"Being healthy isn’t something you should be proud of, it should just be something you strive for."
Who: Ben Pobjoy
Occupation: Creative director
By The Numbers: 248.8 pounds at my heaviest, currently 151.2 pounds, for a total weight loss of 97.6 pounds.
The Weight Gain: I was thin as a young child, but got pudgy closer to the age of 10 when I started to spend less time outside and more time playing video games. I shed my cherub look through a growth spurt associated with puberty in my early teens, and was fit and active in my mid-to-late teens as a competitive cross-country runner in high school, supplemented by working labour jobs each summer.
I started to gain weight in my early 20s, specifically in the latter half of university, mostly because I hated my university experience and was depressive (and ate for comfort). Upon graduation, I dove into work and was successful sitting at a computer by day and being indulgent by night. Fast forward a decade later, and I was looking like a white Rick Ross and nothing like my teen self.
Final Straw: In 2014, I was relocated to Toronto to start a new job with a marketing company called Behaviour. Within about eight seconds of starting that job, I realized I was the ‘unhealthy guy’ in the office — crushing tons of cola daily, always eating take out in the office, etc. But, I was gobsmacked by how healthy my colleagues were: runners, gym rats, clean eaters, etc. At first I thought they were all boring nerds, but the millennials I worked with were crazily disciplined and health-minded. It ended up being really inspiring, and being surrounded by it affected me.
A lot of things converged all at once; a new job, meeting new clients and having to make a lot of first impressions, living in a new city and it being a new year (2015). But I heard biomechanist Katy Bowman on Joe Rogan’s podcast and it was a game changer. Her eloquent argument for the importance of movement struck a chord with me, and inspired me to start moving.
The Plan of Attack: Initially, it was just by integrating a bit of movement into my life. First, it was an hour of walking each day (30-minute walk to work, then a 30-minute walk home), and when I began to move more, I began to eat better. With more energy from nutritious, whole, plant-based food, I then began to walk in the evenings and would ‘pool’ errands for big weekend walks.
Then things snowballed in a good way. As I got more fit and more curious about what I could physically do, I started swimming a couple of times a week, and within a few months, I was swimming five days a week; 2 km each one hour session and a 4 km non-stop endurance swim on Saturdays during a two-hour session. Before I knew it, I was walking 100km to 120km a week, then back in the gym boxing.
I lost almost 100 pounds in nine months. Beyond eating well and moving, I was using apps to track what I ate and the distances I walked. I watched my diet get cleaner and my distances increase, and analyzing that data gave me proof that my inputs were affecting my output in a positive way.
Furthermore, I’d snap a shirtless photo of myself each month (which was worrying at the start), and when I compared the monthly photos, I couldn’t believe the progress.
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The Exercise Factor: Originally, I was just walking everywhere. It’s free, easy and you can do it any time of the day. But as I began to drop weight, I wanted to get leaner, so I joined a public pool and began swimming. It was really affordable — like $2 a session — and I cannot express how transformative swimming was: it really helped me shed weight and build definition, and (like walking), it was light on the body.
I later joined a boxing gym (there three to five nights a week), but this was a reward. I love boxing, so I made myself earn being back in a boxing gym because I refused to step back into a boxing gym without first being in decent shape to properly train.
The founder and president of my company was a HUGE champion of my health pursuit, and generously gifted me sessions with a professional striking coach and trainer named Jorge Blanco when he felt I was deserving of it. Blanco has been incredible and taught me about fitness, movement, breathing techniques and proper boxing techniques.
These days I walk every day, and walk about 100 to 120 km a week. I box no less than four times a week. When I have aches and pains or problems reaching goals, I hit a sensory deprivation tank to soak in the 900 pounds of Epsom salt-infused water and visualize the achievement of my goals.
The Food Element: The hilarious thing is that I always loved healthy food. The problem was, I just loved eating way too much of it through massive portions (as well as junk food) and washing both down with ridiculous amounts of soda.
There are some things I did ramp up eating though: fermented foods to improve my gut culture, seeds and nuts like walnuts, Brazil nuts and hemp hearts to get omegas and selenium, and nootropics to fire-up my brain.
I gave up everything bad: chips, soda, fries, cake-y things, white bread, pasta, etc. Occasionally, I’ll eat some ‘bad’ stuff now and then… but I had to cut this out, then learn to treat ‘treats’ like treats, not something you deserve every day.
The hardest adjustment was fighting myself and my bad habits. Learning to be self-disciplined was hard but hugely rewarding. Previously I ate until I was stuffed, so I had to re-condition myself to understand what being healthily full felt like.
I also hired Danielle Levy as a nutritionist, and her knowledge and teachings supercharged my diet to a great place.
The Current Day-to-Day: Since fall has arrived, I’ve tried to walk more in the evening, and hand out sandwiches to hungry people in need on the streets. Exercising is often kind of selfish — it only benefits you. So, I’ve tried to turn my physical movement into social movement by using it as a means to help out less fortunate people in my community. My daily goal is to give out as many sandwiches as kilometres I walk in a day — I’m calling it #MoveBeyondYou and am calling on other athletes who share the streets to pitch in with me.
Being healthy isn’t something you should be proud of, it should just be something you strive for. If anything, looking back makes me feel embarrassed because I can’t believe how I just let myself go.
You can get healthy. But, you can only do so when you arrive to a place where you want to get healthy. It’s never too late, you’re never too old, you don’t need fancy gear; you just need to get moving and be thoughtful about what you eat.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get fit. It takes hard work, sacrifice and dedication. If there was a magic pill that worked, we’d all know about it. If there was one type of fitness that worked, we’d all be doing it. You have to find what works for you, and then you have stick to it. And, you have to stick to it and be patient because results take time.
That said, I encourage everyone to discover podcasts and go for a walk; you’ll get your heart rate up and enrich your brain.
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