For most of us, fitness is part of our lives. For some, it is a lifestyle. For others, it may be an occasional endeavor. For Aaron Banks, fitness was more than a hobby or an option. It was the difference between life and death.

Aaron had always been active. In elementary through high school and into his adult life, he had been involved in city sports leagues and routinely visited the gym. 

Along the way, Aaron lost touch with a healthy diet, and eventually, depression slowed him down. “I worked out two to three times a week, but I had gained over 100 pounds through a ten-year span,” says Banks.

Aaron entered a dark phase as depression crept in with a brutal grip. Suicidal thoughts plagued him, and he attempted to finish the deed. Mercifully, his attempt failed. 

“On those truly hard days, you fight minute to minute. You fight to do simple things, such as getting out of bed, showering, and eating food —not just eating right, actually eating, period. You can get to a point where nothing makes you happy and you can’t see the good in most things. You don’t want to be around anyone because you don’t feel like you bring any value to people’s lives. A number of things throughout my life contributed to the daily fight with my mind.”

Aaron’s turning point came one evening while watching TV with his daughter. “She was sitting on my lap, and she rubbed my stomach and said, ‘You’re fat, Daddy.’” Those words fell on Aaron like a ton of bricks. He said he had been struggling before that point, feeling bad about himself but not bad enough to take positive action. It would be his daughter’s words that delivered the final blow to change.

“The very next day, I worked out and took it seriously. I worked out twice a day for 397 days in a row. I lost 107 pounds. She and the gym were the main reasons I was still breathing.”

“Fitness has been one of the constant things that has helped in the dark times. The gym can become a home when you don’t feel like you belong anywhere. For years, the gym was my way of fighting through my thoughts. I’ve always felt like I could think better during the time I spent in the gym. I workout before making “big” decisions because I believe I can make the best choice with my mind and body feeling better.”

Aaron values progress in all areas of his life and lives by the motto, “Keep the faith and stay consistent.” Seeing the results of the changes is the biggest reason he works to maintain them. “The way you feel physically, mentally, and spiritually while on your fitness journey is the motivation needed to maintain consistency.”

“I would say to people who are fighting to just BE — whether it’s to just be themselves, or to be a better person, friend, family member, or parent — find a workout or sport that they enjoy and DO IT. Do it despite not feeling 100%, do it anyway, and do it for 10 minutes, then 15, 30, and 45. Release those endorphins and allow your mind and body to be able to fight for a better YOU!”

By Amanda Tompkins 

Photo by Tindall Stephens