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Life in Gaming – The Good Version of Me (before it was too late)

Healthy Gaming with Healthy Gamers Spotlight: Blitz and Greg Interview

At this year’s The International 7, I had the chance to sit down with two members of the Dota 2 community who’ve made drastic health changes over the past year. William “Blitz” Lee, a former caster turned analyst and coach, and Greg “WhatIsHipTV” Laird, who works in sponsorships and partnerships for Immortals, told me about about their journeys to become healthier gamers.

Grey

Before

Grey

After

Blitz

Before

Blitz

After

What motivated you to make a change?

Will: I was just having so much trouble doing things. I was having trouble going up stairs, and I know that sounds like an exaggeration. The biggest example for me was I was going through the airport with Soe and Maelk , and we were almost late–we were in Charles DeGaulle, which is a pretty big airport–and they were walking in front of me, walking quite quickly, and we’re at a somewhat quick pace and I was struggling really hard. I didn’t want them to see that I was struggling, but I was, and it was kind of embarrassing not even being able to keep up at a brisk walk with two people that are older than me, and it bothered me a lot.

Greg: I’ve always had trouble with my weight. In the past I was basically at a point where I wanted to lose weight, but I was never in the right place to do it. But when I started my old job , I figured if I don’t make a change now, it’s only going to get worse. I personally haven’t had any health problems from being overweight yet, but I wanted to lose weight before that started happening because some stuff isn’t fixable. I also thought that doing the sales role, my personal appearance would be important. It might sound vain, but first impressions matter.

How did you get started? What things did you change?

Will: My sister’s a running, so she gave me some tips. I started out doing a mix of walking and running, and she told me “just keep your legs moving and your arms pumping, and just get your heart rate going.” The first day I ran, and I use “running” very liberally, I ran something like 6 minutes. And I was pretty embarrassed by it. And so the next day I told myself “no matter what, I’m going to run at least 1 minute longer every day until I get to 30 minutes.” So I just kept doing that until I got to half an hour, at the beginning.

As far as diet-wise, I made some really simple rules. I used to eat fast food at least 5 times a week and have soda with every meal, so I cut out soda and made it a rule that I’d only have fast food once or twice a week, like a treat. And once I did that, it snowballed; I kept gradually cutting things out because I noticed they made me feel worse when I ate them.

The hardest part about it was when you quit soda, you get caffeine headaches and you get cranky, and you start thinking “why am I even doing this”, and you just have to push through it because you know it’s the right thing for your body.

Greg: Calorie counting. Exclusively. I used MyFitnessPal, logged everything that I ate, I put in my information and it gave me recommended calorie goals, and basically in the beginning I logged what I was eating for two days just to see where I was and was disgusted. For the first two months I didn’t have a scale so I didn’t know what I started at, but once I got one I kept trending down. I think my starting weight was 320, I’m 199 now.

For the first 6 months, I did not adjust what I was eating, just how much of it. To be honest, I still go to Chik-fil-a and all that, I just am more careful about what I order.

I did calorie counting really hard for 3-4 months, and then I ran into a weight plateau. I found that whenever I went to the gym, it was too hard to stick to my calorie limits. Now I lift 6 days a week and I just add in an extra protein shake with milk on top of my regular calories for the day.

I didn’t do cheat days. Cheat days weren’t a thing for me. Once every two weeks I’d do like a “cheat meal”, because one meal isn’t going to wreck you, but a whole cheat day can wreck all your progress. Making sure you recalibrate your calorie intake amounts while you lose weight is important, too.

I know that keto works well for a lot of people, but losing weight is hard enough for me that I want to be able to eat the food I like, still, which is why calorie counting works for me. I can still eat that food, just less of it.

How did you keep yourself motivated?

Will: So I talked to a lot of people that have weight issues as well, other dota personalities, and we all realized the same thing: you’re working towards a goal that you don’t really know what it’ll look like or when you’ll see results, you’re just doing it to do it. It’s not one workout that’s going to make a difference, it’s a hundred workouts. It’s not one day of dieting that makes a difference, it’s 6 months of dieting. For me, it was rough, because I didn’t see results for a while.

The biggest motivation for me was just…I want to know what a good version of me looks like before it gets too late.

Greg: I found a lot of different ways to track my progress. I got a scale, and in the beginning I was losing 4-5 pounds a week, and having a scale for that is super motivating. Seeing a plus on the scale was super defeating, because it’s just evidence right in front of you that you’re losing to your body. But that was also motivating, because it got me back to being strict with my calorie counting.

What kind of workout routine/nutrition plan do you follow now?

Will: Typically, in the morning I’ll have some oatmeal or a granola bar or some fruit, something light. For lunch, I’ll try to have chicken with broccoli, some rice, something to keep me fueled throughout the day. For dinner, I’ll have chicken or fish or steak, and usually broccoli and rice again. If I want a snack, I’ll have watermelon or almonds. After every workout I have a 2-scoop protein shake and sometimes peanut butter.

I usually do my workouts at night, unless I’m at events. Then I have to do them in the morning. Right now, my bench one-rep max is 205, which I’m pretty happy about. When I first started lifting, I’d lift with Reso and we didn’t really know what we were doing, we just went and lifted things. We wasted probably 2 months of our time doing nothing. But then we found PPL (push, pull, legs) and started doing it 6 days a week. It’s lots of compound lifts with some accessory exercises. Nowadays, I take what I got from that knowledge base and mix and match to fit what I want to achieve that day.

Greg: I started with a rough PPL (push, pull, legs), but only 4 days a week. Then I got 5×5 stronglifts, but I got bored and didn’t really like the progression, so I used it mostly to get my form really solid on compound lifts like squats. I never noticed that my squats weren’t neutral until I was doing them with an empty bar.

My nutrition, like the quality of it, has changed by itself. I stopped wanting things that I used to want. Calorie counting in general has given me so much more understanding about how your body understands and gets energy out of what and how miuch you eat. The feeling of being tired from not eating is really weird and different from the feeling of being tired from overeating. I had to take a nap when I first started cutting hard, but then my body adjusted.

What have been some of the most useful/helpful things you’ve been told or learned along the way?

Will: I wish that I went in with a plan. Don’t be afraid to go into the gym and just ask people for help. Or if you are scared, use Youtube, because form really matters. Form is the single biggest thing I notice as a problem for new lifters. People get embarrassed about not being able to lift a lot of weight, so they throw the weight on there anyway and have horrible form, and then they need you for the injury afterwards.

It was really helpful to have a lifting buddy. Reso and I send each other gym selfies. And he’s bulked up like crazy, we’ve just been throwing food at him. It’s partly because he’s young, and that’s so key. If you’re young, do it now, you’re able to make so many more improvements so much more quickly. He’s just super buff now.

Greg: Ok, nobody tells you how expensive it is losing weight. You have to buy a whole new wardrobe! And I wish somebody told me to take measurements.

I learned there’s a lot of weird mental walls you have to deal with and find your way around. Like, I’m aiming to get to 180. I’m almost certainly going to need loose skin surgery, which is a little stressful to think about. It’s risky, too, because they literally cut you in half. It’s interesting, because I put in all of this work but no matter what work I do, that’s something I can’t change. It’s mostly my stomach and my thighs, and eventually I’m going to have to do something about it.

Can I like, make a list of the helpful things?

Go for it.

Greg: Ok, here goes.

  1. Find some staple foods that are easy to get or make, things to have on hand that can be your go-tos that are in the calorie range you want.
  2. Take measurements. You need multpile ways to track your progress. Use paper, use a scale, do it electronically, take pictures, whatever.
  3. Occasionally you’re going to get weird water weight fluctuations. Don’t freak out about it. Your weight depends on how much salt you had, how much you drank, your sleep, what time it is, all of that
  4. Notice patterns for your body. I’d see like steadiness for 3 days, then a small increase, then a big loss, really consistently.
  5. Chart your progress. Remember it’s the overall trend that matters
  6. Find someone that you’re friends with that has gone through a similar thing, who can understand it. It’s hard, people help.

Have you noticed changes in areas of your life that you haven’t directly attempted to change? Like posture, sleep, things like that.

Will: I definitely have more energy throughout the day. People think that’s counterintuitive, because you’re spending energy on workouts, but I can just…do stuff. Forever. It’s really cool. My body just responds in a way I never thought before. It’s fun that my body can just do things that I want it to.

I used to have really poor quality of sleep, or I could only sleep if I was absolutely exhausted. Now, I can just turn my body on and off when I need to.

You don’t really now how much it makes your life better until you experience it for yourself.

The confidence boost is nice, but from a general health perspective, that parts more important to me. Like, a lot of people work out to look better, and that’s fine, but I got my girlfriend just fine as a fat dude.

Greg: I know I snore way less. Nobody’s said anything in my AirBnB, and people bitched about me snoring last year. I don’t need to take naps as much anymore, too.

1HP Lessons Learned to Stay Healthy in Gaming

1. It’s never too late to make a change, but it’s easier to see results when you start sooner rather than later.

2. Don’t just consider one metric–track your progress in a way that matters to you.

3. There’s no “one right way” to change your exercise habits or diet. The best way is the one that you’ll stick with.

4. Reinforcement matters! Find people who support you and encourage you.

5. Weight loss is more of an MMO than an FPS–it’s about the long-term grind, not the quick flash.

Author’s Note: After finishing his interview, Will realized he was late for a meeting and took off at a dead sprint. It was pretty impressive, and managed to capture his progress pretty damn well.

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