In June 2019, Michael and his friends took a vacation to Florida and while visiting Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, the 265-pound 40+-year-old was asked to sit in the “test chair” to assess whether he could fit on one of the rides. Although it was an embarrassing experience, it was also the motivation Michael needed to lose weight and improve his health.
Ultimately Michael turned to FitXR, a VR fitness game that offers boxing, dance, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). He has lost 85 pounds over the past two years, now wears a size 32-33 pants, and is thrilled with his improved fitness.
An ophthalmologist from Columbus, Ohio, we’re grateful Michael agreed to share his story with VR Fitness Insider and hope you find it as inspirational as we do!
What was the “ah-ha!” moment when you decided you wanted to lose weight?
Michael: As a physician and medical educator, one of my passions is teaching medical students. My employer would ask to record my classes, but after seeing the videos, I would request them not to use it because I was embarrassed at how much I weighed. Despite that I still didn’t have the motivation to make any changes. I just reverted to the vicious cycle of being depressed about my weight, and turning to food to treat that depression.
However, it all came to a halt in June 2019 when I went to Florida with some family and friends. Before the trip, I reluctantly bought new larger clothes, so I was already feeling down about myself. I had trouble walking the park at Disney, and I refused to go to the beach, lying to my friends and family, saying “I had work to do.”
On the third day, a few of us decided to visit the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios. At the front of the line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I was asked to sit in the “test chair” because they thought I was too big to fit on the ride – in front of the entire line of people. They were very professional and polite about it, but it was embarrassing nonetheless. I immediately thought to myself that I had to make some changes because I didn’t want to be the heavy uncle/godfather who wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the theme parks with my nieces, nephews, and godchildren the same way that they did. Or the uncle/godfather that was just a memory because he died so young.
What brought you to VR as an exercise tool?
Michael: I’ve been interested in VR technology for years, and Beat Saber was one of the first games I played on the Oculus. I didn’t look at Beat Saber as a way to exercise – I’m a gamer, and just wanted to play the game. But after getting good enough at it to play the Expert levels, I realized that after a few songs, I was breaking a sweat. Beat Saber had fooled me into exercising!
After realizing that, I wanted more variety from the workouts and something that had a higher impact. After some searching, I came across FitXR. The music is what caught my attention first, but I also found the diversity of class length, style, and music type to really fit in with my work out needs and work schedule. I also really liked the idea of having a calorie count in the game so I could not only improve my score, but also watch how much activity I had done. Now, FitXR is my main exercise tool and I changed to a more ketogenic-like diet to supplement the workouts. And I’ve discovered so many new artists through the game, that I keep coming back for new classes so I can keep my playlist fresh!
What was your experience like with traditional fitness institutions and equipment (going to the gym, weights, treadmills, etc)?
Michael: I have had gym memberships in the past, and gone through several periods of dedication, but I find traditional exercise and gyms to be boring, and having to actually go somewhere to get exercise was for me counter-motivational. In fact, the last time I was in a gym was over 20 years ago when I was in college! I used the memberships sporadically, and just found myself paying more money than I was getting out of the membership. I also used to own an elliptical that collected dust over 15 years. I finally got rid of it after realizing I could get my exercise through VR.
Do you feel you get the same (or a better) workout using FitXR?
Michael: I am definitely getting a better workout with FitXR, and I think the main reason is because I keep doing it. It keeps me interested, especially with all of the classes and variety in music. But what I tell people who are intrigued but also skeptical is that, while it was movement and exercise, I “wasn’t training for a marathon.” With the addition of HIIT classes, higher level cardio (aerobic, anaerobic) workouts are now part of my routine.
When you started your journey, what routine did you set for yourself for both dieting and exercise?
Diet: Ketogenic diet – I limited myself to 15g carbs a day at first, and ate smaller portions throughout the day with a healthful and fulfilling dinner.
Exercise: FitXR and Beat Saber on 2 weekdays for about 30 minutes, and on the weekend for about 2 hours a day. I also actively make decisions to take stairs rather than elevators.
You shared you lost 85 pounds. Was that the goal you had in mind? If not, what was it?
Michael: I started around 265, and my goal was to get to 200, and be able to wear size 34-35 pants again. My ideal body weight according to some calculations is 174. I was so motivated and felt so much better when I got to 200, that I decided I wanted to go a bit further but also started adjusting my diet to maintain a constant weight. I am now in the low 180s, and proud to wear 32-33 pants!
How long did it take you to lose that weight?
Michael: I started on July 1, 2019, and hit 200 on Jan 28, 2020. I have been in the low 180s since July 2020.
How did the pandemic impact your health and wellness habits?
Michael: Luckily, I developed my exercise routine and diet habits before COVID-19, so when things shut down, I wasn’t really impacted. I was already exercising at home, and just kept on doing it. And VR actually helped my mental status as well – I used it as an escape, not just to exercise. VR allowed me to “get out” of my apartment. I “travelled” the world at times – visited Notre Dame, the Great Pyramids and the Grand Canyon, for example. So VR has not only helped me physically, but mentally as well.
What is it about FitXR and Beat Saber that kept bringing you back?
Michael: The music, the community, and the fun!
Do you have a favorite workout? Instructor?
Michael: I love every instructor and (almost) every class, but “Barricade” is by far my favorite class, and Dillon Spicer and Ianthe Mellors are the instructors I love the most.
Have you met others through the FitXR community? Have you invited friends to join?
Michael: I have chatted with a few people in the FitXR community through Facebook. I’ve invited several coworkers and friends to join the community as well.
What have you learned about yourself from this journey?
Michael: That I’m fully capable of taking care of myself, and that every person’s fitness journey is unique. I learned to be proud of myself, and to take a step back to realize that I can’t take care of people the way I want to if I am not taking care of myself.
I also have learned that it’s okay to say no. I have several responsibilities and roles that I do with my job, all of which I love and am passionate about. When I was recently approached to take on a new task that would require more dedicated time outside of work, I thought that I could do it – but I would have to take time away from cooking and exercising to make it happen. I realized I would rather take care of myself properly, stay healthy, and do the things I already do well, and turned down the request.
VR Fitness Insider: It’s always an honor for us to share these stories with our readers. It’s encouraging to read about others who make the decision to improve their health and then see their amazing positive results. We greatly appreciate Michael allowing us to share his journey!