Nathaniel Hargrove was 140 pounds in the fourth grade. At his high school graduation, he had doubled to 280. He thought he was cursed: Though he lifted, he lacked the nutritional knowledge needed to really slim down. By the time he was in his 30s, Hargrove’s weight was topping 330.
Thanks to a special nutrition and exercise regimen, Hargrove would eventually drop 90 pounds and pack on muscle. But the change came only after a series of embarrassing medical tests.
By 2017, Hargrove had come to think of himself just as a “big guy.” Not out of shape. Athletic. But big. He had been on blood pressure medication for years. High blood pressure just ran in the family, he assumed. His father had died of a heart attack the previous year. But Hargrove couldn’t see the signs: He was short tempered, struggling to wake up, and driving to work half asleep. He got headaches and blurred vision. He was worn out by the time he got home to his wife and daughters.
Hargrove went to his family doctor who suggested a treadmill test. He had power-lifted several years earlier and still considered himself relatively athletic. “I went into this stress test thinking it was a joke,” he remembers. “Walking on a treadmill for a couple of minutes shouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. Very wrong.” Nurses stopped the test after six minutes, explaining to Hargrove that his blood pressure had risen to danger levels. Hargrove didn’t feel any different. He realized that he must be flirting with danger all the time. “I was devastated. I had been lying to myself.”
So instead of watching his daughter’s first cheerleading competition, Hargrove went back for more tests. He resolved to make a change. His friend told him about a nutrition and exercise program called Precision Nutrition. Hargrove was desperate to try anything. The program also had a monetary incentive: a chance to win $25,000. Hargrove told his daughters that he would win and take them to Disney World. “Talk about accountability,” Hargrove says. “Tell a five-year-old girl that if you win, you will take her to Disney World. Now she expects you to win.”
For Hargrove, changing his nutrition would be the biggest challenge and the most important change. Precision didn’t so much give Hargrove a diet as teach him healthy eating habits. It meant not eating the sugary and processed foods he always craved. It meant preparing food for the week and shopping and cooking himself. “If it didn’t have a mother or grow from the ground, I avoided it,” he says. He also avoided food with nutritional labels, sticking to “foods in their original form.” His diet became protein, veggies, and only the occasional carb, like rice or sweet potatoes. He began feeling better and more energized almost immediately.
Hargrove’s exercise consisted of body-building-style workouts and aggressive cardio sessions. He would lift for 30 minutes and then jump on an elliptical. He was determined. Though he sustained a foot injury and was left in a walking cast, Hargrove adapted. He started rowing to maintain his cardio. “I went from failing a stress test to holding multiple gym rowing records.”
“I learned that a positive attitude is the most important thing you can have in life. I learned that the first step achieving anything in life is believing that you can achieve it.”
Overall, Hargrove went from not passing a stress test to a lean 235 pounds, and he’s now capable of 20-mile runs. He no longer needs blood pressure medicine, either. He says he’s now happier and feels like a better person. “I learned that nothing worth having is easy to have, and that a positive attitude is the most important thing you can have in life. The first step in achieving anything in life is believing that you can achieve it.” Now everyone around him believes too. His wife Lindsey quit an unsatisfying job to start a business. His oldest daughter has started competing in powerlifting, too.
And, oh yeah, Hargrove won Precision Nutrition’s competition. He and his family are off to Disney World in September.
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