Friday, March 27, 2009

Weight Lost. Life Found.

How One Calgary Man Fought His Way Up From Rock Bottom

“Frank Barajas can't tell you how much he weighed at his peak. That's because he doesn't know; he was too scared to step on the scale. What he did know was that he didn't feel good and he didn't look good. ‘I wouldn't go to the doctor. They didn't have to tell me -- I knew I was sick,’ he says. At that point, he decided to focus on his career and nothing else. Beer and wing nights with colleagues replaced soccer and swimming. He didn't eat regular meals, binged at night and was a regular smoker. ‘I was not a happy person,’ says Barajas, now 42. ‘I was chasing the wrong dreams, doing things for other people and not doing things for me. I was lazy and I didn't feel like doing anything. My self-esteem was tanked.’ Then, one day in 2007, Barajas woke up and looked himself in the mirror. And he asked one question: ‘What the hell am I doing?’ That day, he started making small changes to improve his health. He cut soda pop from his diet and moderated his portion sizes, eating only two pieces of pizza instead of eight. When he weighed himself a short time later, he didn't like what he saw on the scale: 337 pounds. More determined than ever, he kept up with his improved diet and, in two short months, lost 30 pounds. In January 2008, for extra help, Barajas joined a gym -- the World Health Club's Macleod Trail location -- and began working out with trainer Clayton Tokar. ‘Clayton pretty much said, 'You're going to be pushing daisies here pretty quick,' says Barajas. ‘He said, 'You smoke, you've got bad eating habits, you're overweight.' Everything possible that was wrong with me, he laid it out.’ Tokar recalls their first meeting. ‘I motivated Frank because I was in that mood that I didn't think he was the type of person who would step up.’ Barajas went over and above, not just to prove Tokar wrong, but to meet his own goals. On the day of their first meeting, Barajas drove to a hilltop, smoked one last cigarette and threw his pack over the cliff. He began exercising five or six times a week, slowly building up to hour-long strength training and cardiovascular workouts. (He works out with Tokar once a week, another trainer once a week and on his own the rest of the time.) He also began following Tokar's nutrition plan, which has him eating balanced meals and snacks every day. He cut out alcohol and, when he went out with friends, would eat only the veggies off the plate of chicken wings. And to help him stay on track, Barajas told everyone he could about his goals -- for the accountability and the support -- and kept a journal of his progress. The results of his incredible efforts have been outstanding. Since that first weigh-in, Barajas has lost roughly 135 pounds. He's gone from triple extra-large shirts to a medium/ large; his pant size has gone from a 48-inch waist to a 33/34-inch waist. While all of those things thrill Barajas, he revels in the small things, like being able to see the veins in his arms or the knuckles on his hands. He can tie his shoes now. And he's putting those shoes to good use. ‘I can actually keep up with my friends when we go hiking,’ he says. ‘I'm actually kicking their ass going up hills!’ Tokar is proud of Barajas and the major strides he's taken, both literally and physically. ’Nineteen times out of 20, people don't discipline themselves to the point that Frank did,’ he says. Barajas says he's had a lot of support from other gymgoers, who congratulate him or simply give him an encouraging nod. These days, beyond inspiring those who see him busting his butt at the gym, Barajas is hoping to inspire his own mother, who is fighting a rare form of liver cancer. Another one of his goals is to become even more fit and drop another 20 pounds or so along the way. (He just started documenting his story on and is encouraging others to share their stories, as well.)”

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