Real life weight loss: How this man lost 120lbs of fat and became a bodybuilder

Jonny Valdez went from an overweight gamer about to drop out of school to a focused, driven competitive bodybuilder

Brand New Me
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the age of 17, Jonny Valdez, from Folsom, California, was on the verge of not graduating high school. He was spending most days watching television, playing video games and eating. The weight crept on and at his heaviest, Jonny weighed 270lbs. 

The now 20-year-old spoke to YouTube channel Truly, who are documenting body transformations as part of their Brand New Me series. “For a 17-year-old kid who's almost 300lbs and I'm not close to graduating, and I was looking at these next four years like the rest of my peers are and I had no clue what I was going to do, how I was going to do it and that scared me to my core.”

Watch Jonny's remarkable transformation story here:

Jonny decided to get up, take a ‘before’ photo and began his transformation. He introduced healthier habits into his daily routine and hit the gym, guided and supported by his friend, Gabe. Jonny said: “I used to spend all day playing video games and now I’m working on my gains.”

Over the course of three years, Jonny lost 120lbs and went from being known as the ‘chubbier friend’ in his group to placing fifth in a bodybuilding competition. Now he is working on getting his bodybuilding pro card. Jonny said: “I'm satisfied knowing that I'm building the body of my dreams and I'm happy with everything right now.”

In the video above, Jonny attempts a PR of 400lbs deadlift. Will he succeed? Watch the vid to find out.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like Jonny, if you're planning on losing a lot of weight, you'll want to incorporate muscle-building exercises into your routine, and deadlifts are some of the most important muscle-building exercises you can do. Learning how to deadlift properly with barbells will exercise lots of different muscle groups in your body: your calves, quads, glutes, back, core, forearms and more. 

In some circles, it's known as the "king of exercises" for precisely this reason: it's the ultimate back-to-basics strength move, picking something heavy off the floor and putting it down again. Don't worry if you don't have a comprehensive gym nearby, or yours is still closed due to COVID: you can get started by learning to deadlift with dumbbells at home.

Finally, you're going to want a protein source to build up all that muscle, but lots of commercial protein powders are also loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, which can be counter-productive if you're also trying to lose weight as well as develop muscle. Always check the serving and nutrition labels on protein powders to find one that's low in carbohydrates and sugar. In the meantime, our best protein powder for weight loss guide can help you source the wheat from the chaff.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.