Jay Moir is a 20-year-old fitness instructor based in Aberdeen, Scotland.
He is also a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, but won't let that be a barrier to achieving his goals.
Moir struggled with his mental health as a teenager, dropping out of school and gaining weight, but said fitness "gave him his life back," and he also lost 70 pounds.
He trains six days a week and told Insider that able-bodied people in the gym often underestimate his strength.
"In the gym, I feel strong and powerful but most importantly, happy!" he said.
The fitness industry can be very intimidating.
Whether it's the weights room of a gym, a trendy spin studio, or even a Zoom workout class, many workout environments can put people off, which stops them from getting active.
One man who doesn't let anything hold him back, however, is Jay Moir.
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Moir is a 20-year-old newly qualified gym instructor and fitness blogger from Aberdeen, Scotland. He's overcome depression and overeating to come through the other side 70 pounds lighter with a love of fitness and a happy, healthy mindset.
Moir also has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.
Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by brain damage which affects movement and coordination, according to Cerebral Palsy Guidance.
Moir spoke to Insider about how exercise transformed his life, what it's like working out in a wheelchair, and how most people underestimate his strength.
Moir struggled with his mental health and turned to food as comfort
As a teenager, mental health struggles led Moir to drop out of school early.
"I was down with depression and anxiety, and due to this, I was unable to take my exams, resulting in me leaving school with very few qualifications," he told Insider.
As many people do when they're in a negative head space, Moir turned to food.
"Another consequence of my illness was comfort eating," he said.
"I gained around three stone (42 pounds) and was really on a downward spiral."
But one day, Moir decided it was time to make a change.
Getting into fitness gave Moir his confidence back
Although antidepressants help many people, Moir decided he would try to find a way back to feeling like himself again without medication.
"I decided that I wanted to help myself," he said.
Moir started seeing a therapist, and with the support of his close friends and family, his confidence started to return.
He also decided to make some positive changes regarding his physical health, and this ended up being the catalyst for Moir discovering a new passion.
"I then decided to join the gym and adjust my diet through MyFitnessPal," he said.
"The app allowed me to understand where I was going wrong with my nutrition. So thanks to that and attending the gym six days a week, I ended up losing just under five stone."
Moir trains six days a week
Now, Moir's workout regime is as strenuous as any fitness fanatic's: Every week, he does five strength sessions and one Adaptive CrossFit workout (the same functional movements as CrossFit, only adapted to the user's needs).
Like everyone else, Moir has had to get creative with his workouts during the coronavirus lockdown.
"I have obviously been limited to what I can do, but I acquired a couple dumbbells and a barbell so I'm making do with that right now, mostly strength-based training," he said.
"I hope to compete in Disabled Strongman within the next few years or so."
Disabled Strongman is a strength competition for disabled athletes — last year's event saw British Army veteran Martin Tye set a Guinness World Record for the heaviest seated deadlift when he lifted an incredible 505 kg (1,110 lbs).
Moir wants to share his love of fitness and help others
As well as his goal to complete Disabled Strongman, Moir is excited about his new role as a qualified gym instructor.
"I decided to become a fitness instructor because I just enjoy my training so much," he said.
"It changed my life and I just want to help pass my enjoyment of training on to others.
"I also did it to show that, wheelchair or not, if you want something, there is always a way to achieve it.
"Yes, it may be difficult but nothing worth getting is easy, as they say."
Moir completed a course through the Fitness Education Academy which involved both learning practical skills about working with clients and being in the gym, and an exam on anatomy and physiology.
The qualification will allow him to give gym inductions as well as advice and safety to gym users, and Moir is also going to start training and advising clients online.
"It's one thing learning to adapt things for yourself, but I think, personally, doing training face to face with an able-bodied person would be a bit of a challenge, that's why I prefer online," he said.
However Moir feels able to advise anyone, disabled or able-bodied.
"The principle is more or less the same," he said. "You just have to learn about them, what they want to achieve, and give them the appropriate tools and encouragement to achieve that."
People in the gym underestimate Moir's strength
Moir said that because he's in a wheelchair, most people presume he won't be very strong, but that's a misconception.
"Sometimes I'm in the gym and the guy before me on one of the machines will look at me and lower the resistance," he said.
"The funny thing is – quite often, believe it or not – I'm going heavier than they are!"
And Moir is as competitive as the next weight-lifter.
"I guess it's just normal to class the disabled as 'weak' and of course, nine times out of 10, people think they're being kind, but I'm all about being number one!
"Don't get me wrong; in no way am I saying I'm better than anybody else, but for me, anyway, I train to get strong and eventually to be regarded as one of the world's best disabled athletes.
"Of course, I'm all about enjoying my training, but I also have targets, dreams, and desires, and I promise, one day, I will realize them."
Moir doesn't let cerebral palsy affect him more than it needs to
Overall, Moir says cerebral palsy only affects his life "a little," and more in everyday things than his fitness.
"Visiting friends' houses and getting to certain areas of town can be quite difficult," he said, because a lot of people have steps up to their front doors or narrow hallways.
"Visiting friends is kind of a no-go and of course, that can have a negative impact mentally, but to be honest — and I know it's not the same — but a phone call or text now and again is all that really matters to me.
"I'll see them when I see them and I know they care about me as much as I do about them."
Moir has a fad-free approach to fitness
Moir posts workout snippets and pictures of his journey on Instagram, and although he thinks it's great if he inspires others with his posts, his main focus is looking after himself, making sure he's "happy, healthy, and getting stronger."
He also writes a blog, sharing what he's learned about fitness and fat loss, as well as thoughts on the industry.
Moir is staunchly anti weight loss fads and "quick fixes."
"I'm quite frankly against all of these meal replacements and fads such as 'skinny tea' and 'fat burners,' as I feel they deter people from real food and give us the wrong idea about nutrition," he said.
"I hope I can give people a better understanding of nutrition and why they don't need to spend large amounts on highly processed shakes or supplements and open their eyes to the fact they are being misled by these money-making, often pyramid scheme 'diets.'"
He trains for his mental health and for the love of working out, not to change his appearance.
"I don't chase visible abs, I no longer really calorie count," Moir said. "I don't really care for aesthetics.
"I just want to be happy, maintain a good relationship with food, and help, guide, and educate others, as I feel quite often we are lectured wrongly and believe things that are simply not true because a guy with abs has said it (no disrespect to guys with abs)."
Moir believes there are no barriers to achieving great things
The fitness instructor said that "regardless of barriers, ability, or disability, you can still achieve great things!" adding that health and fitness are "extremely important" to him.
"It gave me my life back, as well as giving me a new lease of it," Moir said.
"In the gym, I feel strong and powerful but most importantly, happy!"
If it wasn't for the gym, Moir said he doesn't know where he'd be right now.
"The gym is not a 'chore' to me," he said.
"It's genuinely my favorite place — it's the place where I get stronger mentally and physically, and I look forward to every session. It's my happy place."
Read the original article on Insider