August 2020 Fitness Feature - #MenDoPilates
“...but most importantly I'm just thankful for the confidence you've helped me develop. I've always been the person that's embarrassed to see myself in photos, or in the mirror. For as long as my memories go back into childhood, I've always been the biggest person in the room...and while I can't do anything about my height, I love what I see in myself now. I'm not afraid to take off my shirt or even post a selfie online. I'll catch a glimpse of my back or my legs in the bathroom mirror and think, "Man, we're killing it!" ” ~ John
Hey everyone! Meet John, a 26 year old construction worker from Toronto Canada. John is 6’10” and has been overweight his whole life...that is, up until recently when he decided to take control of his health and overall well being and turn it all around!
I received a very lovely and heartfelt “thank you” email from John and I was so incredibly touched by his story that I just had to share it with all of you! This is why I do what I do...besides the fact that dance and fitness are my passion in life, I love helping, inspiring, motivating, and uplifting people...whether it’s through my own work or by sharing someone else’s beautiful story. If you’re struggling with your body, there is hope! You have the power to take charge and get your life back...John is proof of that!
Please read our Q&A’s below to learn more about how John lost a significant amount of weight and gained a whole lot of confidence and finally found happiness within himself. And don’t be shy, comment down below to show John some love!
What made you finally decide to treat yourself better and get healthy and fit?
I think it came from the realization that I didn't have to keep settling for being stiff, sore, and tired all the time. I have a job that's pretty physically draining, which I can handle, but I've always used that as an excuse to do nothing but lounge and laze about in my free time. It got to the point where I was just “used” to muscle and joint pain that I would experience doing even the most basic things like standing up or getting out of bed. And as a naturally very tall person that is more susceptible to developing things like back, knee, and heart problems, I decided it was time to start actively resisting the inevitable decline of my health instead of just accepting it.
What dietary changes have you made?
The biggest diet change for me was to cut back on, and inevitably cut out “snacking”. I've never been a soda drinker, but I do love a big glass of juice or iced tea. On a regular day I'd wake up, have a tall glass of lemonade or fruit punch and just top that off throughout the day. But all that extra sugar was just another source of calories that I really didn't need. Nowadays I almost exclusively drink water, milk, and green tea (and the occasional iced coffee for a treat.) I also have a huge sweet tooth for desserts which is probably the biggest culprit. So I swore off buying snacks like chocolate bars or cookies so that if I feel like rewarding myself, it has to be with something I baked or prepared myself. This way I couldn't just grab a box of cookies from the pantry every time I felt a craving.
What/Who motivates and inspires you?
As cheesy as it sounds, my biggest motivator is the future. Since I've started taking my health seriously, putting in the effort, and really pushing myself to maintain the habits I've picked up, I find myself looking forward to so many things that I've previously been terrified of. Even something as simple as going to buy clothes or getting a haircut would have left a knot in my stomach because I just didn't like the idea of being seen or noticed. Nowadays I'm looking forward to the thought of things like going to the beach and actually taking my shirt off, or simply appearing in photos at my brother's wedding.
What are your favorite forms of exercise?
So far, my favourite exercises are anything to do with the core and legs. I spend most of my work days on my feet, and it's such a fun and “freeing” feeling to lay on my back and do things like leg drops or anything from the jack knife position; really anything that has me off my feet and moving my legs in all directions. I also really enjoy doing moves like star crunches and anything that frequently targets the core. I have plenty of forearm and lower leg strength from my work, but most of everything in my torso has been lacking up until this point, so to have the core strength to just lift myself up or twist and bend without pulling a muscle has been life changing.
What would you say to someone who claims “Pilates isn’t for men?”
A lot of people think or claim that things like yoga and Pilates are a woman's-only exercise which I probably agreed with on a subconscious level even if I never said it outright – it was like a complete blind spot for me whenever I would consider methods of weight loss. But I finally took a chance and started following along to Dansique Fitness workouts, and quickly realized just how many muscle groups I had been ignoring.
I know it's easy to tell others to jump in when you're already in the water, but I would implore people that there is nothing “girly” or gendered at all about wanting to improve one's flexibility, core strength, health and overall mindfulness. Weight loss and self-improvement should be first and foremost about you, so how you approach it doesn't matter to anyone else.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
A lot of my struggles in life have come from compromising because of stiffness, pain, low energy and a lack of motivation (and I do mean my whole life.) So to break those shackles is still a challenge each week. If I work a 12-hour day on a Friday in 40°C weather (104° F), it sure isn't easy to pull off a one-hour workout on Saturday, but it's very easy to talk myself out of doing it. The one trick I have is to remind myself how good it feels to pull it off regardless. The satisfaction of completing a workout, and the nice burn knowing your body is healing are usually enough to motivate me.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently once you started your journey?
I think my biggest mistake was falling into the same trap I've experienced numerous times before, and the one that stops a lot of people in my position. All I cared about was the results. I was weighing myself every 2-3 days, and every time I didn't see progress was like a point against my motivation. I eventually got into the habit of only checking at the start of each new week, and it was far more motivating to see actual results that way. Now that I'm nearly 70lbs down from when I started my journey, it's easy to look back on my progress and be proud. But when you stress about each step it's harder to appreciate the journey.
What advice would you give to your younger self about health and fitness?
I think I would just want to tell the younger me to not be so concerned with how others think. When you don't have confidence you are truly your own worst enemy in that regard. All the things I thought others were saying or thinking about me was just my own thoughts dragging my own mood down. No matter how many friends, family or loved ones accept you and try to motivate you, it's hard to convince yourself when your own inhibitions and fears are what hold you back. I do regret that I never really enjoyed sports or phys-ed in my youth, but now I have so many wonderful experiences to look forward to now that I want to do such things in my spare time.
What are some of the positive changes you’ve noticed so far (physically, mentally, emotionally)?
I'll try to keep this brief and as cliché-free as I can, but I understand now why every person who goes through a big transformation uses phrases like “new lease on life” or “I lost a whole person.” My entire life I've been struggling with things like self image and self worth, and it was only emphasized by the fact that I'm really tall. I'm not ashamed of my height, but I was embarrassed by my body. When you constantly see people turning their heads and whispering to others when you walk by, it's hard not to wonder what they're saying about you. And when you're not happy with the way you look, your mind immediately fills in the blanks with all the harsh things you say about yourself.
Nowadays I'm not afraid of attention. I'm still a far cry from necessarily wanting it, but I'm more willing to strike up a conversation or just be in a public place when it's all hustle and bustle. I'm buying clothes that actually fit me instead of hide me. When I'm at work or working out at home, I'm constantly aware of how I'm using my body. I used to use my arm strength for just about everything like pulling myself up from a chair or pushing off the bed to stand up. Now I can go from a kneel to standing upright with just my leg strength, or from laying on my back to sitting upright with just my abdominals and core strength. I'm using all those muscles instead of compensating for them. I'm able to enjoy junk food and video games even more since I know I just completed a Dansique Fitness one-hour exercise routine or that I'm about to do another one.
And above all else I'm more motivated and optimistic about everything. You're always in your body but you don't have to feel trapped or limited by it. I'm not Superman now, but by comparison I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was. I have more energy and I look forward to things that might challenge me physically instead of fearing them.
What are your health/fitness goals for the future?
When I first started my fitness journey my goal was to lose 50lbs between December 2019 and April of 2020 (when my work season really begins and I'm working 5-6 days a week). Once I reached 275 I had effectively reached my “goal” but now I'm still sticking to the same habits and routines that I've got into, and the weight loss is merely a side effect of my new habits and routines.
Now my goal is to just catch up on things I've missed or passed on in my life. I can't wait to get a bicycle again and ride it without my legs chafing, or to go kayaking which I used to enjoy at summer camp. I also really want to run a marathon with my best friend and fitness guru Neil, (but that might have to wait until being in large groups is... safer.)
Any words of wisdom or words of encouragement for someone who is struggling with their weight and wants to better themselves but doesn’t know how or where to start?
There truly is no time like the present to start. Not a day goes by where I'm not reminded how lucky I was to choose 2020 as the year to start improving myself, but where I live gyms have only recently begun opening up again, and we still have a long way to go before things are “normal.” It's the perfect time to start exercising on your own terms. It doesn't have to be joining a class or diving straight into the gym and/or running. You can just find a YouTube channel like Dansique Fitness, get some music you like (heavy metal if you're like me, picture that in a yoga studio!) and do it on your bedroom floor (but get a mat ASAP!) What have you seriously got to lose by just trying?
I know it sounds cliché but it's like every time you jumped into the water, ripped off a band-aid or just tried a new food and were so happy you did. But the end result in this case is going to be more than you can fathom and even put into words. I used to talk myself out of exercising because “What if it changes me? Will I be the same person 100lbs lighter and with an active lifestyle? This is how people know me, will I still be me?” And I absolutely am still me, but with an added optimism, happiness, positive outlook and confidence that I never thought was attainable. You just have to take that first step. You might step back after and try again tomorrow or the next week, but you need to make that first step and I promise you won't regret it.
Congratulations John! I'm so incredibly happy for you and so honored to be part of your fitness journey. Thank you for opening up and sharing your story AND allowing me to share it with the world. What a true inspiration you are! I know your story will touch so many lives and give people the push they need to start their own journey, or provide a burst of motivation to those in the middle of their journey who need a boost. Keep up your amazing work and keep spreading your good vibes and positivity. XOXO