Nathan Nicholas tried plenty of weight-loss plans. Here’s how he found one that stuck.
I was always in sports growing up, and I think that’s the only reason I wasn’t obese as a child. I had pretty poor eating habits throughout junior and high school, blunted only by being in sports. I competed in powerlifting for three years in high school, but I wouldn’t say I learned how to train or how to eat. I mainly just went as heavy as possible every single workout until something hurt. Then I’d taper back slightly and repeat the cycle.
I rarely exercised in college and my poor eating habits caught up to me and got even worse. Out of college, I noticed I was slowly gaining weight, but kind of wrote it off as, “Oh, I’m getting older, and that’s what happens.” I set out to lose weight every New Year for six years but, like most, quit by February or March. I didn’t feel very good physically but the thought of losing weight, dieting, exercising, etc. felt so overwhelming and hard. Eventually, I just settled into the mindset of "I’ll be the short, fat, and bearded funny guy."
In September 2021, my wife and I went on a vacation. I’d (half-heartedly) pledged to lose weight and take better care of myself when we got back. I don’t think I really intended to. But we were on an ATV tour that ended up a zip-line tour, followed by snorkeling through caves and cenotes. About halfway through the zip-line segment, my body temperature went through the roof. I felt dizzy, everything was blurry, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back to my daughter.
I recovered, but that feeling stayed with me. I was 255.2 pounds when we got home. I don’t know if that was my heavies, but I took it as my starting point, aiming to get down to 170. I didn’t know how long it would take; I just knew that I never wanted to feel the way I felt in that jungle.
I’d tried a couple of different "weight loss journeys" before this one that never stuck. In the past, I jumped straight into calorie counting, trying to exercise, and going all out. I think it led to burnout. So this time I started out slowly, by fixing my relationship with food.
I started with intermittent fasting to help create some eating boundaries. I tracked calories. In the beginning, I was losing over five pounds a week. That was great, and since I’d been overeating for nearly a decade, not too surprising. I tweaked my meal preps and recipes so I was losing closer to 1.5-2 pounds a week. I also started focusing heavily on macro splits and learning how to read nutrition labels (lots of googling and self-research and trial and error here).
For the first few months, my only exercise was an occasional walk around the block. After about two months I started at a local gym. Instead of jumping in and trying to go super heavy and super hard immediately, I took it as slow and light as I could. I was so heavy and uncomfortable, I knew I wouldn’t stick with it if I pushed too hard.
Over time I slowly added exercises and increased the weights I lifted. I did sets of 8 to 12 reps, which helped me avoid going too heavy and hurting myself, without going too heavy and hurting myself.
I hit 170 pounds in June 2022, about 9 months after I started, and have been working on maintenance since. The lowest I hit was about 164 in August 2022 but I walk around closer to 170 now.
When I look in the mirror now, it’s still pretty shocking. Mostly because I had been so heavy for 8 to 10 years that it’s truly how I see myself and what I envision when I think of myself. My mental health improved a lot with taking care of myself physically. I feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. I sleep better.
Having hit my goal and done pretty well maintaining that weight, I wanted a new challenge. I started getting more powerlifting-specific with my workouts. It keeps my training interesting because I have a weight class. I’ll be competing in a meet at the end of April in the 165-pound weight class doing bench press and deadlift.
My advice for someone starting out is to show up for yourself daily. What you’re doing today, tomorrow, and next week may not show immediate results, but your month-from-now self, six-month-from-now self, etc. will reap the benefits of what you’re sowing now. Let your focus be on changing your life and not just an endpoint of some number on a scale.
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