BY ANDRÉA MARIA CECIL
From: CrossFit Journal
Mark Bierman remembers the date: Aug. 21, 2011.
It was the day his son was born. And the same one on which he made an important decision to lose weight.
It happened after Bierman saw a picture of himself holding his newborn.
“I looked miserable.”
At 6 feet, 1 inch tall, then-27-year-old Bierman was morbidly obese.
“I was 500-plus, but that’s as high as the scales went,” he said. “So, I just knew that I was above that.”
Less than a month later, he went in for his yearly physical exam. The verdict: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, “through-the-roof” blood sugar, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, acid reflux, a vitamin D deficiency and a host of digestive abnormalities.
Bierman’s doctor told him there was only one way out of his predicament: gastric-bypass surgery.
“‘If you don’t have this weight-loss surgery, you are going to die. You’re not going to make it past 30. You’re not healthy enough to do anything other than have this surgery and lose the weight that way,’” the now-34-year-old recalled the doctor saying.
Bierman was unwilling to accept that answer.
He started Weight Watchers.
In roughly eight months, he lost about 50 lb. By the time he started at LA Fitness in 2012, Bierman was 487 lb. He was at the globo gym seven days a week doing the same thing each day: climbing stairs, bench pressing more than 400 lb., back squatting more than 500.
“I just always figured if I could get really strong, then at some point the weight wouldn’t matter, which was kind of, ya know, ridiculous.”
Still, Bierman lost another 67 lb. Then he stopped losing weight. Frustrated, he talked to his nutritionist.
“She said ‘constantly varied’ workouts are best for tricking your body into not getting complacent with your workouts,” Bierman recounted.
He went home and Googled the phrase “constantly varied.” Next, he searched for the closest CrossFit affiliate. The nearest one to his home was in Redlands, California.
“I Signed up for a Year”
Bierman was more than 400 lb. when he walked into Block CrossFit.
Owner Joe King remembered Bierman needed to take breaks during the warm-up.
“Running to the 100-meter cone and back was hard (for him). Doing five burpees in a row without stopping was extremely difficult.”
That was December 2013.
“I went in and it scared the crap out of me,” Bierman remembered. “I was like, ‘Anything that makes you uncomfortable is what you have to do to lose this weight.’ So, I did it. I signed up for a year contract that day and never looked back.”
Today, Bierman is 270 lb. and this year completed the Hero workout Murph as prescribed in 70 minutes without a vest. It’s a remarkable change, King noted.
“If I said run 100 meters and do 5 burpees, 10-minute AMRAP, there’s no way Mark, Day 1, is getting through that. And now you got a guy that just did Murph. As prescribed. That’s insane. And not in a day and half. In, like, an hour. … It’s astonishing.“
Better still, Bierman’s health markers have moved from sickness toward wellness.
“(I’ve) reversed everything except for the sleep apnea,” he said. “I don’t take any medications anymore. I’m not diabetic (anymore), which I was told was impossible.”
Prior to finding the methodology, Bierman had thought of himself as if he were a carton of milk.
“I thought I had an expiration date,” he said.
When he was obese, he had visited the hospital emergency room a handful of times with chest pain, convinced he was having a heart attack.
“(I remember) thinking to myself, ‘Well, this is it. This is what you’ve done to yourself. You eat Taco Bell and Carl’s Jr. every day and drink sodas in a 42-oz. cup. You kind of just put yourself into a position where you’re gonna die.’ So, I never saw myself getting past 30.”
Bierman, who today follows a ketogenic diet, said he now realizes he had feared change.
“I just was afraid, I guess at that point, that I was never going to be able to do anything about it,” he explained. “And maybe taking the first step was the hardest, but I’ve come full circle to that now, and I don’t see an expiration date anymore.”
He also doesn’t see a life without CrossFit.
“I really don’t ever see an end game. I don’t see a finish line. I don’t want to be that dad that can’t play with his kids, that can’t chase my daughter around, ‘cause she’s 4. I don’t want to be that guy who’s out of breath just walking from the edge of the parking lot to the store.”
His advice to others: Don’t wait until you’re ready.
“Looking back on the entire thing, I wish I would have started sooner. I wish I would have jumped right into CrossFit instead of waiting until I was already a year or two into my transformation to do it.”
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.
About the Author: Andréa Maria Cecil is assistant managing editor and head writer of the CrossFit Journal.
Cover image: Michael Frazier