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Vinson Smith, this year’s most compelling Belly Off! story, weighed 229kg. Then he lost half his weight and took up yoga. What’s your excuse?
I’ve always been a big guy. I come from a family of big people. My father was 1.9m and weighed 125kg. He used to say that once I learned how to make a mince sandwich, it was all over from there. I lost my dad when I was 16. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in January 2005 and passed away seven months later. Thanks to my sports coaches and a good support system in my small town, I stayed focused and kept my playing weight at 150kg.
But by about 12 months after my last year in high school, I’d gained 25 to 35kg. I just didn’t have any direction. The man who’d taught me everything wasn’t there. I had no idea what I wanted to do. But one thing I did know how to do was eat. My mom used to make one pot of spaghetti for the family and then another pot of spaghetti for me. I’d eat the whole thing within a day or two. I once ate 100 buffalo chicken wings in a sitting. I was eating for reasons I didn’t even understand.
Even now, as I’m about to enter my 30s, there are a lot of things I wish my father had told me. But I’ve learned. After I make a mistake, I take action to correct it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The Wake-up Call
I was a groomsman at my cousin’s wedding and I could barely stand for 45 minutes. I was sweating. The tuxedo coat I had on was a size 64. I remember thinking, “How am I going to look into the eyes of a woman and tell her she’s going to have me for the rest of my life? What kind of healthy, long life can I share with her at 229kg?”
I’ve learned how to eat enough to stay satisfied. In the morning, after my cardio, I’ll have a cup or two of fruit. I eat a lot of watermelon, spanspek, strawberries and grapes. For snacks I’ll eat cucumbers and radishes. Then I’ll typically do chicken, asparagus and brown rice for dinner. I still deal with emotional eating, but now I know where it comes from. I had to cry about my dad. Opening up extinguished my hunger.
I started out by walking from stop sign to stop sign in my neighborhood. Eventually I built up the confidence to join a gym. The biggest battle started when I hit the 140kg range. So that’s when I started coaching football and running interval sprints with the kids. Now I’m a yoga fiend. (Click here for three yoga poses for overweight men). Every week I practice yoga at least two or three days, do a strength programme at least twice, and go running and biking three times. Then I spend all my weekends exploring, and getting as much fresh air and outdoor exercise as I can. I might grab a bike and ride through town, or run some trails at one of my favorite routes.
I went from shopping in plus-size stores to visiting real branded shops. That’s a treat for me because I never thought I’d be able to shop like a normal person. I like my shirts to fit tight now – everything’s a slimmer fit. I have found that the most beautiful thing about my fitness journey is that what helps me is also helping other people, and because of that, I’m working toward becoming an exercise physiologist. The basis of my workout plan isn’t about right now. It’s about what I want to be doing 10 years from now.
Weight Before: 229kg
Occupation: Sports development coach, cofounder, Hard Body Fitness Personal Training Group