Keoni Hudoba’s story is beyond inspiring. This former actor who was hired to portray “fat slobs” has become one of the most in-demand personal trainers in the industry. At his heaviest, he weighed almost 350 lbs and says he had a “full-blown food addiction.” Now, he’s an Under Armour model. Keoni tells us how he did it.

In his junior year of high school, Keoni’s sister came out as a lesbian and his parents stopped talking to her. At that moment, he says he began to shut down. He went to college and began studying his passion: opera. At 327 pounds, he was called back for an audition and failed the movement portion. A friendly director pulled him aside and told he’d need to lose weight if he wanted to work.

Keoni went to a local gym, and though he couldn’t afford private sessions, a personal trainer told him he could shadow her as she worked with her clients. A fellow theater student who moonlighted as a nutritionist offered to help reform his diet. That summer, he lost over 70 pounds. Over the next two years, he would lose almost 150 pounds.

Keoni Hudoba Before And After
Keoni’s stunning before and after transformation.

Jordan Bach: What do you see when you look at that old photo?

Keoni Hudoba: I see a happy kid on the outside, but extremely depressed on the inside. I would always be funny, because I thought if I was funny, no one would see that I was upset or sad. If I was over-the-top, everyone would think that being heavy didn’t bother me.

I’ve seen many gay men struggle with weight because they are closeted.

A very heavy man came up to me a while ago and told me he wanted to get fit. Then he sheepishly said, “I’m gay.” I said, “Let me tell you one thing: whispering that you’re gay is what got you here.” In my own experience, as soon as I started telling people the things about myself that I was ashamed of, like that I was gay, it was the biggest weight off my back. That’s when I started living.

Some people do have physical limits, at least starting out.

There’s an instructor at my cycling studio in Madison. She’s deaf. She spins by feeling the rhythm of the beat. Her classes are sold out. She overcame her physical “limit.”

Sometimes people who don’t know my history say they can’t continue because of their lack of ability, and start telling me that I couldn’t possibly understand because I’ve been an athlete my whole life. When they hear my story, they realize their excuses aren’t valid anymore. I’ve been there before, and I came out of it.

Keoni in his Cyc Fitness studio.
Keoni in his Cyc Fitness studio.

How do we get motivated to make a big change in our lives?

Don’t set limits on what is possible for your life. If you had told my younger self, sitting ashamed on a beach with his t-shirt on and bathing suit hiked up past his belly button, that he was going to be a fitness model, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m a huge believer in putting your intentions out into the universe. At dinner on my 29th birthday I said, “By my 30th, I will own my own studio.” That happened before I turned 30.

How do you stay motivated?

Hang around with people who inspire you. When you start to tell your story, people will start to come out of the woodwork to support you. Also, I don’t hang around with mean people.

Hang around with people who inspire you. Click To Tweet

Yes! Neither do I.

If I’m out and I hear someone speaking about other people in a negative light, I remove myself. I want to surround myself with people who are like-minded, and who have substance.

What would you say to someone who thinks you contribute to our looks-obsessed culture?

I’d tell that person to come to one of my classes, where you’ll see people with all kinds of bodies, united in the common goal of mental stability and living a healthier lifestyle. I call every person an “athlete” because of this.

Keoni Hudoba Weight Loss
Keoni has become a sought-after expert in the fitness field.

I love that. In acting school, our teacher would say she wanted “an athletic performance” and she wasn’t talking about physicality. She was talking about having a robust mentality—a let’s-do-this orientation to whatever was in front of us.

Athleticism is a mental state. If you want to live a better, stronger life and you’re out there actually doing it, you’re an athlete in my mind, no matter what your body looks like.

Athleticism is a mental state. Click To Tweet

How did your theater career prepare you for fitness training?

I tell my instructors that I want them to think it’s a stage performance and people are paying money to come see them perform on that bike. When I’m hiring someone, I ask them who they would like to be when they’re on stage, and what they see when they close their eyes. I don’t want someone who says, “Black.” I want someone who says, “I’m in a Jeep with my friends driving up to a waterfall. I can feel the mist on my face.” That’s inner life, imagination, and drama. When I close my eyes, I see a new life and lives that are to come.

What would you tell the guy who keeps his T-shirt on at the beach?

I live by Audrey Hepburn’s words: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible.'” I never give myself limits. I would tell that guy that the life he’s living isn’t the only life he can live. You can live numerous lives in just one life. I think I have a lot of lives in me, and this is only the second one. There’s so much more I want to do.

If someone is trying to lose weight, what’s the single most important tip you’d give them?

Give yourself a cheat meal. As soon as you don’t allow yourself to have the food you really want, that’s when you start having cheat weeks and cheat months. If you’ve worked your ass off, you’ve earned one cheat meal a week.

Keoni’s 5 Tips to Lose Weight & Keep It Off

  1. Eat the things you love, just find a nutritious way of eating them.

    A peanut butter & jelly sandwich: flax seed wrap, almond butter, and sugar-free jam.
    Heuvos Rancheros: egg whites, lean turkey, cottage cheese, low sodium salsa

  2. Allow yourself cheat meals.

    Give yourself one cheat meal a week as soon as you feel like you’re on a roll and your body is changing.

  3. Don’t expect change in a month.

    Plan to stick with your fitness plan for 3 months, no matter what. For me, the first two months were up-and-down, but I stuck with it. By the 3rd month, the changes were drastic and continual. Each week I was losing several pounds. My body’s metabolism started to realize, “This guy is working hard, let’s catch up with him.”

  4. Don’t weigh yourself.

    I used to weigh myself every day. Getting on the scale was the most depressing thing. Now that I’m living a healthy lifestyle, as long as I feel good, I’m ok.

  5. Don’t start unless you are 120% committed.

    If you say you can’t do it, you’re not going to do it.
    Only you can change your life. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

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