Adam Buckholtz, a Fitness Consultant at G&G Fitness Equipment's Rochester, NY showroom, has an exceptional weight loss story. We asked Adam to share his thoughts and experience about how even a fitness professional can struggle with their own health and fitness.
Let’s start with before you started this journey. Think back to what life was like. How did you feel? How did you perceive the world around you? Think back to the moment you made the decision. What was the catalyst that made you want to change? Was it a gradual, or sudden?
I have struggled with my weight since I was young.
Being a son of a coach and physical education teacher was not easy. My father had health concerns; he was an ex-smoker and his stressful lifestyle led to his early passing at 58 years old. Through my youth I was an athlete out of necessity. Participation in sports was never an easy journey. What I lacked in natural athletic talent, I made for in pure determination, will and natural strength. I found out as a teen that I performed well lifting weights and had natural flexibility, which why wrestling felt like the most comfortable sport or physical activity.
During my early 20’s, I suffered some major injury setbacks including two ACL and an MCL repair on my knees, along with a partial torn AC joint in my right shoulder (which eventually became a full tear and replacement), a herniation of L5/S1 in my spine, and a torn left bicep. I earned frequent flyer miles at the orthopedic department.
I was 26 when my dad died, and it profoundly change my life. I previously took the American College of Sport Medicine Program to help him on the football coaching side, but never seriously considered it to be a career path.
After his death, that would change. I began to see functional fitness as a form of survival from and prevention of cardiovascular disease, but not without its challenges. I knew I needed to overcome risk factors I had inherited. My strength led to a career in Highland Games, and I power-lifted my way through my Late twenties up into my late thirties.
As a trainer, I always had the appeal of being the regular guy, the one who didn't have have six pack abs. I struggled just like my clients. I had that connection with them. My story is one I hear often from my clients: You fall in love with a girl, who eventually becomes your wife. You struggle to have children and are blessed with two. You start to make excuses. You're getting older and becoming complacent. You never thought it was possible...
Then, you wake up one day at 327 pounds.
You ask yourself how you can look your clients in the eye when you are this big. All the knowledge was there, but not necessarily the ambition to make it happen. I was no longer a power-lifter, but I was still trying to eat like one. A lot of high-level athletes go through the same thing when they stop competing. So, I challenged myself to win the biggest trophy possible. A trophy called life. l knew it would be the hardest challenge I had ever committed to, and there would be no shortcuts.
Once you committed to taking control of your fitness, what were some of the biggest challenges?
I think the biggest obstacle was my complacency and lack of discipline. When you finally have that perfect person in your life, and you’re blessed with such a beautiful family, it's natural that everything else would take a backseat; at least that’s what I told myself. Being big had its price over the years. As a trainer, I developed a good clientele base. They were always amazed at how I could keep up with their cardio and push them. I reminded them that I struggled with weight, and I understood their perspective and the challenges that they saw in their own lives.
How could I hit 327 pounds?
After all, I was an athlete! I work in the fitness industry! I was a competitive power lifter!
In 2011, at the age of 40, I might’ve been at the lowest point I’ve ever felt, from both a physical and mental stance. I enjoy my role at G&G Fitness Equipment, and I am committed to give my clients the best, attentive service possible. During G&G's busy season in the winter of 2011, I could see my lifestyle beginning to mirror my father’s. My unattainable standard of perfection was causing stress to consume me.
I'll never forget the time I put my back out while changing my 6 month old son. I have to be honest . . . it actually scared me for the first time in my life. I was forced to recognize that my health was in danger. I was not the man I wanted to be. My wife had to take care of two people.
At the beginning, it started with simple walks with my son in the stroller. I lost 35 pounds in three months. Then, I started adding one of the interval training routines I commonly suggested to my clients. I eventually dropped into the 280’s. By February 2014, I brought my weight down to the 240’s.
I felt like a success!
But, life has a way of humbling you very quickly.
That month I had purchased concert tickets for my wife and I. We were about to cross "Seeing Billy Joel in concert." off my wife's bucket list. We went to the concert with two of my clients, a husband and wife who are a doctor and a nurse, respectively. Even though I had developed a sinus infection before we went and I was miserable, I was not going to be the reason we missed the show.
At about 8 PM, I am told, I passed out and was taken to the emergency room. I awoke to a doctor standing over me, who asked, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
The good news was that I had walking pneumonia.
The bad news was that my blood glucose was over 300.
I had become a full-blown type two diabetic, echoing my father's medical struggles. After meeting with my primary physician, it was confirmed, and right then and there, I knew I had to do something. I was not going to go out this way. I thought, "What can I do to fix my blood sugar?"
I decided to take a second look at nutrition. I researched the Paleo diet style of eating, and it seemed like it could help me achieve all the things that seem to be plaguing me and other people with diabetes.
Throughout this time, my career led me to become involved with the CrossFit community and running groups. This connection kept me focused on my goals. Not just the focus on my fitness goals, but also the drive to be better every day. This new outlook helped me strive to be a better husband, father, salesman and trainer.
But, as I said, life has a way of humbling you.
In 2016, shortly after the birth of our second child, I found myself back in the 250-pound range. I called this a stumble; I never fully went back to the excuses or bad habits that I had commonly practiced previously. I still had not learned how to manage work events and the sleepless nights of parenthood. These were to be my next obstacles I had to overcome. I finally recognized that I was creating my own merry-go-round.
In July 2018, even though I felt in good shape - and relatively much better than ever - I still had chronic joint issues and digestive problems. I was eating kale, spinach, fresh vegetables, fruits, (low glycemic index) and absolutely no grains whatsoever. My results led me to wonder if what I had been doing for the past four years might not be the right choice for me. Concerned, I made an appointment with my primary physician, who was also fitness enthusiast. (Side note: I highly recommend this type of practitioner if you can find one). My lab results came back, and my hemoglobin A-1 C was 8.9. I was in a very dangerous zone again.
I asked myself how this was even possible. I had been on a strict no-carb, low glycemic, veggie-based, keto friendly, lean meat diet. My workouts had been the best they had been in years.
As I think back to when I started taking control of my health, the way I faced my biggest challenges can be broken down into three phases:
Stop making excuses for taking time to exercise at the level I need.
Stop looking for excuses for nutritional and stress related problems.
Take extreme ownership of all aspects of my life.
It would take seven years until my journey got to where I needed to be.
It’s mental just as much as it is physical. How did your psychology change? With your home life, your job, your hobbies, etc.
It is just as mental as it is physical, but the physical will absolutely help the mental!
I think the first mistake everyone makes is how we look at stress and how we can reduce or avoid it. I have personally known people who have survived stage four cancer or lost a child. They say they have become broken, but they have now become stronger than before. What you find out is that these challenging experiences push people further than they could have possibly gone before.
So what we call stress, or what I call suffering, is a natural process of human evolutionary survival and it serves to make us stronger and better over time. It allows us to re-engage in our lives on a deeper level and with a different attitude, equipping us to face the next challenge.
When we choose to stop embracing our struggles, we become complacent and lose our drive to be better. According to former Navy SEAL and motivator, Jocko Willink - whose voice plays in my earbuds – “Discipline equals freedom! The freedom to move the way you want. Freedom to eat healthy and to be financially free to achieve long term success. It is a discipline mindset that creates the freedom to achieve the goals you want." I might be tired or find myself not in a good place, so I have learned how to use those situations in my drive to get after it. Reminding yourself to give no slack, no retreat and move forward every day.
This is how I reinforced my good habits at home with my wife and kids, or on the job where I can share these teaching moments; take every opportunity to use the word good and you will be better.
If I could only get 20-minute walk in the morning, I say, “Good! I have the energy to get more kettlebell swing’s in today!” Jocko would say, “Take every bad situation and end it with word good.”
That is where my mindset is today.
Why does this new lifestyle work? And how does it work? Take us through your diet and exercise details. And what is the science behind it? Are there any negatives associated with it?
First, it is important to say I have 23 years as a certified trainer and motivational coach. I’m not a doctor or a clinical dietitian. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise program. My opinions do not reflect those of G&G Fitness Equipment, it's owner, employees or management.
The information I’m sharing with you has been gathered and passed along to me by various sources and medical professionals with decades of medical knowledge. From specialists in endocrinology, nutritionists, cardiologists, genetics and exercise scientists. I have collected years of data research papers on my quest to better serve my clients and myself.
We are in the age of the largest amount of metabolic diseases, chronic pain, and autoimmune disorders, perpetrated by a recommended western diet. Driven by Ansel Keyes’s seven nation study on how low-fat, high fiber grain diet fueled a glucose epidemic. The problem we have achieved is overproduction of foods in the food chain that are genetically grown in the largest volumes for yield. Yes, we have been able to limit or decrease the amount of starvation around the world, but at what cost? Is the population truly healthier; at the same time does this diet match the genetic needs or are they causing a host of other issues disrupting natural glucose process in the body system, such as non-fatty liver disease. Nutritionists and scientists should look at macro foods from DNA perspectives as we are doing with medicine, along with a deeper study of historical and geographical settings
Dr. Earn Segal and Dr. Elinavs of the Weismann Institute of Science have found some incredible results by creating algorithms that track post-meal glucose levels. They have sighted certain determination of DNA factors as a baseline. The four being regional nutrition, micro biome, lifestyle and individuals’ genetics.
It’s basic, primal and simple to maintain.
What I’m learning is the importance of individualization on the basis of dominant genetics. Our ancestral history could hold the key to understanding and unlocking the most effective means, providing us with a road map to tailoring the most effective outcomes in one’s personal nutrition. My body is 10,000 years in the making; for example, my mother is Italian, and Polynesian and my father is German and Scottish. After taking a DNA test, I am 68% Germanic and Scandinavian. Now this is where historical importance takes place for nutrition. I am dominantly Northern European, which means my foods historically have been fatty meats, fish, fruits, nuts and very little plant base. The studies by the likes of Dr. Ken Barry, Dr. Sean Baker, endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lusting and a host of many others reflect the results of years of researching the shortcomings of a Western diet.
SOURCE: RobertLusting.com (Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology University of California San Francisco). Ken Berry MD. FAAFP. Author of the Lies my Doctor told me.
Through a friend in Pittsburgh, who is also a former powerlifter and also has Type-Two Diabetes, I discovered a way to learn and take control of my own metabolic issues.
I attended a seminar hosted by Dr. Sean Baker and other exercise science physiologists on primal eating and training, what was known as a carnivore or purely Animal-based and water consumption protocol. I decided to apply my own research in an evolutionary program known as the elimination diet to see what issues I might personally be able to fix. I quickly found that many of the green leafy vegetables were not as healthy for me personally; in fact, it seemed they could be downright toxic to my genetic make-up. This led me to believe that the body’s survival nutrition is based three components: essential amino acids, fatty acids and water. I began to consider all other forms as known stressors or non-essential. Although they can be beneficial foods for the immune system, they play a lesser role in one’s personal health.
With this newfound information in common reasoning, I developed a program which I called RX4LIFE: a plan for a lifestyle incorporating Paleo, Keto and Carnivore tailored to an individual and their health outcomes. I have a label: this is Primal Eating. In my case, I decided to skip past the Keto diet and dive right to an easy to follow Carnivore diet program. The main reason for this was that I suffered from both metabolic disorders and autoimmune issues.
What happened? I participated in lab tests every 90 days to gather proof of these theories. The data showed the tremendous positive results. I have been 90% Carnivore for eight months.
My lab tests also proved some things I could have never imagined.
- I have lost 58 pounds. I’m currently at a body weight of 209 pounds.
- My mental clarity, awareness, sleep patterns and hormonal balance are at the highest levels they have ever been.
- Triglycerides went from 179 to 50
- Hemoglobin A-1 C went from 8.92 to 5.6.
In the first six months:
- My C-reactive protein levels, which are determinations for inflammation in the body, went from a 5 to a 1.
- My resting heart rate went from 79 to 52.
- My blood pressure dropped to a staggering 104/60 from 140/96.
Now that I’ve explained my nutrition, let’s look at how I changed and began my approach with exercise routines. Since I had the blueprint for how I was going to eat, I needed to focus on how I would train to make my body. Not only that, but I also wanted to see how I would feel on a more protein-based fat diet!
I wanted to look at how efficient you could be with exercise; specifically, an approach that any person would be able to use to accomplish their goals on a progressive level. I won’t kid you - it’s not easy, but it works. Once you push through the beginning, it becomes enjoyable, and the more you push at it the better you feel!
Most people approach exercise from two angles: cardio and strength training.
We tend to engage in a lot of front to back motion while seated. We do this with a routine set of reps and weights, hoping achieve our goals. This might be good for a starting point, but it is not the most efficient for the long-term. Since we looked at the historical nutrition, let’s look at the historical physiology of the human.
We are built to walk great distances, over a variety of terrain, in all sorts of conditions. I’ve run in the past, but after a short time, my body would start to breakdown. I was more likely to be injured under higher impact repetitive motions. What started out as creating a baseline for better cardio without the high impact on my joints ended up with what I found to be the most efficient form for burning fat, weight loss and overall general fitness.
I would get up at 4:15 am to walk 3-5 miles, incorporating a few 40 m sprints into the walk. It would then go to 6-8 miles with 12 sets of sprints intermittently being added in to my distance walking program. What I found was that my body kept recovering quicker and I my joints became more stable over time.
I’m not knocking running, but if you’re looking to reduce body weight and keep your lean muscle the sweet zone, what worked best for me was about 68 to 72% of your maximum heart rate for a long duration (which also is done through elevation versus speed and can be accomplished fairly easily), then switching to 90 to 95% max heart rate for very short periods. This mimics our natural fight and flight reaction to the body. In short, you have to overcome forcing your resting heart rate to naturally lower over time with a more intense physiological response.
Think of it this way, 10,000 years ago we’d have to cross long distances to find food and shelter and humans were either hunting for food or being hunted by predators. Later in the program, I will also explain intermittent fasting later, but it is part of the final approach.
Long journeys with quick, explosive responses are a genetic survival tool built into our DNA.
It may sound extreme, but I can’t think of a better word or term than survival when you’re staring down health issues like metabolic disorders or autoimmune issues! We must try to go a little bit longer move a little faster all the time in order for the body to begin using the DNA on a cellular level. This has become a term which has been called general primal preparedness. When you start adding in body squats, & push-ups, or modified push-ups into your long walks and intermittent sprinting, you unlock your own natural resources to heal your body.
The next phase was weight training and transverse plane of motion (TPM) exercises.
I still believe that the body benefits from a pushing weight around but let’s go back to the term efficient. What are the most efficient, prolific and powerful movements? They are dynamic, rotational, and explosive.
By moving in rotation (safely) under high levels of stress, I created great overloads to my muscles stabilizers - the supports of your joints and the core of your posterior chain. I focused on engaging the lower abdominal muscles, shoulder joints, knee joints, and ankle joints - to name just a few.
How do we get the body out of its habit of single dimensional movement? We must randomly shock the system. For at least 15 years, the term functional training has all we've heard. While I do believe functional movement is an important part of all people’s workouts, I think it’s a little overused and too routine.
My goal was to add randomness to functional exercise.
Combative athletes and obstacle course racers seem to represent the modern version of primal training. This type of training is called Variable Intermittent Exercise Training (VIET). This method takes the motion of TPM and applies it to overloads of random exercises, resulting in a workout using 7 to 16 minutes of exercise at a very high-level.
The best way I can explain this is if you took 26 cards of a 52-card deck with random exercises and movements on each card. These exercises should be both rotational and functional. Each one of the movement cards could be carried in your gym pocket or workout gear during a walk, outside or indoors on your treadmill.
If you'd like to try this, start with four cards which represent your exercises. Do them at 90% of your own personal capacity throughout a long duration walk and add cards until you make two complete sets: one for outside work and one for inside work. The best outcome is always to shuffle and never cheat, to create true randomness. You never know what’s going to come next. This VIET program has helped me immensely. It pushes me not only to get in better shape, but to work on my focus and clarity for hours afterwards; like the brain just got a huge injection of unbelievable oxygen. This program mirrors the humans primal experience - of what we might have encountered daily. I've come to believe that our body yearns for this type of physical activity. Advances in technology and convenience have caused us to live a sedentary lifestyle. Modern day humans seem to lack the physical and mental stimulation that our bodies need.
Are there any negative side effects? Only if you consider discipline as a negative. Without these changes, I would’ve found myself still on that merry-go-round of life and things wouldn't have changed. I’m a practical guy, I know life is always going to throw curve balls and we'll all face challenges. It’s how we adapt and overcome that will make the difference.
I go back to my friend, Jocko Willink: “Discipline equals freedom." I am happy to have the freedom to have my body move the way I want it to. To have the freedom to be the husband and father that my family deserves.
Personally, getting up at 4:30 am works. It is my time to get after it. If I don’t get another workout in that day, or something randomly takes me off my plan, I don’t sweat it. That time in the morning is my baseline. It’s the most important part of my day. I create new variables, so I don’t get frustrated, overwhelmed or down and out. I remember to apply the word “good” to any situation and get back on task with the same enthusiasm. And I look forward to what the day will challenge me with!
My personal sample:
Nutritional DNA prescription:
5-10% paleo (plant adaptive population)
20-30% Keto (Fat Adaptive Population)
60-75% Carnivore (Meat Adaptive Population)
Exercise with Function stressors:
(Primal) General Primal preparedness. The most basic and optimal training program based on natural human physiology. Comprised of long duration or distances walking with intermittent sprinting, along with body weight metabolic conditioning. This program can be used from youth to the elderly population. Should be used as the base of all programs.
(TPM)Transverse Plane Movement
Explosive combative strength core rotation exercises. To produce life surviving specific movement in the demand of functional situations
(VIET)Variable Intermittent Exercise Training
The vehicle delivery system to implement TPM in a random manner. The goal is to overcome weakness of routines and the body’s ability to become complacent. This simulates unknown situations. 7-16 min in duration the highest level the body can output.
Functional Fitness Training
A general routine using traditional tool of exercise equipment to achieve everyday real-life based movements. Modeled in more regimental sets and reps. Focused on limiting of Sagittal forward and backward movement. With an emphasis of core dynamic and muscle stabilizer recruitment.
Self-preservation and longevity.
The ability to save one’s life
The ability to save another’s life.
How do you feel today? Are you slowing down, pushing harder? What were your goals before you started, and how have your goals changed since? How does your initial expectations match with your results? What are your goals today?
I feel incredible! It feels almost superhuman when you spend so many years not feeling great. I just can’t believe that I accepted my former life style as "normal". Am I Slowing down? That’s a negative! I’m pushing harder, training, moving faster and eating cleaner. I’m truly listening to my body. I can’t believe how it’s reacting, and that surprise is part of the fun. You don’t have to be perfect; you just need to be disciplined while learning to adapt and evolve. I’m reading more and finding time to do the things that I used to make excuses for, or just plain avoid.
The best part is that it is making an impact on my two boys and wife. I can truly now be present mentally and physically for them all. I’m not trying to seem sexist, but I believe that men especially need a healthy dose of struggle. Not giving up is the foundation for human survival. This could be reflected in all aspects of life: relationships, work, overall health.
I finally started to figure out how to manage everything and find balance for my life. Now I can do it without compromise. I said if I could get down to 225 pounds, be off meds and move better, I would be truly happy. I was right. And, as a bonus, I gained the ability to have extreme ownership and discipline over everything I do in my life.
As a trainer, I’ve always been Mr. Super Positive; so much so, there wasn't much positive energy left for myself! That has changed. I have learned to create an endless stream of positive energy. Not that I don't have doubts, fears or challenges, but I've found a system that has given me the ability to replace that negative thinking with the sort of powerful, uplifting energy that flows through my entire spectrum of life.
What's your advice for people just starting out?
When you think you’re going to fail, get after it! Whatever it is, treat it like the most important task you’ll ever do. Sometimes it takes becoming broken to push beyond your comfort zone towards healing. Set reasonable goals, but don’t give yourself a limit. Make small achievable and attainable goals that make you keep moving forward to the next milestone.
Anything else you would like to add?
My experience has exceeded my imagination. My journey started as a way to manage unexplained sugar levels and stress. It turned into this trainer’s ultimate research project and lifestyle upgrade. It helped me bring to life a brand new concept for health and a priceless set of motivational tools that i can share with other people who are going through similar struggles. My goal today is to keep the journey going and share what I have learned through my new venture: RX4LIFE. It is my hope that RX4LIFE grows and becomes accessible to people who will embrace this lifestyle and celebrate its rewards.
For me, my mantra, “through faith, family, fitness and fortitude” has become my prescription for life. I want people to know that they can achieve anything. If I can do it, so can you.
How's this for a before and after weight loss photo?
Well done, Adam.
If you're looking for a fitness equipment consultant who walks the walk, email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For diet and exercise tips, along with information about RX4LIFE, contact me by email at email@example.com.