Body Transformation: From Depressed to Motivated

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My name is Stefano Failla, and I will soon be a physique competitor from Richmond, Virginia. I was a good kid growing up, stayed away from drugs and whatever people were doing back then. The only bad thing was my eating habits. As a kid, I grew up playing soccer which lasted for 10 years. I was a pretty active child for my age. Soccer was a big part of my life. I had practice every single day and sometimes it would even be twice a day. When I started high school as a freshman, I started to steer away from soccer. I got tired of it and my passion for the sport just wasn’t there any more.

At the time, most of my friends were in pretty good shape except for me, I stood out from the rest of them because I was more on the chubby end. I always wanted to be a fitness model. I wanted to look good to impress the ladies. I always told myself, “Soon, I’ll start working out.” Of course that never happened, I was too lazy and I had absolutely no motivation to get up and workout, mainly because I was exhausted coming home at 9:00 p.m. from soccer practice daily. I would eat a late night snack right before going to bed (from Oreo cookies and a glass of milk to 3 tablespoons of Nutella spread on a slice of toast). I couldn’t resist the temptation to eat junk food every day.

During my freshman year in high school, I decided that it was time to change. Everything that was put in front of me I would eat, I was called an “Eating Machine”. You name it, I’d eat it. I wanted to inspire people and be a motivational person, I wanted someone to look at me and be like “Wow, you look amazing!” or “I wish I could look like you!” I am now 18 years old and my 3-year transformation has blown peoples minds. I have grown so much stronger physically and mentally. The amount of passion that I have now for working out and the amount of motivation that I have is on a level that cannot be explained. The choices we make determine the quality of our lives, and whatever is happening in our lives, we use it to succeed or to fail, either it is good or bad, and it is mostly determined by our attitude.

I was tired of the way my body looked. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without being embarrassed. My friends started calling me chubby, my parents even told me that I needed to eat less otherwise I’d end up fat. I didn’t listen at first and then all of a sudden, one day it got to me. My parents and I sat down and talked, they ended up hiring a personal trainer that worked at the gym and I would go in about 3 times a week to do some lightweight training/cardio. My first week of working out was rough, I couldn’t bend or move my arms at all. I couldn’t stretch them out and the amount of pain that I shot up and down my arms for 3 days straight was just unbearable. I wanted to give up, I thought to myself, “The moment we take responsibility for our life, our life will definitely change. Take action now, there is no such thing as the perfect time or right moment. I continued to go with my personal trainer, after about 5 weeks of training with him, I started to see some results. I stepped on the scale and I noticed I lost some weight. This motivated me to start working out even harder, I started to go 5 times a week, I stopped with my personal trainer and started doing my own stuff. I fixed my eating habits and after 12 weeks, I could start seeing my abs! When you start to see results, you just don’t want to stop, you want to keep on going. There is plenty of time in a day to focus on yourself. Even if you have to adjust your schedule a little bit, you can do it. Successful people ALWAYS find a way.

I didn’t really know much about nutrition at the time, I had eliminated most of the junk food but there was one thing holding me back. My dad owns an Italian restaurant that I started working at when I was 14. Some of you know how good Italian food is and how sometimes it may be irresistible. I think the main problem that I had with my diet is that I didn’t eat enough meals a day. When I got to work, after about an hour into work I would be starving and I couldn’t resist but start eating things like leftover french fries, pasta, etc. It was just too big of a temptation for me to resist because it was right there in front of me! I was also a big soda drinker. I drank soft drinks 3-4 times a day every single day. The amount of sugar a can of Coke has is absurd, and I really didn’t know how bad it was for me back then. At the time I just didn’t really care that much because the food was just too good. However after I ate it, I felt bad and I started to regret it. At the age of 14, I was around 145 pounds with a substantial amount of body fat at least over 20 percent. I realized that since I was working out, I really needed to make drastic changes to my diet because if I didn’t, then what was the point of working out if I made no progress?

I ended up making the changes that I needed to make in order to lose most of my body fat. Within 3 years of exercising, I now weigh 170 pounds, and I’m currently sitting at 10% body fat. Amazing right? I currently am helping friends and family achieve their goals because if I did it and had absolutely no motivation to begin with then anyone can do it. If you can put your mind to it, then you can most definitely achieve it!

If I know one thing, I would never go back to the lifestyle I was living before. I couldn’t be any happier than I am with where I’m at right now. This is the healthiest and leanest I have been in a very long time. I have been gaining lean muscle mass right now, after I reach my goal weight of 180 pounds which will be in just about 3 months, I will start cutting down and prepare for my first physique competition! I have to say I am very excited and I cannot wait to step on that stage and compete. My diet consists of around 6-7 meals a day. When i’m bulking, I pick one day each week to have a cheat meal. Yes guys, you can have a cheat meal. It won’t hurt, but keep it to a certain extent, don’t go overboard! Other than that, my diet always stays super clean and ALL junk food and soft drinks have been completely eliminated from my diet. I am always working and looking on areas that need work to improve and better my physique.

Here’s what my diet looks like:

8:00 Am Meal 1 (Breakfast)
• 3 whole eggs and 3 egg whites
• 1 cup cooked oatmeal

10:00 Am Meal 2 (Pre-workout)
• 2 scoop whey protein powder
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup water
• 1 banana
• 1 tsp fish oil

1:00 Pm Meal 3 (Post-workout)
• 1 scoop whey protein powder
• 2 cup milk

3:00 Pm Meal 4 (Snack)
• 6 oz. canned tuna (in water)
• 2 slice whole wheat bread
• 1 tbsp. fat-free mayo

5:30 Pm Meal 5 (Lunch)
• 5 oz lean ground beef (93% lean 7% fat)
• 1 cup cooked pasta
• ¼ cup spaghetti sauce
• 10 almonds

8:00 Pm Meal 6 (Dinner)
• 6 oz. lean chicken breast (99% fat-free)
• 1 large sweet potato (300g)
• 1 medium avocado

12:00 Am Meal 7 (Bedtime)
• ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cliff bar

I head on out to the gym after my second meal, this works best for me and my schedule. I feel pretty good at this time of the day and ready to go get my workout done and over with. I also like working out at this time because there are either very few people in the gym to none at all so sometimes I have the entire weight room to myself. Sometimes I run to the gym to get some extra cardio in but it’s no more than a mile away from my house so I use that as a warm- up for my workout which works pretty well for me! Even when I am bulking, I still include some cardio (slow steady-state cardio) into my workouts, usually no more than 3 times a week. I’ll just jump onto the elliptical machine for 10 minutes and in the meantime, I watch a podcast so the time goes by very quick and it isn’t as boring as it usually is.

Here’s what my workout looks like:

Monday – Legs and Abs

Tuesday – Chest and Arms (Cardio)

Wednesday – Rest day

Thursday – Back, Abs and Calves (Cardio)

Friday – Shoulders

Saturday – 30 minutes Cardio and abs

Sunday – Rest day

Yes, I now only workout 4 times a week instead of 6 times like I used too! Rest days are really important and play key factors in gaining strength and putting on mass. It may make sense that working out more will cause you to see bigger and better results right? In order to improve performance (gain size, strength and/or definition) you’ve got to work hard. However, hard training (be it heavy training, training with less rest between sets, more sets per work or less days off) will break down your muscles and in the very short term, make you weaker.

It is rest that makes you stronger, because it is the rest that allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal and recover. It is the rest that allows you to recover so you can be strong, and thereby handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and reps needed to gain further. The body will store less glycogen which is why you will look flat when you over train. If this imbalance between intense excess training and inadequate recovery (rest) time persists then performance will decline. Without proper recovery time, not only will you reach a performance plateau, but you also will run the risk of injury, and may even experience reduced performance.

I see myself in the fitness industry. My one goal is to be sponsored by big brands like Optimum Nutrition! I know that sooner or later, I will achieve that goal, even if it’ll take 3, 5 or even 10 years, I’m going to keep on trying until I achieve my goal. You have to set some goals for yourself. Without goals, you won’t achieve ANYTHING in life.

This is only the beginning as I am only 18 years old. I have an entire future awaiting ahead of me. I’m taking it one step at a time. I will start with physique competitions, after I start placing 1st place, I will move on to competing in NPC (National Physique Committee) and then hopefully one day compete in Mr. Olympia! I am very excited for this summer to come and to get on that stage and give it my best because I know I have what it takes to win!