There are thousands of transformation stories about people who have taken control of their fitness and nutrition and lost immense amounts of weight. But what about those who started off skinny and wanted to add mass? As you can see above, then-17-year-old Eric Kardaras went from being a gifted 120-pound distance runner to a well-sculpted 170-pound chiseled monument to fitness. If there’s one thing you can learn from Kardaras, it’s that there’s no age limit to building mass and getting chiseled. In the case of Eric Kardaras (now 18 and graduated from high school), it was his compulsive Clash of Clans addiction that started him on his quest to transform his body.
“I was heavily addicted to gaming. I honestly spent a lot of money and time on Clash of Clans, and looking back, I really regret it,” Kardaras says. “But one day when I was watching a Clash of Clans strategy video, one of the recommended videos was Maxx Chewning’s 10,000 Calorie Challenge. I clicked on his channel and saw him deadlifting 500 pounds, and I was thinking, Why can’t I do that, too?”
Kardaras began binge-watching YouTube videos on proper exercise techniques and workout plans, and he became inspired to add mass to his tiny frame.
“I had a couple of 20-pound dumbbells and 10-pound dumbbells and a makeshift bench in my basement, and for the first three months, I was honestly too scared to sign up for a gym. I thought people would judge me, but I still wanted to just get going and do something,” Kardaras explains. “I did the same workout routine every single day. I think it was some dumbbell presses and curls every single day with some push-ups. I don’t know how because I was doing the same routine every day, but I actually saw a lot of progress.”
At this point, he chuckles at his relative ignorance, but there’s also a sense of raw pride that comes through in his voice. On a lighter note, he wanted to gain mass when he compared the size of his arms to a group of female friends and realized there wasn’t much of a difference.
According to Kardaras, undergoing a transformation is 33 percent willpower, 33 percent body conditioning and 33 percent nutrition.
“I started to eat more, too. At the time, I was eating very badly. I worked at a movie theater, so my diet consisted of fried mozzarella sticks, chicken and popcorn — it was awful, so I cleaned up my diet and started eating more quality foods.”
Around this time, he discovered Quest and fell in love with the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bar, and after three months of working out in his basement, he worked up the courage to join his local YMCA.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that I would fall in love with a healthy lifestyle and weightlifting as much as I have. It’s done things for me that I wouldn’t have imagined,” Kardaras says. “My self-confidence has been boosted immensely, I look better, I feel better and I’m able to help my friends out.”
This doesn’t seem to be a passing fad for Kardaras — he was accepted to Rutgers University to major in exercise science.
“Fitness and exercise and wellness in general is something I’m much more passionate about now,” he says. “Under exercise science, there’s a sports-management route you can take or be a coach or a gym teacher, but there’s also a more science-based route that I’m taking where you can be a physical therapist or personal trainer.”
What has Kardaras learned and what does he hopes to impart on the people in his life?
“Honestly, you have to stop caring what other people think of you — that’s what held me back and that’s what holds a lot of people back. I see it in my school every day. People will congratulate me on my hard work, but then they say they’re too fat or too skinny or too embarrassed to do the same thing. I say the same thing to every one of them, You just need to start!”
“It’s your life and if you’re always living it thinking about other people’s views of you, you’re never going to be happy,” he says. Even with his renewed optimism, Kardaras doesn’t deny there are detractors out there. “A lot of people hate on me and think I changed overnight. But they don’t see me prepping my meals the night before or waking up early or hitting the gym at 8 p.m. after a long day,” he explains. “They don’t remember when I first started out and when I sucked.” And that’s the main thrust of Kardaras’ drive — you’re going to suck at anything you try for the first time, and that’s OK. New situations can be scary and intimidating, but if you’re motivated by fear to stay the same, you’ll never test your limits and know what you’re capable of.
You can see Eric Kardaras’ own transformation video below: