The transformation of Justin Kim
After his reddit fitness post blew up the internet, we had a chat with Justin Kim about his amazing transformation. Learn what motivated Justin and how he took control to transform his lifestyle.
How did you get to the point you were at?
I was born an Introvert, I spent decent time outside doing typical kids stuff (riding bikes, playing soccer, and etc) when my best friends forced me to come outside and hang out with them. But when I wasn’t with my friends, I always found myself being cooped up in my room or at a corner in my local library just reading away. I was actually a pretty scrawny kid when I was younger. My mom opened up a restaurant when I was 9, and I went from underweight to overweight in the course of a year.
My father was never really around much when I was growing up and my mom was too busy with her restaurant (she worked 9-9 every single day) to really help me stay in shape and I think part of her thought it was just baby fat and I’ll lose it as I get older. I moved to the states from South Korea in 7th grade and since I didn’t have any friends to hang out with at first, all I did was eat and sleep which made me gain even more weight from where I was at.
You also battled with depression, how did that affect you?
Yes, I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was approaching the end of my elementary school. Because of my figure and personality, I was bullied by my peers from time to time. I was too shy and timid to fight back and I think this is also the time that I developed a bad habit of stress eating. I’ve been in and out of gym for about 5+ years, but because of my depression, I was never consistent for longer than 4-6 months. I’d always get myself to get back in after some time off, but in 2014, I was in a bad place in my life with suicidal thoughts. All I did was sleep, eat and feel sorry for myself for 6 months which resulted in me gaining 40lbs.
How did your training help your depression?
My training helped me by helping me distract myself from my depression. After getting bullied when I was younger, I suffered from horrible self-image issues and constant fear of being unaccepted by people around me. Watching my body transform into my dream physique day by day and all the people I met in my life encouraging me on my fitness journey really helped me overcome that part in my life.
When was your “enough it enough” moment? What happened?
It was the 26th of December 2014, the day after Christmas, I was at my mom’s house with my family for late Christmas dinner. I knew that I had gained some weight over the course of the past 6 months but didn’t expect to be any heavier than 215lbs (that was my all time high before, my body never got past that point no matter how poor my eating habits were). I got on my weight scale and almost had a panic attack after seeing the scale shoot up to 230 lbs.
I was shocked, I have never been that heavy before, and seeing 230 on the scale and looking at myself in the mirror after made something click. I realized that I can’t keep feeling sorry for myself when I’m not doing anything to change it and decided that I need to get back in the gym and lose weight. I started cutting right away because I didn’t want to lose my initial motivation and give time for my depression to set back in.
What is the single most important thing about, a) Diet b) Training and c) Mindset
A) Don’t make excuses, but learn to treat yourself from time to time. I know that you are not where you want to be with your body, but you are putting in work and getting closer to your goal every day. It’s important to give yourself a break from time to time and enjoy life. I took time off from dieting when I was on vacation or in the summertime and I think pacing myself is what ultimately helped me get closer to my goal in the long run. I did keep my eyes on my weight from time to time to make sure I wasn’t gaining over what I could handle (I went for around 10 lbs).
B) I think a well planned out routine is very important along with your diet. I used to do a bro split that gave me decent gains but when I switched over to PPL and added/subbed some of the workouts according to my goals, I saw a huge change.
C)Consistency, to be quite honest, I’m not happy with the length it took me to get to where I’m at now. I’m still far from my goal physique, but at the end of the day, I made sure to get back in my routine of dieting and lifting when it was time for me to get serious. Goal to my success was definitely being aware of where you are and keeping yourself motivated to continue down the path you started. It’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t seeing the result you want, but one extra day you put in at the gym and diet even though you have no motivation to is one day closer to you seeing your dream body in the mirror. And never be afraid to ask for help, I still ask people for advice or forms if I’m not 100% sure about what I’m doing. I believe there’s always a room for improvement and people at the gym are always willing to answer if you ask them a question.
Which habits did you need to create? How long did they take to form?
I had to make habit of going to the gym again, log/plan my meals to make sure my diet was on point and it took about 2-3 weeks for me to get used to being back in the gym and logging all my food.
Habit, seeing myself in the mirror and finding small changes, looking at my old pics from where I started. But mostly I just go out of habit along with knowing that this is only going to better my life.
How has your fitness journey changed your life?
A lot of questions I got asked on reddit was how has sex life, girls, or perception from others have changed but that part of my life didn’t change much. I was fortunate enough to find girls that found me attractive and liked my personality. But the big difference I found was how I view myself. I used to avoid looking at myself in the mirror, always second guessed the sizing when buying clothes online and etc. I used to be afraid of taking my clothes off in front of other people, but I have no trouble doing that now because I feel confident in what I have worked for. I’m just a more comfortable and confident person in general now.
Why do you think people find it hard to commit and keep going in their fitness journey?
Motivation, whether it’s finding it or keeping it, motivation is what fuels your actions and consistency. When I first started going back to the gym, I had 0 motivation, I was starting all over from scratch. I was weak, tired, depressed and was in the worst shape of my life. Although I was determined to go to the gym and get in shape after weighing myself on Christmas, being back in the gym and having to start all over was definitely overwhelming. I’m usually not someone to watch motivational videos because I find them too cliche/cheesy, but for the first couple months of me being back in the gym, I always started my work out of the day by watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xppg2plHqB4&t=3s until I was able to get myself into the gym and motivate myself. Find what motivates you and keeps you going. Most importantly, learn to give yourself proper credit. Sure, you may not where you want to be yet, But you are taking all the right steps into making your dream come true. You are a better person than you were yesterday, last week, a month before. Just look at how far you’ve come and keep going! I also follow some of my favorite bodybuilders on social media for daily motivation.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about starting a fitness journey?
I know everyone says it, but just start. It’s okay to be clueless and use just the machines at the gym when you first start. Read and learn as much as you can from any resources you can get hands on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach other to people with questions. Don’t be in a rush or beat yourself up for screwing up your diet or missing the gym. You are making a lifetime commitment, one bad day isn’t going to affect your fitness journey as a whole. Just get your ass back in there and keep going. And when you look back, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come. DM me if you have any questions or just someone to talk to.
Follow Justin on Instagram: @justin.dkim