My story is about the importance of giving yourself grace to fail so that you can allow yourself endless opportunities to rise to success. After having ankle surgery years ago (2015) and doctors telling me I would never be physically active again, I have lost over 115 pounds (and counting) since 2021. For six years post-surgery, I fell into a mild depression that resulted in my emotional eating spinning out of control until I woke up one day to realize that I was at my most heaviest weight ever - approximately 365 pounds. During this same time frame, my father, who was diabetic, only continued to decline in health, as he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he ultimately landed in the emergency room and during his hospital stay, we would discover that he had now reached the end stage of his chronic kidney disease and he would now require long-term dialysis treatments for the rest of his life. I began researching the criteria for organ donors as I was determined to save my father's life and buy him more time with the family. Determined to donate a kidney to my father then become my motivation to make a lifestyle change to begin losing a significant amount of weight (and reverse my own ongoing health issues) in order to meet the requirements to become a donor. This fitness journey fostered a strong bond between my father and I as he would encourage me and continuously remind me of the importance of taking care of my health. He would always tell me "Your health is your wealth for the future." In May 2022, my father passed. Time won and I was not able to donate the kidney that had jump started this entire journey. Heading into the start of 2023 and still grieving my father, I decided to set the personal goal of stepping out of my comfort and honoring my father in some way as his anniversary would be right around the corner.
16 weeks ago, I embarked on a weight loss challenge that would culminate with me stepping foot on a competition stage. What I didn’t expect before accepting this challenge was how this prep process would strip me down mentally, physically, and emotionally only to rebuild and redefine me into a whole new identity. This prep process helped me process my grief from the loss of my father a year ago in a positive manner – basically take it out on the weights over and over and over again. This prep process also brought about healing. Since early childhood I was always overweight: the last kid picked in P.E. class for kickball, the slow kid who despised running laps, and eventually, the teenager who was smart enough to tutor the pretty girls, but not appealing enough to land the dates with them. Throughout this prep process, I discovered that my inner fat kid persona had become my security blanket. This childhood trauma still had a hold on me in adulthood, transpiring into the limiting beliefs that I had internalized along my life journey so far: you’re not good enough, you’ll always be fat, you’ll never lose weight (all of the most negative thoughts possible insert here). Stepping on stage in front of a roomful of people brought healing. I proved to myself that by releasing the past, I could finally step confidently into the future with a positive mindset. For all the family and friends that have been so supportive to me along this journey, thank you with all my heart. For the first time in a very long time, I’m proud of the man I see in the mirror.