Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Javier Hernandez is 32, five-foot-five, and currently weighs 180 pounds. In 2011, after the tragic death of his brother and the grief that followed, he realized he wanted a better life for himself. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The turning point
Growing up, my weight was always an issue, and since we didn’t have much money, there wasn’t a lot of clothing that could fit me within our budget. Throughout elementary and middle school, I dealt with bullies and gang members constantly teasing me and making me feel isolated because of my weight. I always hated being fat — the way it felt and looked — and all of my insecurities showed in my daily actions.
The final straw was when I had my heart broken by a serious relationship during a very hard and depressing time. One of my brothers had passed away, which led my family to spiral out of control. Violence, drugs, and rage were all around me, and it was all just too much for me to bear. My depression began to get the better of me, and I wanted to end my life altogether. It was then that I was able to make the choice to focus on fixing me — inside and out!
When I first started, I knew that I didn’t want to be thin; I wanted to be fit and strong. I was on a budget and couldn’t afford a gym, so I would sneak into apartment gyms and use their equipment. I took the time to read up on common exercises, like bench presses and squats.
Later, as I worked more and got a second job, I joined a gym. It provided basic nutrition classes, which helped me clarify things like counting calories. Around that time, Atkins was a popular diet, so I lowered my carbs and increased my protein, eating things like chicken and tuna. I tried to stick to more nutritious carbs like sweet potatoes. I even counted my calories when I went out to eat. I tried to find the healthiest options wherever I went. For instance, at Taco Bell, I found their fresco menu was ideal.
I went to the gym seven days a week. I focused on one body part a day and lifted until it hurt. My days felt boring, but I was consistent.
During this time, I felt alone. My family was dealing with their own demons due to grief and pain, so they weren’t around, and my friends didn’t share the same passion, so they weren’t present a lot. It was just me, day in and day out.
What kept me motivated was the anger, the pain, and the promise I made to my late brother and myself that I was going to fix my life. There were days I just didn’t know why I was doing it. I thought, “It’s just me, so who cares what I do or look like?” But I talked myself through it and convinced myself that I needed to be stronger and to show myself that I am worth it and that I can be better. I kept a photo of myself before starting my journey in my wallet as a reminder of how far I had come, not just in weight loss but in better living.
I felt amazing after losing weight. I felt attractive for the first time in my life. I felt powerful. I was able to move so much more weight as I went along! My mind became stronger, too. I surprised myself with every little goal I hit, and every time I reached a goal, I added another. I ended up losing 120 pounds in one year!
My life changed a lot when I first lost the weight, in good ways and bad. Sadly, I lost another brother in 2012. After that setback, I was able to just take my butt back to the gym and find the same mentality that I had in the beginning to just move forward. Seven days a week, with tears in my eyes, I ate healthy food and found my new normal.
I was surprised by how many people didn’t really believe in me at first, but people were impressed with me after I started losing weight. Women gave me a lot more attention, as well.
I also realized that people were inspired by my stubborn, no-quit approach, and those people thanked me for not giving up. I even inspired those who had come from a rough background like mine to change their lives, to graduate from high school and start working.
I surprised myself by actually competing twice in bodybuilding competitions in 2014. I never thought something like that would ever happen to me, especially when I look back to when I first started.
I still train seven days a week, more for hypertrophy and power with better muscle split routines. I do cardio, mainly the treadmill and the stair climber, but I no longer count calories. I actually count macronutrients that fit the goals I am after. I cycle between bulking, to add size, and then focus on fat loss. Basically, it’s more of a bodybuilding lifestyle where I still enjoy my favorite foods like pie, pizza, Mexican, and barbecue, but it’s better planned out so I can still hit my goals. My daily meals are simple. I eat eggs, chicken, lean beef, tuna, oats, sweet potatoes, and tons of veggies like green beans and dark leafy greens.
I always make sure I have a plan. If I am eating out, going on a trip, or just going through a rough time, it’s important to me to take some time and think things through. By doing this, I can budget better, make time to hit the gym, and anticipate what I will need.
One thing I have learned is the importance of supplements; having a quality protein shake and essential micronutrients on hand help keep the body in a healthier state when dealing with stressful time. Things can’t always be perfect, but you can at least lessen the damage so you can bounce back quicker.
My new family keeps me motivated. My two boys and wife brought a new meaning to my life. Now I have people who need me, love me, and want me to be the best version of myself. I feel like I finally deserve my improved life. It inspires me to know that every year I have made some crazy dream come true like buying my first home, when there was a time I thought I would die in the streets.
I struggle the most with my past, and still have some insecurities from time to time. Self-doubt is always there, and jealousy of others who have had it a bit easier in life.
Sometimes I get tired. I often struggle with depression and grief. I have lost a total of four brothers so far — most recently my little brother in 2015. It’s hard to deal with such sadness and pain, but I work through it when I remind myself that my sons need me. My wife reminds me that I am loved and that I have helped everybody I could in my lifetime. My family would be very proud. It gives me hope that I can still keep climbing up, that I can keep surprising myself with my achievements.
Now, I have new goals in mind, to one day step onstage for a third time in the new classic physique competition. No one has ever done all three National Physique Committee competitions before. Dreams do come true with enough hard work and a lot of heart!
My best advice is to keep things simple and try not to overwhelm yourself, because there is so much information out there. Even after these past few years, I am still learning. Take time to educate yourself and invest in yourself so that you become stronger inside and out. No one is going to do the work for you, so make the sacrifices to make your goals a reality.
Also have heart, and wear it proudly! The mind will play games with you, things will never be perfect, and life will hit you hard at times. But as long as you have heart you can keep on fighting. Remember those who need and love you: Do it for them and do it for yourself, and keep at it, because you deserve to be your best!
All photos courtesy of Javier Hernandez.
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