Nate Peck knows a thing or two about getting a bad break. Over the course of his life, he's dealt with a series of immunodeficiency-related illnesses. He also found himself tipping the scales at 155 kilograms at just 18 years old.
But as a guy who lives by the hashtag # — hey, we support it — Peck, now 25, figured out a way to regain control of his health, his weight, and his life. Here’s how he dropped 63 kilos in one year, and then packed on a whole lot of muscle.
"I was always a big kid. If you look at pictures, I wasn’t even just fat, I was just so much bigger than everybody else," Peck told MensHealth.com.
He grew up like a lot of kids do: by living off a steady diet of carbs and easy-to-eat meals. A lot of those meals came in the form of comfort food, because Peck has a health condition that means he's often sick.
"I have primary immunodeficiency," Peck said. "My body basically doesn't make white blood cells." (Some people are born with primary immunodeficiency, which means they're missing some of the body's natural immune defences, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means the person is more susceptible to germs that can cause infections.)
Peck played football in and around his frequent doctor's visits, but eventually he was so sick, he had to be pulled out of school.
When asked about his diet, Peck explained he’d been eating basically anything he wanted without a care.
"I said I drink soda, I eat McDonald's every day. I called it the 'Nate Peck Special,' where I would eat three McDoubles, a large fry, and a large Coke — and that was one-eighth of the meals I would have in a day," Peck said. "I'd [have] Debbie Snack Cakes and all that, and seven or eight Mountain Dews.
"The Doctor said, 'You know, if you get off that Mountain Dew, you’d probably lose 10 or 15 kilos.'"
So Peck followed his doctor's orders and worked on improving his diet. He also started researching what old-school bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger did to get in picture-perfect shape.
"I had murals on the wall of Arnold and old football players like Brock Lesnar and Batman and Superman," he said. "I was like, 'I'm going to be that. I want to do that. And it kind of stuck in my head."
Slowly but surely, Peck began working out.
His mom and dad bought him an elliptical, which he immediately parked in front of a giant TV; each day, he’d get his cardio in while watching NBA, NFL, or NHL games. He also switched up his diet to include more lean protein, like chicken, and healthier carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes.
A year later, Peck gave his doctor quite the surprise: "I lost 63 kilos," he said.
Peck kept up with his good habits, but a few years later, he was hit with another health hurdle: He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects a person’s joints.
"There are days I wake up and it'll feel like I got hit by a truck," Peck said.
That didn't stop him from continuing his health journey. In fact, after losing those 63 kilos, Peck began hitting the weight room to start bulking up — which in turn made him feel better from the inside out.
"When I get blood [to my joints], the [arthritis] pain kind of goes away," Peck said. He's on to something: A 2017 study from the University of California found exercise can mimic an anti-inflammatory drug. The researchers found that just 20 minutes of walking was enough to stimulate the immune system to produce an anti-inflammatory response.
After gaining some muscle mass, Peck is at a happy and healthy 110 kilos. He does weightlifting five or six days a week, alternating muscle groups on different days. He's also added intermittent fasting to the mix, eating his meals in a nine-hour window instead of throughout the day.
Peck knows it took him most of his life to put on the weight, and it'll take him the rest of his life to keep it off. But, as he said, "There's always going to be somebody smarter, faster, and better than you. But that does mean you can't work hard. I know I can beat me, and I'm fine with that."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health