My Story of Illness (And Fitness)
You probably have never heard my story.
Over the last ten years of my life, from my late teens, until now where I’m almost thirty, I reinvented myself pretty dramatically.
In fact, most people who know me today, don’t even know what I was really like before the age of twenty-five.
Today, I want to tell you a little bit about my story—how I got fit despite ongoing digestive problems, how I reinvented literally all aspects of myself, and what I did to make it happen.
I hope this story will inspire you to just go after your own goals no matter how many barriers inevitably show up.
Being Pathetically Skinny My Whole Life
When I was growing up, I was always the skinny kid.
And when I say I was skinny, I mean I was really skinny.
I wasn’t ill or anything – I was just genetically skinny. My mom has been 115 pounds her whole life. She’s always taken very good care of her health, and I was just on the extremely scrawny side. Pencil thin, if you will.
When I was sixteen, I weighed only 112 pounds. That was the heaviest I’d ever been, and I was ecstatic. As a result, I didn’t have very good luck with women. I got bullied a lot, especially in high school, particularly because I was short and skinny, but also because I literally looked twelve years old.
When I was seventeen, a kid came up to me and said, “You look like my 12-year-old sister.” Honestly, I don’t blame him.
Look at my license picture below (age 17):
Yes, I was the prom king, incase you were asking.
I went through puberty really late. Not only was I really underweight, I was also short. When I got my license in the above picture, I was five-foot-five (I’m over 6′ 2″ now).
Without even realizing it, the fact that I was short and skinny already affected a huge percentage of the choices in my life.
For example, I was told that I was a nerd, even though I really wasn’t. In reality, I was actually a natural athlete, who set high jump and sprint records, but I never got into sports once I was in school.
I think one of the reasons for this was because people just “assumed” I was a nerd, and pushed me into the nerd box, which I then believed, and avoided sports.
As a result, I spent a lot of my time in my room at home. I played video games a lot, while most other kids my age were out with their friends, dating, and being “normal.”
My biggest childhood calling was always meditation and spirituality. I don’t know if I was a monk in the past life or what, but my original childhood fascination was anything related to meditation and mysticism.
By the time I was eighteen, I had about 300 books on meditation, medicinal herbs and spirituality. While all the other little boys were dreaming of having girlfriends, my biggest dream was to be apprenticed to a holy man or a sage.
When I was twenty-four, I moved to China to attempt to work towards this dream in a more concrete way. I got a one-way ticket because I thought I was just going to stay there for a long while until I found a master or a sage I could apprentice with.
My Expedition to Look for Wise Men, Reinventing Myself and Fitness
It was a couple years before I moved to China that I started getting into weight lifting.
I hated who I was, I hated that I was skinny and hated being called string bean by my family. But the deeper reason why I hated being scrawny was because, in American culture, we are inclined to see skinny men as unattractive.
Just like how we automatically “assume” that a woman who is overweight is unnattractive, we tend to assume that a man who is under weight and skinny is unnattractive. Otherwise, why would we have all these movies like 300 that cast 200+ pound men in the “hero” role?
Do you see any skinny superheroes who aren’t fit? Do you see fat superheroes? Thin superheroes? Nope.
They’re pretty much the same idealized, male physique that’s roughly the exact same thing.
I guess I didn’t really have very good self-esteem and self-confidence at the time, which is why I hated being skinny so much, and would’ve done virtually anything to change (short of getting surgery or using steroids).
It felt so good to finally see how I was able to transform my body from being really scrawny into something more muscular. Even though it took years longer than I wanted, one of the sweetest feelings of satisfaction came from seeing the looks in other peoples faces at my “transformation.”
My Curse: An Introduction to the Afflication
Around the time when I graduated from college, I started getting these digestive problems where I would feel pain and bloating in my intestines. This was a bit weird and alarming to me, considering that I had been eating right virtually my entire life – I was raised in a healthy, “organic” household and exercised.
But in my 20s, this digestive problem got worse. I tried all kinds of things, from being vegetarian, to ten different kinds of probiotics, and more. Nothing worked.
When things would get really bad for me with my digestion, I wouldn’t go to the bathroom for a few days.
If you ever haven’t gone to the bathroom for a few days, and you can imagine how grumpy you were, how bad you slept, how much it affected your daily life and mood, then you can imagine my life dealing with this every day for years.
One time, I went to Thailand with my girlfriend for a couple weeks. We had booked a full day of island hopping, going from island to island in a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, during this full day of island hopping, I felt uneasy instead of excited. The problem was I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in five or six days. I felt like death.
I felt so bad that I told my girlfriend “I’m not getting on the freaking boat until I poo.” I hate to be graphic, but it was that bad. It affected my daily mood on another level.
And yet, despite this, I was eating right every day, exercising the recommended 3-5x a week, not eating junk food, and took good care of myself.
Why I’m Sharing All This
The reason why I bring this up is because I feel almost a little bit guilty that I have been working out for over 10 years and still don’t have my dream body.
Yes, I look good, and I’m not going to be crying about that. But my goal is to weigh 180 pounds with my same level of body fat.
For me, it was a very long process of trying out alternatives to see how I could get myself better – before I could get my own dream body (or close to it).
I had been eating healthy for over 10 years, and despite that, during many of those years I saw no progress in regard to my fitness level or appearance. Yet, I kept going because I knew that I wanted to be a success story so that I could show other people that it was possible.
Of course, there are going to be people who are going to have excuses why they can’t have the same results. That’s fine. I’m not trying to fix those people or show them anything.
I just wanted to share this a little bit with you because, number one, it frustrates me. Every single day I’m wondering why couldn’t I have gotten there faster or what should I have been doing differently?
The fact is that I did a lot right, but I also did a lot wrong.
And despite that, I took me way longer to reach my goal than expected – and I want you to know this.
I want to show you that there are a ton of roadblocks that are going to come up in your own journey. There are plenty of things that are going to come up that you could never have predicted in a million years.
You Can Never Predict Your Story At the Outset – Only Later
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Soren Kierkegaard
I did not know that when I moved back from China, I would be so depressed that I would sit down at dinner with my parents and tell them I hated my life.
I did not predict that my closest friend would commit suicide around this time two years ago. I didn’t foresee that, on the other side of the spectrum, I would fall in love when I was 25 with the girl I’m dating now – regardless of where it may go in the future.
I didn’t know I was going to be studying to be a doctor of Chinese medicine, or that I would be finishing two full-length books before I was 30. I didn’t know any of that.
There are so many awful – and good – things that come up as bumps in your path, that you can never predict.
What you can expect is that there will always be challenges. There are going to be a hell of a lot of walls you’ve got to climb over.
And the reason I’m here now is because I kept going. Even though I didn’t know if I would reach those goals (many of them took much longer than I wanted or than I hoped), the fact is that I kept going. That’s why things have worked so well so far, and I’m really just getting started.
What about you?
Are you just getting started on your path to creating that ideal health, body and life?
What is the biggest limitation standing between you, where you are now, and where you want to be?
Images: man with cameras (picjumbo)
I really likes this post and your vulnerability about your story! For me now i am 23 and really burning inside because my health is a mess and i live with my dad now that’s really not supportive and has totally other value’s as me. For me i value healthy food alot and i want to get further in this but my dad is against this whole healthy stuff..
What an amazing story. The fact that you’re not even 30 yet is even more amazing. I am 62 and I feel like I’m just getting started on my path to creating that ideal body, health and life. I think my biggest limitation is that I don’t believe in myself, that I have the grit to do what it takes, no matter how long it takes to achieve my goal. I think my other limitation is the negative narrative that keeps running through my brain. Yes, I am reading your book and I am halfway through. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. All that you have learned and gone through is helping me as I too, go forward on my journey. I can’t possibly imagine what you will be like at my age!