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Brett Klika

San Diego, CA

ACE Profiles |  Brett Klika

The health and fitness laws that govern being a kid are centered on “Playing is fun” and “Dessert is awesome.” No child embraced this mantra more than I did, growing up in Oregon City, Oregon. While I was merely a participant in the former, I was a zealot of the latter.

While all of my friends shared this ethos, the unfairness of metabolic life started rearing its ugly head at about age 10. Long story short, my friends started getting lean, and I started to get chubby.

It wasn’t that I lacked physical activity. I played sports year round and there were no electronics in the house. Physical activity was both an expectation and part of daily life in the Klika household.

It wasn’t that we didn't have a culture of wellness with our nutrition either. I grew up in the house of JERF (just eat real food). We grew most of our vegetables and fruit and my mom canned so we had them year round. My mom cooked every meal from scratch, and we didn’t have a microwave until I was 13. Just like with physical activity, there was an expectation for the way we ate.

Becoming overweight at any age is often a downward spiral of less than stellar genetics, poor exercise and nutrition habits, consequent embarrassment, and a defeated psyche. While I was active and ate well, I fell victim to the rest.

I was never obese, but the waistline of my pants cut into my belly. I couldn’t climb the rope in gym class, and I moved with the swiftness of an injured sloth.

As I began to hit puberty, the problem was compounded. Kids were meaner and I was more embarrassed. I withdrew from many of the sports I liked and got an asthma note from my doctor so I wouldn’t have to do the mile run in PE. I had horrible Osgood Schlatters syndrome, a growing pain that affects the knees, so I also cited that as an excuse.

Meanwhile, my angst created an unhealthy relationship with food. While my house pretty much only had healthy choices, I’d figure out ways to sneak stuff and whenever I was at friends’ houses, I’d binge on junk food. The result was more weight gain, more ridicule, and more feeling of defeat.

Because activity and nutrition were part of our DNA at home, it killed my parents to see me go through this downward spiral. They were willing to do anything to help me. My mom would wake up and go walking or jogging with me in the morning. She’d search for healthy recipes to have even better choices available around the house. The problem, however, wasn’t in the choices I had available. It was that I had essentially given up.

I was going to be the chubby kid for life. I hated the idea, but it appeared to be the cards I was dealt.

Finally, it came down to a pair of shoes.

When I was about 14, I wanted a pair of the British Knights that all the other boys were wearing. They were $40, which was more than my parents were willing to pay. In a fateful stroke of genius, my parents took the opportunity to offer me a challenge: $1 toward the shoes for every lap I ran at the track next to my house.

Challenge accepted.

Like Forest Gump, I started running. And running, and running. After a few months, I was churning out laps every day. I started to enjoy the time by myself, doing something I knew most others weren’t. I felt in control and I was moving in the right direction. Consequently, my weight started to move as well.

Puberty kicked in and I began to grow. That – combined with the new commitment to exercise and nutrition – resulted in a new me. I wasn’t the frustrated, defeated chubby kid any more. I sat in the power seat and was in control of my destiny.

My life changed rapidly and dramatically between 9th and 10th grade. I went from not making sports teams my freshman year to starting my sophomore year. I had lept up the social hierarchy, and I was determined to never go back.

This rapid change created a pretty stark pendulum swing in regards to my previous diet and exercise habits. What was previously a positive change in my health became an unhealthy obsession that could only be described as male anorexia.

I felt that I literally held the reigns to my destiny and the notion of “I can control this” took over my life. I exercised obsessively and ate nearly nothing. I kept losing weight, separating myself as much as possible from returning to the “chubby kid.”

Amid this struggle, during my junior year of high school, I got interested in weight training. While I didn’t want to gain weight, I did want to gain muscle. I began going to the gym watching my uncle, a well-known Oregon bodybuilder.

As I got older, I’d pester him to “write me a program to get buff.” He would always predicate the program with, “You gotta eat!” I started lifting weights and loved it. I loved getting strong. I loved the intensity. I loved how I looked and felt. I loved all the different strategies for changing my body.

Lifting weights made me realize I had to eat. It made me realize that food is a proactive means for being healthy and performing at your best. Slowly and cautiously, I was delivered from the extremes of near self–starvation and became a gym rat.

My senior year, I began to settle in to a healthy relationship with diet and exercise. Growing up in a tremendous culture of wellness combined with my own life transformation, struggles, and triumphs, motivated me to pursue health and fitness not only as a lifestyle, but also as a career.

 


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