The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

What’s Your Workout: Losing Half His Weight

by Christopher Shay

The Exec

When Patrick Gorta traveled to Virginia to surprise his parents for Thanksgiving in 2009, they opened the door and didn’t recognize him. He had lost more than 36 kilograms since they had seen him six months earlier.

“They were happy, but they were shocked about my appearance,” says Mr. Gorta, who was a manager at Standard Chartered’s equity derivatives office in Hong Kong at the time.

Mr. Gorta, now an assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch’s equity and derivatives division in Toyko, has lost about 100 kilograms since 2008, currently weighing in at around 91 kilograms. When he first decided to lose weight and started exercising, he could barely walk on a treadmill. Now he runs half-marathons and is training for an Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 3.8-kilometer swim, a 180-kilometer bike ride and a 42-kilometer run.

Mr. Gorta, 26 years old, had struggled with his weight for most of his life—in high school he weighed more than 136 kilograms. When he moved to Hong Kong in August 2008, he decided that he had run out of excuses for not getting fit and that it was time for a major lifestyle shift. He couldn’t find a scale in Hong Kong that went above 180 kilograms. And he couldn’t find anything to wear off the rack—he had to have all his clothes made by a tailor, who charged him double for the extra fabric needed to cover his frame. “I can’t really blame him,” Mr. Gorta says.

Despite his obesity, Mr. Gorta never considered surgery and wanted to lose weight naturally with diet and exercise. “Weight-loss surgery in my case would have been a sign of giving up,” he says.

He says now his best moments are often those that most people take for granted. “To walk into a store and not even be the biggest size, it’s the greatest feeling,” he says.

The Workout

When Mr. Gorta decided to lose weight, he hired a personal trainer to meet him three mornings a week at the gym in his apartment building. They started off with simple exercises, like walking slowly on a flat treadmill and doing weight machines like the lat pull-down.  “At first, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t do a single push-up,” he says. “As it turns out, I really like working out. I wish I’d found that out before.”

After a few months, Mr. Gorta slowly added body-weight exercises, like push ups (on his knees) and crunches. He would warm up on the treadmill or elliptical machine for 10 minutes and then do a circuit that would include weight machines like the seated row and the lat pull-down. A circuit might have included 10-15 reps each of shoulder presses using barbells, lat pull-downs on a machine and push-ups. He would repeat the circuit three or four times, leaving little time to rest between exercises.

As Mr. Gorta’s balance improved, his trainer introduced more core training. About six months into training, instead of working on the ground, Mr. Gorta would do crunches and free-weight chest presses on a yoga ball. “I was afraid at first of popping [the ball] when I sat down,” he says.

After a about a year, Mr. Gorta added kick boxing to his routine. Following a round of weight-machine exercises, for example, he might hit a punching bag for a minute as fast he could.

On days without his trainer, Mr. Gorta would do cardio for an hour every day. It took a year for him to be able to jog on the treadmill.

Now, Mr. Gorta has run two half-marathons. He signed up for a full marathon in Tokyo before it was canceled because of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March. He’s also competed in two cycling events, one 70 miles (about 113 kilometers) long.

He still works out with a trainer three times a week. A morning workout often includes a three-minute warm-up run, followed by three circuits of 15 reps each of standing up and sitting down on yoga ball, squat lifts with 90-kilogram weights and leg raises. Then three rounds of a second circuit focuses on his chest and shoulders: 15 shoulder presses on a machine, 20 lat pull-downs and 15 seated rows. A third circuit, repeated three times, includes 20 dips, 15 barbell flys and 15 standing barbell raises. Mr. Gorta stretches between each circuit and avoids any prolonged resting. After that, if he has time, he’ll do an hour of cardio immediately afterwards.

Now his goal is to complete an Ironman triathlon next year. His biggest challenge: swimming. Recently, he added a 45-minute swimming course to his workout once a week. Now that he’s lost so much weight, he says, “I have to get used to the fact that I’m not as buoyant anymore.”


Mr. Gorta doesn’t like to use the word “diet,” which he considers a temporary change in one’s food choices. He says he had a permanent “lifestyle change.”

“I’m never going back to eating an entire Pizza Hut pizza by myself after work,” he says.

Mr. Gorta’s dietary plan to lose weight was simple: He switched to eating a lot of salads. When he started, he didn’t know much about nutrition and didn’t want to count calories, he says. But he knew salads were healthy so that’s what he ate—usually twice a day.

A typical breakfast for Mr. Gorta while he was losing weight consisted of an apple or a banana and healthy cereal like Special K with skim milk. At lunch, he picked up a salad, usually baby spinach, grilled chicken, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, carrots and cucumber, with a vinaigrette dressing. On his walk home from work, he would pick up another salad for dinner. Mr. Gorta also cut out soda and beer, drinking about six liters of water a day instead. He used to drink five or six Diet Cokes a day.

Now that he lives in Tokyo, he doesn’t eat out nearly as much, cooking instead, but his diet hasn’t really changed. He often grills chicken or fries tofu to put on homemade salads.

Fitness Tip

Mr. Gorta says having a series of goals and then rewarding himself for reaching them helped motivate him. He weighed himself everyday and tracked how much weight he was losing. He set three markers: When he dropped below 136 kilograms, he bought himself a MacBook Pro; at 113 kilograms, he bought a TAG Heuer watch; and when he got below 90 kilograms, he bought another MacBook. “It’s good motivation,” he says. “It helped keep me focused.”

Category: Article, Lifestyle


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