LIFEPRENEURS

Wagner da Silva: How facing the uncomfortable can lead to your best life

Rachel Hickey - October 28, 2019 Wagner da Silva at the Mt. Everest Base Camp in 2016, a huge milestone in his weight loss journey
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Wagner da Silva is no stranger to uncomfortable situations. He’s uprooted and moved to a completely new country, had a couple of major weight loss journeys losing 140 lbs, went through a divorce, climbed on Mount Everest and has even experienced a life-changing diagnosis. It’s safe to say that he’s climbed a few mountains – both figuratively and literally!

Today, not only does he mentor others who are struggling with weight loss by sharing his inspiring story, but he also works as a developer in tech, challenging tired ways of thinking while offering innovative solutions daily.

Here’s his story.

Growing up in Brazil, I was always a big guy. It was just who I was. By the age of 18, I put my mind to it and was actually able to lose quite a bit of weight – almost 100 pounds. I was feeling incredible! I got married, put a lot of effort into my work and eventually moved to Canada, where temptation ran high.

In Canada, it’s easy to be overweight. There are fast food restaurants on every corner and stores that sell bigger sizes to fit into, not to mention that the tech working culture I was immersed in was full of long, sedentary days that were often filled with unhealthy food options. 

“In Canada, it’s easy to be overweight”.

– Wagner da Silva

When you gain weight, people look at you differently. I became invisible. I could no longer do the things that I enjoyed, even things as simple as dressing well for work. I began to seriously suffer both physically and mentally, and in turn, my career began to suffer as well. 

At the same time, my marriage ended, and I felt hopeless. I had lost everything that was good to me in life and had the mentality that if anything happened to me, if I was in a car wreck or something, then it would be okay. I wouldn’t be missed. I was in a very dark place.

Hitting rock bottom, and then some 

I did go through what I would call rock bottom. I remember it specifically, when I had planned a skiing trip for myself and a group of friends. People always question me – you’re from Brazil! Why do you love the snow so much? I just love being outdoors! It feels so good to connect with nature and unplug for a while.

Wagner da Silva was in a dark place after moving to Canada and gaining weight.

But on this trip, at that time in my life, even waiting in line for the lift was a challenge. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was already exhausted. After making it down with several stops for breaks, I retired inside and sat with a cup of hot chocolate, devastated and embarrassed. I was alone in a country that wasn’t home, while everyone around me happily accomplished what I wished I could do. 

Six months later, I’m driving in my car thinking, there’s gotta be something I can do to get out of this. So I started coming up with ways I could change my week, day by day, and the only day I was missing something for was Wednesdays. Now, I’m not religious, but it just happened. I’m driving home and an ad comes on the radio for a weekly weight loss group just for guys. They met every Wednesday.

“I’m not religious, but it just happened”.

– Wagner da Silva

So I entered the program, and honestly, I was skeptical. The first night, I sat in my car surrounded by piles of garbage, fast food wrappers, you name it. I had just gone on a binge – a big one. I saw it as my last goodbye to all I thought was good in my life. Looking back, this was the base of the mountain, my lowest point, a point of pure insanity. 

And so, the ascent began

So eventually, I go in, and they are all so welcoming. The program was no bullshit, focused on group dynamics and motivation to achieve a healthy weight, not a “skinny” weight. The walls were full of pictures of guys who had succeeded, so I thought, if they can do it, so can I.

I went there every week like I go to work, treating it like a project I was responsible for. So of course, I was going to put my best foot forward. That’s the mentality. Eventually I had lost over 50 pounds in a short amount of time, and things were looking up. 

“If they can do it, so can I.”

– Wagner da Silva

This leads me to two things: climbing a mountain, and after losing enough weight to see my neck again, discovering something that would change my life forever.

First, the mountain; the literal one. Ever since I was young, I dreamed of going to Nepal. I had read this book about the path the first explorers took to climb Everest, before you get to a point where it’s just snow and ice. I took the guys in my group with me in my heart, and I followed this trail and walked and walked and walked.

Every day was an accomplishment. I remember looking up at the clouds, and a few days later, looking down and realizing that those were the same clouds below me that I had seen above me just days before. There are no cars there, no roads. It’s so raw and reminds you of a time before technology. It was incredibly rewarding. My eyes touched Everest!

In times of trouble, no obstacle is too big

Wagner da Silva battled cancer after his weight loss led him to find a lump on his neck.

Upon my return and continued weight loss, I noticed a lump on my throat. I had never seen it there before because, well, back then I couldn’t see my neck! So I go to get it checked out.

After hearing news of the results, I was in denial. When you’re sitting in that room alone, moments after a doctor has just told you that you have cancer, all you can think about is what is really important to you in life.

A few hours later, I’m back at work and my boss approaches me. He says, “listen, I have very bad news for you,” and my heart drops. Then he goes on to tell me that he couldn’t get me the window seat I was hoping for at the office. I was stunned. How could something so small seem so important to me only days before?

“When you’re sitting in that room alone, moments after the doctor has just told you that you have cancer, all you can think about is what is really important to you in life.”

– Wagner da Silva

First, I conquered weight loss for the second time, then I climbed Everest, so even with my world falling apart all around me, I somehow had the confidence that I could conquer this too; my own personal Everest. So I went through the treatment, the radiation, everything, and am happy to say I am now in remission. But it could come back at any time. There’s no guarantee I’ll be rid of it for life, so I’m very thankful to still be here. I’m not taking life for granted!

In conclusion, never give up

Today, Wagner da Silva is in the best shape of his life, and he helps others find the motivation to get in shape, too.

Now I’m sharing my story as much as I can, hoping to inspire others in any way possible to make changes in their lives, even small changes.

Now, with my physical and mental health in good shape, I’m working harder and making more than double what I did before.

After returning from my trip to Nepal, I set my heart and mind on putting the highest value on my life and put myself out there. Since then, I’ve been teaching myself Hindi on my commute to work, playing music, got remarried and am counting down the days till the snow falls so that I can ski to my heart’s content again.  

My lasting advice may sound cliché, but I mean it in the best way – never give up. It’s easy to get stuck under what’s comfortable and not be able to visualize what could possibly change in your life. I see it in my daily work with my clients, and I see it in my past self. Every day is a challenge to old ways of thinking, constantly thinking of ways to improve, so make yourself uncomfortable and never give up! 

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