“Extremely exciting and unbelievably fascinating…”- New York Times
Oh, wait. That was actually my rave review about my own bio. No pressure, right?
Here’s the Skinny
Well, for starters, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. My name is Brandon, I live in Richmond, Virginia, and I was born way, way back in 1984.
I was always very skinny, and when I shot up to 6’3″ during my last two years of high school, I went from being a spaghetti noodle to a spaghetti noodle that had been pulled through a thinning machine. At my most Skeletorian, I weighed only 160 pounds at that height.
The frustrating thing was that I was always working out and lifting weights, even recruiting a personal trainer at one point, but I could never seem to gain weight, no matter how many disgusting weight gainers I choked down.
Of course, the fact that I was a certified gym rat and played basketball 24/7 didn’t help to calm my raging metabolism. I did manage to “balloon up” to about 170 near the end of high school (class of 2002).
You Only Get One (Half-Court) Shot
Speaking of basketball, you may be wondering about my “professional basketball player” claim. In 2001, I was at an all-star basketball game and chosen to shoot a half-court shot at halftime. First, I had to qualify by making a series of shorter shots just to earn the chance at the half-court shot.
I knocked down the first few, then drained it from half-court for a brand new car! (I ended up taking the cash instead of the car donation.)
Skinny AND Nerdy, Nice!
Since I started school early, I had always been a year younger than my classmates, and I graduated at age 17. Personally, I was never a big fan of school in general (disclaimer: “education is vitally important and the current school system does help millions of people go on to lead successful lives” yada, yada, yada).
After I learned the basics (around 6th grade), I found the rest of the following subject matter to be boring and largely irrelevant to the things I was interested in. Nevertheless, due to my insane obsession with competition and the fact that learning came fairly easily, I ended up graduating high school with a 4.3 GPA and a 1350 on my SAT’s.
Those numbers only helped fuel my “too cool for school” attitude, so I decided to take a well-deserved year off before beginning college, since I was always a year ahead anyway.
The Student Becomes the Rapper
So, what’s a young intelligent suburban white kid to do with his year off? Why, become a rapper of course! Yes, you read that right (I bet you didn’t see that one coming…).
I had always been interested in music and finally thought to myself, “Why can’t I do this?” I bought a cheap microphone, wrote down some lyrics, recorded my first song, and launched Fokissed.com.
I chose the name Fokissed as a play on the word “focused,” because it sums up one of my strongest qualities. As I improved with each new song, people began listening and things picked up quickly from there.
Several agents and managers contacted me, I signed with one, I started touring, doing radio interviews, and selling CD’s. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly hard work combined with insane schedules, but it amazed me how successful an independent and unknown musician could be with the support of a relatively small number of fans.
I’m Going Back to School (for a second…)
Then, when my year off was up, it was time to enroll for college. I knew it wasn’t for me, but I decided to try it for two reasons:
- I was curious to see what all the hype about “college life” was about.
- A lot of people thought once I took the year off that I would never go back. Thanks to my enormous ego, I wanted to prove those people wrong.
So, I signed up at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) which is only about 15 minutes from my house. Surprisingly, my good grades got me a full academic scholarship, even after having taken the year off.
Once in the door, I found it to be nearly identical to high school and perhaps even more uninspiring. My breaking point came two weeks in when I was in a lecture class. It was time for our first test and this is literally how it went: The teacher would read verbatim a page from our textbooks that was projected on a screen, then the very next slide would be a multiple choice question pertaining to exactly what he just read. Then, rinse and repeat.
Are you kidding me? Most of the students thought this was great and an “easy A,” but it only reinforced my idea that I could be doing much more for myself elsewhere.
I took an extended leave of absence (read: permanent) and went right back to touring. I had a blast for a few years living the (amateur) rock star life.
Time for a (Body Composition) Change
All the while, I had been continuing to train, and it was also in late 2005/early 2006 that I really dove into the health and fitness world. I applied my same learning habits from school and read every book and magazine I could get my hands on.
I began to understand a lot more about building muscle and changing body composition. I had underestimated the importance of diet and nutrition all these years and also made the classic mistake of trying to train more and more frequently when I was frustrated by not gaining weight.
If I had to pick one book that could best sum up everything I learned in all those hours of research, it would definitely be Scrawny to Brawny. If there are any other “hard-gainers” out there, this book is an absolute must-have and will spare you years of frustration.
Yes, the title may force you to send in a stunt double to plop it on the counter at the bookstore, but the workouts are excellent, and John Berardi‘s section on nutrition alone absolutely changed my life, body, and health for the better. Dr. Berardi continues to be my go-to-guy, and I follow and trust nearly every piece of information he publishes.
Armed with my new knowledge, I began eating healthier foods (and A LOT of them!), while experimenting with different training techniques and schedules. Finally, I was actually putting on weight!
In fact, I was so happy to be gaining for the first time, I took it a little too far and got all the way up to about 215 pounds. While that definitely wasn’t too bad for someone my height, I was getting a little “fluffy” and knew it was time to cut back. I had put on a lot of muscle, but also added a few too many pounds of body fat.
I eventually settled in at around 180-190 pounds for the next several months, with a much more toned and healthy (read: fit and buff) physique (click here for my current progress pictures and measurements, updated daily: Geek2Freak Workout Journal).
I’m Jay Leno’s Illegitimate Son
This brings me back to late 2006. I figured if I was ever going to do it, this would be the best time to do what I had been contemplating for a few years. I had always had a significant underbite (protruding lower jaw a la Jay Leno, though not quite THAT much!).
From the outside, it wasn’t immediately noticeable, but hardly any of my teeth actually touched when I would bite down. This made chewing much less efficient, and the doctors said it may continue to get worse and could even lead to bigger complications.
Believe it or not, this is a picture of me biting straight down! As you can see, it was a fairly severe case that required moving both my upper and lower jaws:
So, I embarked on a multi-year journey of having orthognathic (corrective jaw) surgery. The reason it’s such a long process is because first an orthodontist has to use braces to shift my teeth over the course of about a year.
My teeth themselves were straight, but the braces maneuver and angle my teeth so that they will be in the correct position after my jaws are moved. Of course, this means, until the jaw surgery, my teeth become even more misaligned and mechanically useless with my current bite.
FitBuff is Born
Having to go in for adjustments every few weeks made the idea of touring and focusing on music a bit of a challenge, so I decided to put the music scene on hold. This is also around the time I started FitBuff.com.
They say the best way to learn is to teach, so it was a fun and exciting way to help others and further my own understanding and knowledge.
Orthognathic Surgery (Sawing My Jaw in Half!)
After herbivoring my way through that long preparatory phase, it was finally go time! I went in to the hospital on October 30, 2007. It’s a fairly complex surgery, considering they are sawing through my skull, moving pieces around, then bolting it all back together, so I was scared out of my mind.
Fortunately, the surgery went great, even though it lasted about 6 hours! I stayed in the hospital for two days which was routine, and my jaws now had to be wired shut for 5 weeks!
I never experienced an ounce of actual pain at any point, but being wired shut for that long was an absolutely horrendous experience. Besides just the unanticipated feeling of being so constricted, eating was obviously an adventure, not to mention struggling to enunciate properly.
I’m Melting, i’m melting…
For the first two weeks, my diet was completely liquid. Again, I underestimated how unsatisfying this would be, and I watched helplessly as I lost every pound I had worked so hard to gain over the last few years. One of the nice things I had learned about though was “muscle memory,” which basically means previous gains are a lot easier and faster to get back.
The picture on the left was taken 2 days before surgery, and the one on the right was only 7 days later. I had dropped a massive 15 pounds already, and would go on to lose even more. You can see the yellow bruising in the second picture extended all the way down my throat.
After a couple of weeks, I was able to “upgrade” to applesauce and yogurt which I had to suck up through a tube on a syringe, then position the tube behind my back teeth, and squeeze out teasingly small amounts of my first “solid” foods.
It was so nice to at least have something with some substance that I would down entire jars of applesauce and several cups of yogurt. I would even mix peanut butter with water to make a runny peanut water concoction that tasted surprisingly good. Needless to say, this type of diet also wreaked havoc on my “plumbing.”
The Comeback Kid
After what seemed like years, I was finally freed 5 weeks after surgery. Those first few minutes after he removed the wires were really weird. It felt like my jaw was going to fall off, and I could barely open it at all.
Also, it was time to brush my teeth for the first time in over a month! Until then, I could only use a specially-formulated prescription mouthwash. I wish I had a picture of what my tongue looked like when I first saw it (be glad that I don’t!), because there was a half-inch thick layer of what looked like green and yellow moss.
All those tiny food particles had slowly built up, and I had to scrub it for a good 10 minutes before the pink finally peaked its way back through.
From that point, it took another couple of months of slowly progressing up the food chain, eating harder and harder foods, while relearning to chew.
Right away I was amazed at how much easier it was to chew when your teeth actually fit together. “So this is what eating is supposed to feel like!” It felt like I had been eating with butter knives my whole life, and now I had a blender in my mouth!
Several weeks after the surgery, I also started slowly getting back into working out, beginning with only body weight work, then slowly working my way up to full resistance workouts. As expected, I was able to gain back most of my weight and strength over the next 6 months or so.
To Infinity and Beyond!
(As of June 25, 2008) I’m now back to my pre-surgery condition and beyond, but I still have a little while longer before the entire process is complete. The braces stay on for about a year after surgery to get the final tweaks perfected, and I’m expected to get them off sometime this summer, hopefully in the next month or so.
At that point, I’ll finally be ready to re-enter the world, and I absolutely can’t wait! This has been a loooong process, but completely worth it without a doubt. I’m glad I corrected the problem while I’m still young, and now I can eat like a carnivore is supposed to for the rest of my life.
I plan on traveling a bit and checking out a few corners of the world that I’ve always wanted to visit. After that, it’s wide open! I’ll reassess the music scene, continue my wonderful new healthy lifestyle, and of course keep you all up to date on what’s next!