I first got in touch with Benny in January, after our initial pre-launch. During our conversations I’ve learned more and more about his story with fitness, and he’s now one of my personal fitness heroes.
Benny had a history of obesity, bad habits and a sedentary lifestyle. He completely transformed himself by eating better, working out at home and never giving up.
In a year and a half he went from 109 Kg (240 lbs) to 63 Kg (138 lbs). Like many others, he was able to do this without a gym and without running.
He’s been an huge inspiration for me about the ability we have to change and reinvent ourselves. Today I’d like to share his story with you.
Meet our new hero
Benny is a 27 years old MSc student from Lisbon. He loves to travel and learn about new cultures, while kicking ass with his programming skills to create apps that can make people a little happier.
During his twenties, his health had been worse and worse, and he finally had the courage to go ahead and start changing it – one step at the time.
Here’s the little interview I had with him.
A death sentence and hope
Pablo: Benny, you have an impressive story of overcoming bad habits. Tell us all about it!
Benny: When I was 23 years old, I was on a path of self destruction: I was morbidly obese and had low self-esteem. I felt like I had given up on life… which is quite sad, at such a young age.
I would overeat all the wrong things and kept hoping that it would somehow get better. I was always tired and needed to sleep all the time. Things were only getting worse over time.
That year was a turning point for me. Because of my asthma problems, my nose had clogged up. I was so depressed that I couldn’t care less.
Benny after his surgery
It was at my doctor’s office where I basically received my death sentence: In his blunt words, I was just months away from being buried unless I cleaned my act and started taking care of myself. I still remember sitting across him like it was yesterday.
He fixed my nose and made me promise that after the procedure, I would make a change for the better.
My doctor’s ultimatum was an eye-opener. It made me realize I have so much to offer, and made me push myself hard to achieve a better health and lifestyle.
4 years have passed and I can honestly say that I’ve won the battle! :) Nevertheless, the journey isn’t over and I’m always looking for ways to keep improving.
First steps: Defining a plan of action
Benny: As soon as I decided to clean my act, I got scared because honestly I didn’t know where to start.
Browsing the internet wasn’t helping because I couldn’t find a solution that would fit my needs, and the professional help that I was getting was very strict and not suited for a fragile state that I was in after the surgery.
The idea of going to a gym and be stared at was just dreadful, and apps like 8fit didn’t exist yet.
Despite it all, I made my own rules that would suit my needs. Soon I started losing 2.5 Kg (5.5 lbs) per month.
Benny: I made up my own simple but very effective dieting rules:
- No fast food, sweets or fries. These had been my weaknesses before.
- I massively increased the vegetables in my diet.
- I followed the “rainbow rule”: fill your plate with as many colors as possible.
I used to think vegetables were yucky and had no flavor – little did I know back then!
My biggest problem was always know what to eat, especially the portion sizes, so I took some nutrition appointments to get educated.
These simple steps allowed me to start losing weight, and that boosted my motivation: change was possible!
Healthy habits, like the rainbow rule
I didn’t follow a specific program and I had no “forbidden” foods. In fact, I kept a few cheat meals :P
As my new nutrition plan evolved I no longer felt the “need” to eat certain foods, especially sweets. I simply had no cravings for bad food.
Nowadays, in my kitchen you’ll find lean meats, fish and healthy veggies. At first I chose them because they’re good for you, but now I genuinely enjoy them!
Meat, fish and veggies
When eating out, I’m never afraid to ask for replacements. If you explain your situation to your waiter, they’ll be happy to help you by switching fries for salad, or whatever you need.
In sum, I didn’t starve, and the whole dieting process became easier after a few weeks. If you’re just getting started, find a meal plan to follow and stick to it for a a week or two. It will be worth it.
Exercise as a game
Benny: Now this might sound funny, but it’s exactly the way it happened.
Back in the day I dreaded the moment that I had to make just a simple stretch because it was just too tiring, so yeah, I hated the idea of working out.
What I loved to do however (and I still do :P) was to play video-games. Yes, I’m a hardcore gamer and proud of it! So, can you guess how I managed to exercise? Yep: I start playing exercise games.
I “played” those exercise games that most of us think that are just a gimmick. They aren’t, in fact, if you follow them strictly, you would be surprised on how much they can kick your ass in just one session. Since I didn’t want to go to a gym, it was the next best thing for me, and it worked great as my first steps.
At the time I didn’t feel comfortable at the gym or playing sports, so I exercised at home with body-weight routines. It may sound a bit odd, but I trained with those exercise-oriented video games and little by little it helped me lose another couple of pounds. Later I added more intensity with treadmill running, cycling and and even rowing.
Benny fueled his progress by doing bodyweight workouts at home
Back then there were no all-in-one solutions like 8fit, so I simply followed my own “personalized” plans.
Sticking to them throughout a year and a half I lost 45 Kg (100 lbs), going from 110kg to 63kg. I obtained visible results without having to go to a gym, run for hours or lift a ton of weights.
Nowadays I feel much better with myself and have much more energy to do my daily routine, and I keep looking forward to my next achievement!
What did your progress look like?
Benny: During a year and a half I lost 45 Kg (100 lbs). It may seem a lot of weight, but it’s precisely the way it happened. All I had to do is follow the workout and diet rules I mentioned.
After the first month I didn’t feel “bloated” anymore, thanks to the diet changes.
Then, at a slow but steady pace, I kept losing weight and gaining a lot more energy. Each small step into weight loss kept me motivated to keep doing what I was doing. Eventually the results really added up!
I was losing about 2.5 Kg (5.5 lbs) per month. My progress was linear, and I would simply feel and look better week after week until I reached my goal.
Benny's progress pictures during his transformation
## Setting fitness goals
Pablo: It’s funny to consider that you became your own personal trainer.
Benny: Definitely! My journey has always been defined by step-by-step goals:
- Lower my body fat,
- Increase my overall strength or endurance,
- Or a combination of both!
I always planned for the next achievable goal, starting from the post-op situation I started with. As I got better, I decided to “step it up a notch” and set a next set of goals.
Since at the time I didn’t have 8fit, I would search the web for workouts to achieve my goals for each phase. Things are easier now!
Today, 8fit helps you preview your next weight goals
Dealing with hunger and cravings
Benny: When I first saw my meal portions shrinking, I struggled to not go back into the kitchen and have another meal right away. All this made me quite moody, as my family and friends could tell you.
We often use food as a coping mechanism for stress, and the best advice I can give you is to keep your mind busy with other activities: get a hobby, go for a walk, focus on other things. Little by little you’ll stop missing those foods you’ve always loved.
Oh, and by the way, due to your changes in nutrition, your body can also get moody and you might feel like you have less energy than before. The 8fit blog has excellent articles about why that happens and how it’s perfectly normal.
Personally (and as it happened to me) I didn’t allow any cravings and or cheat meals until I had fully reprogrammed my mind. Honestly, it is possible to make that change if you choose the foods that’ll keep you satisfied for longer, like a nice dish of meat, eggs and vegetables.
How did you stay motivated?
Benny: I used some methods that may sound odd but trust me, they work:
- Progress Pictures. Creating a picture timeline of your evolution is the ultimate motivation tool. You can keep it private, and revisit it from time to time to see how much you’ve changed since you started. You’ll be surprised!
- Find others who share your struggle. You can share tips and and experiences, and you’ll help each other understand that “if they can do it, so can I”.
- Find a trainer or friend to keep you accountable.
It isn’t always easy, of course. There are times when you’ll feel it’s all a waste of time, that it’s easier to stick to your comfort zone… so to help me stay motivated, I like to follow people who were in a similar situation to mine but who’ve been able to overcome it by becoming healthier and happier people. This is something that I still do nowadays.
How to get back in track after a bad period
Benny: I’m not perfect. I’ve often had my de-railings, sometimes for weeks.
Sometimes life gets in the way. We’re all busy people, and it’s hard to find the time to eat well and stay healthy. Unplanned situations will inevitably make things harder, although you can’t let that be an excuse.
You have two choices: either whine about how tough life is and do nothing about it, or get back on track as soon as possible.
As hard as it was for me, I’ve always managed to get back on track with a single thought in mind: “I still have so much to learn and see, so I won’t give up”. Of course, my death-sentence has been a huge motivation, in addition to my progress so far.
Life will always get in the way and the best we can do is to deal with it and try to overcome it. Don’t forget this: without your health, life can’t be enjoyed at the same level.
The Constant in your life
Pablo: I often hear that “exercise can become a constant in your life” and serve as a huge motivator.
Benny: As annoying it may sound, that’s absolutely true :P
Exercise has become something constant in my life. I aim to work out 4 times a week, no matter where I am or how busy my schedule is looking that week. After a workout I feel more active and in shape, and my body complains if I miss a few workouts.
Some tips are:
- Plan your workouts ahead in your calendar, aiming for 3-4 a week.
- Never miss 2 workouts in a row.
- Keep working out even while traveling, even if you need to keep it lighter than at home.
The secret of enjoying exercise is to find a workout routine that pushes you to your limits, while being enjoyable. You will always have some sets that you don’t like, but soon you won’t mind them because you’ll be focused on the benefits that those sets can bring.
Pablo: That’s so true. I hate burpees, but I still push myself hard to do them because I love the results they give me!
How do you feel different today?
Benny: I’m way more confident now than I was before. I’m more sociable, more extroverted, and overall I feel happier than before.
Before, if I had to walk for a mile I would be so upset. Nowadays, I prefer to walk in my city instead of using public transportation, I enjoy going to the pool and keep active in ways I wouldn’t have imagined before.
What’s next for you?
Benny: Fitness-wise, I’m trying to lower my body fat and re-shape my body because I still have a lot of loose skin due to my weight loss.
As for life goals, I’ll soon obtain my master’s degree, I would like to work abroad and combine my programming skills with my health & lifestyle interests.
What would you tell somebody who’s just getting started?
Benny: If my story somehow inspires or moves you to change I’m truly grateful, it sure means a lot to me! :D
Embarking on this life changing journey wasn’t easy but I don’t regret it, not even one bit.
If you are just getting started or are still on the fence about what to do, remember: you will get from this as much as you put into it. You’ll live a healthier and happier life, an experience and an adventure that won’t ever be over.
You deserve the best! And if someone bugs you and annoys you by saying that you can’t do it, let them speak, what really matters is the fact that you’re ready to take the next step, the step of being in charge of your own life.
Pablo: Nowadays, you’re keeping active and follow a workout plan with 8fit. What are you most excited about?
Benny: I like the experience as a whole. I like finding new ideas for my meals and workouts, which can be challenging without the specialized knowledge of a trainer.
With 8fit, it’s a “meet me halfway” approach: I bring the motivation to get in shape, and both the app and trainers help me define exactly what I need to do.
How Benny succeeded
As a summary, Benny lost 2.5 Kg (5.5 lbs) per month by doing the following:
- Eat mostly lean meats (turkey and chicken), fish and vegetables.
- Avoid sweets, fries and fast foods.
- Work out at home 3-4 times a week with sessions like the ones in 8fit.
- Keep track of progress pictures.
- Set achievable goals.
Among other things, he…
- Made a clear commitment to fitness.
- Got educated about nutrition and exercise.
- Started buying only good food.
- Stuck to his diet, even when eating out.
- Didn’t let life get in the way of his training.
- Snacked on high-fiber cookies with tea to stay full for hours.
- Allowed small cheat meals with his favorite foods: pizza, cookies, pasta… all in moderation, like once a week.
"It was a steady process where I made progress every week"
Looking to get started?
You have the potential to become a better version of yourself. Take a moment to think about your goals, and visualize how you will feel when you are there: having a better body, feeling stronger, becoming more active or simply more attractive.
Then, find a plan that works for you. The 8fit app is built with this goal in mind: offer you the simplest workout and meal plans to help you reach your goals.
- Download the 8fit app.
- Enter your stats.
- Plan your workouts in your calendar. Aim for 3-4 a week.
- Starting is the hardest part! Commit to at least 2 weeks.
- Throw away all the bad food in your kitchen, and start eating clean.
- Find 30 minutes and do your first workout today!
We get asked a lot, especially by our female users: what’s the secret to get a well toned stomach, cut the extra fat and look great?
The answer is quite simple: to get a great core you need to:
- Reduce your belly fat, and…
- Strengthen your abs muscles.
If you work out consistently and eat right, you can reach the firm, sexy stomach you want. We’ve seen this transformation happen for many others!
Dropping the extra fat
Even if you might not able to see them, you already have a six-pack. It’s simply hidden under a layer of fat in your stomach.
Your belly region has visceral fat (under your abs) and subcutaneous fat (over your abs). Reducing belly fat will help you make your abs more visible.
Losing weight is easy if you follow these three simple steps:
- Perform short, intense exercise sessions 3-5 times a week.
- Follow our Nutrition Guide for a low-carb diet to burn more fat without going hungry.
- Keep active! Walk more or do some light sports, like running or dancing.
You can find step-by-step workout and nutrition plans in the 8fit app to lose weight effectively.
Forget about doing crunches
Most people will tell you that crunches are the best way to tone your abs, but there are more effective exercises you can do!
Forget about “ab killer” routines. Crunches are uncomfortable exercises that work out a very specific area of your body. They aren’t particularly effective for weight loss. The same goes for most machines you’ll find in a gym.
The best way is to do full-body, compound movements that’ll work out your whole body while hitting your abs as a part of it.
Workouts to tone abs
The best exercises, if you had to pick some, are:
- Planking for 30 to 60 seconds will strengthen your core muscles.
- Side Planks and other variations are good for hitting your lateral abs.
- Squats and lunges are wonderful for toning your abs and legs.
- Add Bridges and Leg Lifts to define your glutes.
- Burpees and Jumping Jacks will help you shed additional fat.
Most importantly, combine these exercises with full-body workouts. If you only work out your core but forget about your arms and legs, your results won’t be half as good as if you do full workouts.
Tips for your workouts
Perform exercises slowly, but at your maximum strength. The harder you push yourself, the better results you’ll see.
Watch your diet, and avoid added salt, sugar, sweets, soda and alcohol. It really makes a difference!
Adding cardio work can be a good idea, but don’t abuse it. Short, intense exercise sessions are much more effective.
Exercise, Happiness and Hormones
“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
Getting fit is about more than physical benefits. This lesson discusses happiness, sleep, immune system boosters and many other results you’ll see from using 8fit and exercising regularly, intelligently.
Exercise and happiness: It is not just a myth
When we stay active and exercise on a regular basis, we stay less stressed and feel happier.
Exercise boosts certain hormones and chemicals in the human mind, like dopamine, that plays a vital role in happiness.
One of the best ways to increase our brain’s dopamine count is regular exercise.
The Chemistry of Happiness
“The things that are best at [releasing dopamine] involve physical activity. So aerobic exercise is probably one of the best releasers of dopamine.”
– Happy, a psychology research documentary.
Reduce Stress Hormones with Exercise
Exercise has the capability to lower down the amount of stress hormones released in human body.
Regular exercise can decrease the release of cortisol, which is part of what helps to reduce your stress.
Regular exercise also increases the amount of endorphins releases in the human body.
As endorphins are considered as the feel-good hormone, this gives your mood a natural boost.
Increase Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that mainly helps in increasing muscle volume as well as the density of bone.
It is crucial for good health and is heavily involved in metabolism, muscle growth, and libido.
A low level of testosterone is harmful for the human body, as it may lead to a number of health hazards including depression, obesity, osteoporosis etc.
While testosterone is more prevalent in men than women, most exercise - especially strength training - relies on and interacts with it.
Multiple studies have revealed the fact that regular exercise can boost testosterone in the human body.
Simple workouts like sprinting, weight lifting, reps, bench-presses etc have significant effect in increasing testosterone levels.
Proper exercise and routine workouts boost your metabolism. This allows you to burn more fat passively and shed those extra kilos.
Regular exercise can boost the secretion of ketones, which are hormones that help signal hunger and regulate appetite.
Skip Sleeping Pills
If you find yourself needing a sleep aid, your quality of sleep will improve as you go through your 8fit program. You’ll also feel more energetic as you exercise more frequently and learn how to optimize your diet.
WebMD’s research shows that people who exercise regularly have better sleep quality. Exercise even works better than relaxation, meditation, and NLP therapy, a psychology technique to alter your subconscious.
Strengthening your Immune System
Exercise boosts your human immune system by creating macrophages.
Generally, a moderate exercise level is enough to boost your immune system.
8fit: Beyond your body!
Use your knowledge of fitness to better regulate your hormones in ways that improve your quality of life across all aspects. If the mirror isn’t your main motivator, we hope the other transformations you experience from our plans surely are!