Member Spotlight: Derek Fiscus

PAIN, PAIN GO AWAY

When a kidney stone sent him to the ER and sciatic nerve pain landed him at the chiropractor, an overweight Derek Fiscus understood he had received not one but two wakeup calls.

Due to his weight, the ER staff assumed he was having a heart attack and, even after discovering it was a kidney stone a few hours of severe pain later, sent him home with a bag of prescription drugs. They were prescriptions for pre-diabetes, borderline high blood pressure and pain meds (probably opioids). The prescriptions sat in his dresser drawer, untouched. 

Sciatica is a common result of excess body weight, so his clinician at Palmer College of Chiropractic sent him to try CrossFit. At the time, this husband and father of two weighed 320 pounds and measured 68 inches around the belly button. He was 39 years young and this was just the push he needed to regain control of his health. 

WHICH IS SCARIER: CROSSFIT OR BEING OVERWEIGHT, UNHEALTHY AND IN PAIN?

Derek walked into his first CrossFit gym in the Quad Cities wearing jeans, not really sure what to expect. He was certain nobody expected to hear from him ever again, but he called that night to ask about next steps and showed up the next day for his introductory workout. That day was September 22, 2010, a date he and Coach Brock still celebrate!

Derek with his two boys, before and after his transformation.

With his 40th birthday right around the corner, Derek set a goal to lose 40 pounds. He had from October 1 until January 30 (his birthday) to do it. By January 10, he’d hit his goal weight but it wasn’t until he changed his diet that he really started making progress.

He weighed 245 pounds by 40! An entire 75 pounds gone in just four months. Eight months later, he was down to 180 pounds. But, how would he manage to maintain his new body weight?

RELATIONSHIP STATUS WITH FOOD: IT’S COMPLICATED

Backing up to life before children, Derek fell into restauranteering while waiting tables in college. Having had a job at a local restaurant while majoring in accounting, management decided Derek was talented enough to work in the kitchen. So, he started washing dishes. Despite job offers in financial planning upon graduation, he took a job with his big sister’s friend at a catering business. That is where he learned to cook. He ultimately ended up running a three-story Japanese restaurant in New York City.

He attributes the fast transition to his work ethic. Having had a poor relationship with food during his upbringing combined with a love for craft beer and sweets in his adulthood, falling into the restaurant world became another blessing in disguise. “Becoming a chef has given me an even more complicated relationship with eating right. And, your concern with your health only grows as you get older,” said Derek who still works at his health every day. Eight years later, he still experiences major weight fluctuations if he’s not careful and conscious about his choices.

THE PALEO DIET HELPED, MACROS MADE HIM MAD & HE LANDED AT RENAISSANCE PERIODIZATION

When he started lifting weights and working out at high intensity, he needed more food but didn’t have a nutrition plan. Adopting the Paleo diet was a big help in the beginning but he knew he needed more guidance.  “My eating day might be perfect but then I’d drink four craft beers and make zero progress,” he said. Not only that, he’s just as susceptible to the winter blues as many others, easily gaining 20-30 pounds if he’s not careful. It didn’t help that Derek was a very picky eater growing up and didn’t discover a taste for vegetables until his early 20’s. When he finally gave up drinking alcoholic beverages on the regular, he was able to figure out a balance. Plus, learning to cook and a nutritional education meant getting to be creative with food and, therefore, developing an interest in eating better.

Counting macros never worked for him because the peanut butter limitations just flat out pissed him off. Instead, he found Renaissance Periodization (RP) eating which meant eating his favorite foods like pizza, chocolate chip cookies, sourdough bread and Ganzo’s while keeping his weight fluctuations to a minimum. RP is a template of eating for those who are regularly strength training. Derek likes that he doesn’t have to track macros on this plan, “If I stay within the approved list of foods (when not in weight loss mode), I have the freedom to enjoy cheat foods with a feeling of control.”

OVERCOMING SETBACKS & SETTING PERSONAL RECORDS

Also susceptible to other types of setbacks, negative comments have a way of piercing Derek’s motivation, sending him back to old habits sometimes for years. Nearly five years to the day from when Derek began his health and fitness journey, CrossFit OC3 opened and it was exactly the reboot he needed to forge ahead. Derek started hitting some big PRs like his first 200+ pound bench press, first rope climb and a clean over 200 to boot. “I don’t have a good strength base – I maybe benched 100 pounds once before – so while running comes easier, lifting comes harder for me,” he noted.

In 2011, his first full year of CrossFit, he ran his first ever 5K at the Quad Cities Marathon, coming in at around 22:40, and then a half marathon a couple of months later. Another result of joining the CrossFit community was the clothing company he and his wife, Melanie, started called WODThreads. Inspired by the same big sister, who was always into fashion, they pursued a CrossFit clothing line, which became another outlet for Derek’s creativity.

“Derek is continuously evolving. When we met, he was a student athlete who became a husband then a chef. He then transformed to pro golfer for a season and then back to a student. As he evolved into a father and again into his current CrossFitting, entrepreneur self, he kept the best of his previous “versions.” I’m fortunate to be a partner in his journey and benefit from his vision and love!” said Melanie a fellow member of the OC3 family.

When Derek isn’t at the gym on any given day, he gets a text from Coach Colin asking if everything is alright. That’s how dedicated he is and how much his coaches care. “The people and community are what keep you going. You have old and new faces and there’s a camaraderie with both. I love encouraging new people. It’s fun to see them working their tails off to do something they never thought they could do!”

Ironically, he’d read an article while in the waiting room at one of his doctor visits back in 2010 that was titled, CrossFit: The Workout You Can’t Do. Turns out, he absolutely could! And, CrossFit OC3 wouldn’t be the same without him!

*For the fancy Fiscus fish recipe, click here!

Photography by Mariah Chapdelaine and Iron & Lace Photography.

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