How Crossfit, and beyond the whiteboard, are saving my life

It’s me again, your friendly neighborhood Ruby code and customer support monkey. Sorry, but I’m not writing about any awesome new features today, or anything like that; this is an online meeting of Fatasses Anonymous.

My name is Bill, and I’m a fatass. I will die an early death due to complications arising from obesity.

Well, I used to be. Or, depending on your scale, I still am, but not for much longer. Some backstory:

Throughout high school and college, I was fat. Horribly so. In California you only take 2 years of physical education in high school, and once those were done I didn’t work out at all. I ate too much, I ate the wrong things, and after I reached about 200 pounds I stopped watching and stopped caring, hoping it would just go away someday, wishing for a magic reset button I could hit.

I finished my bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2005, and shortly after got a job working in IT. Not, as I had been hoping, in programming, but sysadmin work, close enough. I worked for a credit reporting agency, and when the crunch really hit in summer 2008, I was cut loose. While looking for a new job, I hung out with some of my former coworkers, who had started their own small business: Badpopcorn, Inc. After a few weeks, they had gotten a new contract, and I had two offers on the table: a six-month contract with Western Digital, or work for Badpopcorn on this “beyond the whiteboard” idea. Of course, I had no idea what this Crossfit thing was; I had gone to a globo gym for a few months, even paid for a personal trainer, but the trainer had no idea what to do with someone as far gone as me. But, if I was going to work on this project, I would have to know what the potential users were dealing with: I would have to meet Helen.

I warmed up, and weighed in before my first WOD: 265 pounds, 5’5″. Not good. This was not going to go well. The trainers at Crossfit Kinnick scaled it back for me: I would run 200 meters, swing a 1/2 pood kettlebell (what the heck was a pood?), and do ring rows instead of pullups. Three times. So, I jogged, mostly walked, 200 meters, swung a kettlebell, and did ring rows, pausing often to catch my breath. Then I walked, nearly crawled, another 200 meters. By the time I got back to the gym, I was feeling lightheaded and dizzy, signs of almost passing out. I stopped and did not finish the workout. Jake, one of the trainers and a Badpopcorn employee, didn’t think I’d be back. He was wrong.

It’s now been 19 months since I started doing Crossfit. I have lost 6 inches from my waistline, 80 pounds of total weight, and gone from wearing size XL and XXL shirts to medium. I went from eating garbage to eating right. I went from being unable to jog 200 meters to finishing a 5k in about half an hour. I went from doing ring-rows to unassisted pull-ups, kipping or strict. Unfortunately no amount of Crossfitting can make me taller; I’ve tried hanging from the pull-up bars, hanging kettlebells from my feet; no dice. I’m not done yet: I still need to drop about 30 pounds, and then I can really start aiming for that 3-minute Fran. In fact, I never will be done: Crossfit is not a habit one breaks easily.

My name is Bill, and I’m a Crossfitter. I will be fitter, stronger, and live longer than any of the 30% of the USA who now live with obesity.

This is me: On the left, December 2008, a couple months after starting. 5’5″, 265 pounds. On the right, March 2010; 185 pounds. not the “after” shot yet, but we’re getting there.

December 2008/March 2010


  1. April 1, 2010 / 7:36 pm

    Man Bill I am so proud of you. You literally have me sitting in the office at Crossfit Kinnick with tears rolling down my cheeks reading your story of such an amazing transformation. I hope everyone reading your blog truly realizes the struggles you have been through these past 19 months to get to where you are today. It sure wasn’t pretty at first but your consistency and drive has and is paying off. Keep at it Bill!!

  2. April 1, 2010 / 8:11 pm

    Sir, That’s a really impressive story. 80# is no joke, and while you may not consider that the ‘after’ shot; you look way better man.

    I’m down 55# myself from last July, and I’d kill to lose another 25#. It’s tough being a developer, and losing weight. Sitting in a chair all day doesn’t help keep weight off.

    Best of luck to you! Hope to see more ‘after’ shots!


  3. Mark P
    April 1, 2010 / 8:19 pm

    Excellent job!!!! Be VERY proud of what you have done


  4. April 1, 2010 / 8:25 pm

    Nice work Bill! What an inspirational story. I love CrossFit for many reasons, but mostly for helping people in the way that it helped you – by saving your life. Keep up the good work and go get that 3 minute Fran!

  5. April 1, 2010 / 9:22 pm

    Bill, I just wanted to pass on my ridiculous appreciation for putting yourself out there and making this happen. Crossfit has undeniably changed my entire life as well! Props!

  6. Blanca
    April 1, 2010 / 9:38 pm

    I seriously got teary eyed. I’m kinda embarrassed to admit it. I love your story, Bill.

  7. April 1, 2010 / 9:40 pm

    Thanks everyone. I am proud of myself; it’s pretty hard not to get a swollen ego over the amount of support I’ve gotten from everyone since I originally posted that picture on my Facebook page a few days ago. People are sharing it with their friends, trying to get them to start a fitness program that really works.

    19 months is about 80 weeks, which means I’ve been losing a fairly steady pound per week. It certainly helps that my job is to help build this website, which keeps Crossfit on my mind all the time.

    Oh, I don’t do Zone or any other specific diet. I just stopped eating fast food (mostly), stopped eating prepackaged meals entirely, stopped drinking soda (mostly) and follow a simple rule-of-thumb: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” “Food” in this case means “anything your great-grandparents would recognize as food.” So, lots of salads with various fruit and veggies (broccoli, sweet peppers, tomatoes, apples, etc.) with some chicken or other protein in it. I cheat about once a week.

    At least one person has said it looked too good to not be Photoshopped, but despite posting this on April 1st, I swear those are both real, un-retouched photos.

  8. April 1, 2010 / 9:56 pm

    What kind of person decides to work for a company called BadPopcorn?

  9. April 1, 2010 / 10:08 pm

    A crazy person, a demented person, someone insane enough to think doing 5 rounds of overhead squats and running is a good idea, when he hates doing both of those.

  10. April 1, 2010 / 10:15 pm

    This is an amazing an inspirational story. Thank you Bill for posting such an honest and beautiful portrayal of what fantastic changes commitment, perseverance, and a positive state of mind can create in someone’s life. You are truly an inspiration!

    Way to go guys (all of you that I know were a part of this)! This is awesome.

  11. April 1, 2010 / 10:19 pm

    Oh, and coming from a fellow entrepreneur, this is the blog you’ll be wanting to send to right now. Call them, e-mail it, share it, whatever. I have a feeling this is something they would love to share with the world. I imagine the PR you will get will blow your mind. And Bill might just become famous.

    Just a thought from one entrepreneur to another… Great story.

  12. bryan g.
    April 2, 2010 / 12:52 am

    rawk on. awesome story. i’ve never had a weight problem, and with crossfit, i probably never will. i don’t like working out. everyone talks about how fun it is; it’s not. but it’s a positive way of life that’s a necessity for those of us who have desk jobs. i’ve been crossfitting for 18 months now and hopefully never stop. keep the good work.

  13. Wayne Hinton
    April 2, 2010 / 1:30 am

    Your story really resonates with me. I am 60 and just starting my third year of Crossfit. When I started at the UTC in Corona, I was 248 lbs and like you, could hardly do a single pushup or run 200 meters. I am now 185 and even after a recent heart attack (some bad habits come back to bite you) am working out 3 days a week. My knees are a little bad, but I finished my 5k row at 24 minutes recently and try to keep up with the rest of the class as best I can. I couldn’t do this without the constant support of the other people in the gym and also the internet crossfit community including beyond the whiteboard. You can see my before and after pictures here: I hope you have continued success.

  14. Sangeeta
    April 2, 2010 / 6:29 am

    Amazing story Bill! You should be very proud of yourself! Your determination to come to the box and endure the WODs everyday and not give up is commendable. It could be very easy to quit or find an easy way to lose weight by stitching your stomach etc….but you chose the most natural & tough way. Hats off to you. And to get out of the bad eating habits and say no, my body deserves better. It speaks a lot of the person you have become as a result of crossfitting. Keep up the habit of crossfit.
    It is nice to know the person behind the “beyond the whiteboard” :). we are enjoying the new improved features.

  15. April 2, 2010 / 6:22 pm

    Congratulations on your progress so far! With all the features of the website, I’m glad to hear that you guys still make time to workout. Being a bunch of competitive software engineers at a gaming company, we were really excited from the beginning with Beyond the Whiteboard and I think integrating it with our gym from day one has been one of the best moves for our gym.

  16. April 10, 2010 / 9:41 am

    Bill, you are the man! I love stories like yours because it’s kind of like mine… fatass to fit… still fee like a fatass most of the time. But I love your story because when I read stories like yours (and thankfully we see a lot of them) it reminds us as trainers and coaches that we’re reaching everyday people ( like you and me ) who need CrossFit. Courting triathletes, marathon runners and Olympians to our cause is great, but it’s the “Bills” out there that will change the world.

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