Young Change Makers: Why and How Lance Alexander of CO: From Junk to Hunk Is Helping To Change Our World
Ask for help. Do not ever be afraid to simply ask for help. Sometimes we want to figure out things all on our own just for bragging rights and while it may be honorable, it can make life harder. I encourage speaking with others because sometimes they have ideas you may not have considered which can change your mindset and trajectory. When I was designing my web page for the movement, I asked everyone in my family to test the page and provide feedback, this saved me tons of time and identified problems my eyes didn’t catch.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lance Alexander.
Actor, author, and health activist Lance Alexander is an inspirational teen who has overcome personal challenges with being overweight and is using his experiences to create positive change. After successfully completing his From Junk to Hunk health journey and shedding nearly 70 pounds, he believes every child deserves a shot at a healthy lifestyle. Now, with a burning desire to help other youth unleash their inner superheroes, Lance started his inspiring movement, “From Junk to Hunk,” which is dedicated to promoting strong mental and physical health among youth and teens.:)
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was raised in West Chester, Ohio, a small township outside Cincinnati. I’ve always participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. I loved participating in computer games — lots of them — as well as volleyball leagues and basketball competitions in my community. Growing up, I enjoyed acting in community theater productions and school plays. I discovered how others reacted to me and that’s how I found my love for acting. Initially, I had no idea acting could be a career. In 2017, things became a little more serious when I started taking acting classes in my hometown and decided to participate in a talent showcase in Dallas, Texas which ultimately led to pairing with an agent and manager then relocating to Los Angeles. A part-time move to L.A. led to Commercial and Television bookings and marked the start of my career.
I am blessed that my family has always been supportive and provided good positive examples to follow. My mom has always had a strong passion for volunteer work, so I grew up volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and doing other charity work in and around my community. Part of our agreement when I moved to Los Angeles to chase my acting dreams, was promising to remain humble, and continue giving to others by volunteering and attending college. I have kept my promises. My sister makes sure I remain humble, I am currently a college sophomore, and I recently received a National Presidential Volunteer Service Award for the time I have given to my local food pantry, Ronald McDonald House, Best Buddies, and Boys and Girls Clubs Of America.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Best Buddies is most definitely an organization that has had a large impact on my upbringing and continues to this day! Best Buddies is an international organization founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, and its mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development programs. The organization operates in countries across the globe, striving to break down barriers and create a more inclusive society. As a kid who was bullied growing up, this organization resonates with me most because of the underlying message it sends about inclusion. If your readers are not familiar with Best Buddies, it is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). There are several different volunteer programs and I volunteer with the Friendship Program. These programs build one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), offering social interactions while improving the quality of life and level of inclusion for a population that is often isolated and excluded. Through their participation, people with IDD form meaningful connections with their peers, gain self-confidence and self-esteem and share interests, experiences, and activities that many other individuals enjoy.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference, in my opinion, means living a life filled with acts of kindness that eventually inspire and motivate others to do the same! I think everyone with influence and a platform ought to make the most of it by using it for good. You never know how your words or posts on social media might help someone. You could very well be the only person somebody has left to look up to, so never pass on an opportunity to leave a positive impact.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Although I started this journey over two years ago, I wanted to officially launch the health campaign this month in recognition of Childhood Obesity Month along with my new book, “From Junk to Hunk.” The book is just a part of an inspiring movement dedicated to promoting strong mental and physical health among youth and teens. I want to explain to youth how this movement is all about clearing out the “Junk” in our lives, which includes toxicity and negativity holding us back from our goals and transforming into a “Hunk” — a stronger and better version of ourselves. Really drives home, the fact that any goal is possible once you first prioritize your mental well-being. Once the mind is onboard, anything really is possible. I’m taking a step toward promoting holistic health by asking them to focus on mental and physical health because this will produce the best versions of themselves. I am hoping this movement can lead to a healthier and more empowered generation. I want to change the perception among youth and teens that drinking, smoking, vaping, and engaging in risky behaviors is cool. I want to model behaviors that show “Healthy Is the New Cool.”
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I’m passionate about this cause because growing up and as recently as 2 years ago I struggled with
being overweight. During the pandemic of 2020, I was isolated and fighting depression,
but I decided to fight back. After approximately 20 unsuccessful weight-loss attempts, I decided to try one more time. Although my initial goal was to improve my outer appearance, I didn’t find success until I focused on my overall quality of life and my mental health. I want everyone to know that mental transformation must come first. Eliminating “Junk” (stress, emotional eating, excessive technology) is what led to my body transformation. I started with behavior modification, eliminating stress and poor eating habits. As a result, I shed nearly 70 pounds, which brought happiness and balance back to my life. After careful consideration, I decided to post my transformation on social media and the response was incredible. I immediately received an overwhelming number of requests for help, but with nearly two-million followers across social media platforms, I was unable to respond to everyone. Then I had an “Aha Moment”, which is when I decided to write From Junk to Hunk to share honest details about my weight loss journey in hopes of reaching many others, especially young people. In the book, no topics are off limits; I’m honest about cravings, working out, and determination. There are no fancy diet foods, expensive equipment, or personal trainers involved in this transformation. I want to bring good news, showing young people they no longer need to suffer in silence.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Absolutely. If I am being real, I woke up one day and became so scared of the fact that if I continued the horrible cycle of not prioritizing my health both mentally and physically, I wouldn’t ever get to see the “possibilities” that was living my full potential (the strongest version of myself both inside and out). Realizing that I had waited years and years for someone to just save me, I finally understood that no one was coming to save me, and it was on me to become my own superhero. After sharing my transformation and having others reaching out for my help, I now have a burning desire to help others unleash their inner superhero.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
First and foremost, sustainability is key. You want to outline a project in stages so that you can go the distance, otherwise it may become too overwhelming. I recommend setting smart goals, this helps with accountability. When I wanted to complete tasks, I would assign dates and where possible document quantifiable data. From Junk to Hunk is built on the entire premise of what I call the I-D-E-C method. These are the four steps on going From Junk to Hunk with any goal (including starting a new organization). With the I-D-E-C method I is for IDENTIFYING your problem. D for DETERMINING “Why” you want to achieve the goal. E is to EXAMINE the necessary steps you will take to reach your goal. Lastly, C is for CLEARING the junk from your life that is blocking you from achieving your goal! For me, the goal was to lose weight, but as you can see the I-D-E-C method is a simple four- step process that can be applied to any project or goal.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
During every Boys and Girls Club visit I hold “Meet the Author” sessions and speak for approximately 10–15 minutes with club members, followed by a Q&A session. Well, while visiting an Indiana Club, interestingly enough, one of the kids asked me if I would arm wrestle the strongest kid they knew at the club. I was sweating and laughing so hard by the end, but it turned into an entire club arm wrestling competition. It was indeed different and interesting, but so epic!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I first started From Junk to Hunk was thinking that everything about the movement had to be perfect including myself. What I realized over time was that the most important move was to get started. Soon I realized the movement was really all about taking those small steps towards goals and making little changes, taking it one day at a time! Going through this process, I learned eventually small steps add up and you look down and you’re at the top of the staircase and you have completed what you set out to achieve without overwhelming yourself or quitting!
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Yes, I am blessed to have a very supportive family unit with my mom, dad, and sister who all cheer for me from the background. My family is my greatest asset and secret weapon, with them I have learned I can have it all. I also would like to acknowledge my paternal grandfather who is the wind beneath my wings. He is a retired entrepreneur who has always taken the time to talk with me and sow into my projects which has made a tremendous difference in my success.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Yes, absolutely, so in early November 2021, a young person reached out to me for advice on social media, he also has a large following and an interesting platform that I was already following. I could visibly tell he was overweight like me, but I had no idea he wanted to lose weight. After I posted my transformation, he reached out to me, simply asking for me to be real with him about how he could lose weight. I did just that and gave him advice on making small changes by implementing a small amount of daily activity he could do without it feeling like a chore and pairing that with eating in a non-restrictive way where no foods are labeled as bad but being more conscious of decisions with his caloric needs to reach his goals. After he reached out, I didn’t hear from him for over six months. When he reappeared, he shared a public thank you to me on social media, detailing that he had lost 60 pounds and had taken his life back because of my help! This reassured me that I had to keep working to help others who were suffering in silence and my campaign shifted to a higher gear.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
There are many things these stakeholders can work towards to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity these few immediately come to mind:
- Create Health Education Campaigns using Socia Media Engagement. I believe these campaigns could do more to create discussions around a healthy diet, physical activity, and the risks associated with being overweight.
- Fund accessible physical activity spaces. Every neighborhood should have safe and accessible fitness equipment placed in parks or playgrounds. This is especially needed in underserved communities. If no equipment is available, I believe a free voucher should be provider for the closest gym/fitness center.
- Create Supportive Policies. Provide subsidized healthier food options regardless of family income. Promote and reward healthy food choices by providing incentives for documented physical exercise and healthy behaviors. Offer the youth something in exchange for the healthy choices they make. Maybe gift cards, tickets for sporting events, workout shoes/clothes, or sports equipment.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
- Do not set unrealistic goals. I wish someone would have told me this because it would have saved me lots of grief and letdowns. I beat myself up for not completing certain goals which later I learned were not actually attainable early on my journey.
- Document progress. Make sure you take pictures or write down everything on your journey. Once you get going, it will be tough to press forward at times, but journals and photos help you look back and see you did not sit around waiting for anyone to save you, you became your own superhero! About mid-way on my weight loss journey, I started taking pictures and making videos and on my worse days those pictures helped me remember my “why”. So again, no matter your project or goal, document, document document.
- Prioritize sleep. It took me a long time to understand the importance of sleep. Once I made the correction between sleep and performance, I started changing my sleep habits which enhanced my productivity! For those who have a demanding schedule packed with school, jobs, sports, and club activities I know it’s hard to justify sleeping more but I promise you will see a difference in your mood and performance.
- Built a good support system. Make sure your friends are people that keep you motivated to work hard and inspire you! Your friends should be your support system not competition. Genuine friends back each other’s goals and are genuinely happy to each other win! Your friends should have their own goals while supporting yours too! There were days on my journey when I literally would have quit if I didn’t have a friend there encouraging me and reminding me how far I had come. There were many days when a friend would work out with me, play basketball with me, or just suggest recreation rather than eating out to support me.
- Ask for help. Do not ever be afraid to simply ask for help. Sometimes we want to figure out things all on our own just for bragging rights and while it may be honorable, it can make life harder. I encourage speaking with others because sometimes they have ideas you may not have considered which can change your mindset and trajectory. When I was designing my web page for the movement, I asked everyone in my family to test the page and provide feedback, this saved me tons of time and identified problems my eyes didn’t catch.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If I could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on society, I would ask… “What do you want your legacy to be?” If not you, then who? Take the first step in being a leader and making an impact on others. Young people have the potential to initiate positive change that can benefit our communities now, and in the future. Helping others and improving the lives of those around us also contributes to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. My late Nanna taught us that God gave us two hands for a special reason, “One to help ourselves and one to help others.”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
David Goggins one thousand percent. David Goggins because I totally relate to his journey. He keeps me so heavily motivated that some days when I’m working out, I skip listening to music and listen to his motivational speeches instead.
How can our readers follow you online?
@lancealexander on Instagram and Tiktok
@fromjunktohunk on Facebook and Instagram
Everyone is encouraged to join the movement by pledging to live a healthier lifestyle at fromjunktohunk.com
Young Change Makers: Why and How Lance Alexander of CO: From Junk to Hunk Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.