“Working out is about having abs that look good on the beach…” Eh, maybe when you’re young. Most of us start out on the fitness path seeking aesthetic results, but we quickly find that exercise and good nutrition pays dividends in areas of life that we never expected. And one of them is our relationships.
When Freddy Lopez, 47, of Bastrop, TX, took on the Onnit 6 Challenge—a six-week fitness and lifestyle transformation program—he expected only to get back in shape. Nearly a year later, he’s a part of a broad but tight-knit community that’s changing lives. As a member of the Onnit Tribe, a private Facebook group of Onnit fans, Lopez has found the moral support he needed to drop more than 20 pounds, reclaim his health, and be the best family man he can. We asked him to tell you his fitness journey in his own words.
Onnit: You were an active, in-shape guy as a younger man. Tell us about being a movie stuntman.
Lopez: I used to teach at a martial arts academy, and a friend that taught with me did stunt work for movies. When they shot The Alamo [2004, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid] in Austin, he got me work doing stunts. We played Mexican soldiers in the Alamo battle scene. To this day, I have a T-shirt that the crew gave us that says, “I got blown up, stabbed, and shot, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” [Laughs]
In the scene, I had to jump back from an explosion. I knew how to land safely, but the crew moves things around on the set for every take. Well, somebody moved a crate right behind me and I didn’t know it. I fell on it on my right side, and the way my body folded over that crate, I looked like an accordion. I had a couple of slipped discs, and my hips shifted to one side while my upper body shifted to the other side. I went through physical therapy, but ever since then, if I didn’t consistently do certain core exercises, my back started to shift and it would hurt again.
Did that injury make you stop martial arts?
No. I still taught martial arts from 2004 to 2008. Then the recession hit, and everything went to crap. I lost my house, and my business took a hit. I had to decide whether to continue my dream of teaching martial arts or going back to the remodeling work I had done before. My family’s wellbeing is the most important thing to me, so I went into the remodeling business. Since then, I’ve been working like crazy. When Covid hit, the jobs were fewer, so I had to work extra hard. That’s when my health really started to suffer.
What were you eating?
A lot of drive-thru. My schedule was terrible. I was working 60 hours or more a week. I’d get home around 11:00 p.m., veg in front of the TV for an hour, and be up at 6:00 the next morning. So I was getting Whataburger on my way home from work—a double burger and a large soda was a typical order.
I’ve always loved Coke. I would drink two cans of soda with breakfast, two or three at lunch, and then a two-liter bottle with dinner. A lot of sugar and caffeine. By summer 2020, my weight was up to 247 pounds.
How did you find Onnit?
I was on Facebook [in April 2020] and saw an ad for the Onnit 6 Kettlebell Challenge. I wanted to get back in shape, so I got the program and started doing it, but I fizzled out after a few weeks. I didn’t really understand what the Onnit Tribe was all about, so I didn’t participate in it. [Editor’s note: Onnit 6 Challenge participants are encouraged to join the Tribe for support and group interaction.] I didn’t want to post anything in there because I didn’t feel that I looked the part. I didn’t want to show everybody that I was out of shape.
The turning point for me came last summer. My wife, my daughter, her family, and I get together and go out every night between 7:30 and 8:00. We either walk or jog, or ride bikes together. We call them Moonwalks. So we were out on a Moonwalk and I was running with my grandkids, and they’re little. It wasn’t long before my knees were hurting and I was out of breath. I thought, “These kids are under five years old. What’s going to happen when they get bigger and I’m even older? How am I going to keep up with them?”
That’s when I went back to Onnit and the Tribe. I said to my wife, Tonie, “We both want to get back in shape, and these Challenges seem to be working for these people who do them, and hey, we might win $6,000 for doing it, so let’s do it together.” [Editor’s note: Onnit 6 contestants are eligible to win a grand prize of $6,000 cash.] With her there to support me, and the Tribe, I knew I would be successful this time. So we did the Onnit 6 Bodyweight Challenge, which started over the summer. I thought it would be easier than the kettlebell one because I wouldn’t be lifting weights. Man, was I wrong! [Laughs]
How did the Bodyweight Challenge go?
In the middle of the very first workout, I had to stop, walk out of my house, and catch my breath. My wife asked if I was OK, and I was just so mad at myself that I had gotten so out of shape. But I went back in and finished it. The exercises in the program are scaled by difficulty. The Level 1 moves are easier and Levels 2 and 3 are tougher. We started with mostly Level 1 exercises, and now, whenever we do bodyweight training, we’re doing mostly Level 2’s and some Level 3’s.
The Onnit Challenges include yoga, and I have to say that it’s helped with my lower-back problem immensely.
How did your opinion of the Tribe change while you were doing this Challenge?
I realized that the Tribe is just people who want to get healthy. There are a lot of people in there who aren’t ripped—they’re normal people from all walks of life who have the goal of being better for themselves and their families.
Everybody was so positive, telling each other “you got this,” and encouraging them to stick with the workouts and healthy eating. At 47 years old, I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. I can sit around with anybody and not feel like a little kid at the big table. But when I’m on the Tribe Facebook page, there’s this junior high kid in me that comes out, and it’s like I’m trying to learn how to shoot a basketball again and this upper classman says to me, “Hey, you did pretty good.” That’s what it feels like when they tell me I’m doing well. I get so inspired by these people.
Let me put it this way, when I go on Facebook now, I always check the Onnit Tribe page to see what people are saying. Then, maybe, I’ll look at my own page [laughs]. But I always check the Tribe one.
Angi Sanders is the member who may have had the biggest impact on me. She made me realize that I can be exactly who I am and show that to other people. Once I spent some time on the Tribe page, I lost the mindset of “I need to get in shape” and switched it to “I need to get healthy.” Now I was ready to change my habits.
How did you change your diet, and make those changes stick?
I started with portion control and making some better food choices. I went to drive-thrus, but instead of getting the double-burger, I’d just get the regular one. Instead of soda, biscuits, and hashbrowns at breakfast, I’d get orange juice and oatmeal and eggs. It was hard in the beginning, so I’d tell myself that if I ate right today, I would let myself have the junky stuff tomorrow. But the more I saw and felt the benefits of eating better, the more often I wanted to make the right choices.
Getting off soda was the hardest. I tried to quit cold turkey, but I got horrible headaches—withdrawal from the caffeine. So I had to wean myself off. Instead of drinking two or three cans at breakfast, I’d drink one. Then I’d have just one or two cans at lunch. Less and less over time.
Today, I cook a lot more. I never knew how much I would enjoy prepping food. Now I can make veggie pizzas with a cauliflower crust that’s delicious. I’m done with drive-thrus, and I haven’t had a soda at all in the last three weeks. I don’t get headaches anymore. I really like drinks with flavor, and I’ve found that the Mio water-enhancers really help me to drink more water. They’re sugar-free.
I discovered the Dolce Diet, and I borrow a lot from that. Nowadays, I’ll wake up and drink 32 ounces of water right away. I’ll have oatmeal with blueberries, chia, almond butter, and cinnamon for breakfast. Later, I’ll have a protein shake with an orange. Lunch will be a salad with chicken breast, spinach, red bell pepper, orange pepper, and vinaigrette dressing—it’s delicious! For a snack, I might have slices of apple with almond butter and chia seeds. Dinner is a steak with veggies or a burger without the bun. I buy better quality meat now—usually organic. It’s more expensive than what I used to buy, but I understand that it’s an investment in my health.
How much weight did you lose doing the Onnit 6 Bodyweight Challenge?
I went from 247 to 225 in those six weeks. I loved the training so much, I’ve kept up with it since, and I’ve gone back to give the kettlebell challenge another try. I’m doing it now. These days, I don’t get as winded when I play with my grandkids and go on our Moonwalks. I don’t have to ask them to stop and wait for me. I’m either right there with them or even ahead of them!
Are you using any Onnit supplements?
There are three things I know I’m going to do for the rest of my life: 1) Love my family and take care of them. 2) Do yoga, because it makes my back feel better. And 3), take Total Human. I’m not going to say that it gave me boundless energy, but three days into taking those day and night packs, I felt the difference. My energy is steady throughout the day now.
I used to come home, take out the trash, do the dishes, and sit down. Now I have the energy to play with my grandkids instead. I do remodeling, so some days I have to move granite, or tear down a wall and build another one back up. It takes a lot out of you, and I feel pretty tired at the end of the day. But I’m not as weak or tired as I was before I started taking these supplements.
Are you working to change your schedule to get more time with your family?
Yes, I’m still trying to shift my work hours. I come from the mentality that as long as I work and my family is provided for, it doesn’t matter what I have to do. But I’ve realized that when you do that, you lose time with the people you care about. And the Onnit 6 Challenges and the Tribe help me take advantage of the time I do get with the ones I love. That’s why I don’t look at workouts or prepping food anymore as something “I have” to do. It’s not, “I have to do this.” It’s “I get to do this.” Because when I do it, it helps me stay able to keep up with my grandkids. I can keep up with my son who’s training for the Air Force. I can box and go to jiu-jitsu class with him. There’s a difference between being the grandfather that sits there and watches the kids play, and the one who can actually play with them.
What would you like people to know about the Onnit Tribe that only a member would know?
Sometimes, just to know that someone besides the people who love you cares about you makes a big difference in your life. The Onnit Tribe cares not just about me but my family. They genuinely care. I’ve shared problems that some of my family members have gone through, and the Tribe members have offered so much support. They pray for you, and they check in with you.
And I care about these people too, even though I’ve never even met them in person. I know Onnit is a business, and I have a business too, so I know they have to make money. But when I work on someone’s house, I care about the people who are living there. I believe that Onnit cares about me in the same way. Creating the Tribe was a great idea to bring in business, but it’s changing lives too.