Julio Garcia began his sophomore year at Kean University in 2012. Weighing a total of 288 pounds at the time, he decided that he needed to change his lifestyle for the better.
Garcia, 23, is the assistant community director for Residence Life at Montclair State, where he is currently a graduate student studying education leadership with a concentration in higher education.
To many of his co-workers and peers, he is known as a “silly,” yet “hard-working” person with a “big heart.” He is also known for his position as a Zumba instructor. He teaches Zumba classes in many of the residence halls on campus.
It has been almost five years since Garcia started teaching Zumba, and within the first year alone, he lost over 100 pounds.
When asked about his desired goals for his Zumba students, Garcia explained that he hopes to inspire others to lose weight and motivate them to get healthy while having fun doing it. “When the ladies and gentlemen come to my class, I just want them to let loose and have a good time and know that, [although] this is a great way to exercise, have fun with it,” said Garcia.
On Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, Garcia teaches at the Susie Karlick Dance Sensation studio in Union. He charges $5 per person for each session and has a very unique playlist with a specific selection of genres. Pop, reggae, salsa, bachata and “twerk” music, Garcia said, are the only genres of music that he plays when he teaches his Zumba dances. “A lot of it is just about moving your butt,” said Garcia.
When he is not teaching Zumba classes, he works out at the CKO kickboxing gym in Clifton, where he attends kickboxing class between four and six times per week. “I really love kickboxing,” said Garcia. “It is an intense, total body workout that also serves as a stress reliever because I get the opportunity to punch all my aggressions on the [punching] bag.”
Along with his workout habits, Garcia’s eating habits have drastically changed as well. Up until age 18, Garcia constantly ate large portions of food, including a lot of meat and carbohydrates. “[I ate] no vegetables whatsoever, unless it was corn in my rice,” said Garcia. Fast food and many sugar-filled foods such as cookies, candy and soft drinks were also a large part of his daily diet, causing him to be almost 260 pounds by the end of his senior year of high school.
Today, Garcia still enjoys the same foods, but in smaller portions. “I know now how to read a nutrition label and make healthier choices,” said Garcia. “I also try to incorporate vegetables in every meal.” Garcia also “stays away from all fast foods” and tries to avoid fried and sugary foods at all costs.
In four years, Garcia has lost 133 pounds overall. “I’m more mindful of what I eat now,” said Garcia. “I read the nutrition labels of things that I eat, and I decide whether or not to eat it ― not so much that I’m eating off of ignorance.”