So how does one go about picking a trainer? Do you pick someone who looks the way you want to look? Do you pick someone who is interested in the same sports? Do you pick someone who has a ton of formal education and technical training? When I was deciding who I wanted to turn to for help reaching my fitness goals, it was a combination of things. My “trainer” (though he can’t technically be called one yet) is one of the most inspirational people I have met. He trains every day in the gym, combining both weight and cardio, eats clean, and is studying exercise science at Central Washington University. But more impressive than that, he overcame an obstacle millions of people struggle to overcome. Obesity. His transformation has been amazing and because he knows what it takes to make a real (yet healthy) lifestyle change, I trust him to help me reach my fitness goals.
Josh Stancil is 22 years old from a small town in Washington called Rainier. His high school was 1A when he attended, but now is even smaller at 2B. Josh describes his parents as loving and supportive and he grew up with 2 older brothers, 1 older sister and one younger sister. He played a handful of sports while he was in high school including golf, track, baseball and football, with football being his main focus. Despite the American Dream-esque life growing up, Josh struggled with his weight, starting at a very young age.
Sometime getting your child to eat is a struggle. Parents usually encourage their children to eat more and getting children to eat their veggies can be an even bigger struggle. And if grandparents are involved? Don’t even think about walking out of the house not uncomfortably full. Josh was blessed (or cursed) with “easygoing” taste buds. He would eat whatever was put in front of him whether it was lasagna, a pile of asparagus, or cottage cheese. When he would eat it wasn’t just one serving, it was two, three, maybe even four. Josh would go back for more and no one had the heart to tell the kid to stop eating so much. The weight problem started when he was only five years old. Josh reckons today that his parents probably couldn’t hold him when he was that young, at least not for long periods of time. Memories such as running to your dad when he gets home from work and jumping into his arms don’t exist for Josh.
Emotional hardships went past the physical. Kids at school would joke about Josh’s weight and even his closest friends would poke fun at him. When you’re an overweight child, you have to develop a sense of humor if you want to survive. In such a small town, everyone knows everybody and Josh constantly had the sense that people were looking at him funny or making comments behind his back. His classmates and friends weren’t trying to hurt him necessarily, but their words and actions stung none-the-less.
“I mostly just laughed it [the jokes] off and pretended like it wasn’t a big deal,” recalled Josh. “To them it was a joke, but to me it was like getting hit in the face every time.”
Despite the subtle teasing, Josh was the nicest kid in school. He was sort of a friendly giant and his classmates would go on to vote him “Most likely to befriend you” in the senior yearbook. Despite being such a nice guy, that wasn’t what Josh wanted to be known for.
In 5th grade Josh made his first go at trying to lose weight and was unsuccessful. In 6th grade he tried to play football and wasn’t allowed to play because he was too heavy. The youth league had a weight limit to keep kids safe, one that Josh surpassed. He was 160 pounds. In middle school he would surpass 200 pounds. Still very conscious of his weight, Josh attempted multiple diets that would last two weeks at the most. Instead of losing weight Josh was quickly gaining.
It wasn’t until he was 16 years old that a seemingly normal experience sparked a lifestyle change. Josh got to go on a swimming fieldtrip after his class won a class-to-class competition and was awarded a pool party at the Great Wolf Lodge. It was the moment that Josh looked around watching his classmates swim when he realized he had to make a change. All the other kids were having a great time while Josh was too embarrassed to take his shirt off.
The very next day, Josh took a picture of himself, and would continue to do so every two weeks. He set up weight goals and a plan. It wasn’t a well-informed plan but over the next two months Josh lost about 50 pounds. He did this by simply making his portions smaller. He would place whatever his parents made for him on a small salad plate. He didn’t stack it high and he didn’t get seconds. This was before he even started lifting in any extensive fashion. Portion control, P.E. class and football caused Josh’s weight to melt off. It was then that what the kids said behind Josh’s back changed from negative to positive.
“What really fueled the fire was the walking in the hallways in my school, because it was such a small school, everyone knew who I was,” recalled Josh. “I remember walking down the halls and people would look up at me and they’d be sitting on the ground and they’d start whispering and pointing at me ‘cause I had changed so much.”
Josh had gone from the “friendly fat kid” to a local inspiration.
“It was exhilarating,” said Josh.
Soon Josh was carpooling with friends to the gym and the weight fell off even more. The next football season Josh stopped focusing on losing the weight, wanting to stay strong so he could perform as a lineman. Josh remembers his grandpa not being able to find him on the football field because he was no longer the huge kid and blended in with the other players.
In high school the focus was losing weight. Josh ended up going from 300 to 198 pounds when he graduated. After getting much thinner Josh noticed that he was actually getting weaker. His bench max fell and it was then that it just “clicked.” Josh knew he wanted to study exercise science in school, his focus shifting from weight loss to muscle growth.
Now stronger than ever, Josh has taken an interest in body building. He has expressed interest in competing but still struggles with fear. Though the feedback Josh gets now is almost exclusively positive, the hurtful comments made before the weight loss still have a huge impact. Because of his dramatic weight loss, Josh has loose skin, something he is still a little self-conscious about.
There is nothing easy about losing weight and Josh will be the first to admit that. Inspired by his own experience, Josh recently decided to pick up a second major. In the hopes of becoming a P.E./health teacher, Josh will stay at Central for an additional two years. To Josh it’s worth it if he can have a positive effect on students’ lives and help ensure they develop a healthy lifestyle. Teaching young kids about getting or staying healthy is an opportunity for him to use his own experience to fight an issue (childhood obesity) that is plaguing the United States. While he used to think that helping adults as a trainer would be his passion, now Josh relishes in the idea that he can educate and influence kids so that they never need a trainer.
So why have I asked Josh Stancil to help me with my fitness goals? Because he is everything that I have written above. Josh is legitimately one of the nicest guys you will ever run across in the gym or in any room for that matter. Josh has taken me under his wing and I can only dream of going through a transformation even half as impressive as his. Be sure to follow him on Instagram for more fitspiration!