Fitness Quest is a weekly column in which the journey of losing 90 pounds is chronicled online in hopes of helping other people as well as providing a catalyst for motivation. This week, Mike DeNicola opens up about his weight gain and quest to get back in shape.

What inspired you to make changes?

There’s inspiration everywhere, but for me there’s no more than my daughter (and anymore unborn children). When I became a parent, it wasn’t about me any longer. It’s all about my daughter, Raisa. About two-months ago I was on a walk with my wife and pushing Raisa in her stroller. I found myself short of breath a few times throughout the walk. I had grown up an athlete, participating in organized football for 11-years, and was always in great shape. That all changed in college and through my twenties. I had allowed myself to get extremely overweight; never obese, but the word has so many definitions. Put it this way – I was fat. I’m 5’8” (with sneakers on) and I weighed in at 235-pounds (my personal worst was 275 in 2007 when I graduated college). If I wanted to continue to live past 50 so my daughter has her Daddy for a while, I needed to make a change.

What changes did you make?

Diet. It’s all about what you eat, man. Before I began eating healthier, I was consuming some of the worst foods imaginable: an overload on breads, pastas, high sodium and processed products, candy, etc. Basically the lowest form of slop a human-being can eat, and I was consuming it regularly, daily, annually. Not only food, but my soda intake was brow-lifting. Even diet sodas are their own form of poison, but I never blinked. I became a human garbage disposal; eating horribly, and over-eating.

The first change I made was cutting out breads and pastas. I know I’ll one day indulge in some of the cuisines I love, but for now… those two had to go. I stopped drinking soda, juices, even club soda, and began drinking nothing but water – and A LOT of it. I’ve been drinking a gallon-or-more per day. I feel cleansed and more energetic. I don’t miss soda one bit.

I try my best to stay away from any packaged/processed foods, and attempt to consume as much natural foods as I can: eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables, lean meats (chicken, ground turkey/beef, seafood). And while I eat those foods, I stay away from as many sauces and condiments as possible. Sounds pretty bland, right? Well, it’s different for everyone. But to me, it was like I was re-discovering the natural taste of these foods all over again. I’m enjoying it, both mentally and taste-wise. Herbs & spices are welcomed, but again, no overloading on them either. I try to keep as close to this philosophy as possible; if it didn’t grow from this earth or walk this earth, it’s not for you.

One last change I made, which I believe was the most impactful change, was snacking after dinner; I habitually used to snack on all sorts of chips, candy, you-name-it after dinner, usually between the hours of 8:00 – 10:00pm. I’d sit there in my chair, in front of the television, after having eaten two or three helpings of whatever unhealthy dinner, and burn through an entire bag of Twizzler’s Bites…. no, I’m serious, almost nightly I’d eat a whole family-sized bag of Twizzler’s candies. If it wasn’t candy, it was nachos, chips, whatever. Christ, even writing this now, I shake my head, wondering what in the hell I was doing to myself.

What are the first impacts that you noticed after making the changes?

I mentioned I feel more energetic. Y’know, through Days 1 – 7, you’re not really noticing much physically when you look in the mirror. But I definitely felt better. I felt healthier. I felt proud. And after the first week, my face and neck began getting leaner. Then my shoulders and chest. Finally, I saw my gut shrinking, and a more hourglass shape on my torso. Before, I looked more like an amoeba with two flappy bitch tits. But now? I’m noticeably starting to resemble what man’s true form should look like. I still have a lot more work to do, but it’s been 20-days since I began this journey and my body has no doubt begun paying dividends.

How long have you been doing this? If you’d like to share more details, feel free to mention your starting weight, current weight, and goal weight.

On the night of July 2nd, that’s when I finally decided enough’s enough. I woke up on July 3rd and began this campaign then – I was 235-pounds. Today, August 18, I weigh in at 202.6 pounds. By mid-November, I’d like to be around 195.

What are the biggest hurdles and challenges in achieving your goal (ie. cravings/temptations, keeping a regular routine, etc.)

Of course there are cravings. None more-so than at night when I snacked harder than Jonah Hill. But thankfully I’ve managed to suppress these cravings by drinking more water and indulging in more conversation with my wife, or, if she’s still awake, focus playing and spending time with my daughter.

As a father, I don’t have time to be a gym rat. I’m aware that there are Dads out there who manage time between his family and hitting the weights, and congratulations to all of them. But guess what? That ain’t my life. I have a career from 8:30am – 5:30pm, Monday through Friday, and a growing family at home waiting for me. Spare time is a thing of the past for me. So basing my new eating habits and active routine around this lifestyle is challenging, but I work to MAKE it work.

What advice do you have for other people who want to lose weight too?

You don’t have to jump into working out right outta the gates. I went from 235 to 218 pounds just by changing my eating habits. Only this past Monday (07/20) did I start spreading kettlebell and pushup exercises throughout my day. My advice for someone who’s as out of shape as I was…. Dude or Dudet, just start eating healthier. And water, water, WATER. It works. No magic dietary pill, no shakes, no starving yourself or even counting calories. I did what works for me, and hitting a weight goal by eating healthier got me into a great frame of mind. In the past, when I wanted to lose weight, I’d start off my either going for runs or hitting the elliptical. By the end of the week (assuming I made it that far), I’d be so exhausted and spent physically that it’d push me right out of my routine. I’d give up. I’d fall permanently backward to the old, unhealthy lifestyle.

Weight loss is not a fucking Rocky movie. It’s a long, disciplined road. You’ll have support and inspiration, and you’ll have your haters and doubters: I use each for their own unique brand of motivation. As a supporter, my wife gives me more energy and hunger to get to my goal. And the haters and doubters (particularly those I’ve seen on Facebook when I made posts about my campaign) give me motivation to reach my goal, so that one day I can take their words, roll them up, and stuff them up their ignorant asses.

Finally, if you could go back to the time before you gained weight, what would you tell yourself to prevent it from happening?

I’d show myself a blown-up, poster sized photo of my billowy man tits. I wouldn’t say a word; I’d just press that behemoth image against my face so it’d sink in my pre-fat mind like a tick. Then, as I step in to my time machine, I’d turn back and yell out, “DON’T BOTHER WATCHING THE STAR WARS PREQUELS!” and vanish like a fart in the wind.