A few months after an injury derailed Brandon Lim’s bodybuilding career—a broken wrist while attempting a max clean and jerk—Lim glanced at himself in the mirror and had to admit a hard truth: He’d let himself go. “I saw this bloated, heavy stomach sticking so far out,” he says. “Right there I knew I wanted to change my lifestyle.” Lim, 21, who is currently a student and personal trainer living in northern Virginia, says he’d dealt with weight struggles in the past. Back when he’d been competing—and winning—in competitions, he’d once topped out at nearly 225 pounds. “On top of that, my ego was telling me that I looked amazing, and that a “real man” should weigh at least 200 pounds,” he says.
Lim knew he had to let go of that mindset, and despite his injury, he was still determined to achieve a lean, ripped physique like the competitive bodybuilders he admired. In order to accomplish that goal, however, Lim knew he couldn’t just wing it. “I did hours of research to learn how to shed fat properly, and I told myself that I’d do everything properly in conjunction with science,” he says. “After many, many hours of learning, I finally sat down, calculated my macros, and laid out a plan for how I’d change my life.” Here’s how Lim got into the best shape of his life.
You mentioned that most of the weight gain happened while you were injured following a bodybuilding competition. What was the biggest contributor?
My diet was probably the biggest factor—during that period I was still active, I competed and won two competitions, so body composition was not on the top of my list when it came to my priorities. I was more focused on muscular strength. I felt like I had to keep eating—even force feeding myself—to be able to stay as strong as I could and continue to compete within my weight class or possibly move up to the super heavyweights.
What was that like for you? Going from being in peak physical condition to relatively sedentary?
After experiencing what it feels to be overweight, I must say that daily living was much more harder to maintain than it is now. I weighed my heaviest at my current age. At 225, I had such a hard time falling asleep and waking up, due to the sheer discomfort of carrying around unnecessary weight. For example, my eyes would strain and fluid would leak into my nasal cavity every time I bent over to tie my shoes. Any type of cardiovascular activity would be a death sentence for me, as I only had the capacity to do low intensity exercises.
What were some of the biggest changes you made to get back in shape?
The very first change I made was going to my kitchen and throwing out all of the highly processed, sugary, empty calorie foods I had and enjoyed. Although extreme, I knew that I could not be surrounded by any temptations. I went out and bought all natural, raw ingredients such as whole oats, salads, chicken, the usual drill.
It was definitely hard to learn how to love this new lifestyle I was trying to live, especially when it came to eating according to my macros. Along with this diet I trained six days a week, with Sunday being my dedicated rest day and “detox” in the sauna.
How long did it take you to lose the weight?
It took me a good six months, and I lost close to 50 pounds. It’s hard to notice how much better you feel with each passing day since we all wake up in our own bodies. However, when I compare my health and overall athleticism from 6 months previous to now, the difference is tremendous. The best way I can tangibly describe the difference would to to imagine that you’re running with a 30 pound weighted vest and 10 pound dumbbells in each hand. Then, in a split-second, drop all the weight you’re carrying while you continue to run. The rush of oxygen, feeling of lightness, and the physical stress removed is finally running through your system, and it feels pretty amazing.
What were some of the other changes you noticed?
There were definitely secondary benefits that came as a result of my weight loss. One of the bigger benefits was this newfound respect and confidence I found within myself. I never would’ve thought that I would end up in the position I am today because I was too comfortable before in life. It wasn’t until I left that comfort zone that I started making positive changes. Nowadays, I am so much more open to hearing new ideas, trying new experiences for self-improvement, and really having a passion for connecting my daily activities into my overall wellness.
I still have plans to compete in a physique competition one day, and will be working hard to gun for that goal. I am still continuing in my studies when it comes to fitness, wellness, and nutrition as the learning process will never stop. I will keep doing my best to give back and help others who seek for self-improvement, whether it pertains to fitness or not.
What advice do you have for people who are just getting started?
My advice for anyone—whether you’re brand new to the gym or a hardcore advanced powerlifter—is that you must truly envision yourself at that end goal. It’s imperative that you can picture yourself accomplishing whatever unique goal you have. I say this because everybody in the world wants to have bigger muscles, lose belly fat, be stronger. It’s easy to wish and say what you want—I’ve been doing that most of my life. It’s not until you sit down with yourself and really see a greater future that you will be motivated and inspired enough to start your personal journey. Without a vision, your chances of success in your path will be much harder to accomplish. Truly believe in yourself and your vision.