[HEALTHY LIVING] From a “Loser” to a Big Time Loser

by Evalyne Cadorna

What a title right? Whether you are currently taking on your own fitness journey or finding the motivation within yourself to start, it seems that everyone’s commitment this year is to find the best version of themselves.

We hear it all the time and we know that fitness is a great way to take control of our personal stories, both physically and mentally. Thomas Banda, a born and raised Texan native, grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. However, he is currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he admits that he went from “being a loser” to a “big-time loser” (and no, he doesn’t have a gambling problem).

There are many inspirational stories out there of individuals taking control of their health through their newly-found lifestyle. In particular, Thomas’ story is one that is built under the basis of friendship, perseverance, and even grief. He was a man with an emotional eating-habit, grief-stricken from the sudden loss of his brother, and was filled with insecurities.

Adam, is a self-taught fitness-guru and personal trainer. He was initially interested in fitness for the purpose of gaining muscle. Adam Culjak had just moved to Fort Worth at the start of his senior year of high school. With his father being in the Air Force he had moved around plenty, which landed him moving-in directly across the street from Thomas. Although Adam only lived there for 7 months, they had an instant connection. One of the things he noticed about Thomas was how large his appetite was.

Thomas shared with me that he had been big his entire life. At the age of 4 years old he was already 100 lbs. His parents often monitored his food intake, but at 12 years old realized that he could sneak in food during the middle of the night. He knew that his eating habits were often correlated with boredom or with his emotions. During his junior year of high school, he ranged from 399 lbs-415 lbs. When Thomas was 18 years old, his brother suddenly passed away. He coped with his grief with food and alcohol. He was now at his heaviest, over 575+ lbs, and states that after that he was too embarrassed to step on the scale. Thomas had the mentality that he “wasn’t able to achieve anything anyway” and that he might as well stay “comfortable”.

Adam had some personal health issues of his own. He noticed that his health issues were worsening and was baffled by it all. As is popular thought, he was living healthy, so shouldn’t he magically be feeling healthier? He began to heavily research health and wellness. He eventually developed his own fitness and diet plans and tried it out himself. When he began to progress the way that he wanted to, he began to work with a range of individuals from stay-at-home mothers to professional fighters. After years of not seeing or hearing from Thomas, an unexpected visit to Texas led him to what would be the start of their journey together. When he visited Thomas, he had learned of Thomas’ loss and the condition that Thomas was in. He approached Thomas with an opportunity that would be the foundation of their accomplishments together. Thomas would allow Adam to train him in Las Vegas. Thomas confessed that he was terrified of change and hesitated, but with the support of friends and family he decided that this possible lifestyle change was worth a shot.

The Lifestyle Change
During the process Thomas did not expect how bad his appetite would be and Adam admits that Thomas had the largest appetite he had ever seen. He noticed that Thomas would often “zone-out” and that it seemed that he was oblivious just how much food had such a strong hold on him. Adam knew that he was going to have to use a different approach with Thomas, and that a simple diet plan wasn’t going to provide long-lasting results.

The first step of Thomas’ transformation was to shrink his stomach. A stomach that was accustomed to feeding off large amounts of food on demand. He tried intermittent fasting, where you have an 8-hour window to eat every day, outside of that window you are fasting. They had great success with this, but Adam made Thomas aware early-on that he needed to get to the bottom of why food had such power over him. In his own words, Adam said, “Attacking the mental side was crucial to his success”. Thomas’ response was that, “I was so used to losing at life I never thought I would be doing anything worthwhile. I had to rewire my brain to understand that I am worth it, and I can achieve great things”.

Adam says that most people view eating well as a sacrifice, but he suggests that you should enjoy what you’re eating. He recommends not to jump on a new fad diet, but to spend some time in the kitchen trying out healthy recipes. Get on Pinterest, try new dishes, and with those recipes pick out the ones that you love. Adam says that “if you eat fast food 3x a day, then don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re gonna wake up tomorrow and eat 3 chicken salads”. He wants people to know that drastic changes can sometimes be a setup for failure. He suggests trying to add one of your new healthy meals every week.

Along with meal planning, Adam also developed exercise plans that adapted his progressing weight loss. Thomas currently enjoys using the stair machine to fulfill his cardio exercise. He usually keeps his daily sessions to about 40-60 minutes. Lately, he has been wearing a 20 lbs vest while doing his cardio sessions. His favorite form of training is circuit training, and states that it really helps him burn the fat. When he does lift weights, he states supersetting his body parts.

After having successfully accomplished a majority of his fitness goals naturally, Thomas finally scheduled himself for surgery. He is currently scheduled for excess skin removal surgery. Standing at 5’11, 230 lbs (and will be 15-20 lbs less after excess skin is removed), Thomas is an example of when knowledge meets work and consistency. Thomas and Adam realized that this story was worth sharing to try and motivate and inspire others who feel that they are at the point of no return with their health. They began to document his progress and share personal progression pictures on social media. Thomas recently started a YouTube channel and Instagram. Adam is currently writing a book about biomechanical movement and posture to take athletes to the next level. Thomas says, “No matter how much bad you’ve faced you can always turn it around. I want to show people the importance of nutrition and exercise is in life. I want people to see that anyone can come back from the depths of their own personal worse. If you are still breathing be thankful and be willing to make small changes to see the big change in yourself happen!”

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