WATCH: I am Vincent Dizenzo

TAGS: i am, Vincent Dizenzo, weight loss, matt rhodes, fat loss, diet, Jim Wendler, bench, strength, deadlift, squat, powerlifting, dave tate, bench press, Video, Nutrition

Interview conducted and written by Sydney Schulte & filmed by Josh Goedker and Dominic Stacer

“I am Vincent Dizenzo, and I am an elitefts coach.”

Vincent Dizenzo is from Connecticut, born and raised — but make no mistake, he’s no Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

He’s turning 50 and has lots of experience under his belt, starting with his first powerlifting meet at age 15. Vincent enjoyed lifting weights, and someone suggested that he go to a powerlifting meet. That first meet gave him the bug for lifting, though he didn’t go back to compete in powerlifting until he graduated college.

Surprisingly, his best lifts at this point in time are inconsequential to him — and this is coming from someone who’s benched 600 pounds raw in three different weight classes and 900 pounds equipped. He’s had a world record in the bench press and was a top-10 lifter for over a decade. While those records are still important, in the long run, they’re just numbers. Now helping people to hit bigger and better numbers? That’s something to be proud of.

“I prefer the legacy I’ve kind of left with helping people and what I’ve learned from Dave, to live, learn, and pass on, which didn’t resonate until I walked away from high-level competition.”

Looking back on his powerlifting career, Vincent doesn’t have any regrets. For him, every struggle turned into a success. With powerlifting, it’s about getting results from what you put into it, and it’s a lot of work. It took Vincent three years to go from a 585-pound raw bench to a 600-pound raw bench — and he considers that 15-pound gain the best gain he’s had in his life. Sure, it took longer than he wanted due to surgeries related to lifting, but he still got to where he wanted to be.

It also helps to take into account the slew of surgeries and injuries he’s had: two hernia surgeries, two ruptured discs in his back, a fully torn and a partially torn bicep, and a torn MCL. “A few bumps and bruises.” But being in the sport as long as he has, those kinds of injuries are to be expected.

It also helps to be in the sports as long as Vincent is. He’s made friends throughout his time powerlifting, and he wouldn’t be an elitefts coach if it weren’t for Matt Rhodes. He and Matt met at Southside Gym in Connecticut, and they became training partners. Matt was also close friends with Jim Wendler, “and now I’m unfortunately friends with Jim. A lot of regrets there,” he jokes. Now the three of them are pretty much inseparable, as anyone who watched them run a Table Talk Podcast while Dave Tate was on vacation — if it weren’t for the distance between them.

Matt eventually dragged Vincent, who was being sponsored by a company at the time, along to TPS, which is owned by elitefts coach C.J. Murphy. While at TPS, Vincent trained alongside Dave.

“It was really cool ‘cause I’ll never forget, I was sitting there, I was like, ‘I get to train with Dave Tate!’ because Dave was bigger than life to me, and Dave goes, ‘I get to train with Vincent Dizenzo!’ I never felt like I was at an elite level. Just not in my DNA, so to hear him refer to me as that was very cool.”

Vincent remembers watching Dave do an interview and opening it up with, “I don’t know why you’re not sponsored by us.” And so Vincent and Dave talked things over. Their conversation must’ve gone well, as Vincent ended up dropping his then-sponsorship and began to work with elitefts.

For some people, sponsorships are about the cool free swag they can get. It’s about getting something out of it. That wasn’t the case for Vincent. He wanted to know what he could give back to people. Without other people’s help, he wouldn’t have achieved all of the things he did.

Giving back is part of the reason Vincent decided to become a teacher.

Before that, he worked in Manhattan in advertising. Despite that, his heart wasn’t in it and he didn’t have the time he wanted to have for training. (Having a four-and-a-half hour-long commute does put a damper on that.)

He realized he had a special place in his heart when it came to people with special needs. Around that time, his wife was going back to school for teaching, and he decided to tag along. He felt he needed to reconnect with her as it was, and what better way to do that then get a degree in teaching? With a degree in teaching special education, Vincent now works with kids who are moderately to severely disabled. Most importantly, he loves his work. “It’s truly my calling. It’s what I was made to do.”

That said, his line of work as a teacher really helps him pass on and give back.

“To be able to give back is a much bigger legacy than anything you’ll leave on a platform.”

And he also gives back to others by telling his story — specifically, his weight loss story through his coaching blogs titled “Operation Be Less Fat.”

Before he began his weight loss journey, Vincent’s best raw bench was 605 at 328.5 pounds (with a very close miss at 630 had someone not touched it; he says he’s not upset about that). What made that meet great in some ways is that his brother came to watch him lift.

Vincent’s brother struggled with weight loss, and sadly, he passed away as a result of that struggle — specifically due to complications with gastric bypass. His death was not the reason why Vincent decided to start losing weight — at least, not consciously. Still, Vincent didn’t want his parents to have to bury a second son.

Without ever really knowing it, Vincent began to start this process. He said he would drop down to the 308-pound class.

“It was never really about losing weight. I try to tell everybody this because — I know, I think it’s some statistic, like 95 percent of people fail on their diets or gain the weight back, whereas I’ve lost 120 pounds and I’ve kept it off over ten years. It’s really only worked out to be about 12 pounds per year, and I never thought about losing 120 pounds. I didn’t know where the journey was going to go. I just said, ‘I’m going to the 308 class. Alright, now I’ve done the 308 class. What’s next? I’m going to go to 275s.’”

Vincent recommends getting started in powerlifting as a means to lose weight because you can at least have a tangible goal. If you say you’re going to lose 20 pounds, you’ve got nothing holding you accountable for that. But if you’re competing, you have to make that weight class. That mindset and strategy are how “Operation Be Less Fat” started.

As for dieting and programming, Vincent declares he’s the best diet consultant and coach ever who doesn’t want to diet or consult because he’s done everything out there: keto, carb backloading, fasting... he’s done it all. And through that, he’s learned it all really boils down to calorie maintenance. That means being fastidious about counting macros and focusing on calories in versus calories out. It’s math.

At one point, he worked with a bodybuilding coach because he wanted to drop four weight classes in one year. He lost 30 or 40 pounds in three months, and as soon as that was over, he gained 50 pounds back because he didn’t learn anything. He was just eating to lose weight, and it didn’t work.

For anyone trying to lose weight, Vincent recommends starting by reading “Operation Be Less Fat.” He titles it that because he’s not in the fitness industry (he’s a teacher, remember?) because he hates monetizing information like that because it’s his passion. Because he’s not a coach or trainer trying to make a buck with online trainers, he keeps it simple and straightforward for anyone reading those blogs posts. You’ll see his process of trial and error and how he’s learned.

Compared to other coaching blogs, Vincent doesn’t hear a lot from powerlifters or bodybuilders; he has readers who aren’t into powerlifting or strength sports — they’ve just enjoyed learning from Vincent’s weight loss journey.

“One of the greatest things I’ve learned is if you can’t imagine yourself doing it for a year, then don’t do it... if you like keto because you like to eat foods that are higher in fat and that satiates you and that works for you, that’s fantastic. If you can do that for a year or more and that’s what you want to do, that’s fantastic. But if you read some goofy diet, you know, where you’re going to eat nothing but chicken breasts and broccoli for 16 weeks and get in shape, what’s your plan coming out? You have to have a plan that gets you out, and I think that’s why most people fail with their diets. Mine isn’t even a diet. Through the years, I’ve massaged into what works for me.”

It’s a learning experience. Vincent is not an expert when it comes to nutrition or diets — he is merely sharing his experience with readers. Yes, he’s learned from experts and has had to do research. But how does he filter the good from the bogus? “It’s when someone is trying to sell you something,” he says. “That’s when you really need to filter out that information.”

With all of the free information out there that’s genuinely good, Vincent cannot believe the ridiculous diets that people actually pay for. He quotes something Dave once told him: “People don’t appreciate information unless they pay for it sometimes.”

Maybe paying for a diet or program makes people feel like they’re being held accountable for it or are paying for better, maybe even exclusive, information. But there’s so much good free stuff.

But even with the free information, Vincent repeats what he said earlier. Find something that works for you and you could do it for a year.

Should you need to get picky about any information, check who wrote the article, where you are getting the information from, who sponsored the study, and so on.

With all of the information that’s out there, both free and bought, sometimes it’s overwhelming. Should you go keto? Should you go gluten-free? Stop bouncing around to find a magic bullet because you’re not going to find one.

“It comes down to calories in, calories out. It’s terrible. It’s a grind. Anybody who tells you differently is lying. That’s great advice I can pass along. If you’re on a diet, you’re going to be hungry. It’s going to be hard.”

It might look easy (as Vincent’s wife often tells him). It’s not. He refuses to be a martyr about his diet. Sure, he could sit around and bitch and moan about how terrible it is and how much he hates it. At the end of the day, it’s your choice, your life, your health.

And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t have to be terrible or awful. The first idea Vincent and his wife came up with for his diet was Hot Pockets — and this was before the advent of Lean Pockets — because, as Vincent admits, he was eating 7,000 calories of garbage a day. He ate a half-gallon of ice cream every night, McDonald’s every day on the way home from work as an appetizer for dinner — basically, whatever he wanted to eat.

When he tried working on a diet with a coach, it ended up backfiring because the foods he ate for his diet were not foods he liked or foods that sustained him.

“I watch people who are trying to lose 100 pounds, and when you go from eating McDonald’s and Burger King and whatever else you feel like to kale and chicken breast, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Rather than set himself up for failure, Vincent started eating Hot Pockets because those were better for them than McDonald’s. He ate Muscle Sandwiches, which were some kind of candy bars that had chocolate, peanut butter, and graham crackers. After looking up the macros and other nutrition facts about Muscle Sandwiches, it turns out they’re only slightly better for you than a Snickers Bar.

But making these little changes really did help Vincent drop the pounds in the start. From there, it did get more challenging, and that’s when he began to experiment with keto, carb backloading, fasting, and so on.

“I think the eating style needs to fit your lifestyle. I like big meals. If you’re someone who likes to graze but you’re telling them to fast, it’s not going to work because they’re just going against what they want to do. I used fasting because I like to save all of my calories, so I’d be more than happy to go until three o’clock every day and not eat so I could have big meals and feel full.”

Of course, you’d want to take the time of day into account as well. If you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself into eating a big healthy breakfast and a smaller lunch. If you’re a night owl, have your main meal later.

Keeping all of this in mind, it also depends on what you eat. Anyone who tells you that you can do a keto diet and eat nothing but bacon and expect to see results is not doing you any favors (and if you’re paying for their expertise, you might want to stop paying them for it). It’s always, always, always calories in, calories out.

Dieting doesn’t have to be a huge change. Make it fit your lifestyle and adjust as time goes on.

Vincent’s gone from McDonald’s to Hot Pockets, and now, to a kale and spinach salad he loves.

“Ten years ago, if you had told me, ‘Vincent, you’re going to have this kale and spinach salad that you love,’ like, you’re out of your mind. The only lettuce I want is on my burger. But now, it’s something my tastes have changed, everything’s evolved over time, so as time goes on... as you evolve over time, your tastes will change over time, but you don’t have to make that harsh of a transition.”

Operation Be Less Fat is a journey that’s taken Vincent 10 years, and it’s also why he tells people, “You didn’t get fat overnight.” Is it rude? Yes. But Vincent feels he has the right to say it. He weighed more than 300 pounds, and that did not happen overnight. To expect to lose a lot of weight in a short time period and sustain that weight loss is unrealistic. It takes time to gain weight, and it’ll take time to shed those pounds.

Be realistic when setting goals and when figuring out what works best for you.

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