The Windy City is well known for its sporting legends. From Bull’s legend Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan, Mike Singletary and Sid Luckman, Chicago loves its heroes but not all its heroes chuck a ball. Maynor De Leon is making a name for himself by trying to reshape the world literally, and 125,000 Instagram followers are with him every step of the way.
De Leon grew up quickly on the mean streets of the west side. By the age of seven, he was wearing size 10 shoes, and as he grew, he was mocked for his size, but he fought back. He was 13 when he sought solace in alcohol, and by the time he graduated, he needed help to get off his sofa at home. When he got an infection which caused him to become inflamed, doctors were prepared to amputate to keep him alive.
Such drastic action wasn’t necessary, physically at least. But that lonely time in a hospital bed made De Leon reflect on his life, and he realized he need change. The benefits of exercise on the overweight are well known as this report by the American College of Sports Medicine published in 2019 explains so De Leon knowing he needed to change, took the initiative. He picked up his iPhone, turned on the video and started his own diary, which he transferred to social media and watched in awe as strangers became followers and rooted for him on his personal odyssey to lose 500lbs.
Here’s how he did it.
Something had to be done about food. He’d grown up in an area full of fast-food outlets, it was all he’d ever known, so it was going to be a tough ask. He aims for 2,750 calories daily as he enjoys ground chicken stir-fry with peppers, peas and broccoli, salmon cakes and a mixed bean bowl with peppers and tomatoes. WeightWatchers explain how a weight loss plan can include nice foods, which appeal in the same way grilled chicken does to Maynor. The key is finding a diet that works for your body and moderating things like portion size. He still has his moments, but junk food is a thing of the past, although he is not averse to rewarding himself after a tough session with a high-protein waffle and low-fat frozen yogurt.
After he appeared in a Nike Sport Changes Everything commercial, De Paul realized he needed more professional help. As his fame grew, he was being approached by coaches offering to help, but De Paul wouldn’t be hurried – he knew what he wanted. He met David Carson, a 6-foot 7-inch college basketball player, but they didn’t hit it off straight away. Not until De Paul heard about Carson’s back story, how a car he had been in was rammed by another with the driver attempting suicide, how Carson had to be cut out from the damage and how the emotional scars left him coping with depression as well as the physical scars of the injury. They found common ground in their trauma and together set about creating a structured path towards De Paul’s goal.
His work in the gym is varied, and a look at his Instagram posts shows him to be having plenty of fun under the watchful eye of coach Carson. The first year was all about walking, step-ups and squats before moving on to work with a heavy canvas ball and bicep curls. Other times he’s pushing a sledge with the ever-present Carson egging him on. After a few years, he felt a couple of strange lumps in his arm. Muscles! That was a special moment for both coach and athlete to share and evidence the strict regime they were following was working. It’s not easy, and De Paul does have his moments when he likes to retreat to a quiet place, but when he does, he can rely on his legion of fans to post messages of support and get him back out there, inspiring them and others that anything is possible with the right amount of hard work and support.
On his Instagram bio, De Paul states ‘I already gave the world the worst of me, now it’s time to give it the best of me’ and his feed is littered with similar inspirational quotes. The lethargy and aggressiveness of his early life have been replaced with support and self-help. Last year he took up photography and posted a snap of a sunflower – a packed house at the United Center could not have greeted a last-minute winning dunk from Jordan any warmer!
Many of us have excuses for not going that extra mile, but De Paul and the journey he shares with us should be encouraging enough to keep on keeping on!
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