Written by Dustin Hollowell, iHuntFit Field Advisor
I’ve spent my whole life being passionate, obsessed and completely consumed by hunting. I’ve also spent my whole life being overweight. I hated being overweight. The first time I remember really wanting to do something about it was at the last bell before summer vacation fairly early on in elementary school. I remember walking out of the school building that day and telling myself “I will look a lot different when I walk back through these doors.” Of course, that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen the following year either, or the year after that, or for the next several years.
I didn’t want to stay overweight. In fact, I always wanted to lose the weight more than I wanted anything else. My motivations changed over time, but I always had the best intentions of losing it. At first, I just wanted to look better. Once I started taking sports more seriously, I wanted to be fit to become a better athlete. After high school, I just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. After college, I knew that the lifestyle I really wanted was not possible without becoming and staying healthy; and my body and fitness level would not be an accurate representation of that lifestyle I wanted to believe that I lived.
The years passed without any significant changes in my body weight for one primary reason: knowledge. I had the motivation, and I’m certain I would have had the discipline to at least get some traction. Through high school I spent a ton of time in the gym. Playing sports nearly year-round and spending my weekends hunting and fishing kept me plenty active. I simply had absolutely no knowledge of nutrition.
I remember the first time I heard about macros. I was a senior in high school and my grandma had started some new diet she called Atkins and had lost quite a bit of weight pretty quickly. Naturally, I wanted in! So, after learning the basics about carbohydrates I decided to stop eating them and get on board with this new plan and for the first time in my life, I was able to drop some weight. I had dropped 55-lbs by my first year of college, however, when carbs came back so did the weight. And so began the terrible yo-yo cycle of losing 10-lbs, gaining back 15 over and over. I lost and re-gained weight through my battle with carbs for the next several years. At one point in college, I got up to 296-lbs after being down to about 210-lbs just a couple of years prior. It was a vicious cycle and led to nothing but desperation and hopelessness, but the pattern continued.
Fast forward to my early thirties. I was living in the west and had started a career doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. I had been blessed with a wife, kids, a house, dogs and everything else I needed. I was able to hunt dozens of days each fall and spent those days chasing the mule deer and elk I had always dreamed about. I was living the American dream… but still overweight and struggling to be even a minimally efficient mountain hunter. I was also still intermittently partaking in the low-carb-crash-diet cycle. It was all I knew. Even though I had spent quite a bit of time reading about nutrition and fitness by this point, my mind and experience told me the only thing that really worked was a life without carbs, and I was clearly no good at that!
One day I was scrolling through Facebook and a meme caught my attention. All it said was “straight outta excuses” in the theme of the parental advisory explicit lyrics warnings on old CD cases with colorful language or content. I’m not sure what it was about that meme, or that moment in time but it hit me…I also had no excuses. I had zero excuses for still being fat, or for the inaction of the last decade. It was time, I had had enough. I sent a message to the coach at a local cross-training style gym and told her I’d be there tomorrow. To this day, that was the most important message I’ve ever sent in regards to my health. I had committed to something way outside of my comfort zone but being in my own skin was more uncomfortable.
I loved the coached environment and camaraderie and support of working out with other people. It was not embarrassing like I had first imagined. It was inspiring to hear others’ fitness story and motivating to think about someday being as fit as some of them. Having a professional coach program workouts for me and knowing exactly what I needed to do every day eliminated my basic and boring routine and going to the gym was actually fun (in a miserable kind of way). Not long thereafter I started seeing real results for the first time ever. Even though nobody else in that gym at the time were training to be better hunters, the team environment was unbelievable! It ignited something in me I had never really felt. For the first time I felt like I was on a legitimate path to be better; fitter, healthier, a better athlete, a better leader, a better husband, a better dad and a more effective predator in the mountains.
Shortly thereafter, I stumbled into a new-to-me podcast called iHuntFit Radio. I downloaded a couple of episodes and was instantly a fan. A strength and conditioning coach that programs workouts and nutrition plans specifically for hunters? A podcast talking with fit and successful hunters about the importance of their fitness in helping them find success? What an awesome concept! A few weeks later, I was fortunate enough to join the iHuntFit Team.
Now I had an entire coaching and support group of hunters. A team of people with the same goal – living a lifestyle defined by fitness and hunting. I had access to training programs and coaching advice specifically for the kind of hunting I wanted to do. For the first time I had a real and balanced nutrition plan specifically to optimize those workouts and to “restart” my metabolism to help me continue getting leaner. A new group of friends to be accountable to and inspired by. A team.
In my journey to be a leaner and fitter person, and a better hunter, I finally found momentum in a couple of key places. First, train on purpose. Work with a professional that can develop a strategy for you to be good at what you do. If you want to be a successful hunter, train for hunting. Second, eat on purpose. Don’t diet. Don’t just eat what’s available when you’re hungry. Plan your meals to maximize performance and recovery from your workouts and use food to ignite your metabolism. Third, surround yourself with kind of people who are doing what you want to do. Surrounding yourself by folks who are working towards similar goals, for similar reasons will undoubtedly motivate you, hold you accountable and keep your needle moving. Last but not least, knowledge is power. Research, know and build the resources you need to be successful. Study fitness. Study nutrition. Get science-backed information instead of opinions. Know that what you’re doing will produce results!iHuntFit has been all of that and more.
The August sun is still hot in bow season. The winter winds are still cold. The mountains are still steep and elk are still heavy. But I’m not the same. I do not loathe the misery or hard work to consistently fill tags. I no longer fear the steep hills and heavy packs that used to define the boundaries of my hunt. I no longer carry around the excuses.
The journey will continue and I’m not sure if there is a destination. Maybe the destination is the impossibility of perfection, and like Vince Lombardi said: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” I have a long way to go before I get to where I think I can be, but I am currently where I never thought I could be. It’s exciting to think about what opportunities the future holds, and more exciting to think about what may be over that next ridge this fall!