phone from the nightstand, I also noticed pain in my shoulders.  What makes this morning different from a typical morning two years ago is the level of pain AND the cause.........

...........this morning's pain is as slight as pain can be and still count as "pain"........and it simply served as a reminder that now, unlike two years ago.............I'm an athlete.   Perhaps I'm not a very good athlete yet, but I AM an athlete nonetheless.  Let me explain.

I have been fat my whole life.  I was fifty pounds overweight by the time I was eight years old.  In ninth grade, I was fourteen years old,  and tipped the scales at two hundred and forty pounds at only five feet two inches tall.  That summer, the summer of 1988, I went on a crash diet of about one thousand calories per day with absolutely zero attention paid to nutrition.  In the twelve weeks between ninth and tenth grade I managed to lose seventy-two pounds.  My classmates were shocked at my weight loss when I started high school, but I was still chubby.

That was just the first of several weight loss experiences. In fact, I've lost at least seventy pounds five times in my life.  My best effort (until now) began in nineteen ninety-six.  I picked up a muscle magazine and decided that the only way to get into shape permanently was to start serious training like the bodybuilders I saw in those pages.  This new strategy gave me the best results I had ever enjoyed!  In ten short months, I lost one hundred and eleven pounds, filled out my frame with some appreciable muscle mass for the first time ever (I never really experienced that 'filling out' that most males do during puberty, probably because I was on a crash diet when it should have happened!), radically transformed the way I looked and felt.  I had lost huge amounts of weight before, but had never truly reshaped my physique.  Because of the weight training, I did not just look like a smaller version of my fat self.  I was stronger, faster, and more agile than I had ever been.  I really was beginning to enjoy the new me.

I have done a lot of soul-searching in order to figure out why I let all that progress slip away from me.  I believe I finally have an answer.  As I got down to what was beginning to be a respectable bodyweight, the process became harder.  The fat did not want to fall off as easily as it had at first.  The thing that would have helped me through that plateau would have been to work WITH my body rather than to work against it.  My body had been in a calorie deficit for months and I was asking it to give up even more fat.  Unfortunately, I had been taught, mostly by bodybuilding magazines, that the purpose of exercise was to build muscle or burn fat, period.  This gave me a very narrow view of both diet AND exercise.  Instead of trying to build a body that performed better and better, I was just trying to get abs!

In time, I gave up on my six-pack dreams and reverted to my old ways.  The next time I stepped on a scale, I pegged my bathroom scale at four hundred pounds.  There is no way to know how much OVER four hundred I weighed.  I was devastated.  Somehow, I had convinced myself to not be too alarmed that I was spending years of my life weighing in the three hundreds. But when I saw that number begin with a 'four', I was shocked. Something had to change, and permanently.

Fortunately, I had some better advice this time around.  Many of the trends in fitness publications have changed since my former attempt at transformation, and one of the best is the new found focus on performance!  In the past, the only reason I would perform a particular exercise was to build a specific muscle. This was the first bit of flawed thinking that had to be renewed.  To build a great body, it is imperative that diet and training focus on performance.  It is the age-old idea that form follows function and it is never more true than in building a body.  I began to think of exercise not as pennance for eating a cheeseburger, but as training.  Each exercise I chose had the effect of making my body more athletic, more able to function as a single unit.  I purposed to focus on strength, power, endurance, and mobility and to let my body shape itself as needed to accomplish those tasks.  

I developed a very simple training program that utilized basic compound, multi-joint exercises.  Instead of breaking the body up into different "parts", sort of a Frankenstein mentality, I focused on training movements!  I built two different workouts, each combining a lower-body lift and two upper body lifts.  I combined squats with horizontal pushing and pulling (Bench Press and Barbell Row) and combined deadlifts with vertical pushing and pulling (Military Press and Band-assisted Pull-ups).  I decided to include serious conditioning work once or twice per week as well.  My choice for this was typically car-pushing or high volume kettlebell swings.

The results?  In about a year and a half, I have dropped one hundred and nine pounds.  I am stronger than I have ever been. About half-way through my transformation, I still have a long way to go and things have NOT always been easy.  When trying to train for performance and lose bodyfat at the same time, one walks a very fine line between proper recovery and overtraining!  I have had to revamp my training program many times (yet always sticking to the idea of training the body as a unit and training for performance!) and have had to learn to listen to my body.  In fact, I would say that learning to hear what your body is saying to you is the single most important thing that someone can learn to do when training.  It is very important to work hard enough to make your body adapt, but not so hard that you feel beaten down all the time.  By learning to listen to my body, I've been able to overcome each plateau (and they come pretty frequently) and have made begun to develop a body that is a little more athletic all the time.............which brings me back to my back and shoulder pain this morning! 

It's so nice to have just that slight twinge that lets me know that my body is recovering and adapting from yesterday's kettlebell swings and military presses!  That is so welcome when compared to the pain that I USED to have in the mornings!   My body would feel tired and run down all the time! My knees would ache from carrying the extra weight, and my low back hurt from carrying four hundred pounds instead of doing some kettlebell swings!

I have major goals to be achieved by my fortieth birthday which is in May of 2013.  First and foremost, I want to achieve single-digit bodyfat.  My other goals are performance-based.  I would like to perform a 405lb deadlift, a 255lb bench press, a 155lb military press, 10  pullups,  100 snatches with a 24kg kettlebell in under five minutes, and fifteen overhead squats with my bodyweight.  Ultimately, I would like to surpass ALL of those goals.  However, these goals represent the level of fitness I would like to achieve by the time I enter the fifth decade of my life.  By focusing my training on performance, my body will continue to adapt and, hopefully, will look as strong as it is.

David has appeared on talk shows to discuss his amazing transformation story. You can check out his SuperHumanRadio appearance by clicking here.

You can send your support and questions to David at

You can also contact him on Facebook at-

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