Lose 30 Pounds, Like An 11 Year Old

Weight loss. It’s tough. It’s a challenge. It takes discipline. It takes a well thought out plan, and that plan has to be executed diligently and daily. So when someone loses weight, say over 20 pounds, credit must be given. But when an 11-year-old young boy takes it upon himself to lose weight, and he loses over 30 pounds (31 to be exact), he deserves much credit, hugs, and even a visit from me (more on that later). He is my godson. His name is Gavriel.

Before his weight loss. This is Gavriel and his mother in June.

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After

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Notice that his tummy has shrunk considerably (6 inches). This picture was taken the morning of his game last Saturday, October 25. His father was weighing him to make sure he made weight for the game later that evening.

Gavriel, or as his family and myself call him, Gavy, lives in California. He is my best friend’s son. He just turned 11 and he is already 5’5″. He is a great kid, full of joy and laughs, and has plenty of physical energy. His mother told me that she rarely sees him tired, if ever.

On my previous visits to California, and when Gavy and his father visited me here in Maryland, I also noticed that Gavy was very energetic and moved well for someone his size. When I say his size I mean it in two ways. He is tall for his age, and he was overweight for his height. And please do not feel bad for Gavy, he knows he is tall and he is very aware that he was overweight. (He still has some pounds to lose, but because he is still growing in height, it can be tricky to calculate the correct weight he should be).

I was not planning to go to California this year, again. I was there this summer, and Gavy had just started practicing with a football team. He had to lose about 30 pounds to make the team. For 10 and 11 year olds, there are weight limits for kids in the name of safety. The coaches made it clear that in order to play on that specific team, Gavy would have to lose the weight. No exceptions would be made. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to do it, but I have learned that in life, humans can accomplish almost anything they set their minds to. I also promised Gavy that if he lost the weight and made the team, I would go back to California to watch him play. He lost the weight, and I had to keep my promise to my godson.

I think it is absolutely incredible that he lost the weight. INCREDIBLE!!! And commendable. I could have blogged about his weight loss from my point of view, but when anyone accomplishes something impressive, I rather hear how they did it in their words. So I interviewed my godson without his parents or siblings around so he wouldn’t be interrupted or influenced into giving different answers. Here’s the interview.

Why did you decide to lose weight? “I wanted to be on the same team with my friend Marcelo, and I also thought it would be good for me, and help me be lighter on my feet.”

Marcelo and Gavy.

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Before your weight loss journey, what did you drink regularly? “I drank everything. Chocolate milk, all juices, any juice, milk shakes, and root beer floats.”

What do you drink now that you are on your weight loss program? “Just water.” (Yes, that was his answer).

Who taught you how to do your diet? “Diana. She is the mother of one of the kids on the team. She made me a list of the foods I could and shouldn’t eat, and also explained that I should lose weight for myself”. (Diana is a nutritionist and personal trainer). Keep up the great work Diana!!!! She played and integral part in his weight loss.

What has been the most difficult part of losing weight? “Facing reality that I can’t eat those junk foods anymore.” (What a great answer!!!!!!!!) “Like being dropped off at a party and having to make the right food choices. I’m not lying, I used to make the bad food choices a lot.”

Are you used to the diet? (This is the one question I would say he thought about the response for the longest time.) His response. “I’m used to the routine.”

What’s the most difficult part of weight loss for you, the diet or the exercise? “You can love exercise, but if you eat junk, the exercise does nothing. In my opinion, the diet is harder if you’re new to the routine, especially if you were big like me. I used to cheat at first, but then I got serious because I knew I had to make the team.”  (I swear that these were his answers!! Incredible!! He just turned 11.) He went on to tell me about someone he knows who couldn’t lose the weight and this is what he said “That’s the problem with some people who are overweight, you give them the work (plan), and they give up.”

What did you eat before you started your diet plan? “Pizza, potatoes, burgers, fries, ice cream, bacon, tortillas, quesadillas, chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets. I ate chicken, but not the way you eat it. It was always in nuggets or strips.” (Like all children, he is very observant, and has noticed that I do eat chicken, but not in nugget or strip form.)

When are you hungriest? “After my football games, because my belly is empty.” True dat!! (I don’t blame him, on his game days he can’t eat much because he has to make weight. Heck, I was hungry after his game too, and I was just watching and not dieting.) ”

Do you ever get to eat whatever you want? “I cheat once a week. A burger with fries or some pizza. And I still recommend you drink water, so it’s not that bad.”

Keep in mind, this is a young boy who just turned 11 in September, so I debated whether I should ask him the next question. During our interview I got teary eyed a few times because he so young, innocent, and honest. I decided I would ask him the next question.

Did you know you were overweight? “I knew I was overweight because bending over was difficult sometimes, and I would get out of breath going up steps.”

Do you have any advice for people trying to lose weight? “For everyone trying to lose weight, it’s no joke. It takes hard work. If you are one of those people who really want to lose weight, eventually you will see that hard work pays off. Your health will improve.”

What differences do you feel physically, now that you have lost over 30 pounds? “I can do more physically, and I don’t feel tired like before.” Then he asked if he can just tell me some things, I said “sure”.

“For me, when I was big, my mind didn’t think about homework or anything when I got home from school, just eating, eating, eating. But now my mind has a clearer mindset on what it has to do, especially because the doctor told me that the bigger I got, the shorter my life span would be. Now when I’m bored, I try to do active things instead of playing video games.” (I’m telling you, the boy is amazing.)

What are your goals in football? “I want to be fit enough to get a good scholarship, to get a degree. So I could make the pros with more experience.”

So how big is this kid, my godson? I won’t share his weight with you, but I will tell you he is tall and strong for his age.

His feet are already as big as mine, and I’m 5’11”. My foot is on the right. I didn’t know my foot would be on display for the world to see, so I skipped the pedicure.

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Gavy hugging and picking up his grandmother, when he was 10!!

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Here’s Gavy in action. He is #50.

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Gavy below, making weight before the game. It was the first time he made weight without having to take off his shoulder pads, and other football gear. He was so happy, and so was #66, taking a peek behind his teammate.

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Gavy and yours truly. He’s not taller than me, yet. He’s standing on the bench.

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And the following morning, after his game, I took him to Nat’s Cafe so we could enjoy a meal together. He had a semi-healthy breakfast. I won’t lie, the boy has an appetite.

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We weighed him later that evening to see if the breakfast had done any damage, but he was fine. He probably just replenished what he had lost during the previous night’s game.

And now I would like to give you my perspective, my personal trainer perspective, on Gavy’s weight loss. I am shocked that he lost the weight to make the team. Yes, I am proud and happy for him, but because my work involves helping people lose weight, and I know how much people struggle in their weight loss endeavours, what he has accomplished is incredible.

Think of all the excuses he could have made to not lose weight. “I’m hungry. This is too hard. I want to drink soda. I want to drink chocolate milk. I want pizza. Water is yucky”, so on and so on. But he made no excuses. He practices hungry, plays his games hungry, and probably goes to bed with less food in his stomach than he would really want and was used to. The boy just does what he has to do. Many people have the knowledge necessary to lose weight, but not everyone applies it. He clearly does apply it.

I don’t know what the future holds for Gavriel, but I believe his future is bright. Not only did he lose weight, and he seems to enjoy sports, he is also smart and likes school. This past summer he graduated from the 5th grade with perfect attendance for the year, and an honors award in math.

So what was the magic formula for his weight loss? There is no magic. No smoke and mirrors here. He was motivated. He cut back on his calories, and started to move much more than he did before. The principles behind his weight loss are simple. It is their application that is the challenge. Simple as that.

Thank you for the inspiration Gavriel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How About Some Pie?

Have you ever had a humbling experience? You know, your silly pride was fed a big fat slice of humble pie. I had a slice last Friday.

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Since a teen, I have always admired boxers. Their conditioning is insane. Don’t get offended MMA fans, when I was a teen, MMA was not what it is today. I’m talking way back in the 80’s, when the most popular one on one combat sport was boxing.

Boxers are in incredible shape. They are strong, very strong, and have incredible levels of cardiovascular fitness. And just as impressive as their fitness levels is that they train their asses off on low calories (minimal food), because many of them have to weigh in the day before a fight at a weight that can be light for their height. Imagine being 5’11” and having to train and weigh in at 145 pounds. I’m 5’11” and weigh 185, and I am not even eff ay tee. I can’t imagine weighing 145, 150, or even 160. I would have to move to Venus or the moon to lose a bunch of weight. On Venus I would weigh 167 lbs and on the moon I would weigh 30 lbs. Don’t ask me how that works. Talk to an astronaut about that fact, but I am sure it involves gravity.

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So, I decided that I wanted to take some boxing classes. I found Champion Boxing & Fitness in Rockville, MD and I paid them a visit. Andy, the gym manager, walked me through the gym and explained how it all works. I took him up on his offer and showed up the next day for a free trial workout/boxing lesson.

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When I arrived at my first group boxing class (picture above) I was a bit nervous. (Now I know how my clients probably feel before their first workout with me). I saw everyone warming up, and I had no idea what I should be doing or what I was in for, then I heard a voice shout “GET YOUR JUMP ROPES AND WARM UP FOR 5 MINUTES!!” It was William Joppy giving those orders. Who is Joppy? He is just a 3 time middleweight boxing champ of the world. He fought Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad. Yes, he did lose both those fights, but just the mere fact that he fought both of those great fighters is insane and impressive. And trust me when I tell you that I am not easily impressed by athletes. Just for fun, think how many times you have interacted with someone who is, or once was, a world champ in anything. It is a rare occurrence, at least for me it is.

So, I was jumping rope honoring my five minute warm up, and about two minutes in I started thinking “This is a warm up? I’m already breathing hard!” That was my first bite of humble pie. I realized that I hadn’t jumped rope probably since elementary school, and that jumping rope is more taxing than it appears. And then I had a bigger realization. My cardio sucks! And I still had to complete the class.

During the class we did push-ups, sit ups, jump squats, sprints, running in place, AND boxing, of course. Joppy, as he likes to be called, makes one thing very clear. A boxer is only as good as his cardio. I had never thought about it that way.

By the end of the class I was gassed, but I loved it. I enjoyed discovering an activity that had kicked my ass and had swiftly reminded me that there is more to fitness than just weight training and being able to run outdoors, or even worse, on a treadmill. I don’t usually do the whole selfie thing for show, like never, but I had to take a picture with Joppy, to show my wife and friends that I was not kidding about him being my boxing instructor. This is William Joppy in his fighting days.

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This is him and Healthy Homeboy now.

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Oh but wait, the humble pie slices get tastier for me, much, much, tastier. After taking a few group boxing classes, I decided that I would talk to Joppy about hiring him for some one on one boxing lessons. We talked, an agreement was made, and my first lesson with him was last Friday. And if the first group boxing lesson I told you about was a kick in the ass, this past Friday’s one on one session was a kick in the ass, face, and gonads. Besides working out in the Marines, it is the most difficult exercise routine I have ever done because it taxes your cardio and muscles.

I will not get into all the specifics of what we did, but it wasn’t just boxing. It was plenty of abs, cardio, AND boxing. I love the boxing part. To be trained by a former world boxing champ is very motivating and exhilarating to me.

I learned plenty during our first session. I learned how to stand and hold my hands correctly so I won’t get my head knocked off. I learned combinations and footwork. I learned to punch and then move. At first I was punching and moving at the same time, compelling Joppy to say “If you’re moving while your punching you will lose power. Punch first, and then move. That’s why they say stick and move.” The most difficult aspect for me is punching and moving correctly. Sometimes I punch, and then I just stand still, like a punching bag, probably because I am so darn tired. That is no bueno. And no, Joppy is not punching back. He is just holding training mitts for me to hit. If he ever punched me, just once, in my abdominal region, I am certain I would poop a kidney out. Think about it, Joppy trained his whole life to punch as hard as he could, so I am sure he still packs a wallop.

Besides boxing being so tiring and technical, you want to know what else REALLY surprised me? I never had realized that you are so close to your opponent. How close are you to your opponent, and you to him/her? Go stand an extended arms reach away from a mirror. Now stare at yourself. Now picture a professional boxer in the mirror instead of you. Yes, you’re that close to your opponent. Damn! In other words, if you plan to land a punch, chances are punches will also be landed on you. Joppy below, in one of his battles, landing what looks to me like a left hook.

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At times, during our one on one session, Joppy would demonstrate either footwork or punch combinations for me to view and grasp. Holy guacamole Batman!! He is so damn fast. I couldn’t help but think two things. One, that he could hurt me really quick and very easily. That is a fact. And two, that pretty much wherever he goes in life, he will rarely, if ever, come across a man who could beat him in a boxing match, or street fight. That must be a pretty cool feeling.

This week I have my second session with him. I hope I show improvement. But if I do, he will probably make the session more challenging. That’s ok, because that is exactly what I do for my clients. Wish me luck.