I wish I could say my JYM journey began with a decisive step and no looking back, but life changes are rarely so cut-and-dried. I was actually a skinny child until I was 10 years old, at which point I ballooned and became the resident “fat kid” in my class. My home life was stressful, I was bullied constantly at school, and I suffered from what would later be diagnosed as bipolar II disorder. Much of my childhood, and the entirety of my adulthood until a few years ago, was mired in misery.
As is often the case, I was what they call an “emotional eater.” Comfort foods were a poorly chosen balm for my wounded feelings. As an adult, I turned to drink and drugs as well, particularly prescription medications for treating anxiety, which proved to be dangerously addictive. Shortly before my 27th birthday, I realized the path I was on would no doubt be a short one if I continued walking it. That’s when my self-work really began.
Although I spent the following years taking steps to improve my life and mental health, my physical health continued to lag. I was complacent about my weight, despite suffering from high blood pressure, exacerbated asthma, elevated cholesterol, and the various aches and pains of carrying so much weight around.
The emotional toll of my condition persisted as well. Following a particularly troubling summer in 2014, my emotional eating catapulted me to my highest weight — 297 pounds. I was shocked and terrified of crossing into 300-pound territory. Around the same time, members of my family were diagnosed with diseases related to unhealthy lifestyles.
By the time 2015 arrived, I was ready for a change. All it took was a spark in late January, when my father attempted to end his life. I could finally see the way physical and mental health were intertwined and the hereditary risk I ran of succumbing to ailments of both kinds. Something had to be done. So I did it.
Again, I didn’t just make up my mind like flipping a switch; progress came slowly. First, I gave up soda, then fast foods, and then I cut out processed junk. I started drinking more water and cooking at home with simple, whole ingredients. I’d ask myself “Do I really need this?” any time a craving hit and then drink a glass of water instead.
I began the year having already dropped to 286 pounds, and I was sure I was making a difference. I began taking long walks, controlling my portions, and in May,I returned to the doctor for another check-up and weigh in: 283 pounds. I was incensed! I felt betrayed by my body’s lackluster response to my efforts. I was determined to do better.
At first, I was just taking walks more regularly and following along with some cardio DVDs. A friend offered me some protein powder she’d won in a raffle, and having heard increased protein intake can help suppress appetite, I happily accepted it.
I began reading up on fitness and training, learned to track my meals, and came across the word that would change my life forever: “macros.” Manipulating macros proved the key to everything. I read a host of articles on the topic, but the one that stuck with me was called Dieting 101. If only I’d realized then what I’d stumbled upon.
In July of that year, my father’s demons got the better of him. That loss is a weight I will shoulder for the rest of my days. We had a troubled history together, but before the end, we resolved much of it. He was proud of my efforts to improve my life — he was inspired by them, even. He, more than anyone, seemed to understand what the years of self-work had been all about. His pride is something else I will always carry with me, something that drove me to persist, despite my grief.
By September, I lost 50 pounds and started to transition away from cardio to resistance training. A story about Chris Evans training to become “Captain America” referenced casein protein, which I couldn’t find in my brand of choice at the vitamin store. I ordered some online instead, and it arrived with a sample of pre-workout powder. I’d taken BCAAs before, but nothing like this. It left me feeling jittery and shuddering from pain I’d inflicted upon myself by overtraining that day, but the basic concept intrigued me. There had to be a better pre-workout powder out there. And everywhere I looked, I saw one touted as the absolute best: Pre JYM.
I soon realized that the vast majority of articles I’d read about training, nutrition and supplementation were all written by the same guy — Dr. Jim Stoppani. The way he delved into the science of fitness, the way he explained not only what to do, how and, most importantly, why — I knew this was someone whose products and teachings I could trust.
After taking Pre JYM for a month, I bought nearly the entire line: Pro JYM, Post JYM Active Matrix, Post JYM Fast Digesting Carbs, Vita JYM, ZMA JYM, Omega JYM, and Shred JYM. I started implementing Jim’s teachings into my home routines, which at the time consisted of four five-pound dumbbells lashed together with an old pair of suspenders. Tabatas, cardioacceleration, and pre-exhaustion became mainstays of my personal program.
Inspired by references to JYM Army members, I became an active participant in the JYM Army Facebook group in 2016. I was encouraged to try the Summer Shred Challenge and my first Stoppani program, Super Shredded 8. Though I had to sit out the final two weeks of the program due to illness, my transformation was undeniable. From a high of 297 pounds and easily 35 percent body fat, I was down to — and remain at — roughly 188 pounds and 22 percent body fat. All told, from my fledgling first steps to the triumph of that summer, my transformation took a year and a half.
Throughout the whole of my journey thus far, I have been driven by one simple thought: I deserve this. It is a gift I give myself, out of love for myself. I had to forgive myself all the years of abuse by way of food and toxic substances, accept myself as I am, and accept the possibility of who I may yet become.
To this day, I am still curious to see just what my body can do, how far I can take this, and how much I can change, inside and out. Additionally, people have seen the change and have been inspired to make changes in their own lives. It’s a compliment I may never know how to fully accept, but it’s a responsibility I will never fail to fulfill.
At 37 years old, I am more at peace with myself than I have ever been. Fitness has proven to be the absolute best medicine for my otherwise untreatable condition. I am happier, and more whole than at any point in my life. And thanks to Jim Stoppani, JYM Supplement Science and the JYM Army, I know this is only the beginning of a bigger and better future.