Three years ago, John Gramlich realized that his weight had spiraled out of control. He’d just moved back to his native Oklahoma after spending ten months in Nebraska for work—a place where he didn’t have the community, friends, or family that he had back home. When he returned, his family gave him a wake-up call.

“I had some really tough conversations with my sisters, who are my best friends, and some other close people,” Gramlich recalled. “And they said, ‘We’re glad you’re happy and you’ve gone back to home base to reset, but you need to get a grip on this, you need to prioritize this.’”

That’s when he tried joining a regular gym, getting a trainer, and running (which he hates to this day), but to no avail. What ended up working for Gramlich was CrossFit.

“It’s the variation in it, the camaraderie, and the community that’s kept me going and kept me on the hook,” he says. But even after he got comfortable in the gym, he had some work to do on the nutrition front. Friends at the gym proved helpful, but as a self-proclaimed “horrible cook,” he needed some help in the kitchen. After looking around online and seeing that Trifecta Nutrition partners with lots of CrossFitters, he thought the company would be a good match for his needs.

“I really found success with using the á la carte menu because it’s simple. It inspired me to cook more because I would get my different proteins every week and then manipulate them to make them into tacos or to put them into pasta or something.”

Once he got the nutrition aspect down, the rest is history. Now, his goals have shifted from weight loss—he dropped about 120 pounds total—to feeling confident and getting stronger. These days, he doesn’t even look at the scale.

His hard work and dedication have certainly paid off, and he has some tips for those just getting started:

Be honest with yourself and your ability level.
Prioritize honesty, and prioritize knowing what you don’t know. For me it wasn’t even a pride thing, it was more, “I want to do this the right way.” The hardest part about all of it is understanding that it is a process. When you have an open dialogue about how to do movements or how to work out properly, it gets easier.

Trust the process.
It’s a process, and you have to be patient in it. There are going to be days when you feel like you look like fricking Arnold Schwarzenegger, then there are other days when you going to stand in front of a mirror and think you look like a beached whale. It is what it is, and it’s your mind, your self doubt, and all these different things.

Take it slow.
When I first started nutrition, I failed miserably because I was like, OK, cold turkey, let’s do this. I tried cutting out all sweets, all sweet tea, all booze, and cutting out all fried food. When you do that, you fail in a week and wonder where the double-stuffed Oreos and tub of ice cream are.

I transitioned to the mindset, “OK, what can I change?” If you can change from sweet tea to water, go to a fast food joint and get a side salad instead of fries, or eat an apple, those transitions slowly bridge the gap. Now, I don’t even reach for fried food. I know what’s in the past and I don’t want to go back to it.

Don’t do it alone.
You come to find out that you’re not bugging people by talking about it. It’s not, “I’m on an island, overweight, and the boat to safety only holds 200 pounds, so I’ve got to do it all by myself.” The bottom line when it comes to starting to work out, nutrition, or anything, is don’t do it by yourself. That can be calling your friend, calling your mom, or calling whoever is going to be your resource and advocate. People can do it by themselves, but it’s going to be a way more difficult process that way.