One ordinary day at his job crafting titanium knee implants for an orthopedic company turned very scary, very quickly for Mississippi’s Johnathan Fuller.

Out of nowhere, he broke out in a profuse sweat. Moments later, a sharp pain shot through his chest. “I was in so much pain,” he says, “I fell down on my knees. I was really scared that I was about to die.”

The discomfort continued for five long minutes. Though not a fatal heart attack, the crushing pressure that all but stopped his breathing told him it was time to regain control of his life. Overweight with a family history of obesity and heart disease, he knew it was time for a change. Here’s how he did it. 

How long after the attack did it take for you to hit the gym?

It was about a week. My brother Joel and I went to one and joined on the spot. He helped to keep me motivated. There were some days I would struggle to get there, but my brother would push me to go.

How did your training progress?

I started going six days a week, just kind of messing around with lifting weights and mixing in some cardio. When I started seeing results, it helped me keep at it.

What kind of program did you use?

I actually picked up a copy of the Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible to get started. I would go through it and find exercises I liked. Squats became one of my favorites, along with the benchpress. Honestly, I started off at about 95 pounds for squats, but my max now is 300. For bench press I could barely do the bar, but right now my max is 200. And I couldn’t even do a pullup. Now I can do 20, strict.

What about your diet? How did that change?

It was the empty calories I’d eat—Oreos, fast food—that got me fat. I was really bad with soda. Sprite was my favorite, and I’d hit up all of the usual fast-food places like Burger King, McDonald’s.

So what happened?

First off, I stepped up my protein intake, adding in more chicken breast, and eating fish like cod or sea bass. Going with the good carbs and staying away from the bad carbs was also key. I track calories now, and how many macros I eat a day. My intake is about 2,800 calories, with at least 175 grams of protein a day, and my carbs are at around 330 grams. I haven’t had a soda in three years. Now I drink nothing but water.

So guessing no more Oreo binges either?

Nope, no Oreos at all. If I do have a craving, I’ll make something healthy like a Greek yogurt cake sweetened with stevia.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m trying to gain strength so I started doing CrossFit two days a week. Fran is one of my favorite benchmark WODs. I’m also still going to the gym regularly, and I’m also hoping to enter my first fitness competition next year. Long term, I want to make fitness my career path. I’m planning on going to school to become a nutritionist and chef since I really enjoyedlearning to cook and eat right. Now I want to help others do the same.

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