Arash Markazi couldn’t have felt more embarrassed. While boarding a plane, the Los Angeles Times sports columnist had to ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender. When he got home, he weighed himself and hated what he saw—329 pounds.
“If you’re in the NFL and you’re on the offensive line, you might weigh that much,” says Markazi. “So, for me as a sports reporter who’s not tall to weigh that amount, yeah, it was one of those moments where I knew I had to make a change.”
With such a demanding job, it wasn’t hard for Markazi to slowly gain the weight. The 5’7” writer traveled from city to city, and he never missed an opportunity to sample the different regional fare. Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, deep-dish pizza and hot dogs in Chicago, pastrami sandwiches in New York—he enjoyed them all. His diet wasn’t any better at home. He’d attend games, file his story, and leave the stadium at midnight, picking up McDonald’s or Jack in the Box on his way home.
Markazi says that whenever he tried to lose weight in the past, he would do the right things for a couple weeks, and then fall off the wagon. He’d be good at home, then go on a trip and fall back into his old habits. That humbling experience on the airplane was the final straw—he was ready to break the cycle.
To get started, Markazi hired a trainer to teach him the ropes and reinforce good habits. He started slowly and focused on cardio. First it was 20 minutes, then 30, eventually working his way up to 60 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike.
To supplement his workouts, he changed his diet—no more stadium foods and late-night drive-thru burgers. Instead, he aimed for 1,500 to 1,600 calories of healthy, whole foods each day, with plenty of salads, chicken, salmon, and vegetables. And to hold himself accountable, he began documenting his workouts and meals each day on Instagram.
His hard work quickly showed dividends, and Markazi lost 43 pounds after one month. He jokes that the easiest way to lose weight is to gain it in the first place and notes that in the first month he flipped a switch and his body simply responded. Sticking with it was his new challenge, but the differences he began seeing in his body and how he felt kept him going. That, plus the positive reinforcement of friends, colleagues, and even strangers kept him motivated.
At the end of a year, he lost 130 pounds.
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I’m 120 days into my journey and stepped on the scale today and I’m 90 pounds down! I still can’t believe the progress I’ve made. I’m chronicling my journey on Instagram and cataloging the stories every 30 days. I just posted the past 30 days if you want to check it out.
Markazi’s dramatic transformation even drew the attention of one of the athletes he wrote about. It solicited compliments from contacts he hadn’t seen in awhile, and he even began to receive messages from people across his large social media following. That’s been one of the most rewarding and unexpected benefits of his journey.
“The people who reach out to me, that let me know that they’ve joined me on this journey, they inspire me,” he says.
Now, healthy living is just part of his routine. Even with his weight loss having surpassed triple digits, Markazi continues to do 60 minutes of cardio each day, usually opting for morning workouts to ensure he doesn’t get derailed. More recently, he added weight training into his regimen, employing online programs as his starting point. He admits that he needs to learn more and wants to enlist a trainer to help put him on the right path.
“The key for all of this is to be able to do this on my own,” says Markazi. “To be able to maintain while I’m on the road, to not be dependent on someone else.” That inner drive has kept him going strong more than a year since he first decided to make a change. Like all of us, Markazi is subject to pitfalls and bad days. But now, he’s equipped with the fortitude to move past them. If he skips a workout or has a bad day, he doesn’t spiral. “It makes me feel like I need to get right back on the horse.”