Losing to Gain
CG: What's you earliest memory of working out versus your earliest memory of loving it?
AS: The first time was probably around the summer of 2002 when I was in High School with my brother. We would go to the local gym in the parks and rec center near our school after summer classes. After many attempts of going to new gyms and promising myself I would lose weight, I really didn't fall in love with fitness until 2011 [after] a childhood friend gave me P90X to do at home. This was the first time I followed a well constructed routine, started to meal prep, and actually saw noticeable changes to my body.
CG: Were you doing anything fitness related during the 2002-2011 time-frame?
AS: I always had a gym membership. Granted throughout the years the gym changed but I think the overall drive was not there. I used to run the Brooklyn Bridge with some friends in 2005, but that was short-lived once my friend moved from that neighborhood.
GC: Give us a brief rundown of your weight issues before 2011.
AS: Well, when I was 18 (2004) I was officially on my own and making my own money, so I would eat whatever I wanted to eat, whenever I wanted. [This] contributed to the already overweight body that I had and brought me to a shameful 300 lbs. I went to the doctor's office for the flu, and when she asked me how much do I think I weigh I said "hmm about 250" [Laughs].
I got my act together for a little bit, dropping down to 238 lbs. But food was a struggle for me and also a source of comfort when I had self-esteem issues do to my weight, so by 2009 I was 300 lbs again.
GC: So you went from 300 lbs, down to 238 lbs and back up to 300 lbs?
AS: Yes sir, crazy but true.
GC: Can you go into a bit more of the transition of being successful in weight loss only to regain everything you worked hard to get rid of? Losing the weight should have done amazing things for your self-esteem. What more was there?
AS: When the doctor told me that I was 300 lbs the first time, I was in such shock at the number I immediately ran to the gym when I got over the flu and just did cardio five days a week, for at least an hour. Some days I would weight train with my brother but I really had no idea what I was doing. When I dropped the weight and clothes started to fit differently, it was more like I was saying to myself "don't be 300 lbs" rather than maintain a healthy way of living. I don't even think that my self-esteem was even a factor at the time.
GC: So fast forward to 2011, what happened that made you decide you had enough with being overweight and wanted an overall change?
Having to buy new clothes again, not feeling physically fit enough to put my mind to a task and actually do it, thinking about the heredity of diabetes, cancer, and other medical conditions that run in my family. I have so much time to make it right since I was in my 20's and I did not want to be another person in their 40's, 50's or 60's with a "should of, could of, would of" excuse for my health. The number one, thing that motivated me was that when I woke up every morning and looked in the mirror, the person that was there was not the person that I saw in my heart and mind, nor was it the person that I wanted to be known or remembered as. So that's why I made it a lifestyle. Also, to help others who may be going through the same thing but may be too scared or doubtful to believe that they can succeed the same way.
GC: Who were you in your heart and mind then? And does that person you see now reflect correctly?
AS: I was a slimmer, stronger, healthier person that wanted to talk the talk and walk it as well. I do see that person now. But what I learned during this journey is that it never stops, and that you must always challenge yourself and put yourself in a position where your comfort zone is minimal so you can work towards redefining who your are and serve as an example for others: whether it be family, friends, coworkers, or a newbie at the gym. Once you start it's never over because you are a work in progress.
GC: What were some of your earlier struggles when you restarted in 2011?
AS: Committing to proper nutrition and not being a slave to food. I grew up in a West Indian household where you are served the biggest plate of food and are encouraged to leave that plate clean. It was also frowned upon to pass up on eating even if you were currently satisfied at that particular time. My grandmother would often assume that I was sick if I said "no thank you". So now some 15-plus years later when the decision of food is in your hand but the perception is still linked to grandma, you struggle a bit.
GC: What are some of your current struggles?
AS: Will power. A lot of my coworkers, friends and family are not as dedicated as I am, so if someone has a slice of cheesecake left, or [offers] half of a philly cheesecake, I have to turn it down twice. Once to them and once to the voice that initially says sure, just so I can stay consistent.
GC: You might have touched on this a bit before, but how do you stay motivated? It's so easy to eat that cheesecake or not get out the house and do your workout for that day. What keeps you going every second of every day in this journey?
AS: The desire to want to succeed, especially through fitness and health. You have to be honest with yourself. When people ask me "What should I do?", I tell them that you must ask yourself, "How badly do I want this?", and let that answer dictate what you will do to achieve your success. I have a pretty good setup at home if I can't make it to the gym. I cook often and the groceries in my neighborhood are very inexpensive so I take advantage of that. But overall I enjoy the community of the gym. People saying what's up to you, encouraging you, asking you to be their spotter because they trust you and recognize your dedication to this lifestyle reflects their own.
GC: Jumping into food, you are an avid Chef in the kitchen. How did that come about?
AS: I've been cooking since I was seven or eight years old thanks to my mom. So I was never scared of the kitchen and what can come out of it. I have always been curious about other cuisines, recipes, and various methods of making common dishes. I believe in self education so I would Google recipe websites, research healthy alternatives for ingredients for some of my favorite dishes, and follow health food blogs or channels to support my nutrition. The most common qualm I hear from people and committing to meal prep is that they get tired of eating the same thing everyday, which I think is a weak excuse. Do the research, and find out what works for you and cook it. You don't eat the same things everyday but my macros are still the same.
GC: Can you explain macros for those who may not know what it is?
AS: Macros is short for macronutrients. Basically when transforming your body, it will respond to the 80/20 rule which is 80% diet, 20% workout. So macros are the essential foods that have protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, etc. that will give you energy to workout and will also increase muscle size or definition according to what direction you want to go in. This is why your nutrition is important because if you do not eat the proper foods, have the right caloric intake, or miscalculated macros you can be very counterproductive even if you're in the gym six days a week.
GC: Describe your workout routine and your eating habits in one word each.
AS: My workouts, INTENSE!
Eating habits, realistic!
GC: What are your two-year fitness related goals?
AS: To achieve and maintain at least 10% body fat and to become a successful life changing Personal Trainer.
GC: And to anyone who is struggling with weight issues and wants to be more healthy, what advice would you give them?
AS: One, ask yourself how badly do you want the change? Two, set a modest goal, and gradually work on it. Three, invest in your health through nutrition, healthy eating, and cook. Four, keep like minded people around you Five, understand that it is OK to fail as long as you come back stronger, wiser, and more determined as you were before. Six, you are not the only person that started from where you are now, so never get inside your own head to presently doubt on where you are destined to be. Seven, give back.
Andrew Smith is currently embarking on a journey to become a Personal Trainer. Follow his fitness journey on Instagram at iamcooking. Fitness, family, transition and amazing dishes are some of the basics to expect.