A little faith can make a big change

Written by Josh Hoodless

Running amuck on the streets of Sydney, skipping school from a young age, weighing 136kg at 16 years of age and feeling “like scum” with no future.

That WAS Emmanuel, until he was moved to Hervey Bay to be with his father. Fast forward 15 months and Emmanuel has finished high school, is fit and healthy weighs 93kg, and is on the verge of achieving his dream career – entering the defence force. This is Emmanuel NOW! This is an inspirational transformation of a teenage boy filled with determination, faith, and purpose.

In December 2020, LIFT Hervey Bay received an email:

“Hi, my son is 16, 6ft 1 and weighs 136kg. He is a big-framed lad carrying extra weight and emotional baggage. Can you help him? We live at Toogoom but I can drive him in.”

Emmanuel’s Dad was determined to help him turn his life around and not be another statistic, starting with his weight.

The rate of teenage obesity is on the rise (in Australia). At the risk of offending people, some of the blame must go to the parent/s or guardian/s for raising a morbidly obese child. When I first met Emmanuel, his self-worth was extremely low, and he said he was going nowhere in life.

With nearly two decades in the fitness industry, I have seen some amazing mental and physical transformations. Witnessed thousands of people start out on their health and fitness journeys. But what percentage actual make it to their long-term big goal? How many people go all the way? In my experience less than 10% fight right to the end. Don’t get me wrong, everyone that starts training gets stronger and fitter, it’s losing the kilos of extra body fat that seems to be the toughest fight.

Getting into a calorie deficit seems to be lot harder than the actual exercise because it requires behavioural change. Exercising for one hour a day is the easy part compared to making the right food (as well as drink) and lifestyle choices the remaining 23 hours.

This very reserved, shell of a kid struggled with the food changes, it wasn’t that he was eating unhealthy food, he was just eating too much. Having a nice sandwich is fine but eating half a loaf of bread and jam for morning tea was just too many calories over the day.

There was struggle, pain, frustration, improvement, injuries, achievements, disappointment, relief – it was a 15-month battle. At best we thought this kid would lose SOME weight, increase SOME fitness and gain SOME strength and become healthier. The statistics were not in his favour. However, Emmanuel proved he was a fighter and wasn’t going to give up, and we didn’t give up on him either!

Whatever was asked of him in the gym, he did. Whatever was asked of him outside the gym, he did (and then some!). When he was knocked down or felt overwhelmed, his renewed faith helped him to stay focused.

With the amazing support from his main coach, Clint, he pushed on. He started losing the weight and seeing his performance improve. He lost a staggering 43kg and can do things he’s never been able to do. Emmanuel was even a joint winner of the LIFT Coach’s Award last year.

After seeing how much his father sacrificed and committed to his journey, Emmanuel’s new driving force was to make his dad proud, and he went from feeling worthless to wanting to serve others.

This has led to him striving for a career in the Australian Defence Forces. As you are reading this, Emmanuel will have passed his last entrance test – Physical Fitness Test – and well on his way to living his dream.

From an unhealthy, overweight, troubled teenager on the streets of Sydney to achieving what he thought was impossible, including finishing high school, getting his driver’s license, entering the Army, and becoming a man. His father and coaches are extremely proud of Emmanuel. As he heads off into the world as a fit, healthy, and respectful adult, Emmanuel hopes that his story of tremendous change, faith and fight can motivate other teenagers to achieve their goals.