A Fresh Start

“So I can delete your old account information and your weigh in of 269.4 pounds can be your new starting weight. Would you like to do that?”

“Yes. It’s time for a fresh start.” 

Moving across the country takes a lot out of you. From getting stuck on a dead end road and having to back a moving truck with a car trailer attached back 1000 feet with the help of the Monroe, LA Police Department, to driving with crosswinds of 60+ mph in Wyoming, it’s safe to say that I ate my feelings hard during those six treacherous days. 

But now we’re here in Seattle. And it feels like home. I want to live here forever.  

The blessing and the curse of a new city is having a million new restaurants and eateries to try along with the new-to-you offerings from other ethnicities (we even have a Nepalese place next to our apartment. Seattle is awesome.) Like when we moved to Tallahassee, we wanted to eat anything and everything. I’m pretty sure I was eating the equivalent of six vats of a lard, butter and gravy concoction each day. Thankfully, the gorging stopped when we decided to start losing weight. 

I would like to say that wasn’t the case when we got here, but it was. It’s too deliciously easy to order REALLY GOOD Chinese food out here! Ironically, I got on the scale about a week into living here and I had actually lost weight since the last time I weighed in Tallahassee. Of course, I got cocky and thought “well I can eat anything! I AM INVINCIBLE!” But like poor Borist in Goldeneye, I too was frozen in liquid nitrogen (wait, what?) I mean, I too got my comeuppins and gained a significant about of weight in a matter of days. Megan and I both knew it was time to take control. So this morning, that’s what we did. 

The opening conversation happened when we went to Weight Watchers meeting for the first time in two years. Today, we signed up for a new membership. A fresh start to match our new adventure here in the northwest. When I attended meetings in Tallahassee, I had a weird feeling towards them. I had lost around 130 pounds “on my own” but I had stalled and I had hoped it would help. Instead of taking in the information, I just sat there and stewed over my gain. It probably wasn’t what I needed then, but it is what I need now. I need that weekly tribe of folks to grow with and a weekly weigh in that will hold me accountable. Like when I first start my weight loss journey almost five years ago, I’m desperate but I’m not going to overthink it and I’m ready for a healthy life. I’m incredibly excited for the meetings, to work with the WW leader, Jodi, who also went to FSU (because this world is tiny), and I’m ready to explore all of the healthy foods and activities that this amazing city has too offer. I am ready for this fresh start.  

The FFK is on the Move

So I realized that I haven’t talked about it here on the ol’ bloggy blog, but I have a pretty epic announcement!


Seattle Bound

Space Needle not to scale to human person.

A few weeks ago, I was offered the marketing manager position at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington! My first day is August 3rd and we are moving next Friday. (Yes…as in seven days from today. Holy Moses.) Ever since our wedding day, we have wanted to move to Seattle. It’s been a dream of ours for so long and now that it’s finally here, I still haven’t completely processed that it’s actually happening. It will probably hit me when we’re driving through Colorado or something.

It’s weird because while I am still in pseudo-disbelief, I’m doing everything I can to remain present in this moment. My time in Tallahassee has been so pivotal both as a professional and as someone who dramatically changed his life by losing more than 100 pounds. It didn’t, but a lot of times it feels like my life began in Tallahassee. It’s when I took on this new identity of a fitness blogger who runs half marathons and names his kettlebell. Over the past week, I’ve passed certain parts of campus and I think back to these key moments in my life and all I want to do is write about it. But I’m pretty sure that would just end up with me bawling on my computer which is not good.

It’s also weird because it feels like Megan and I have been in Tallahassee over three acts: Act One) Graduate School
Act Two) Working at Admissions
Act Three) Working at the Center
While we have had some of the same close friends over the past five years, we have also been close with others who have come and gone. Specifically my close friends in grad school and from our church when we first moved here. That cast in Act One were there from the very beginning of my weight loss. They watched me slowly shrink into a completely different person and supported me the whole way through. I can’t thank them enough. I couldn’t have done it without them. But Act One feels so far away now. Since then, I feel like I’ve gone through all these other incarnations with other awesome supporters along the way.

I am starting another Act One next week. A new chapter in my life where people don’t know my story and that I wore a size 60 suit to my wedding. It’s a fresh start and that’s kind of refreshing. For a long time, I thought about taking the “1” off my weight loss number to see if that would motivate me to lose more weight. It was easy to get complacent when I could say “I’ve lost 130 pounds.” But I knew that wasn’t possible if I was in the same place where I weighed 357 pounds. While that first 100 pounds is still a part of my identity, I can now think of my current weight as my starting point. Recently, my feelings about my weight are very similar to how I felt when I first started: I know I need to lose weight or it could get ugly fast. So this new phase is kind of like American Horror Stories or True Detective: it’s different characters with the same theme under the same title. Either way, I’m incredibly excited for this new adventure and what it means for my journey up Mt. Fitintoskinnyjeans. See you soon.


Introducing #FFKFitby30

For the past few weeks, Megan and I have binged watched the entire series of Game of Thrones. You know, that show with the dragons, ice zombies and Peter Dinklage. The show is simply amazing and I can’t believe it took me this long to finally watch it. Anyway, while we were watching the fifth season the other night, I thought to myself “wow, I wonder how old Kit Harington (John Snow) is. He must be like…37 or something.” So, like any good TV consumer, I went to IMDB to look for his age. Aaaaaaaand he’s 18 days older than me. That means we graduated high school at the same time, we were in awkward puberty at the same time and we probably secretly even loved Nickelback at the same time. When I told Megan, all she could say was “we’re old.”

While this might mean that I’m just not good at guessing the ages of people, it just reaffirms my false belief that I’m younger that I actually am. (At this point, I’m waiting for some red head to come up to me and say “you know nothing, Nathan MacDonald.”) The reality is that I am an adult and life his happening right now. This all kind of came to a head when I realized that as of June 13th, I am a year and a half away from turning 30. My twenties are almost gone. And I’m kind of sad about it.

At this point, I know you’re ready to comment with a remark like “ummmmm…you’re not that old. Stop whining!” or something like “dude! 30 is the new 15!” But for me, it’s more than that! I’m seeing that 3 number as a finish line for goals that I set nearly a decade ago. (Yes, the FFK is turning 5 years old this year.) I need to think of my journey in those terms so I mentally keep going. More importantly, I need to breath new life into this journey.

With that, I would like to introduce you to #FFKFitby30.

Below is a manageable list of goals that I will conquer before January 13th, 2017 (you know…when I turn 30). Some are serious, some are silly, and others are just plain cool. My plan is once I complete one goal, I will add another! So here we go!

  • Exercise for 30 minutes four times a week.
  • Complete a marathon
  • Run a race every month
  • Do a pull up (yes, one pull up. I can do a tenth of one right now…)
  • Weigh in below 200 pounds (199.8 lbs totally counts!)
  • Get certified in a fitness program like TRX of kettlebells
  • Track my food six times a week

So seven reasonable goals that all benefit one another in some way! I’m going to start tracking food tomorrow in a food journal on my phone and Megan and I also started Insanity Max 30 (check it out! It’s awesome!) last week! I’m ready to begin this journey to 30 and using these goals as my map!

Here. We. Go.

Why I’ve Gained 30 Pounds

I’m having a rough night and I need to talk about it.

For the past two years, I have slowly gained 30 pounds back from my lowest weight of about 225 pounds. Want to hear the weirdest part? I didn’t know why until tonight.

So yes, two years ago I did start a new job and I thought that was why for a long time. But today, I finally realized what happened that first week of work that created this mess.

Dear reader, it’s weird…

Here we go…
In my office at work, I have two screens: my MacBook Pro laptop screen and my 24″ Apple monitor which is perfect for Photoshop and other design programs. A few weeks in to my new job, I turned off the monitor and I saw myself, my 225 pound self, in the screen. Then a voice that was essentially non-existent in my life, or at least one that had been silent for years, popped into my brain. “Holy crap! You are still fat! You know that, right?” It was like years of suppressed negativity crashed through my mental fortress of positivity. At that moment, I stopped loving myself. From that moment on, I saw a fat version of myself in that screen and any other reflective surface for that matter. I even saw it today and told myself the same thing. It felt like after that day, instead of working harder in the gym (which still wasn’t the right answer), I ate my feelings and essentially lost any amount of self-control I had.

I know this doesn’t make any sense. Please don’t try to explain how the image I see in the screen is a refraction so it’s larger. I knew that then and I know that now. Sadly, none of that matters to the part of my brain that controls my self image. All it sees is a fat Nathan. I think the reality of it is that I hadn’t confronted a lot of the serious body image issues I had dealt with all my life. I guess I kept them in check by losing weight and exercising. Eventually, those successes wore off and my guard was down. This is a lot of the reason why I’ve been silent on the blog for the past few years. I haven’t valued my success myself the way I should.

So now what? Now that I’ve figured out this possible root cause, how do I make this gain just a slight detour in my life? To be honest, I’m not too sure. I do, however, feel like a small proverbial weight has been lifted off my chest. I know it will take time to lose those 105,000 calories, but I’m ready to get back in the right direction.

More importantly though, I’m ready to love myself again.

Extracurricular Living

Throughout my academic career, I was a pretty average student. Sure, I won the Taylor Elementary Geography Bee in 1998 because I knew that soda was made with corn syrup and is one of the top commodities produced by the US, but I wasn’t always the top of my class…or…ever the top of any class. In fact, Mrs. Lewis, my AP US History teacher in high school, told me one time that I was a B student and I always would be. (The wonderful faculty of Hillsboro High School in Hillsboro, Texas, ladies and gentlemen.) Now granted, I had some pretty awesome teachers as well like Mrs. Walters, who thought I was a pretty strong writer, and Mr. Davis, who helped me build a deer blind (which was big enough to be considered a tiny house by today’s standards) but overall, I was still just a funny fat kid who was always ready with a ridiculous joke or a comedic fall-out-of-the-chair routine in Ms. Tirey’s class that would have made Chris Farley proud.
Then…I got to college. A fat kid’s time to shine.
Artist rendering of Nathan MacDonald as an adult

Artist rendering of Nathan MacDonald as an adult. Not to scale.

Growing up, everyone told me that college is where you become the person that you’re going to be for the rest of your life. I was ready to finally flutter out of my cocoon and become the awkward butterfly I was born to be. Before I knew it, I was a part of the Freshman Action Council, I was singing in the college choir and eventually, I was pledging a social club (basically a fraternity at a Christian university. Same amount of weird pledging activities but with Bible verses) oh yeah, along with a social life, a part time job and a full load of classes. (Sing Song was thrown in there somewhere too. But that’s for another blog post. Here’s what I’m talking about. Yes…this is a thing. And yes, that is Megan directing. And yes, that is me as an obese Mickey Mouse.)

 But, to paraphrase Uncle Ben, with great time-sucking activities, comes great drop in GPA. I wasn’t a stellar student in college either; it was almost as if that Mrs. Lewis had accurately predicted my future. I left college with a lot of practical experience, but with a transcript that resembled a terrible pick of letters in a game of Scrabble. No vowels (or A’s) to speak of. I wanted graduate school to work, but I knew it was a long shot.
When I finally got in to grad school at Florida State, I flourished. I was on top of my assignments, I worked on group projects with brilliant colleagues, and for once, I was successful at this whole school thing. Consequently, I began my weight lost journey and lost 50 pounds in about a semester.
Why the sudden change, you ask? I didn’t let my extracurricular activities get in my way. I had spend my entire academic life focused on the wrong things. If I had put half as much effort into studying as I did at buying weird CD’s at Hastings, I would have been a pretty great student. Instead, I let the inane obligations of my college life take charge because they weren’t studying, which was hard for me. Up until grad school, that was my life in a nutshell: I didn’t want to work hard towards something because if I failed, it would have been a waste and I would be embarrassed like the time I broke a chair in the fifth grade in front of Brianna Allen, my elementary crush and my friend, Isaac Bray. Trying hard had gotten me nowhere. Why start now?
For the past year, I have let extracurriculars get in the way of my life. I worry about work instead of working out, I eat out to suppress my stress about finances and I watch TV instead of blogging. I do everything I can to avoid eating right and working out consistently and I have paid for it by gaining 30 pounds over the past year. Since October, Megan had I have been eating a heavily plant-based Nutritarian diet (I’ll talk more about that in another post soon) and at one point I had lost close to 15 pounds in about a month! Instead of continuing that momentum, I let my extracurriculars get in my way like not making a healthy choice while eating out or skipping a work out to go to a happy hour. Before I knew it, I was back to where I started and then some.
When I let my extracurriculars build up, I become lethargic and I just become numb and aimless. Losing weight and getting fit is a lot like a race with a finish line, you have a goal in mind so you train for it with purpose. Recently, I’ve been like a boxer beating the air.
So this week, I have re-framed my way of thinking and have created more of a structure for my life. Next week, I’m going to start for the Seattle Rock n’ Roll Half in June and for another awesome half in October (more on that soon!) Last night, I did interval training with a group of awesome friends for the first time and I’m going to use that as the anchor of my training this time around. I’m also going to start riding my spin bike when I’m watching TV, something that I used to do when I was at my lowest weight (not a coincidence). Finally, I have retooled my view on food. While I am going to Austin, the food mecca of the world, next week for SXSWedu, I’m not going to go all YOLO every meal. I am going to indulge, but I’m going to balance it with healthy meals too, along with a few runs thrown in.
I know I have been quiet on here for what feels like the last year, and I’m sorry. I haven’t made time for the FFK because frankly I have been embarrassed about how things have been going. Now, I know I’m not going to be perfect, but I am going to strive to write something ridiculous like this post once a week from now on. I’m still going to post my weigh in’s on the FFK Facebook page and I’ll throw in a Wordless Wednesday here and there. Thank you all for being amazing readers, supporters and friends over the years. You are all amazing.

The Disney Enchanted 10k Explained Through Star Wars: The Force Awakens GIFs

So last weekend, I checked a pretty epic item off of my bucket list: I finally ran my first Disney race! I guess I should back up a little bit…Last year, Megan’s cousin Chelsie asked us if we would be up for running a race at Disney with her, something we have been wanting to do ever since we moved here. We decided to do the Enchanted 10k since it was less expensive than the half marathon that weekend and a little more challenging than the Frozen 5k (which ironically had below freezing temperatures this year.)

Chelsie flew in to Tallahassee on Tuesday night and we went down to Orlando after work on Thursday. On Friday, we went to the awesome race expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where I met one of my favorite Biggest Loser contestants Danni Allen! (There isn’t a GIF to describe how awesome that experience was.) After walking around the expo and a few hours at Downtown Disney, it was time for bed!

Now as you all know, I’m a quite the Star Wars geek. (There’s something about a spacecraft that can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs that just gives me the vapors….awe lawdy!) So when I was trying to think of how I was going to effectively and creatively describe just how awesome this actually was, I turned to the only other thing that was as awesome in my mind: the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer! AAAAHHHH! IT’S SO GOOD!!!! So without further adieu, I present to you the weirdest/funniest, to me at least, race recap I’ve ever done….

We got up early…REALLY early

You know when you wake up super early and you wonder why you even went to bed to begin with? Yeah, it was that early. At 3:30, my first phone alarm went off. (There is nothing worse than When You Wish Upon a Star playing at full volume. I thought it was going to be inspiring since we were running at Disney. I was waaaaay off.) Before I knew it, I was chowing down on a peanut butter and banana bagel sandwich (my pre-race breakfast of choice) and it was time to make our way to Epcot. It was funny to watch the combination of drivers in Kissimmee who were either going home after a night of partying or were part of the convoy of cars with 13.1 stickers on their way to the race.

Then, we waited in our corrals…forever

While I knew the race was big, I didn’t think it was going to be 12,000 racers big. The Epcot parking lot was packed! We knew we had some time, so we waited in the nice warm car for a little while before trudging our way over to the race pavilion. The race’s starting line was in one of the many Epcot parking lots which is smart because there is so much more space to work with. Anyway, Megan and I were in the D corral which was second to last. We didn’t realize that we were going to have to wait for about 45 minutes to finally run after the first corral. It was a weird adjustment for my body because I was so jacked and ready to go and then I had to stand around waiting for our turn. That just happens when you run a big race like that!

Then, it was our turn to run!

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Our corral was finally called and we were up! The race MC’s counted down and the fireworks went off! Time to conquer some miles!





The first few miles…

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

We didn’t start running until 6 so it was still pretty dark. It felt even darker because we ran away from the lights of the park onto the highway. The first mile felt like a cakewalk because my adrenaline finally kicked back into gear. Then, it started to snow!!!!
Well…kind of.
Anna and Elsa were on top of an overpass with “Let it Go” blasting as loud as possible. The ice royalty waved at the runners and at one point they asked if we wanted to build a snowman which led to a resounding “NO!” from the crowd. It was pretty hilarious. (Side note: I may or may not have done an interpretive dance to “Let it Go.”)

Bathroom Break

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Around mile 2.5, Megan and I both realized that we both needed a bathroom break. The lines were pretty long so we kept going. Then, there were two random port-a-potties (well…not random. They weren’t phantom port-a-potties.) with a pretty short line…or so we thought. We ended up waiting for a good while which made me antsy. (So I admit that this GIF doesn’t really have anything to with port-a-potties. That is unless you call the bathroom the dark side? I don’t know. I got nothing. All I know is that I’m ridiculously stoked for the new lightsabers. I don’t really care what the rest of the Internet says. They are epic and I want one!!!!!! Oh yeah…where was I?)

Rolling through Epcot!

Cruising through epcotBefore we knew it, we were approaching the backside of Epcot! We ran by the outdoor part of Test Track and and eventually made our way into the World Showcase between China and Norway. It’s weird because you think there would be more behind the pavilions. It was basically just a parking lot and a loading dock full of beer kegs. Anyway, we stopped for a few pictures since it was finally sunrise. Running around the countries has always been a dream of mine and was definitely my favorite part of the race!

All the High Fives!

high fiving(Obviously the Millennium Falcon and the TIE Fighters aren’t high fiving, but you get the picture….) We eventually made our way through the International Gateway towards the Boardwalk loop. There were other people running towards us which led to multiple high fives and loud cheering. There’s really nothing more encouraging during a race than runners cheering other runners!

The Finish Line is in Sight!

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

Lucasfilm / Via youtube.com

We finally made it around the loop (an old man was giving out cookies. It was one of the few times I’ve taken food from strangers.) and we ran behind the Land and the Imagination pavilion. After a selfie in front of the giant ball, we kicked it into high gear and finished the race!

we did it!WWWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We felt awesome! We crossed the finish line, got our medals and found Chelsie! It was nice to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about our time. Overall, I would definitely run another Disney race. They are pretty pricey, but they are extremely well organized and I mean, come on, it’s Disney! One of my goals is to run a marathon before I turn 30 and the Disney Marathon weekend is on my birthday in 2017. I think that might be it!

So congratulations to all of the Disney Princess Weekend runners! You all totally rock!

Stay tuned next week for pictures of us (not just Star Wars GIFs) during the race!

Proud Jedis

(I know this isn’t a part of the trailer, but who cares?)

A blast from the past…

Why hello, lovely blog reader! As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am a pretty big fan of the app Timehop. As a weight loser, it gives me perspective on how far I’ve actually come and where I could be if I put my mind to it. Today, I opened that silly app with the blue dinosaur and found one of my favorite FFK posts. It was about my digital buddy Stephen Pagano and his astounding 300-pound weight loss journey. When I posted this a year ago, I was at a low point in my weight loss journey. I was close to losing hope that I would reach my goal weight someday. It was Stephen’s grit and no nonsense approach to weight loss that inspired me to keep going. His story challenged me to rethink my eating habits and how I could do better each day. So without further adieu, I ask you…

What Would Stephen Do?


Guest Post: Do or Do Not…

Back in the summer, I asked my good friend and weight-loss juggernaut Stephanie to write a guest post for my blog. After some things fell through on my end, I decided to wait until today to post it. Stephanie’s amazing story of transformation inside and out continues to inspire me to keep going. I’m so proud to call her my friend. Take it away, Steph!

A few months ago, Nathan asked me to write this guest-post for the FFK blog. However, I wasn’t sure where to even begin telling you about this journey that has led to a loss of over 147lbs and more than 97 inches in the last 2 years. Do you ever feel like you have multiple personalities duking it out in your head? You know the personalities of the drill sergeant, the self-defeatist, and the peace-love-happiness-dude? Yeah. That was me, and sometimes it still is when it comes to this journey down the path of fitness. For the longest time, I wondered why anyone would ever want to hear my story, and then the drill sergeant would start barking “Just do it!” while the peace-love-happiness-dude sat at his drum chanting “It’s all good maaaaaan.” After a while, I realized that we all bring our different struggles to the floor when it comes to fitness. We all have our stories of ups and downs, of days of triumph and days when that snooze button on the alarm becomes our best friend. So this is my story – ups, downs, triumphs and all.

Hi! My name is Steph, and I have developed an addiction to fitness. It’s pretty awesome, really. At the age of 41- yep, I just told you my age *deep breath* – I’m happily addicted to the energy and the soreness that comes along with becoming a fitter, healthier me. However, it hasn’t always been that way. I have struggled with weight issues throughout my entire life. Growing up, my body developed faster than most of my fellow classmates. As a third grader, I was often mistaken for a high school student. My fellow fourth grade classmates made up a little song about me and how much bigger I was than everyone else. “BBT…bye bye tree.” Hearing that song sung every time I walked by the other kids is something I will never forget. I was more than embarrassed when I was told what it meant; I was devastated and heartbroken. BBT was their secret code for calling me “big butt.” Up until that point, I never saw myself as being “fat.” As a 5’ 4” fourth grader, I was just bigger than all the other kids in my grade…at least in my eyes. Yet that song still rang in my head for years to come. At home, I was often reminded that I was, indeed, fat. In high school, I was sent to a diet center, where I was given a bunch of pills and was put on a strict diet of salads for lunch and a couple of bran muffins for breakfast. Yes, I lost some weight, but I also found myself constantly hungry from lack of proper nutrition. Needless to say, my visits to that diet center stopped within a few months, and that action was much to the disapproval from the homefront.

Steph at 343 lbs.

Steph at 343 lbs.

It was towards the end of my high school days that I fell in love with running. There was something about the freedom I felt once my feet started pounding the dirt on the trails by the railroad tracks. In college, I ran 10-15 miles every week. Running became my solace and source of centering. It was where I could turn up the volume on my headphones and get lost in the rhythmic beats of my body pulsing to the music. However, that source of peace ended my junior year when I was on the verge of hospitalization due to a battle with mono that had been in my system for more than 6 months before ever being diagnosed and had already gone through multiple relapse stages. The viral load in my body was so high that my liver was beginning to shut down. I could barely function. All I could manage for months-on-end was going to class, sleep, eating, and more sleep. As a result, I started gaining weight. It took several years before I had the energy to start exercising again, but by that time, I had gained at least 60lbs.

After many years of stress from life, the graduate school effect, poor eating and lack of exercise, I found myself buried underneath an excessive amount of weight – 200lbs in excess to be exact. Looking back, I think I got to a point where I hid my true self underneath all the big clothes and extra padding. I felt ashamed of who I was and what I had become. In my mind, I was living up to so many other people’s expectations of them saying that I was never good enough or did anything right. I didn’t want my photo taken because I never wanted to see myself. I got tired of people looking at me like I was some sort of alien blob. I tried various fad diets, including a fairly expensive ($300/month) program where you purchase their products (shake mixes, powdered foods, snack bars, etc…) and caloric intake is no more than 900 calories/day. Sure, I lost weight, but none of these things taught me how to eat properly, nor did they encourage or emphasize the benefits of exercise. I ended up gaining all of the weight back and then some. I learned an important lesson: there are no quick fixes…none.

By October of 2012, I was living in a highly stressful and unhealthy home environment and had also just completed 3 years of coursework towards my PhD. I woke up one morning to find that I couldn’t eat. My body had started shutting down and rejecting food. My hair was falling out in clumps; I was literally going bald. Insomnia started kicking in, and my energy was nowhere to be found. Sadly, it took all of that to get my attention. I decided that it was time to take control over my life. I needed to make a change, and it needed to start ASAP. (Notice I said “needed to start” and not “needed to happen.”)

Years back, I had purchased a workout program from this company called Beachbody. I did it a few times, but then it just sat in my dvd collection for a number of years. I had signed up for a free account, where I could track my progress on the workouts, but I had totally forgotten about it. When I got to the point in my life where I needed to start taking immediate action for my health, I looked up my Beachbody account and started searching for someone to mentor me and keep me on-track. I tried a couple of different workout programs; however, I felt I wasn’t being challenged enough. In November, my coach told me about this workout program that was up for pre-order and would be delivered in December. It was Les Mills Combat, a mixed-martial arts based program developed in New Zealand by a British duo, one an MMA fighter and the other a Muay Thai fighter. I took one look at the program previews and knew I needed it in my life. I went all out and started with the Ultimate Warrior package – the toughest level of the program. I needed a challenge, and this was definitely it. December 14, 2012, I pushed play and haven’t looked back since.

In the first 60-day round of the Ultimate Warrior calendar, I had a total loss of 18 inches and 26.8 lbs. So far, I have completed 10 full rounds Les Mills Combat Ultimate Warrior and 1 round of a hybrid with Les Mills Combat/Les Mills Pump. After having been on this journey for 23 months, I have lost 147.6lbs and 97.25 inches overall thus far. I am a new person, both inside and out. Les Mills Combat has been my lifesaver and guide. It centers me, it challenges me, and it brings joy to my life. I have discovered that regular exercise and proper nutrition with whole foods are 2 of my best friends. Every day, I wake up excited to see the changes happening both with the inside and outside of my body. I still have a ways to go on my journey, but I am enjoying every feeling of “change.” Sure, I still have my cheat days. Who doesn’t? I’ll readily admit my weakness for a good, dark chocolate and maybe a coffee treat on occasion. And then I keep moving forward.

There was a wise man who once spoke the words, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Okay, so maybe Yoda isn’t really a “man,” per se, but the words still ring true. One thing I have learned in in the journey of fitness and health is either you do it or you don’t do it. I have come to realize over a lifetime of struggle, the concept of “trying” always set me up with an option to fail. I was given a way out, an excuse to give up. “Oh well, at least I tried.” A life-journey on the road of fitness and health is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. You have to want to make the change, to take on the daily challenge of battling those multiple personalities in your head. No one else can do it for you. You must find your reason for moving forward, and that must become your focus. For me, I needed to find myself. Much of my research work in school is about the healing of trauma. I realized that I needed to heal myself before I could ever fully immerse myself in helping others.

Wise Yoda is.

Wise Yoda is.

Yes, there are still days where the self-defeatist personality wakes up and all those voices from my past that tell me I’m not good enough. But I never give up. Nor should you. Never give up, no matter what. Let me repeat that. NEVER GIVE UP, NO MATTER WHAT!

Before and After Faces of Steph Before and After StephWe all have our battles to fight. So stand up, strap on your gloves, and get to fighting. Be the awesomeness that you are in all that you do. You are worth every single drop of sweat and every sore muscle that makes you walk like Frankenstein for a few days. I know that if I can change my body and my life for the positive, anyone can! Decide you want to change. Commit to making the change. You will find success. It won’t be an easy road – change never is. However, it will be one of the best decisions you will you ever make. I’m here, cheering for you. Keep it real and stay with the fight!

Stephanie is a fitness enthusiast, musician, PhD candidate at Florida State University, and an Independent Beachbody Coach. She can be reached via email at esbythorne@gmail.com or coachesby@beachbodycoach.com.

The Art of Conquering Your Old Fears

When I was five years old, I took swimming lessons at the local college pool. After weeks and weeks of swimming in the safe shallow end of the half-Olympic sized pool, it was time to venture out into the dark abyss known as…the deep end. I was scared. Granted, how could I not be? There could be sharks and giant squids lurking in the briny deep! I patiently waited as my fellow seafarers to make the journey. Then, it was my turn to swim..err..doggy paddle…my way towards the deep end. I took a deep breath and started swimming.
3 feet.
4 feet.
5 feet.
6 feet.
12 feet.
I was doing it! I vividly remember looking up at the pool deck, seeing my Mom in the crowd of parents, and making some sort of exclaimed yelp. I was pumped! I HAD CONQUERED THE DEEP END! 

Sadly, this was the most daring feat of Nathan MacDonald as a minor.

For most of my life, I was what you would call…a scaredy cat. I didn’t like heights, I didn’t like getting hit in football, I didn’t even like sliding in baseball because I thought it might hurt. I didn’t take chances with my physical self. (Emotionally, I was a wrecking ball of silliness and attention grabbing.)

When I was in 7th grade, my class took a field trip to a ropes course. Now like I’ve said before, I weigh less right now than I did back then. I was awkward and chubby. So when it was my turn to do the trust fall, and have all my classmates catch me, I froze and adamantly said no. As the day progressed, I slowly began to muster up the courage to get on the course. At that point, everyone else had tried it except for me. When I went to climb up, the guide asked for another adult to help support her. You know, in case I fell off and, thanks to the science of a pulley system, pulled her up as I crashed to the ground. After I watched her ask for assistance, I slowly and sheepishly climbed back down.

Even though this episode happened about 14 years ago, I still remember how my weight took both my confidence and my fears hostage. At times, I still get uncomfortable and uneasy when I am confronted with a something like heights. Like last Monday.

I'm only half joking in this photo.... Photo credit: The Amazing Laura Osteen

I’m only half joking in this photo….
Photo credit: The Amazing Laura Osteen

So I work in a pretty awesome office with an even more awesome boss. When I heard that our office was invited to try out the new challenge course at FSU’s Rez, I was excited but slightly terrified at the same time. I figured “well, the Rez is gorgeous. And they’re going to need a photographer….” so I decided to go.

When it was time to put on a harness and go over the safety instructions , I started to panic. Really panic. I started to fumble around with the equipment and go through swings of making weird jokes and comments to being deathly silent. At this point, I felt like I was already behind everyone else. Then, my harness didn’t fit and I had to get a bigger one. So at this point, not only am I behind everyone else, I’m having to get special help. My fears and feelings from that experience in the 7th grade started to creep back up.

After a few more instructions, it was go time. I had already told everyone that I was going to stay on the ground…where it was safe. When it was our groups turn to climb up the webbing to first platform, I said “screw it. Let’s do this.” and I went up. I didn’t over analyze it. I just went for it.

Our first obstacle.  Photo credit: Joe Deer

Our first obstacle.
Photo credit: Joe Deer

The first obstacle was about 20 feet of the ground. I kept looking down and kept thinking “Welp. Time to die.” Then, like Indiana Jones, I took a step out on to the wire. “Okay…this isn’t so bad,” I said. “Actually, this might be…fun?” I got across without any problems. On to the next one!

On the next obstacle, I tried to step on a little unstable piece of wood that was a part of a shortcut to get to the other side. I tried to step on it…and I fell. But because of the multiple safety mechanisms within the course, I was fine. I pulled myself up and kept going. From them on…I was fearless. I finally knew the consequences of my failure and it was recoverable. So like my voyage to the deep end, I kept going.

The final obstacle of the day for me.  Photo Credit: Joe Deer

The final obstacle of the day for me.
Photo Credit: Joe Deer

My classic "Silently Screaming" face. Photo credit: Joe Deer

My classic “Silently Screaming” face.
Photo credit: Joe Deer

When we reached the last obstacle of the lower level of the course, I figured I had done enough for the day and called it good. As I was climbing down to the ground, I felt elated. I had broken my own mold. Even after years of testing my body and my limits during this weight loss journey, I still have fears of failure that I haven’t conquered. I still feel weird in the gym so I sometimes run instead because I’m better at it and I avoid playing some competitive sports because I don’t like letting my team down. But like that first step on to the wire, it’s sometimes scary to push yourself out of your comfort zone. But when you do, you can unlock your full potential.


How to Change the Face of Men’s Health With Movember

HP MovemberFor years, men across the world have made November the month to grow a lusciously lumberjack-esque thick beard which was colloquially known as “No Shave November”. When I was in college, I would give my razor a rest and try to grow a studtastic beard, but it always ended up in a disastrous and patchy mess that just pronounced my double (well…quadruple) chin. That was until a few years ago when I decided to do something about my health.

You see, for years I was relied on ignorance as a key to being happy. At 357 pounds, I knew I was a ticking time bomb but I pushed down that sadness with food and by being loud and crazy. Now that I’m healthier, but still loud and crazy, my mission in life is to help others become the best version of themselves by making the most of their lives by being healthy! And I’m not just talking about fitness either.

Here are a few facts for you:

  • 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime
  • Around 15 million American adults (6.7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15 – 35 years

So this year, I will be growing a moustache to change the face of men’s health with Movember.

For the next 30 days, my upper lip will be home the only hair on my face. But this month is more than just growing a studly handlebar, it’s about spreading the word of men’s health and the importance of prevention.

How am I doing that, you ask? By challenging you two ways! Here’s how!

Nate & Cat’s Shavetastic Spectacular Movember Challenge!

FFK MovemberFor the past three years, my buddy Catherine Williams and I have been trying to put together a video and a challenge for Movember. 2014 IS THE YEAR!!!! Catherine, who is an awesome champion for ALS awareness, and I came up with a challenge that is fun, easy, and could potentially leave you smelling like sandalwood.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Watch the video above
  2. Decide if you want to accept the challenge and donate $5 to N&CSSMC, or go double or nothing and try to shave a balloon with it popping.
  3. If you decide to shave a balloon…get a balloon, silly!
  4. Lather said balloon
  5. Start shaving
  6. If it pops, donate $10 and challenge two friends
  7. If it doesn’t, brag about your awesomeness and challenge two of your friends
  8. Have fun with your challenge! Post a video of you shaving the balloon on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or your favorite social media challenge. Don’t forget to tag the poor souls you’re challenging!

PLEASE NOTE: We are not liable for any injury or shaving cream mess that comes from this challenge. Shave your balloon at your own risk…or just donate the $5!

Simple enough? Awesome!


Here’s the second way to donate!


Stachetastic Run SponsorsLast year, I challenged my friends on Facebook do donate a dime to Movember.
Pure and simple. Well…sort of.
I asked them donate a dime for each mile I ran that month. At first, I asked for 10 people to commit. I ended up with close to 25 sponsors. That’s $2.50 for every mile! This year, I am looking for more sponsors and I’m asking for a dime a mile again! Last year, I only ran 50 miles so each person donated at least $5! That’s still $125 towards men’s health!

Are you up to the challenge? If you are, comment on this post either below or on Facebook! I’ll tally up the miles and let you know how much you owe at the end of the month!

So I know I’m potentially asking a lot from you and at this point you’re probably wondering where this money is all going. Fair point! Last year, Movember USA alone raised over 22 million dollars towards research and education of testicular and prostate cancer research and prevention and creating awareness of issues surrounding men’s mental health. According to Movember’s independent auditors, 83.3% of the funds went directly to research which is above the international best practice standard for cause-based donations. For more information on where your money will go, click here.

If you decide not to donate, I do ask that you do think about your state of health. I ask you to get educated and to find out how to become a person that your future self will thank in years to come. Moustache or not, make this month about you and your health.



Psst…want to join in on the Movember fun? Join my team Moustaches Are Cool! Click here to join!