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Obese to Body Builder's Physique: Troy's Lifestyle Change

I had the absolute pleasure or interviewing one of my biggest, real-life inspirations, Troy Fox. Troy lost an impressive 230 pounds by exercising and learning to use food as fuel and not a coping mechanism. What’s most remarkable is not what he has lost, though, it’s what he has gained; a lifetime of health, happiness, and self-confidence.

From yo-yo dieting to hoping on and off the health train, read about Troy’s lifestyle transformation and what helped him to go from morbidly obese to a body-building physique competitor.

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Troy Fox and I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I lost 230 pounds with healthy eating and exercise, and have now competed in two bodybuilding shows to promote body positivity and help overcome my insecurity with excess skin.  My weight-loss and overall health journey has been going on for around 8 years now. I first started working out in January of 2011 (15 minutes on the elliptical), started eating healthy in August of 2012 and hit my weight loss goal of 230 pounds in November of 2013. Since then I have worked on putting on muscle and strength  through reverse dieting. I studied Psychology and Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, have my M.S. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas and am now working on my PhD in Counseling Psychology at the University of Kansas.​ I would like to work as a trauma psychologist when I am done with school and am creating a YouTube series focused on physical and mental health, as well as equality. 

At what age did you become aware of your weight? Did you try losing weight unsuccessfully? 

I think I always always aware that I was a bigger kid, but I was active, played a lot of sports including football, soccer, hockey, and basketball and was in good shape. My weight became a major issue around high school, when I was dealing with depression. I put on a significant amount of weight because food was my comfort and something I used to help alleviate the negative emotions I was experiencing. I really tried a wide variety of diets, including weight watchers and nutrisystem. They worked great for me in the moment I was doing them, but I would lose weight, and then go back to eating how I did before. They were diets for me and not a lifestyle change.  Even once I started exercising in 2011, it took me 1.5 years to be able to finally start eating healthy. Eating was a coping skill I used to help me survive and get through my depression, and also something that was ruining my health. The problem was, when I was depressed, I didn't really care much about how it was negatively impacting my health. I didn't care if my blood pressure or cholesterol were high, because I didn't care if I lived. 

Why do you think your latest attempt at weight loss successful?

A couple reasons I think it was successful was because I had a great support system that I finally opened up to and utilized. My Dad was always there to support me and my best friends helped me so much. I always had people to go to the gym with and really leaned on them to to help getting my eating under control too. I also think it was successful because I finally started focusing on my mental health and seeing a therapist. That was a life-changing moment for me. I learned to ask for help and not be ashamed to ask for help when I needed it and when I was struggling. 

Can you talk about the mental and physical barriers that you had to overcome?

Obviously for me, the biggest mental barriers were depression, suicidality, low self-esteem and insecurity. I hated the way I looked

and what I had become, but had no motivation to do anything about it because I didn't want to live. I hated myself so much and was struggling so bad that for a long time I shut myself out from other people. It was so much work to act happy around others and pretend I was okay that I just wanted to be locked alone in my room playing video games and eating because those were the two things that made me feel better. As far as physical barriers, being out of shape and morbidly obese makes it hard to walk up stairs or go outside in the summer, let alone workout. It is important to remember everyone starts somewhere, everyone goes at their own pace, and that working out is hard for everyone. Even once you get in better shape, it is hard, because you are going at a harder pace and intensity. On top of that when I was losing weight and exercising, I had dislocated and fractured my ankle at one point, and separated my shoulder at another. Instead of quitting or stopping exercising, I adjusted the exercises and workouts I could do! 

What advice would you give someone who wants to lose weight, but struggles to stay on the 'heath train'.

The first thing I would say is to take things one day at a time and to set daily and weekly goals. It is great to have a long term goal of so many pounds you want to lose, but the number on the scale is not the end all be all. How many times a week do you want to exercise, how many calories a day do you want to have or how many of each macro? Setting a goal to shop healthy. If you don't buy it, it won't be there to tempt you. I would also say to not be afraid to ask for help or to lean on other people for support. A lot of times we can feel alone in these journeys, but you might be surprised at who might be there for you if you ask or reach out. Lastly, don't compare yourself to others, your journey is your journey and is unique and special in itself. We are all different and our bodies our different and respond differently to different foods and different workouts. Remember to be kind to yourself, and one good day can lead to two good days and before you know it a good week, a good month, and a good year. It is also important to remember what is important to you and your reasons for going on your journey. Don't forget to have fun either and enjoy life!!!!!

What is your was/is your motivation?

I always find it tricky to answer what my motivation was, because I feel like it is kind of a simple answer. I hated myself so much and hated looking at myself in the mirror. I just wanted to be happy, and I wanted to feel good about something. I had quit so much in life and gave up that would lead to me hating myself more. I didn't know what it felt like to feel good about myself or happy anymore and trying to lose weight a lot of times made it worse, because I would fail so much. It wasn't until I started leaning on my Dad and best friends like Cody, Phill, Jake, and Casey for support that I really started becoming motivated. They were always there for me, through the good and the bad, and they always loved me no matter what shape or size I was. So I would say they were my biggest motivations, because they never gave up on me when I had given up on myself. I will always be grateful to them. 

How did you become educated on clean eating and training?

I really started asking questions to my friends and people I was working out with about macros and healthier foods, and I started lifting with my friends, who helped teach me all the different workouts we did. My friend Jake went for kinesiology and dietetics, and competed in bodybuilding shows, so I was able to lean on him a lot for guidance whenever I had questions. One of the best things I did, was start to look at the nutrition labels at the grocery store. If I was ever tempted to buy something, I looked at the label, and would quickly become dissuaded from buying it.

How has losing weight affected your mental health?

Losing weight helped my mental health significantly, but it wasn't just the losing the weight aspect. It was really setting goals for myself that I was able to work on and accomplish. The thing I am most proud of related to my physical health, is how good of self-control I have now with eating because it is something that I never had. That is really when I started to notice my mental health improve, when I was in control of my eating and my eating wasn't in control of me. It helped alleviate my depression and suicidality in the moment, along with the therapy sessions I attended. I think it is important to note that while losing weight can impact your mental health, it is not the end all be all in regards to that. Mental health can affect anyone and everyone of all sizes, and it doesn't discriminate. We can't just focus on our physical health and expect what we are dealing with in our heads and our hearts to go away. 

What are your future plans as far as fitness goes?

My next big fitness goal is to compete in another bodybuilding show when I am done with my last year of coursework in my PhD program! It will be a nice way to cap off a long and strenuous journey!

A huge thank you to you, Troy, for being so honest about your mental health battle and sharing it with all of us. As someone who has battled her own mental health issues, I appreciate your openness more than you’ll ever know. You are such an inspiration, my friend.


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