Even though he played football as a teenager, Luis Trigo was always bigger than everyone on his team and in his classes.
The burden of that weight followed him up until six years ago, when the Atlanta native quit his job to exclusively focus on his health. At his heaviest weight of 180 kilograms, he started experiencing constant heart palpitations, which can potentially lead to stroke if they're prolonged and frequent.
Trigo suspected that his not-so-healthy diet and lack of exercise was to blame. "When it came to nutrition, my parents followed the typical American model of lots of carbs, and we also went out to eat all the time," he recalls. "When I got to college, I carried over these bad habits."
During his heavier days, his go-to breakfasts were loaded with sugar. Cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Fruit Loops washed down with apple or orange juice were the norm. Lunch was anything cheap and convenient, and he frequently swerved through the drive-thru to get his McDonalds and Chick-fil-A fix. Dinner was also filled with refined carbs and virtually no vegetables.
"I couldn’t believe I had allowed myself to get that big," he says.
So in the spring of 2011, Trigo finally met with his doctor to figure out a weight loss game plan. He tackled his mental health first: After dealing with the emotional fallout of a broken engagement, he decided to let go of anyone enabling his unhealthy lifestyle.
"Any time someone wanted to go out drinking or get something to eat, I turned them down. I needed to get rid of any bad influences," he says.
Then came the physical changes, starting with nutrition. When you constantly eat things like chips, donuts, and white bread, your blood sugar and insulin levels spike, which can pave the way for obesity, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So those were the first things to go. Instead, Trigo swapped them for complex carbs like vegetables and loaded up on protein. One of his go-to meals? A cod stir-fry with vegetables.
Then, Trigo started to move more. He took it slow, and just started by walking up and down the street outside of his house. "I was so heavy that I just couldn’t walk long distances without my ankles or knees hurting," he says. "But once walking around the neighborhood was easy, I got a gym membership."
The elliptical machine was his first taste of intense cardio. It helped him burn a lot of calories, but was also gentle on his joints. Gradually, he fell in love with endurance workouts. Now, Trigo regularly runs 25-30 kilometres at a time once a week just because it helps him clear his head.
Strength training was crucial, too, since it helped him burn fat while gaining muscle. In fact, lifting weights eventually inspired Trigo to take things to the next level and become a personal trainer. "Helping people makes me feel happy," he says. "It’s a happiness I've never had."
His progress speaks for itself. When he first started, he was benching 40 kilograms and working out three to four days per week. Today, he's worked his way up to 120 kilograms and hits the gym six days per week. Some of his go-to exercises? Deadlifts and bicep curls.
Since he began his weight loss journey, Trigo, now 31 years old, has lost more than half of his body weight and currently sits at 80 kilograms.
"I’m still the same guy, but when people see me they want to talk to me, whereas when I was heavy, I felt invisible," he says. "But I think the best part of this situation is that it led me to be a big advocate of nutrition and become a personal trainer. I don’t do this for me anymore, I do this for the people who look up to me, and it gives me a sense of purpose."
The past six years, however, haven't been easy. "My weight loss wasn’t linear," Trigo says. "I had hiccups along the way due to emotional things. I had to get over all my loose skin, which caused me to fall back a bit."
But there's one quote that kept him motivated: "It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable."
This helped Trigo keep his full potential in mind. "I tell my clients the most important thing is the mental game," he says. "The best thing any person can do for their mental health is to be honest with themselves. Once you do that, you’ll start looking at your excuses and start realizing that all they are are excuses."
But even when you're doing everything right, your weight might not change every single week. It can be frustrating, but it shouldn't set you back.
"You’re going to have weeks that you weigh in and you gain a pound, or weeks that you lose three pounds. Don’t obsess over the scale," says Trigo. As long as you remember that it's never too late to work toward your goals, big or small, "everything will all fall into place."