By Dave Sturchio
There I stood, looking into a mirror at the local Men’s Warehouse, trying on a tux for my father’s wedding,and I was utterly disgusted with what I saw: a 6’1”, 286-pound sloppy man with not one ounce of what could be considered “muscle.” I was not looking forward tomy dad’s big day, because I was going to be one of the groomsmen, which meant that over 100 members of our family and friends will be there to see what a physical embarrassment I’d become. And this wasn’t the first social event that I was dreading: that entire summer before, I didn’t do anything that would require me to take my shirt off, whether it was a pool party or a trip to the Jersey Shore; I was afraid that people would make fun of me.
My appearance wasn’t the only thing that was alarming. Weeks prior to my episode at Men’s Warehouse, my doctor told me that I was 90 pounds above what was deemed healthy for my height. My cholesterol was dangerously high. I remember thinking,I’m much too young to be having these types of issues.
The anticipation of seeing everyone at my father’s wedding, coupled with the warning that I got from the doctor, made me decide to change my lifestyle and get healthier. This wasn’t the first time I made that decision. I had always intended on starting a diet and exercise regimen. Intended being the operative word. I had never actually gone through with it.
But this time, I was adamant. I realized that if I didn’t change my appearance and my overall weight and body structure, I was not going to live the long, healthy,and successful life that I had envisioned for myself. I heard all the advice about eating less junk and working out, and I’d been turning a deaf ear for far too long.
My father’s wedding day came and went. I survived it – barely. And then I began my life-changing transformation. Exit laziness. Enter the gym.
I joined the local gym and made the immediate investment. I said to myself, “If I’m paying for something, it will force me to go.” Starting off in any gym is intimidating. Being surrounded by oversized monsters slamming around hundreds of pounds of steel plates, someone who looked like I did wouldn’t even want to sit down at a weight bench. But this wasn’t a matter of “want” for me; it was a “need.” I didn’t see it as a choice.
I was advised that going with a friend who was familiar with the “gym life” would make the process easier. So, I asked my friend Tommy to be my unofficial trainer. He accepted, and I was happy to have him on my side, even if his approach wasn’t always pleasant. Tommy wouldn’t just challenge me; he would actually tell me things like “If you can’t lift this, go home” or “If you don’t do another 20 minutes on the treadmill, quit the gym.” He came off like a drill sergeant, but I needed that. Had he come off “soft” towards my approach to the “gym life,” I wouldn’t have made the progress that I made. He pushed me, motivated me, and, sometimes, downright shamed me just to keep me going and headed in the right direction.
My mentality changed shortly after I joined the gym. I didn’t see instant physical results, of course, but I felt different. More importantly, I began to see myself differently. I was proud.
Of course, fitness doesn’t just come from lifting weights and running on the treadmill. Good nutrition is arguably the most important facet to staying fit. I’d say it’s 80% of the battle. Especially for someone like me. Before I stepped into the gym, people called me “Cheese,” a nickname I earned because of my diet, which consisted primarily of three things: dough, sauce, and cheese. Pizza, mozzarella sticks, French fries, fried this, and fried that. And I was consuming these foods without working out, so there wasn’t even a balance in my life. It was a recipe for clogged arteries.
The day I stepped into the gym, my diet changed — dramatically. The junk food stopped (except for an occasional cheat session) and I was introduced to this substance that was foreign to me up until this point: protein. Protein shakes became part of my daily intake for my “calorie count,” which is a fundamental part of any good diet. Measuring what foods you eat keeps you from binging. My gym/nutrition log got very interesting. I improvised healthier ways to prepare meals, so that I can still eat some of the foods I liked. As tough as it was to start a new diet, it got easier as I was starting to feel better about myself. Just like joining the gym, I saw an instant mental improvement before the physical results came in.
When the physical improvementsstarted coming, they were doing so at a rapid rate. With some intense weight training, cardio, and a good diet, my body was feeling the difference. Pounds of fat were coming off, and I began to see some significant gains in muscle mass. Month after month, things were headed in the right direction for me. My confidence was up, and my weight was down.
I eventually lost almost 90 pounds, but I wasn’t feeling good about the “size.” I now stand at a solid 225 lbs., mostly of muscle, and I am currently one of the stars of Pro Wrestling Syndicate! And, just as importantly, I’m now the “Tommy” of my group. I’m the one who encourages people to get in shape. Some of my friends who have followed in my footsteps have lost over 50 lbs.
I can proudly say I transformed my body and my health without the help of any performance enhancing drugs, or any other methods of “cheating.”The unfortunate truth is that people who take shortcuts don’t realize how negatively those drugs affect the human body(or perhaps they don’t care). I am happy to be an example for others, because I did it with hard work and dedication, and with those two elements in play, anything is possible, including breaking into a lifestyle that you probably never saw yourself getting into. All it takes sometimes is a little motivation — like a mirror at a local Men’s Warehouse.