Amazing Loser – Jon Calvo
- Age: 25
- YouTube Star
- 5’6″ (167 cm)
- Heaviest weight: 340lb (154.2 kg)
- Lowest weight: 152lb (68.9 kg)
Why were the videos so popular? I think part of the reason they gained a lot of success is because it’s just a story of hope. I think people just need to see that hope is possible. In their own lives maybe they didn’t think it was possible or they gave up on themselves. When you fall into that hole and you keep digging, you don’t know if you can ever get out. Seeing something that can bring other people hope about their own situation is something that can inspire people. I think that’s one reason. Also it was me just acting like a jerk.
Let’s start at the YouTube videos which might be where a lot of people are going, “Oh yeah, I knew him from somewhere!”
In the beginning it was just that I wanted to create videos for my close friends and family on Facebook. A lot of my videos are just like me acting weird! [ED: It’s true, check out his channel! Then subscribe to ours!] But that was just to be entertaining for my friends and family. But I had no idea that the videos would get seen by a lot of people. Being accountable is a huge thing for weight loss as well. Taking responsibility. There were a lot of people I knew who made videos at the same time as me who just dropped off, I don’t know why but I just kept going.
As far as making YouTube videos were concerned I can say that it helped me. Making videos isn’t a magic thing though. It’s all supplemental. Like taking supplements – I know guys who take supplements thinking it’s going to fix their weight problem – it’s not! It’s supplemental to the main activity, they’re not a cure in themselves. YouTube is a supplementary activity, if you’re vlogging. It’s very good though for when you know you’re going to succeed to have something to look back on.
What is your favourite video?
I made a video called The Man Who Never Gave Up, right? (See below) And over the next year when that video started gaining more views I was faced with so many points in my life where I just felt like giving up! But the thing is, because that video is who I was and who I am – every time I looked back on that video I realised it’s actually me speaking. I began to realise that no matter what I was faced with it’s like it says in the video: I can’t give up. I’m that person who will never give up. I think that type of resilience is in everyone, but it all begins with a choice.
Have you always struggled with weight?
I grew up as a military brat. My father was in the army and we travelled around everywhere. I lived overseas in Korea for about 10 years on and off. I travelled throughout the US so I’m not really FROM anywhere! I was big all my life. Growing up. I didn’t really have the best diet. As far as I can remember, I was kind of a skinny kid up until about age 4 or 5, but really as far back as I remember 6 and onward I was a big kid. I was always the fat kid in class and then as soon as I got to my teenage years I got morbidly obese.
Mentally, I just wasn’t ready to take responsibility for my actions. As far as my diet went I didn’t eat a lot of protein. I ate a lot of processed foods, that was the majority of my diet. A lot of snacks. I was never into sports growing up. Really – weight lifting was the only thing I was interested in. I’m still a big gamer. Losing weight doesn’t have to be giving up everything about your old lifestyle. I still eat a lot of junk food. I do it maybe 20% of the time. So 80% of the time I eat whole food, quality ingredients, nutrient dense, a lot of sweet potatoes, a lot of animal meats, a lot of whole foods. I’m not hardcore strict dieter, in fact I have the appetite of a competitive eater.
We’ve seen some of your cheat day meals – how is that a diet!
I have the appetite of a competitive eater. I can put away like 8-10lb of food in a single session. So after exercising and losing weight my appetite is way bigger. I still eat junk food – I have so many favourites. My favourite is a pineapple and ham pizza. I love chocolate cake, cheese cake, ice-cream! I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. I don’t believe in moderation! I don’t believe in eating small amounts! But for me, it just wasn’t right, so I had to find something that worked for me. Not everyone can eat small amounts of food. Intermittent Fasting taught me discipline, taught me that I can still have my giant meals and I don’t have to eat like a chipmunk. That works for some people – fine – it doesn’t sit for me. I’d rather stick to one or two giant meals!
So how did you lose the weight?
When I first started out I started out small, which is surprising because the other times I’d tried to lose weight I’d dived in head first. But four years ago I started off drinking more water, less soda. I’d walk at every chance I could. I’d eat junk food twice or three times a week, rather than every day. I did that for a while and then I started going to the gym. When I first started I didn’t even touch the weights because I believed in the myth that if you’re big and you lift you’re just going to convert everything to muscle and be gigantic but muscled!
Anyway, I started using the elliptical, and doing low-impact cardio. When I lost about 50 lb I started into weight lifting. I had my brother show me how to do squats and deadlifts and bench presses. I started getting into weight lifting. Nutrition wise I was doing low carb paleo style for about a year and a half. Then I hit a plateau for about a year! And I gained about 20lbs off doing the low carb approach. I made a mistake because people say that calories don’t matter – you hear that a lot from the low carb people but they have to keep in mind that calories matter regardless of what you’re eating – if you’re eating 5000 calories a day of meat and clean foods – you’re still going to gain weight if you’re not active enough – I was eating huge amounts of chicken wings and tree nuts.
I ended up gaining weight. From 205 to 235. That’s when I knew I had to change up my methods and do more research. Things were getting stagnant. That’s when I learned about Intermittent Fasting (IF) which I’ve been doing for about a year and a half.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is still a relatively new thing in terms of dieting – what do you find the benefits are?
IF has a lot of benefits, short periods of fasting a minimum of 16 hours can boost your growth hormone. So 16-20 hours of doing IF you can boost your growth hormone by up to 2,000%. It’s huge for a variety of things – muscle building and even some weight loss benefits as well. But it works also just from realising the difference between psychological hunger – that we’re conditioned to feel – and actual hunger. It also taught me discipline, which was something I really needed at the time.
Nowadays I’ll eat 8-10lb worth of food. On a work out day – I’ll have 2-3lb of potatoes, 2lb of chicken, a pound of boiled carrots, six eggs, some almonds. All very clean. Very simple whole food diet. On a rest day – a bar of 85% dark chocolate, two handfuls of almonds, eight eggs, 2lb of chicken, 2lb of broccoli. I eat a lot. I stay within that 6-8lb range.
The thing about whole food is that the calories aren’t very dense so you can eat a lot of it. When you gain experience of cooking I tell a lot of guys there’s a lot of seasonings that you can use to make your food taste amazing which are pretty much zero calories. Hot sauce. There’s a lot of ways to make things more interesting when you’re preparing your food. Like I used to grill my chicken but now I boil it for about 20 minutes and then shred it and cover it in hot sauce.
What advice would you give to other men looking to lose weight?
My biggest advice is to focus on the mindset. A lot of people come to me for weight loss advice and the majority of the time what they’re looking for is a method or a dietary system – you know what exercise programme or new name diet should they do. But you know the reality is that you can really lose weight on anything – as long as there’s a calorie deficit – but then there’s the mindset. I have friends who’ve lost weight using drastically different methods. Some who’ve lost weight just eating junk food. So long as you’re in a calorie deficit it will work, but it’s about what’s going on in your mind too.
The mindset of success is always the same. I see a lot of people who put themselves down. I guess it’s like a self-deprecation. They put themselves down and I don’t really feel that’s a good thing to do. Even when I was over 300lb I was happy with myself. The moment I did decide that the weight loss thing was going to happen it just became an inevitability because of my mindset. I knew I was going to lose it, it wasn’t a struggle. It was less of a fight. Time’s the only thing that’s holding me back. It’s so important to be happy with yourself.
So how can you check your mindset?
One exercise I think is interesting is if you could take your shirt off and look in the mirror. Can you do that – no matter what weight you are and know that you love yourself on the inside? That’s a big thing. Back when I was big, I’m not going to lie, I’d look at myself with my shirt off and I’d just break down crying. I know there are so many men out there who have the same experience – they won’t want to admit it because it’s degrading. But just to be able to look at yourself and acknowledge that you love yourself enough to get to where you want to make that change for yourself.
The reason I think this is important is that I don’t know how people view me but I’ve had a lot of hard times in my life. Especially in recent months. When someone doesn’t value themselves and they’re faced with those hard times which hit us all at some point, in some way, then it’s easy to rebound and go back to putting on weight. If you don’t feel that love for yourself.
I know that you had a lot of excess skin when you lost weight, which is a concern for a lot of readers – how have you coped with that?
I had a lot of excess skin. I know this sounds weird but it wasn’t something that really bothered me. Granted it seems like it would be and I know how much it bothers some people – but often these were people who were thin at some point. I think because I’d always been fat it never bothered me. It was the only body I ever knew. I’d always had a lot of excess skin – I’d always had big breasts! When I lost weight – when I got down to single digit body fat percentages I guess it didn’t bother me as much as it was really all I knew.
I did have the skin surgery. I was very pleased with the outcome it was night and day. You can see from the photos. I was really pleased with the results. I never knew what a flat chest would feel like. What a flat stomach would feel like. In all seriousness I was already happy with myself. Before any of this even happened I was feeling like I was on top of the highest mountain. When I had the surgery it just added to that. I always tell people to try and be happy with their situation it’s easier said than done, but it goes back to their mindset – if you’re hating yourself and they’re putting themselves down.