My nickname at the gym is “Big Jerm”. My buddies Josh, Jake and Shawn lovingly crafted the name over two years ago because I was a lanky guy trying to gain strength and pack on muscle. All three of them are much stronger and can lift much heavier things.
It is a name similar in vein to that of Robin Hood’s compatriot Little John, who was anything but little. Or like Curly of the Three Stooges.
What some of my friends in Minneapolis don’t know is that at one point that name was much more literal. Up until graduating high school, I was never overweight but also not in great shape either.
College led to the “freshman fifteen” thanks to a dining hall that offered daily access to a fro-yo machine and frost your own cookie days.
Couple that with a lack of exercise and moving into a fraternity and I reached a high of 197 pounds.
That weight fluctuated a bit after college as I did make some focused attempts to run and swim. They would usually peter out though and the New York City lifestyle of take-out food and happy hours kept my weight high.
I also take the blame as my focus was all about my social life and extracurricular activities, none of which involved exercise.
In the fall of 2008, I moved to Rome, Italy. Despite what you might think about living in the land of pizza and pasta, I actually started to shed some weight immediately upon arrival.
Everyday I walked 30-minutes each way to and from my apartment to campus, which was a lot more exercise than I was used to.
I was also cooking my own meals at least two times per day and eliminating a lot of processed foods without realizing it. Rome doesn’t do shelf life. Most of their food is perishable and it’s a diet much more focused on homemade rather than made in China.
By Christmas break, I had lost 20 pounds.
I have told the story before of how by the spring of 2010 my focus turned towards fitness. I started running and I was feeling really good.
When it was time to move back to the United States, I didn’t want to return to NYC partly because I didn’t want to fall into the trappings of my old lifestyle.
For so long I had normalized what I looked like when I was at my heaviest that it wasn’t until I lost the weight that I began to understand the lack of health and wellness in my life.
It’s amazing how a suit and a tie and a haircut can hide what’s truly underneath.
This all makes for a long introduction to the fact that now almost three years into doing CrossFit and starting to compete, I am nervous about going backwards.
I want to get “bigger” but I don’t want to be big again. I realize that perspective is all relative and that my “extreme” weight is far less than others.
But I can only compare me to myself and the fact is that I am in the best shape I have ever been. It makes me sad that it didn’t happen until I was almost 32 years old, but I can’t dwell on that and instead have to just be thankful for what this new lifestyle will mean for my next 30+ years.
However, with all this cleaner eating and heavy training, I hit a low of 161 pounds in January of this year. Lanky is no longer the desirable aesthetic.
Now that I have so many tools in my arsenal in terms of exercise and diet, I have consciously been trying to put back on some weight – hopefully mostly muscle.
But it is hard to think about bulking up and eating extra calories because of that fear that all my hard work will go away.
I realize that this is not rational since I am at the gym so often. I know that I won’t go back to before. And at the end of the day, the number on the scale is not as important as how I look and feel.
Rich Froning weighs 195 pounds and he is only 5’9″. Michael Phelps is 6’4″ and weighs 194 pounds.
The scale doesn’t tell the story any longer for either of them. And I would be happy to look like either in terms of physique.
The fact is if I want to get stronger, I need to put on some weight. So I am cycling in HMB+ Creatine, which helped me back in April put on six pounds and I will start again next week.
I am focused on my protein intake and carbs, rather than calories.
And I am not worrying about my weight as an indicator of my strength or physique. I am looking in the mirror and feeling better about walking around with my shirt off.
I am so hesitant to even include this before and after as I don’t want to be that guy, but I think it is important for me and for others to see the transformation taking place, even if it is not overnight.
There is more work to do, but I like the guy on the right a lot more as he is a lot stronger and healthier, even if he is a bit heavier.