I quickly unwrapped the last ice cream sandwich and stacked it at the top of my mountain of five others. Cutting a piece of the diabetes mountain with the side of my fork, I thought to myself “so this is what it feels like to be a king”. I swallowed my first bite, unaware of the unhealthy habit I was developing.
This was the third time this week I had eaten this 900 calorie dessert… and it was only Tuesday. While the other kids ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, during my youth I ate chips, cookies, ice cream, and cereal (with extra sugar in the milk). Yes, I was physically active while I consumed these salivating desserts– but my caloric intake far exceeded the calories I burned during my physical activity.
I remember how embarrassed I would feel going to my pediatrician during annual checkups because I would have to step on the scale and inevitably receive a ten minute lecture about my weight. I would be told that it was a problem, and that I needed to go on some sort of a diet. When family came over, I would feel betrayed when they commented on my belly and chubby cheeks. Even worse, I felt ashamed in school, and I walked around sucking in my stomach to conceal my obvious weight problem. It wasn’t until I entered high school as a 170 pound overweight freshman when I decided to put an end to my unhealthy life choices and reinvent myself.
I decided to try a membership at my local YMCA. I still remember my first day when I walked in and passed the weight room. I thought there must have been World War 3 going on in there from all the noise from weights dropping and men grunting. Frightened by the unwelcoming environment, I dashed upstairs to the cardio room and decided to initiate my transformation journey on the treadmill.
This soon become a habit– a healthy habit, something that I developed for the first time. Along with running on the treadmill, I decided to cut out all of the junk food out of my diet. This meant no more mindless eating of chips and popcorn while I watched a movie or stuffing my mouth with cookies like the Cookie Monster after school.
Over the course of the next couple of months, fat significantly melted off of my body. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in control of something– something that people often neglect, something that had crushed my confidence during my early teens, something that I once felt disgusted with. I was in control of my body.
With some newly developed confidence, I decided to enter the weight room. This was primarily because my treadmill routine was becoming mundane. I was greeted with serious, focused looks of buff lifters who I thought made me look like a spaghetti noodle. Feeling awkward and like a boy among men, I picked a corner, grabbed some light dumbbells, and started doing uncoordinated weight lifting. Completely clueless, I started curling the weight and shoulder pressing it upwards. I didn’t know what I was doing or if I was doing it right but what I do know is that I woke up sore the next morning. After a couple of weeks of doing this, I decided to look go on YouTube to look up some new exercises that I could incorporate into my routine. That was when I came across video links to eminent bodybuilders and discovered the realm of bodybuilding.
I quickly became infatuated with the notion of acquiring an aesthetically pleasing physique. I sought advice and motivation from top class bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman and YouTube fitness celebrities like Chris Jones from Physiques of Greatness and the Hodge Twins from Twin Muscle Workout. This was the pinnacle point in my life, when my fitness journey shaped the individual that I am today.
My body drastically changed over the course of the first two years of lifting weights. As I started to see more results, I started to take the step further by increasing my work capacity in the gym and keeping my diet even more strict that what it already was. I would go to sleep at night thinking either about my workout that I would endure the next day or if I could do something more or tweak something to put on some more muscle mass. Almost every aspect of my life revolved around bodybuilding. This meant timing meals properly so I could fit 5-6 meals in the course of one day, going to sleep early to make sure I get enough sleep to stimulate maximum muscle recovery, and spending 2-3 hours in the gym training as intense as I can. All I was aware of was the physical aspects of bodybuilding. It wasn’t until I entered college when I realized the impact that bodybuilding had on my mind.
Coming to Stony Brook University as a typical pre-med student, I was aware of the intense difficulty that I was going to face in academics from what I heard from friends already at Stony Brook or from physicians who had graduated from the university. It wasn’t until I finished my first semester of freshman year when I realized that all the hype was for nothing. Sure, pre-med can be difficult in undergrad, but armed with the mentality that I had acquired from bodybuilding, I became really successful at it.
Through working out in the gym, I learned resilience: I went to the gym on the days when I was feeling tired, fought food cravings when I was on a stricter diet, did whatever it took inside and outside the gym to get results. Not only that, but I also learned not to let other people bring me down when they would say things like I wasn’t making any progress or that I would never get bigger. I pushed past the negativity from others and did what I had to do for myself.
Applying these skills in college, I was able to learn to study when I didn’t feel like studying, to skip the party some nights to complete an assignment, to go to TA’s for help and look for study resources online, and to prove the people wrong when they say that it’s impossible to get an A in a seemingly difficult course.
By joining Fit U, I hope to inspire people to attain the same mental benefits I did of living a healthy lifestyle and pumping iron. The physical aesthetics of a healthy body are great, but having the mentality of a go-getter is what leaves a legacy.