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July 14, 2020

Podcast No. 82: Crosslifter Obi Vincent

Crosslifter Obi Vincent joins the WHOOP Podcast to discuss his remarkable transformation from an overweight teenager to one of the most recognizable fitness figures in the world today.

By Will Ahmed

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Obi candidly details his struggles with anxiety and an eating disorder, and talks about what he’s learned from those experiences. He also shares his tips and tricks for optimizing your workouts, why he believes people should try as many activities as possible, and how WHOOP has helped him sleep better and recover more.

Obi Vincent Podcast Show Notes:

3:03 – A Remarkable Transformation. “If you had asked me when I was about 16 if I would be doing this now, there’s no way. I was way more into video games than I was into fitness.”

4:37 – Getting Into Fitness. “I started when I was about 19. I felt like I needed to lose some weight. I started off running, as a jogger actually, before I even entered the gym. I didn’t even know a gym existed.”

5:13 – Losing Weight. “I was overweight, but I always say I was chubby in the right places. I was a double-XL at 16, 17. I have this hoodie that fits me now and that shows you how big I was at 16. I’ve kept it because it’s a memory thing for me.”

6:28 – Battling An Eating Disorder. “It was an unhealthy relationship with food. I didn’t think it was a problem until I realized it was a problem. If I had a slice of bread I’d cut out the corners and just have the middle bit. I bought a small bowl that a kid would use and I’d use that as my portion control. Obviously being a teenager, that wasn’t enough. … I was probably eating twice a day, if that. Sometimes once a day. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that because I had no guidance. I didn’t have a magazine, we didn’t have social media back then, I just did it all on my own instincts.”

7:37 – Learning the Right & Wrong Way to Lose Weight. Obi reflects on the mistakes he made when he first started trying to lose weight and get into better shape. “I think the first thing I would do [now] is research, which is probably what I didn’t do enough of, well, I didn’t do anything. And also not have the mindset that food is the enemy, because that’s what I had to tell myself: Food was the enemy. I wouldn’t eat the foods that I liked for a whole year. I just wouldn’t touch certain foods, and if I did, if I had a burger, I’d feel bad for a week. I wouldn’t eat the next day. I’d go and run for 2 or 3 hours just to get rid of that guilt. It was bad.”

8:28 – Overcoming. “It was when I finally decided to become a personal trainer. I studied to become a fitness instructor and then a personal trainer and that helped massively because we had to [learn] nutrition. That was the first time I learned about macros and calories, I had no idea what those meant. It doesn’t surprise me when I get a lot of people that say ‘What’s a macro? What are calories?’ I was exactly the same. That was the only way I learned what those were and how to calculate your BMI, your total daily expenditure. That was when I learned what those meant. Calories in versus calories out. Things like that. That time period was when I realized that there was more to diet and nutrition than just restricting food to lose weight.”

9:55 – Bodybuilders and Eating Disorders. “There was a point in my life when I did stage competitions … and then all of the bad habits started again. A lot of people in my industry, we all look great, but I guarantee you that some of us don’t have a great relationship with food. It’s the extreme end. We restrict so much and we see some foods as bad or the enemy and that relationship with food, that [bad] cycle comes back again.”

11:48 – Food and Bodybuilding Culture. “I looked great and on Instagram my pictures looked incredible, but I was just eating food because of necessity. I wasn’t enjoying it. It just took me back to that point when I was losing weight when I was 18 or 19. I was doing the same thing again. However, the difference was nobody was saying it was unhealthy. All you would get is, ‘Oh, you look shredded. You look amazing. You look incredible.’ Actually, [I] was hungry.”

15:21 – Expressing Vulnerability with Mental Health. “It doesn’t make you less of a man if you are willing to share how you feel.”

17:28 – Adjusting to COVID-19 Lockdowns. “I think a lot of us would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t feel, in some type of way, that this affected us. Some people just handle things better. I like my routine. I like to plan my day, my week. I like to do things in a certain way all the time. And when, all of a sudden, it has to change, I do panic a bit. That did throw me off.”

21:36 – Goals. “What I want my [social media] page to be is I want you to be able to learn something. … I want someone who is stuck in a rut with training and think ‘This is something different. This is something I’ve never thought of trying.’”

22:27 – Flexibility and Mobility. “I’m trying to make it cool that you can be mobile and be jacked or go to the gym and train and be mobile and take care of yourself and take care of your joints.”

23:47 – Keeping an Open Mind. “I feel like a lot of people just pick one thing and are very territorial, like I was with bodybuilding. I thought bodybuilding was the only way to train, and I’ve realized that there are so many other ways out there than just bodybuilding. For me, my main goal is if I get you to try something new, try something different, that is something I would want you to be able to take away from my page.”

25:00 – Using WHOOP. “WHOOP has changed the way I approach my training, and the number one thing was sleep. I suffer from insomnia anyway, I’ve tried almost everything, but with WHOOP, it made me realize how bad my sleep was. … With recovery, it’s helped me to realize that sometimes I was just burning out rather than training smart.”

28:08 – 3 Favorite Recovery Techniques. Naps, mobility work, and meditation.

32:16 – Why He Doesn’t Count Macros. “I got too obsessive over counting. I used to weigh absolutely everything. Even if it was a half a teaspoon of peanut butter, I would weigh it. If I had a small pack of sweets, I would measure that into my macros tracker. It just became obsessive. If I went out to a restaurant, I would sometimes take my tupperware with me to the restaurant because I didn’t know the macros of the meals they were serving. It was bad.”

37:49 – Advice for Weight Loss or Cutting Phases. “One thing I always say to people is do not cut your calories down too quickly, because that is where things start to go wrong. Yes, you’re losing that weight, but you’ll get to a sticking point where you can’t go any lower and your body is not going to be happy.”

38:45 – Slow and Steady. “The number one thing I always say to people is patience. … Everyone you see that has a great body has been doing it for years. It didn’t happen in a year. I’ve been training for 10 years. It didn’t happen for me all of a sudden. I think that same patience is a virtue.”

40:09 – Why Quick Shredding Doesn’t Work. “After the six weeks [of restricting your diet], what’s the plan after? A lot of people don’t think that far ahead. For me, I always say ‘Can you eat the same way now for the rest of your life? Can you sustain this diet for the rest of your life? … But what’s the plan after that? And a lot of people don’t have a plan after that, and that unfortunately is the problem.”

43:17 – Listening to Your Body. “Sometimes there is such a thing as a bad [workout] session. Sometimes, if you don’t feel like it, your body doesn’t feel like it, your body is tired, your body is telling you something. Yes, it could be mentally, but you need to get over that mental barrier that’s saying you don’t need to go to the gym. However, if your body is tired and you go to the gym and you train and the workout was not as effective as it should have been, that is a bad session. I’ve seen the saying a lot, ‘There’s no such thing as a bad session.’ There is. When you’re sick and people say, ‘Going to the gym is the best cure.’ No it’s not. Rest is the best cure, rather than trying to overexert yourself.”

45:28 – Learning to Recover. “As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that some days, you do need to have that extra day off. There is another day. Even the best athletes in the world talk about recovery.”

47:23 – WHOOP and Sleep. “It shocks you into realizing that, ‘Whoa, okay, I actually need a lot more sleep than I thought I needed, which has been awesome. I would still be doing the same thing and burning out because I wasn’t sleeping enough. I wouldn’t have done anything about my sleep if I didn’t know about this. Everyone goes, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ I think we’re all trying to change that mindset.”

48:10 – Check Out Obi on Instagram and YouTube.

48:44 – WHOOP is Growing! If you’re a WHOOP wearer and are interested in joining our team, we’re hiring talented people for our Membership Services organization. WHOOP is growing fast and we are hiring for a variety of roles, which are remote across the United States. We’re looking for Membership Services Representatives to coach members through onboarding, as well as answer questions and provide assistance with all things WHOOP, from the comfort of your own home. We offer excellent pay, a variety of shifts, and full benefits from day one. If you are interested, please apply at WHOOP.com/careers.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised nearly $100 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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