Well, kids, that's a long story. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and listen well to the story of The Opera Bro, Ol' Yeargain...
The Wonder (Bread) Years(gain...z)
At the end of middle school I grew a shit ton. I was no longer a 5'8" chubby kid, I was now a 6'4" skinny fat dude going into high school. I still loved Dr. Pepper. Coaches pined for my size, but they could only look, no touchy. I continued my viola studies, mostly out of obligation because all of my friends were continuing to stay in orchestra. Then one day I started to take my studies seriously, and I turned myself into a badass violist (if there is such a thing.) When I graduated High School I decided to continue my studies at Oklahoma City University where I was granted a scholarship to study viola. I worked hard, I kicked ass, and I was principle violist a bunch, no big deal. I lived off campus and had a regular diet of fast food during my travels to school. My breakfast was always an awesome combination of Dr. Pepper and Cheeze-its.
|I'm obviously not pleased that it's not Dr. Pepper.|
My first semester I played in the pit orchestra for Andre Previn's "A Street Car Named Desire." The show was crazy, but in kind of a cool way. I listened to the opera from below the stage and thought "Damn, that sounds so cool." Little did I know that I was going to make that stage my bitch someday.
The Prodigal Son
As a means to obtain a more expanded horizon and develop a little more skill in aural skills, I decided to take voice lessons. My teacher had no clue the inner baddass I was about to release upon him. I had myself a big ol' ugly voice, and he helped me get a small grip on it. My first summer out of college I played viola in the pit orchestra for Opera in the Ozarks. I made pennies, but I got to play in the pit orchestra for three operatic masterpieces: Madame Butterfly, Le Nozze di Figaro and Susannah. I was surrounded by singers who were older than me (by a few years) they were really cool, but a lot of their singing talent I felt like I could achieve. Before then I thought I had missed the boat on being an opera singer...after that summer I thought to myself, "it's not too late."
Soon I was addicted to singin. It's all I wanted to do. I returned to school with a fiery passion. I busted my ass building up my voice and I even won 2nd place in a dinky little singing competition. I knew that I wanted to perform on stage, so I just went for it. I asked my voice teacher and he told me I should audition for the Vocal performance program. I did, and I was accepted.
|Young, fresh faced Yeargain full of arrogance and zest.|
The following four years was a blur of success, failure, falling in love, heart break, weight loss, and immense weight gain. I sang in 6 main stage productions at Oklahoma City University, often times as the leading baritone. My repertoire was diverse as shit, In the same academic year I sang Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar and The Four Villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. I was really lucky, but I also worked hard for what I got. You can call this section bragging, but I'm just stating facts...sweet, awesome facts.
My personal life was up and down just like my weight. I entered into the program at my lightest, 187lbs. I was a cardio freak. I would run or ride my bike for nearly an hour every day. Then I met my now ex fiance, began to not take very good care of myself and I let my form diminish just like the relationship. However, amongst this was all of my success in singing at OCU. I was broken-hearted, but I felt that I could overcome this with working towards my singing future.
The summer of 2012 I was accepted into the prestigious young artist program Seagle Music Colony. I got to sing my dream role of Sweeney Todd as well as a couple of other fun characters in the season. I met a wonderful gal and I was confident that I would dominate the opera world when I entered into the audition season that coming fall.
|Sweeney Todd at Seagle Music Colony!|
The Fall of Ol' Yeargain
My very first audition season was in 2012, and it was there that I learned how dumb I had been and how much I really didn't know about anything, and how bad of a singer I was. I experienced the biggest learning curve of my life. I learned that in order to keep your voice in shape, you have to practice every day...which I learned the hard way, by not practicing regularly, or at least intelligently. Also, I was constantly seeking new advice on how to sing and took lessons with many teachers. This turned out very badly, I started to have troubles singing the way I used to (too many cooks in the kitchen.) I used to be able to rage on high notes all day (all the way up to high c5) and now I was biffing E naturals in public. I had lost my confidence, and it was starting to manifest itself in my weight.
|Me at my heaviest.|
I was having troubles in my love life, failure followed by failure. I was starting to lose that drive, that confidence that had allowed me to change my stars and become the baddass that I had become and the one I always knew myself to be. My life was slipping away in front of me, I was depressed, and I didn't know what to do.
So I said "Fuck it, that's enough...."
I broke up with my girlfriend and I began to work out. I spun my wheels hard for a few weeks, not making any progress, but then I did every bit of free internet/youtube/bro-science research I had available to me and armed myself with knowledge. I was going to lose the weight I put on my frame through the years of bull shit eating and excuse making if it was going to kill me.
At this point in my life I was anywhere between 270 to 300lbs, so I decided to start cutting my calories and begin Intermittent Fasting. I combined this with weight lifting and hour long walks. The weight practically fell off. I was losing between 3-5lbs a week. However, I was soon to be tested.
One of the only good things that came from my auditions that year was earning a position as an apprentice artist at Des Moines Metro Opera. I was excited! But, I knew that summer programs tend to do two things: increase your daily drinking and make you gain weight. I was determined to drink very little and LOSE weight. And I was also nervous that I wasn't going to be able to stack up next to my colleagues who I felt from the very beginning were infinitely better than me.
I was tempted by scotch and snacks EVERY night. That combined with after show parties, group dinners, and the never ending treats, I was constantly tested! I didn't know so many treats in the world existed. I didn't used to crave half of the crap that people would bring to rehearsals or performances, but now that I couldn't have it, it's all I wanted.
However, I had a secret weapon: Epic cheat days. Every Saturday I ate anything and everything I wanted. My fellow apprentice artists called it Faturday. It satiated my taste for junk food and gave me something to look forward to. I ran and lifted weights every day, and I was seeing results. However, the weight began to peel off my body when we started playing nightly games of basketball after rehearsal. I'm fairly sure I'm single handily responsible for the majority of the male young artists not gaining weight that summer.
|Cheat day at DMMO!|
My weight loss continued throughout the program and after I left. But, eventually my stupidity caught up with me. I had let my calories get cut down to 1600. That combined with the amount of exercise I was doing, I was in full blown starvation mode. My weight loss stalled completely. I did two weeks of not losing a pound below 219lbs. I was miserable. So, just like with everything else I do, I consulted YouTube.
I did research and found that reverse dieting "Slowly adding in calories," while still indulging in my cheat days would bring my metabolism back up to speed. And indeed, my weight loss picked up again.
I was constantly working out; doing 2 a days, doing as much cardio as I could possibly do, and I got down to 203lbs. However, I was skinny as shit, I was weak as hell, and all I had to show for my hard work was a vein in my bicep. So, I began to train harder, and this time with purpose. I began to focus on my Bench, dead lift, squat, pull ups and dips, making sure I got stronger in all of these lifts. I also began to understand the concept of tracking my macros, making sure I got efficient amounts of protein, carbs, and fats and I bulked back up to 211 lbs.
The Return of Ol' Yeargain
In an eagerness to get into the realm of professional singing and higher education, I had neglected my final hours at OCU. I was burdened with the task of taking 2 Gen Ed classes and completing my senior recital. I returned to OCU with a passion to end this saga and start my new life. However, that glorious stage called to Ol' Yeargain once more and I returned for my final production as Frank Maurrant in Street Scene.
In Frank I saw the opportunity to practice something that I had always admired in my favorite actors. The ability to change their physical shape by means of exercise and diet to best represent the character they are playing. I first bulked up aggressively, eating in a caloric surplus and doing a shit ton of deadlifts, getting my 1 rep max above 400lbs. Then, I turned around about a month out and began to cut back my calories and carbs to get the lean, scrappy look I wanted for Frank. I stopped looking at the scale and focused on the mirror. I got lean enough where I even had a (brief) shirtless scene.
After completing Street Scene, I focused hard on completing my recital, which was the following weekend. I had a scene from Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie that I wanted to perform. I donned tight blue jeans and a black tank top, so I continued cutting down the fat to look the part. Even though I got sick the week of my recital, I pulled through, sang through the program, and was officially finished with school. Hallelujah.
After all was said and done, I finally weighed myself again. I weighed 196lbs...I had lost anything between 80-100lbs since the beginning of my weight loss journey. I went from a 40inch waist to a 34 with room for a belt. Not only that, but I had gotten stronger. But, more than anything, I developed that sense of confidence that allowed me to do all the awesome stuff I was able to do when I was young and reckless. I have proved to myself once again that you can change your stars, you can be the person you want to be and have the life you want. All you have to do is take it for your own. It's never too late.
I know what it's like to feel out of control, to feel trapped in a big ass hungry body. I'm here to tell you that you don't need shit to get that off of you and to unburden your (literally) heavy heart. All it takes is the smarts and the determination. What I write in this blog is based on research and experience that I have done to myself and I have seen in others. I'm not here to sell you a miracle pill, an easy fix, or to shame you into doing what I do. I'm here to help. My goal is to help others reach their goals by any means necessary and to share with you my experiences as I continue to better myself via music and exercise.
That's the story folks, straight from the horses mouth!
|August 2014 (187lbs)|
*UPDATE: April 2014*
|*Update: September 1st 2014*|