The Diet and Workout That Helped Me Lose 68kg in 7 Months

·4-min read
Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Robert Valencia, 38, from Brooklyn, tells Men's Health how he lost over 150 pounds (68kg) by transforming his diet and developing a passion for fitness.

I was a runner in my late twenties, but then stopped exercising and lost my love for it. I tried to remain active, but bad eating habits began to sneak up on me, and weight gain followed. I joined a gym in my mid-thirties but had no clear idea as to what routines I should be following. I was working out haphazardly while maintaining an unhealthy diet full of carbs and sugar. The tipping point was the pandemic: as people in New York were told to be confined, I was just steps away from a fridge full of sugary treats. Studies have shown that people either gained or lost weight exponentially during the first year of COVID's stay-at-home phase, and I was certainly part of the former.

I've always been comfortable in my own skin, but I have to admit I wasn't happy with the person I was seeing in the mirror. It was getting very difficult to find clothes in my size, and my weight gain also started to negatively affect my health: the soles of my feet were hurting every time I woke up and noticed a thick skin in my soles and acanthosis nigricans around my neck and armpits. I was 37 when I started noticing these changes; I knew it was time to make a change in my health but somehow I was in a state of denial and just carried on going about my life.

It wasn't until a Christmas visit to see family in Miami that I realised I had to do something. My 79-year-old mother put her hand on my belly and said "Promise me you're going to lose weight. I need you to be healthy". It was at that instant that I had to make my mission to see a specialist. Two weeks later, a weight loss doctor informed me that I weighed a staggering 330 pounds. I was completely dumbfounded. His diagnosis also showed that my weight put me on stage-1 hypertension, with almost half of my body covered in visceral and subcutaneous fat, high cholesterol and triglycerides. When he offered the opportunity to embark on a weight loss journey, my answer was a resounding yes.

The first thing I had to do was adjust my nutrition to help my body shed the excess fat. I switched from eating carbs and just focused on a keto-friendly diet and turned that fat into my source of energy. I ate mostly protein, psyllium husk as a source of fiber, vitamin supplements and omega-3. I embarked on 2-hour workout routines that involved mostly low-impact exercises such as spin and yoga (I avoided running at first because I could have compromised my knees and ankles). I eliminated almost 40 pounds in the first month, then 20 the second month, then 27 by June, and so forth. As the months went by I started incorporating other forms of workout like strength training, CrossFit, pilates and HIIT. But of all these routines, running is my absolute favourite.

I lost more than 150 pounds in eight months, reaching my lowest ever weight of 169 pounds. I also lowered my body fat from 50 percent to just 13 percent. I feel amazing, because I feel like I'm expanding my lifespan. On my next visit to Miami, my mother could not believe what she was seeing, and neither did my sister.

A hugely positive part of this experience has been becoming part of a community in New York that enjoys running and remaining healthy. I think for many of us in this city, we decided not to take health for granted much less when New York became the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States. My fiancée has applauded my effort; she was the one who reintroduced me to running, and we are both running NYRR's United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and the Brooklyn Half together!

Photo credit: SouthernTimingFL - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: SouthernTimingFL - Hearst Owned

My next goal is to run the full marathon when I turn 40. I want to be stronger, faster, healthier, and live longer, and to serve as an inspiration to those who want to make a change in their health. Staying healthy, regardless of weight, should be the main goal.

A weight-loss initiative is never just about you; it also creates an impact on those who love you. It is not an easy task to embark on, and there will be plenty of times when you feel like you're not making strides, but the most important thing is to reach the goal no matter how long it takes. I remember watching a dietitian saying that to get to a determined destination, you can either walk, take the train, a plane or a car. It doesn't matter how you get there, the most important thing is to reach that goal. Stay on course!

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