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tony arreola's before picture wishing for a flat tummy

The Last Christmas

Christmas of 1999, ten years before Total Body Project, I received the strangest phone call of my life. My uncle has never called and will never call again. This remained his only phone call to me. He urged me to rush to his house. Oh, oh, I thought. My uncle was involved in…let’s just call it “extracurricular activities.” His company’s products destroyed our community’s health.

The shaking in his voice frightens me. I don’t know how to handle violence. I’m a sophomore at UC Irvine and I’ve only fought three times in my life. In all three fights, I attacked with cheap shots. I squeezed my eyes shut wishing my brother was with me. Richard excelled in violence. He would know exactly what to do. Unfortunately, he was at work. I was alone and scared. But my uncle needed help. I finally convinced myself to drive to his house. I parked and grabbed a screwdriver from my car to use as a possible weapon. I don’t know if I’m capable of stabbing someone. But I might need to. As I walk over, I see a police car stationed in the driveway. Oh no, my uncle is going to the big house. But wait, he’s standing next to the police man?

The officer slowly walked over to me. His boots echoed across the eerily quiet Los Angeles streets. The streets are dark, only the moon and the streetlights provide light. I’m gripping the screwdriver in my pocket. Should I throw it in the bush? Do I run? Will he see it? It’s too late. He’s standing a few inches from me.

“Are you Tony Arreola?” I nodded. “Is Richard Arreola your brother?” I nodded again.

“You need to call the coroner’s office.” His eyes watered as the words that destroyed my life leaked out of his mouth.

My life ended that Christmas. Horror, sadness, and tragedy engulfed my world. Two days before my 21st Birthday. I hated life.

My only escape was alcohol. I cried and cried, drank and drank. For the first time in my life, I drank until I blacked out. I was sure if the alcohol didn’t kill me, the sadness would. But I didn’t die.

I lived a sad, resentful life. I ballooned up to 192 pounds, the heaviest I had ever been. And I didn’t care. This wasn’t the life I imagined. But it was the life I was given.

I inherited most of my brother’s belongings. Among them, I find a hidden gem. My brother loved to work out and fate left me his weightlifting set. I picked up a weight, and it felt good, damn good. The stifling rage released into a punishing workout. Oddly enough, beating up my body made me feel better. As I got stronger, I felt better. As my muscles grew, my soul healed. The workouts gave me strength, the strength gave me healing, and the healing gave me control. Every repetition brought me closer to my brother. I didn’t feel alone anymore. My passion for fitness had taken on new meaning.

After UC Irvine, I began my career as a personal trainer. If fitness helped me escape the depths of depression, and brought me back to a peaceful state, could its powers be used in other ways? Could my passion be the fuel to inspire others to do more, to aim higher more, to achieve more? Time answered these questions resoundingly as my clients’ lives were completely transformed. Fitness was working and it was helping. As I saw growth in people, I wanted nothing else but to serve more. Clients lost thousands of pounds, ran their first marathons, completed triathlons, and one even biked the West Coast! My life’s passion led me to form my own company, Total Body Project. My goal was to build a brand to preach the gospel of fitness and fulfill my ultimate passion of life empowerment.

After UC Irvine, I began my career as a personal trainer. If fitness helped me escape the depths of depression, could its powers be used in other ways? Could my passion be the fuel to inspire others to do more, to aim higher more, to achieve more?

Time answered these questions resoundingly as my clients’ lives were transformed. Fitness was working. As I saw growth in people, I wanted nothing else but to serve more. Clients lost thousands of pounds, ran their first marathons, completed triathlons, and one even biked the West Coast. My life’s passion led me to form my own company.

My company would be different from my uncle’s. Total Body Project exists to make our communities healthier. We exist to help others be better. We will continue to share our knowledge with our beloved community until we simplify fitness for all.

I lost my brother Richard that tragic Christmas night. But I found my future, my new future. I didn’t know it yet, but I would not pursue a career in engineering. My future became and continues to be fitness. My brother helped me discover my true meaning of my life. I love you little brother.

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