Defy the Odds and the Obstacles

Defy the Odds and the Obstacles

Mark After w Elise2

This is me after with my beautiful girlfriend, Elise

My birth name is Ghassan Ali Hamade.

I chose the name ‘Mark,’ because when I moved to the United States from Lebanon in 1985, I was teased and bullied for having a middle-eastern name. I wanted to blend in, so I quickly learned English and tempered my accent.

I know firsthand that the odds are against you if you don’t have great genetics, natural abilities, or even the advantages that come with being born in certain circumstances. My challenges were and/or are:

  • A genetic predisposition to obesity
  • No natural athletic ability
  • Born with one leg several inches shorter than the other
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Injuries
  • Chronic Pain

Like most people, my life has been filled with a lot of joy and tragedy. But I can say that through it all, I’ve stayed positive and persevered and achieved success with my health and in my career. I want to encourage you by telling you a little about my story, because it’s about never giving up on your goals, even when faced with adversity.

I had an accident and injured my back. My weight grew to 390 pounds in what seemed like overnight. I had 44% body fat with a pant size of 58. I had to be in a wheelchair because of the pain and the added weight, both making it too difficult to walk. I was up to sixteen Vicodins a day to manage the pain.

Mark Before

Me at 290 pounds.


My weight was escalating, along with my depression. This wasn’t any way to live. When I started walking again, it was with a limp, on one leg. The other leg dragged. I could barely get around the block. If I kept on like this much longer I was probably going to die.

It seemed impossible that I would ever be healthy again, but that just made me more determined to get my life back. I went to my local gym and signed up for a weight loss challenge. This would be just the thing I needed to push me.

My biggest challenge wasn’t someone or something else. It was the pain and myself. It was the aches in my legs and the voice inside me that yelled you can’t. Sometimes the voice was right, I really couldn’t.  But I pushed harder (not every day, but most days) and then it got easier, one pound at a time.

I lost the weight! I got to 190lbs and I was so stoked and pumped! Then, the day after I weighed in, I severely tore my right distal bicep. It was a devastating injury in that my tendon was completely shriveled. A famed surgeon, Dr. Harbin, couldn’t even straighten my arm. The doctor said that the tendons were being barely held together by muscle fibers.

After I had surgery I knew I had to listen 100% to Dr. Harbin and not do anything for a few months. Then I could only do recumbent bike, waiting an entire year to lift weights again. I gained 30 pounds instantly. I felt discouraged. But this time, instead of just feeling unlucky and giving up, I stepped back and took a hard look at my life.

It was time to make some serious changes: to my priorities, to my goals and to my daily routine—in other words, I needed a lifestyle change. To stay healthy I had to start my journey with the inside of me, before the external results happened. Changing my body alone created temporary results that didn’t last when I had a big setback. I knew that once I changed inside, I would be changed forever.

Mark Before Torso

Ready to get back into shape!


The first thing I did was admit that I couldn’t do it alone. Then I did a lot of research and learned that I needed five things, which I think are the key to health and happiness: sleep, family, expert friends, work and fitness. I want to focus most on the expert friends, because building a world-class team to educate, encourage and help me was the key factor to my lasting success.

  1. Diet
My good friend Dr. Amber Botros

My good friend Dr. Amber Botros


I started with my diet. Rather than undertake yet another fad diet, I made a permanent change, the smart way. I consulted with a medical doctor whom I’ve known for years, Dr. Amber Botros. She’s an expert in health, nutrition and wellness. Dr. Botros not only works as a general practitioner at a two Kansas City Metro hospitals, but also has her own medical spa and clinic so she can help people feel good inside and out. She put me on a very healthy, balanced diet and prescribed her own shake to provide all of the extra nutrients I needed after a workout and help me to lose fat, not muscle.

  1. Exercise
Power couple Jay and Monica Campbell

Power couple Jay and Monica Campbell


I called Jay Campbell. I met him at a men’s mastermind group in Los Angeles and had been corresponding through emails. Jay is very fit and clearly knows a lot about health and wellness. Even though he and his wife own a successful real estate business, they have a side business they’re passionate about called Fabulously Fit Over 40. Jay is an expert in male hormones and exercise physiology. I asked him if he would help me to not just get back to where I was, but even better by giving me the right mindset and optimal exercises for my body. He was happy to help me and even flew out to meet with Dr. Botros! Jay says, “The average person…doesn’t really value their health until they don’t have their health and by then it’s usually too late. Mark is a guy who pretty much figured it out at an early enough age that he could reverse all the damage he had done and was doing…he’s very rare in that capacity.”

  1. Goals 



Now that I had the right diet and exercise plan, I needed someone to help me get a baseline and set goals, checking in with me along the way. I found Jolen LaPerna. Jolen runs a business called, which is a mobile van with a big water tank in the back. He immersed me in water to get the most accurate calculation of my weight and body fat percentage. Jolen also told me how many calories a day my body needed just to function and which exercises would burn the most calories for my unique body type. I know that Jolen really cares about my success, as he keeps checking in on and encouraging me.

  1. A Workout Buddy
Anyone want to work out with this guy? He's 55 and still looks this amazing.

Anyone want to work out with this guy? He’s 55 and still looks this amazing.


While I was working out at the gym, I couldn’t help noticing a man who was ripped beyond anyone I had ever seen. I introduced myself to him and was happy to learn that he was Lebanese by birth, too. His name is Samir Bannout and it turns out he was Mr. Olympia in 1983. We started working out together and even though it was a little intimidating at first, it is good to have him as a source of motivation. He also gave me some of his Bannout Nutrition supplements, which are safe, all natural and work amazing and helping to build muscle. Samir says, “You get so many obstacles along the way. That’s the difference between the guys that succeed and fail. [The ones that succeed] don’t quit… I’m really proud of Mark because he’s a very good example of really doing it, not just talking…he’s inspiring…it’s amazing!”

Now I am 42 years old and I weigh 165 pounds with 10% body fat and a size 30 pant! But, my journey is not over—it never is. It’s just beginning and I’m sure that I will have many more obstacles along the way, but I’ll overcome them with hard work, passion and the support of my world class team of expert friends.

Mark After Torso

Me today, still going to the gym and pushing through


I hope you will join me in the ride because you believe in me and maybe see a little of yourself in my story. My passion is to impact and help others. If you’re struggling, need help or advice, or can think of a person or a group that needs some encouragement, please reach out to me through my site

      Hamade’s Top 12

  1.  Be consistent
  2. Develop an effective exercise routine
  3. Set realistic goals
  4. Use the buddy system
  5. Make your plan fit your life
  6. Be happy
  7. Rest
  8. Call in the pros
  9. Get inspired
  10. Be patient
  11. Nutrition
  12. Get a gluten free girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife



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