I’ve been into fitness for about 10 years now. I started working out consistently when I was 18, and developed quite a passion for it. My passion wasn’t driven by trying to be healthier like it is for some, but driven by insecurity. Growing up, when I was a kid, I was picked on a lot because I was tall, lanky, skinny, and I have a lazy eye. My whole childhood I got picked on because of my eyes, and it took a huge toll on my confidence. I started hating myself, and even got to the point that I was scared to leave my house because it seemed like every time I went out, someone would always make fun of me. I walked everywhere I went with my head down, looking at the floor while I walked, because I was too self conscious to look anyone in the eye. When I got into my senior year in high school, I had to take a few weight lifting classes to make up for all the years of PE I skipped (because I didn’t want to run the mile… I hate running, and I hate cardio). During that time though, I developed a small love for working out, and I noticed that it helped my confidence a bit. after I graduated, I kept with it. The main reason I stuck with it was because, originally, I really wanted to be a flight medic for the coast guard. I always had a passion for anything related to a medical field, health, the human body and I loved the idea of doing search and rescue and providing emergency medical care. Right after high school I got my national registry as a EMT-Basic, and was talking with a coast guard recruiter to get the process started for joining with them. The wait to get in to the Coast Guard at the time was about two years, which was just enough time for me to go through paramedic school, which was my original plan. So I joined a gym to help get me in shape for basic training, and then hopefully Airman school, which required a more intensive fitness requirement than regular basic training did. So I joined the gym, with no clue how to workout whatsoever. I was the kid in the corner of the gym doing the few things I knew how to do, very self consciously, and hoped that no one was watching me and taking videos of me saying how not to do an exercise. I was so self conscious that even the thought of going to the gym caused me so much anxiety that some days, I would drive to the gym, sit in the parking lot for half an hour trying to convince myself to go inside and get it over with, and then eventually just driving back home because I felt like I couldn’t do it.
After a few months of that, I decided I needed help and a little instruction. I remember scraping together all the spare change I had saved up, digging under the couch for a little extra, and eventually came up with about 150$ to put towards 3 sessions with a personal trainer. I dreaded every time I had to meet with him because the workouts were so intense that I didn’t enjoy it one bit. however, I learned just enough of the fundamentals to give me a little confidence to start working out more on my own, but it wasn’t enough, So instead of trying to keep finding ways to pay for short sessions, I decided that I would sign up for the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) personal training certification program myself and go through it just so I could learn enough to feel confident working out by myself. I had no intention of becoming a personal trainer whatsoever, but just wanted to learn a little bit. So I became certified, and started making a lot of progress in my own fitness journey. I gained more and more confidence and eventually people started approaching me for tips for their own fitness goals. During this time, I was in the process of getting my Oregon reciprocity to transfer into the Oregon Paramedic school, which was still the original plan. Shortly after turning in my application, I developed an auto-immune disease called Ulcerative Colitis, which my recruiter through the coast guard had told me it was a non-waiverable medical condition and I was no longer eligible to join. I was heart broken and the only thing I had wanted to do for years was no longer an option. I remembered that my old personal trainer had told me I had a perfect build for classic bodybuilding, which at the time I was not interested in, but when my other option of being a flight medic was no longer available, I figured I could give it a shot.
Honestly though, the main reason I pursued it originally, was because I figured that if I could become big enough to be slightly intimidating, that people would at least stop making fun of my eyes to my face, which worked for the most part. I eventually grew a passion for it, and realized that being a personal trainer was another way that I could help others live a better life, or at least a life that would give them a better quality of their life. I tended to have a talent for helping others and decided to give it a shot. The process of becoming something that I was proud of had helped my confidence so much that I wanted to help others feel more confident with themselves more than anything.
I wanted to make a name for myself in the fitness industry and possibly do a few competitions in bodybuilding if possible just to prove to myself that I could. I spent 5 years working on building muscle and a physique that I was proud of. Then in 2015, my ulcerative colitis flared up for the first time since the original time when I was diagnosed. I had a lot of factors in my life that were causing me lots of emotional stress, and it turned out to be a 6 month decline straight to the hospital. I spent the entire month of April, 2015 in the hospital, with the first two weeks trying to get the colitis under control at southwest medical center in Vancouver, Washington. After those first two weeks, they decided to put me in for a transfer to Swedish hospital in Seattle, WA just incase I needed surgery to remove my colon. The doctor originally said it was unlikely that I would need the surgery, but he wanted to transfer me somewhere with a colorectal specialist just incase. The transfer got approved the next day (which normally takes a week) and I was transferred to Swedish the next afternoon. When I arrived, I was consulted by a GI team, and a surgical team. My options were stronger medication to try and get the colitis in remission, or have my colon removed, which was the only way to actually cure the colitis. The surgical team said that they believed I was past treatment and that I should consider having my colon removed, and that there was an opening the next afternoon at 4 P.M.
I spent the night talking to my dad and mom about which option I should go with, and ultimately my dad and I decided that I should opt for surgery. We let the surgical team know, and they scheduled me for surgery the next afternoon. I remember the night before, I felt that I wasn’t going to make it through the night, and had accepted that I would most likely die before morning.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning and they took me to pre-op to get me ready for surgery. The surgery took about 4 hours, and when I woke up and was coherent again, the surgeon came into my room and told me that it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen (out of a few thousand of these procedures he had done) and he told me that had I not had the surgery that day, I would have died within another 4 hours by his estimation, and by the end of the day for sure. I was given an ostomey bag, and had to have 2 more surgeries after that one, to reconstruct my small bowel so that I wouldn’t have to have the bag for life. I was laid up for an entire year, having one surgery, recovering for 3 months in between, and then another with another 3 months and then my last one was completed on November 5th, 2015. They had also told me that had I not been in such good shape going into it, that I wouldn’t have made it through the process.
I fell into a deep depression, because I had now lost both my passions, lost lots of my friends, and the girl I had expected to marry at the time left me in the hospital during my first surgery, and was married to someone else within a year. I lost 5 years of work, I lost my positive mindset, I lost my love for life and I lost my passion for everything, struggling to see a point in life at all. I became physically dependent on opiates for 2 years, and felt like I would never fully recover from what happened. It took me two years to start feeling somewhat normal again, and I slowly but surely got back into fitness, because it was the only thing left that kept me going. I struggled for a long time to care about it at all, but I forced myself to keep at it, and eventually the love and passion for it returned. I celebrated my 3rd year of being healthy again two days ago on November 5th, 2018, and am proud of the comeback I’ve been able to make, thanks to all the love and support of the people around me. I learned a lot about myself and even though I would never want to relive a day of that hell I went through, I am glad for what I learned during the process. The picture posted here was after my first surgery after I lost 80 lbs, being 6’4″ weighing 155 lbs, and the picture next to it was taken a few months ago, back up to 215 lbs. I’m thankful for the progress I have been able to make, I’m thankful to learn that I had the willpower to stick it out, and more than anything, I’m thankful for the confidence I gained in this journey and the things I learned about myself.
My goal now, is to help people gain confidence of their own, find strength within themselves and help them learn about themselves, and teach anyone that could be willing to learn that they too, can fight and become happy with themselves. I want to teach anyone that is willing, how to become healthy, how to understand health and fitness, and how to love themselves and their image in the process and the journey of living any way they have ever imagined for themselves.
Physical health begins with mental health, and in future posts, I want to address these things. I want to address the psychology behind fitness, diet, cravings, discipline, and teach people how to be healthy without following fad diets, and without refraining from all the foods they enjoy. I want to show people how to enjoy their food, enjoy their workouts and set realistic goals that are attainable, and maintainable without getting burnt out on trying to reach any fitness or health goal.
I wanted to share my story first, to give a little background about myself, before diving into everything else. Im sure that most of my posts will be much more ridiculous and a little more entertaining, but I wanted to start here, hopefully to inspire others and show them that if I can do it, then I can show them that they can too.
Life doesn’t allow us to be perfect and always be able to give 100% to fitness, nor is it expected. However, if you learn to love yourself in all stages, when you do well, and when you aren’t able to be 100%, then you can’t fail long term. We do the best we can, when we can, and doing our best at each moment is the best we can do. But never lose value in yourself or be disappointed in yourself when life sets you back. It’s all about mindset, its all about being as consistent as you’re able at each moment, and it’s about progress, whether its fast or slow. As humans, I believe we are happiest and most fulfilled while moving forward, but 2 steps forward and 1 step back is still moving forward. slow progress is better than none, and is still rewarding than no progress at all.
If their are any topics or questions you have that you’d like me to cover, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to cover them for you.
or you can contact me on my personal Instagram @jptosti
Thanks for reading and I hope that we can all create a community of support, encouragement, love and be able to lift each other up and change the fitness industry from competition to a community of support.