"I was destined to be obese. My grandpa and dad both were. I looked just like them, and as a kid I was already chunky.
My older brothers were naturally ripped. Like 6-pack abs on an 8-year old ripped. When I was 10, my oldest brother was 16, standing 6’3” and 220 lbs, the star of his high school football team. I wanted that more than anything, but it didn’t look like I was made of the same stuff. I was soft and pudgy. My mom said I was just husky. My brothers called me fat.
I was raised on what my dad called a SeeFood Diet, as in, “I see food, I eat it.” It’s hilarious in hindsight, but it’s why my dad tipped the scales at 275 lbs standing 6 ft tall when he should have been under 200 lbs. My brothers - with their insane metabolisms - only grew taller and stronger no matter what or how much they ate. Not me… I was just getting huskier. They told me I was going to be fat like dad and grandpa.
I was not going to let that happen.
At age 12 I started working out. All I had was a 5 lb dumbbell, but I spent nights in my room doing one-arm bicep curls, shoulder presses, push-ups, and weighted sit-ups. I plastered my walls with shirtless photos of my hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger. My friends made fun of me for it. I didn’t care. I was going to be big and strong, and I was willing to put in the work.
At 13 I was allowed to start lifting in the high school weight room. Around this time, I hit puberty, and finally got some of that genetic magic that my brothers had since birth. It was a killer combination.
With a top-notch strength program and the SeeFood Diet, I grew by leaps and bounds. By 17, I was 6’3” and 230 lbs, smashing high school lifting records that my brother had set the year prior. Like my brother, I was a stand-out on the football team and state champ in the discus throw. I was big, strong, lean, and fast.
I followed my brother to the University of Michigan to play football and throw on the track team. I weighed 275 lbs at 20 years old thanks to the college training table SeeFood diet. I was big and strong, but pudgy and slow. I couldn’t run worth a damn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my back wasn’t strong enough to carry the extra weight. I lost my athleticism. I rode the bench.
After college I stopped lifting weights and ditched the SeeFood diet for the Ramen Noodles diet. I was broke, it was cheap. My muscles and fat withered away. I dropped down to a skinny, weak 215 lbs.
Throughout my 20’s and 30’s I went through periods with and without lifting or other forms of exercise: running, beach volleyball, body-weight training, etc. My size and strength would yo-yo accordingly.
My diet was consistently inconsistent. I never bothered learning proper nutrition. I either ate more or ate less depending on whether I wanted to get bigger or smaller. Any weight gain meant strength gain; weight loss meant strength loss. Losing weight while maintaining muscle just didn’t happen – at least not for me.
When Covid hit and gyms closed, I took it as an opportunity to stop exercising and eat whatever I wanted. My nightly snack was a hefty bowl of Cheerios with peanut butter and jelly. I gained plenty of fat. I slept poorly at night. I napped on the couch during evenings when I should’ve been playing with my kids. At a lazy 255 lbs, I was on the path to obesity like my dad and grandpa.
When the gyms re-opened in September 2020, I begrudgingly started lifting again. It was a rough return. My joints ached. My back stiff and weak. My muscles sorer than ever before after every workout. My energy levels tanked as my body struggled to recover from workouts.
“This must be old age,” I thought. “This was bound to happen eventually.”
I stuck with it and my strength came back, but I was still “husky”. It was time to lean out, which for me had always meant “just eat less than normal (ie 3,000 calories per day rather than 4,000+).
This time I tried something different after reading some nutrition tips on social media. I increased my protein and decreased my carbs. Novel idea, right? Not really – this is common practice, but I had never tried it. I didn’t go crazy with it, but I was consistent. I cut out breads, pastas, rice and ate more eggs, meats, and veggies. I continued lifting 3-4 times per week.
Slowly but surely, my weight began to drop, and my strength continued to increase. I was setting PR’s daily – something I had never accomplished without packing on 10 lbs of mostly fat and a little muscle.
Fast forward a year, and I’ve dropped over 25 lbs of fat and continue to regularly hit PR’s. I’m under 230 lbs for the first time in over 10 years, the leanest and most shredded I’ve ever been. My joints and back feel better than I ever remember. I have almost no muscle soreness even after lifting 12+ days in a row. I sleep better at night and wake up feeling rested before 6am without an alarm. I no longer fall asleep on the couch in the evenings. I have energy to play with my kids. I’m excelling at work. I’m taking dance lessons with my wife.
I didn’t think this was possible at my age. To feel, perform, and look better at 37 than at any other point in my life?! And yet that’s exactly where I find myself. All it took was applying a little bit of nutrition common sense. Why didn’t I try this sooner?!
And best of all, I’ve found that it’s not hard to sustain. You could almost say it’s easy. I’ve changed my habits, so it doesn’t require any special discipline or sacrifices to continue getter stronger and leaner week by week. My momentum is going full tilt in the right direction. I’m on auto-pilot, eating properly and training the best way possible to keep burning fat while building muscle.
And this is despite having a full-time job, two young kids, a working wife, and an active social life.
Again, the craziest thing I’ve found is that it’s not that hard. I’m loving every minute of it.
When it comes down to it, that’s what has inspired me to start Sarantos Fitness. I want to help working parents realize that they can get in the best shape of their lives despite busy schedules, over-energetic kids, and advancing age.
Making small changes will add up to huge improvements if done consistently for long enough. And it doesn’t have to be difficult! Done right, you will enjoy the process, and before you know it, you’ll be in the best shape of your life.
And best of all, you’ll have built new habits that ensure you’ll stay that way, running on auto-pilot like I am, happily ever after.
Break your bad habits before they break you. Take initiative and commit to making small positive changes that will lead to big time life benefits.
If you need help, get in touch. I’m happy to coach you through the process with my 90 day program."