Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 14: Embarking on a Year-Long Weight Loss Journey
I experienced one of the best years of my life in 2013. I won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet, which was truly a dream come true. Plus, with more than $100,000 in tournament cashes, I was able to improve my financial status significantly. As 2014 rolled around, I asked myself, “What could possibly make the new year better than the last?”
The only tangible answer I could come up with was losing weight, something I’d struggled with the majority of my life. When I won my bracelet, I wasn’t exactly in good shape. In fact, I was grossly overweight. Click here for my winner’s photo to see just what I’m talking about. I was lethargic, depressed, and I’ve no doubt if the tournament was longer than two days I would have crumbled, both physically and mentally.
I knew if I wanted my poker success to continue, I needed to follow in the footsteps of Chris Moorman, Jonathan Little, Ben Lamb, Marvin Rettenmaier, and Matt Vengrin — just a small sample of pros who’ve lost weight and made health a priority in their lives. Each of those men subsequently experienced an uptick in both lifestyle and poker success, so it seemed to me only good things could come from losing weight. Here’s my story...
I’ve always been a big kid, and by the time I was 22 I had ballooned up to 286 lbs. When I was 23, I met a girl and was inspired to lose weight. Amazingly I managed to lose 113 lbs. and dropped down to 173 lbs., which in hindsight was probably a little too low. Anyway, It was great, that is until the girl left and the weight started to come back. It was a slow process, but over the next few years I lost all momentum and confidence. By the time of my bracelet win I was back up to 269 lbs.
It’s not easy to admit publicly, but putting the weight back on is one of the biggest shames of my life. I hated myself for it on a daily basis, and was embarrassed to see old family and friends. I desperately wanted to change, but try as I might I was unable to lose weight. I couldn’t do it. Food had become an addiction for me. It was my favorite drug.
When I lost at poker I’d swing by the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home. When I was feeling down, a pack of Oreos would make me feel better, if only temporarily. I hate to quote Austin Powers’ Fat Bastard, but for me it was a truth: “I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle.”
When I lost weight the first time in my early 20s, I did it for the wrong reason — a girl. In my early 30s, I didn’t have that motivation and just couldn’t find the strength to do it myself. Then, in late January 2014, something changed. My local gym, where I had toiled fruitlessly for years, closed down and I was forced to join a new place in town, Anytime Fitness.
After signing a contract (something I hate to do), they offered a free body assessment. I took them up on it on Feb. 18, and little did I know that would be the day I’d take the first step toward healthy living. You see, upon completion of the assessment you’re obliged to hear a sales pitch offering personal training sessions. Being the skeptic and frugal person that I am, I wasn’t into the $50 per session and having to sign up for at least 12 sessions at a time. Still, I stayed there and politely listened. Then, out of nowhere, I remembered my desire to improve upon 2013.
“You want to lose weight and get healthy more than anything in the world, yet you’re not willing to put your money where you mouth is,” I thought to myself. “Are you truly going to let this control your life?”
Money is a strong motivator, and I hate when it goes to waste. I knew if I signed up for personal training sessions I’d be at least somewhat motivated to get my money’s worth. I did the impulsive thing and pulled the trigger, laying down nearly $1,800 for 36 PT sessions. It was a start.
Over the next 10 months I tried my best. The workouts were grueling. My bones and muscles ached constantly. My lungs wanted to explode every time I stepped on the treadmill. Like everyone, I wanted immediate results, but I trusted that if I worked hard every day y I’d eventually get to where I wanted to be. I changed my eating habits. Processed foods and sugar became the enemy, chicken and fish my best friends.
As the weeks and months went by I found old habits replaced by new ones. For the first time in a long time I started to respect the man looking back at me in the mirror.
When I went out to Vegas for the 2014 WSOP, I was lucky to have an Anytime Fitness a few blocks from my lodgings. Despite the 12+-hour workdays I put in for PokerNews, I made a commitment of working out everyday. I was bound and determined to go home weighing much less than when I left. Almost every day in June I rolled out of bed, slipped into my workout clothes, and got it done. I hated it at the time (I wanted that sweet sleep so bad), but there’s no doubt sticking to that commitment made me stronger. Of course coming down with pneumonia at the beginning of July derailed me.
The next few months were filled with ups and downs, or rather self-introduced roadblocks, that plateaued my weight. I was working out regularly (by this time it became somewhat enjoyable), but some of my bad eating habits — pizza and cookies will forever be a weakness — managed to creep back in. Come December and with 2015 rapidly approaching, I wanted to end the year on a high note. My goal has always been to get back under 200 lbs., and sitting at 219 lbs. it seemed within reach. If I worked out everyday, ate right, and cut out the alcohol, I thought there just might be a chance. I had a new goal.
I struggled mightily at times, but I did manage to hit the gym for at least an hour every day for 31 days straight. I also ate healthy and avoided the drink, despite the holidays with family. Unfortunately I didn’t get to “One-derland” — I weighed in at 209 lbs. on Dec. 31 — but I didn’t let that deter me or take away from my accomplishments. It simply became my new goal for January.
Here’s a look at the progress I made in 2014. The picture on the left was me on that February day I took my initial health assessment, and the one on the right was me on Dec. 31, 2014.
Making personal changes is never easy. When it comes to poker most of us know the things holding us back, be it unhealthy living, tilt, leaks, or what have you. But not everyone knows how to change these things for the better. Even if they do, finding the motivation and discipline to do so easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I also know that anything is possible with enough time and dedication.
Entering the new year, I hope to continue upon the road of healthy living while playing more poker. In 2014, I sacrificed the latter in favor of the former, but the time has come to find a balance. Discipline, dedication, and drive are just a few of the things I’ve learned throughout my weight-loss journey, and I know each will serve me well as I set my sights upon poker success in 2015.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I’d like to get in touch with and forgive... myself.”
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.
In this Series
- 1 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 1: Making Reads and Trusting Them
- 2 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 2: Playing in Poker Charity Events
- 3 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 3: Throttle Back Before You End Up Punting
- 4 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 4: Punish the Satellite Bubble
- 5 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 5: What is Proper Accumulator Strategy?
- 6 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 6: A Chip and a Chair Story with “SirWatts”
- 7 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 7: 15 Things About Poker I Wish I’d Known Sooner
- 8 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 8: Examining the Largest Overlay in Poker History
- 9 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 9: Differences Between Rebuys and Reentries
- 10 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 10: Five Must-Read Poker Books of 2014
- 11 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 11: When Will You Finally Break Through?
- 12 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 12: Dealing with a Target on Your Back
- 13 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 13: Knowing When to Call It Quits
- 14 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 14: Embarking on a Year-Long Weight Loss Journey
- 15 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 15: Navigating Multiple Decision Points in a Poker Hand
- 16 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 16: Chris Moorman Tells Me How Badly I Play Poker
- 17 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 17: Richard “nutsinho” Lyndaker on Getting It in Marginal
- 18 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 18: Getting Inside the Head of Poker Pro Brian Rast
- 19 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 19: Stupid Calls & Lucky Draws in MSPT WI Championship
- 20 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 20: Talking Ante-Only Strategy with Greg “FossilMan” Raymer
- 21 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 21: Contributing to Jonathan Little’s New Book
- 22 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 22: Consequences of Acting Out of Turn & Tossing in Chips
- 23 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 23: When It Comes to Chops, Do What’s In Your Best Interest
- 24 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 24: Accepting Bad Beats & Lessons in Selling Action
- 25 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 25: Heinz’ Ace-High Call Shows Why He's a World Champ
- 26 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 26: Is Keeping the Short Stack Alive Collusion?
- 27 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 27: Great Laydown or Bad Fold on Poker Night in America?
- 28 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 28: Calling Hellmuth with Jack-Deuce Offsuit
- 29 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 29: The Philosophy of "No-Chop" Chad
- 30 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 30: Preparing to Play the World Series of Poker
- 31 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 31: Staying on Your Grind at the World Series of Poker
- 32 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 32: The Perilous Decision to Call Off with Ace-Queen
- 33 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 33: Using Poker Skills in Reality TV Competitions
- 34 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 34: Esfandiari Explains How to Recover from Bad Beats
- 35 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 35: Tilly vs. Brunson in Super High Roller Cash Game Hand
- 36 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol 36: Unconventional Play Leads to Good WSOP Main Event Start
- 37 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 37: Lessons in Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low w/ Evan Jarvis
- 38 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 38: Things to Say and Do When You Bust a Poker Tournament
- 39 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 39: How Much Did I Have to Raise to Get You to Fold?
- 40 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 40: Practicing Patience in My Deep PPC Poker Tour Run
- 41 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 41: Analyzing a Questionable SHRPO Main Event Hand
- 42 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 42: Analyzing the Play of Neymar Jr. at EPT Barcelona
- 43 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 43: The Value of a Reliable Poker Reputation
- 44 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 44: John “KasinoKrime” Beauprez Rips My PLO Game Apart
- 45 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 45: Satellite Dilemmas -- To Call or Not to Call
- 46 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 46: Seiver Leverages the River in Super High Roller Bowl
- 47 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 47: What Untraditional Moves in Poker Might Mean
- 48 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 48: Thinking About the Future with Sam Grizzle
- 49 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 49: WCOOP Champ “Coenaldinho7” Offers Up His Biggest Hands
- 50 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 50: The Peril of Shoving Weak Aces
- 51 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 51: The Importance of Not Giving Up in Poker Tournaments
- 52 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 52: Does Asking “Check” Actually Constitute a Check?
- 53 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 53: Thomas Cannuli Impresses Even After Main Event Bustout
- 54 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 54: Dealers Aren’t Always Right
- 55 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 55: Don’t Get Married to Pocket Aces
- 56 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 56: Bazeley’s Survival Instinct Leads to Continued Success
- 57 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 57: Playing “Deuces Wild” on the European Poker Tour
- 58 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 58: The Wildest Hand in European Poker Tour History
- 59 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 59: Death, Zombies & Spending Time w/Phil Hellmuth
- 60 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 60: How the Unstoppable Fedor Holz Managed to Win Again
- 61 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 61: Lessons To Be Learned When You Hit the Big Stage
- 62 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 62: Steve O’Dwyer Explains the “Oreo Cookie Tell”
- 63 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 63: What Would Happen to a Chip Stack If a November Niner Died?
- 64 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 64: Forgetting One Chip -- Should It Still Be an All-In Bet?
- 65 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 65: Todd “sharkslayerrr” Breyfogle on Bankroll Management
- 66 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 66: Cash Game Pro Daniel Arfin Offers Sound Bankroll Advice
- 67 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 67: Honeyman Plays Kings to Keep in Opponent’s Bluff Range
- 68 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 68: Why Do I Even Bother Drinking at the Poker Table?
- 69 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 69: Is Your Favorite Poker Pro Left- or Right-Handed?
- 70 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 70: In Order to Live You Have to Be Willing to Die
- 71 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 71: How to Amass a Big Stack Early in a Poker Tournament
- 72 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 72: Answering User-Submitted Poker Scenarios
- 73 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 73: Saying Goodbye with a Top Five List
- 74 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 74: We're Back, Baby!
- 75 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 75: Jivkov on Exploiting Capped Ranges
- 76 Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 76: Matt Bretzfield Gets Tricky With Aces
- 77 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 77: Joseph Cheong Gets Crazy with a Pair of Ladies
- 78 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 78: Wyoming Poker Action & Wild South Dakota Hand
- 79 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 79: Calling Controversy at WinStar
- 80 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 80: Going for Value with Matt Hunt
- 81 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 81: Bracelet Winner Ryan Leng on Bad Call
- 82 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 82: Romeopro33 Recounts XL Eclipse Victory
- 83 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 83: Men The Master Doesn't Get Paid
- 84 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 84: Harman Hits Back-to-Back Miracle Turns
- 85 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 85: Jamie Kerstetter on Dealing with Bounties
- 86 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 86: Matt Stout Develops a Limp Dynamic
- 87 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 87: Matt Alexander Caught in Between w/ Two Red Aces
- 88 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 88: John Beauprez on Why He Folded a Set of Jacks
- 89 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 89: Alex Aqel Lets Opponent Hang Himself with Aces
- 90 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 90: David Peters Makes Beastly Call Against Will Givens
- 91 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 91: Poker Lessons from a Game of Risk
- 92 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 92: My Upstuck Diagnosis by the CLC Squad
- 93 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 93: Alex Foxen Coolers Nick Petrangelo in SHRB
- 94 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 94: My $25,000 PSPC Experience at 2019 PCA
- 95 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 95: The Equity of Leveraging Time Extensions
- 96 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 96: Dan O'Brien on Developing Healthy Routines
- 97 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 97: Big Hands From the WSOP-C Potawatomi
- 98 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 98: Simon Deadman Rips Apart My NLH Tourney Play
- 99 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 99: Shoving 10-6 Smack Dab Into Pocket Aces
- 100 Hold'em with Holloway, Vol. 100: The Revived Re-Entries Debate