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Bodybuilding Success Stories: Michael Richards

A Lifelong Struggle to Be Thin

What would it be like to be thin? I used to ask myself that question every day of my life. My weight was always my biggest problem. I was a big baby who turned into a bigger kid. As time went by, the scale went up. At the age of 13 I weighed 205 pounds. In high school I wore 54-inch-waist pants'and refused to step on a scale. I was always known as the fat kid. As I got older, I learned to accept obesity. Being thin was only a dream. Each attempt at grasping my dream turned into miserable failure. I felt as though my weight could never be controlled.

During the summer of 2000, my father passed away at the age of 52. Obesity had plagued him his whole life, as it was plaguing me. Was I destined to follow in his footsteps? Out of fear I made an appointment with my doctor. I had avoided the doctor for the longest time, not wanting to hear the truth of my health and not wanting to know my weight. Following through with the appointment, I heard everything I didn't want to hear. At the age of 22 I weighed 315 pounds. Not only was my weight high, but my cholesterol was as well'almost triple the average for my age. I wasn't following in my father's footsteps; I was ahead of him. Again I attempted to lose the weight, with no results.

In October of that year I hit a turning point. Having been big my whole life, I dealt with my weight by not letting it stop me from doing anything'until then. While at an amusement park with my girlfriend, I found out the hard way that roller coasters are not made to fit the extremely overweight. After waiting over two and a half hours to get on one of the rides, I found that I was too big to fit. My girlfriend ended up riding by herself. It was the most embarrassing experience of my life. My weight had stopped me from accompanying her on the ride. As she rode away by herself, my embarrassment turned to anger'anger at my being too big, anger at my letting my weight stop me from being with her. I would no longer accept obesity, and I took on the biggest challenge of my life.

After the holidays in January 2001 I didn't make a New Year's resolution. Resolutions are seldom kept. For me to overcome my lifelong struggle against my weight, I needed a total lifestyle change. I decided to join a local gym. Being big and having never worked out a day in my life made me uncomfortable in the gym atmosphere, so I hid myself on a treadmill and began walking. I walked an hour each morning on an incline at a constant pace, gradually increasing the resistance or speed each day. Along with an hour of cardio I also began eating smart. I started eating five to six small meals a day, one every three to four hours. To do that, I had to be prepared. There are so many unhealthy choices available during a busy day with McDonald's and Taco Bell on nearly every comer. Being prepared made it easier for me to keep on track. Instead of relying on fast food, I began grocery shopping. Items such as chicken and vegetables made their way into my shopping cart.

With the right food at hand I began cooking. My workdays were long, and time was limited. Waking up a half hour early each day, I would plan and prepare my meals. To make things easy, I'd prepare four nearly identical meals, making sure to include one serving of protein, one serving of carbohydrates'either a fruit or a vegetable. Starting my day with a food-filled backpack, I always had a healthy choice available.

The more consistent I was, the better I began to feel. I was working out five days a week and allowing myself one cheat day. The cheat day gave me something to look forward to each week. In the beginning I didn't really weigh myself, not wanting to get discouraged. After three months I finally broke down and weighed in. I was 280. After seeing the results, I couldn't stop. I began working out almost every day, and my one cheat day a week turned into one cheat meal. The more results I saw, the more I pushed myself, wanting to see just how much weight I could lose. I began getting bored with doing just cardio and started experimenting on weight machines. Using the weights brought my workout to the next level. I started with a circuit-type program, hopping from machine to machine, and eventually went on to a traditional three-sets-per-exercise program, never neglecting my hour of cardio. The fat began melting off.

By November 2001 I knew for the first time in my life what it felt like to be thin. In 10 months I'd lost more than 100 pounds. My family and friends asked me if I was sick. My response to them was, 'Yes, sick of being out of shape and sick of being overweight.' I replaced my wardrobe, throwing out or giving away anything too big, vowing to keep the weight off. My dream of being thin had come true as my love for fitness grew. I began studying and reading anything I could get my hands on to teach me new exercises and diet techniques. In July 2002 I put myself to the test by going on a diet, gradually lowering my carbs and calories to lean out and step in front of a camera for an after picture. The day of the pictures I weighed in at 185, 130 pounds less than my starting weight. I'd finally achieved my lifelong dream of being thin.

Having such success with my weight loss has inspired me to try to help others obtain their fitness goals. What better way to do it than hands-on, as a personal trainer? In December 2002 I became an IFPA-certified personal trainer. Training for more than a year and a half now, I've been able to tailor a program based on my successful techniques to motivate others to their own fitness success. The World Gym in Palatine, Illinois, is where I can be found six days a week training, working out or just relaxing, sippin' protein shakes. With fitness, exercise and the desire to help others as my passion, I try to motivate every client to meet all goals, no matter how big or small.

All my life people had told me to lose weight. People can tell you that all they want, but unless you want to do it for yourself, it won't happen. With the right motivation anyone can accomplish his or her weight-loss goals. I am the perfect example, and I have the pictures to prove it. IM

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