Athletes often compete in an environment of contradictions—their careers depend on staying healthy, but they often play through injuries to maintain their value to a franchise.
Despite their status as elite physical talents, athletes are forced to lose or gain weight over time frames no doctor would ever approve for anyone else and are prescribed the kind of addictive medications and therapies that most of us are rarely given.
In short, the men and women who symbolize the fastest, strongest and toughest end up ravaging their bodies, often as a part of the job description.
One of the most glaring examples are the "Big Men" who make a living off of being a human boulder yet can move like a skipping stone.
The consequence of being a gigantic homo sapien who can pile drive grown men or send baseballs into orbit is that things break down, and one day the 24/7 world-class training and nutrition ends...and reality sets in.
A "Big Man" quickly turns into fat dude, and what was once a strength becomes a major health issue. Fortunately, plenty of the latter shed the pounds...often with shocking results.
In recent seasons, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia has tipped the scales at around 290 pounds, which has been his listed weight. Although at times, that has seemed like a modest estimate.
In the last few months Sabathia has been showing off what looks to be a dramatically slimmed-down frame. While it’s clear that he’s lost weight, for some reason he’s been insistent that he hasn’t.
NBA player Kendrick Perkins was sporting a fuller figure back when he was playing for the Celtics.
After being traded to the Thunder back in 2011, Perkins began to slim down and harden up. He dropped 32 pounds that year alone.
Former NFL guard Mark Schlereth was a big big man during his playing days. At 6’3", Schlereth weighed in at just short of 300 pounds when he retired in 2000.
Since his retirement, Schlereth has worked hard to maintain the weight loss he achieved early on. He wrote about his experience in Men’s Health years back.
Retired slugger Barry Bonds was almost unrecognizable as a Giant, at least compared to what he looked like years earlier while playing for the Pirates. Bonds got bigger from head-to-toe—literally his head and neck even expanded.
Bonds has been slimming down since retiring from the game. Though his hulking frame has receded, that massive dome of his is never going to look normal again.
While playing in the NFL for over a decade, former Colts center Jeff Saturday weighed in the neighborhood of 300 pounds (the weight most players at his position tend to hover around).
After retiring following the 2012 season, a dramatically slimmed-down Saturday quickly landed a job at ESPN. Though he’ll never be as ghoulishly slender as Colin Cowherd, which is a good thing.
Former Brazil footballer Ronaldo packed on the pounds after retiring in 2011.
In 2013, Ronaldo debuted a weigh loss of nearly 40 pounds with this Instagram selfie.
Former USC running back LenDale White was a big dude during his college days, particularly compared to relatively diminutive teammate Reggie Bush. He gained some weight after being drafted by the Titans before turning it around.
In August 2009, White debuted a 30-pound weight loss, which he attributed mostly to giving up tequila. Makes you wonder how much of that stuff he was consuming.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has gained some weight and shed some weight several times over the course of his career. He definitely seemed to have hit a high point sometime between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Ortiz has slimmed down dramatically in recent years, and it certainly seems to have paid off. He had the third-best postseason of his career in 2013 and got back on track after several down seasons.
Former NFL offensive lineman Antone Davis’ weight had gotten seriously out of hand since his retirement, which is why he made the decision to appear on NBC’s The Biggest Loser in 2012.
Davis’ starting weight on the show was a whopping 447 pounds. By the time the finale rolled around, it was down to 245, with Davis having lost 202 pounds.
After retiring from basketball, Hall of Fame baller Charles Barkley’s appreciation for the finer things in life—like smoking cigars, eating junk food and almost never having to stand—led to a very significant and much-discussed weight gain.
In 2012 Barkley showed off a 50-pound weight loss after landing an endorsement deal with Weight Watchers. While Barkley’s weight still tends to yo-yo slightly, he has been able to maintain his slimmer physique for a few years now.
Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval is one of the heftier star athletes in professional sports that aren’t football or sumo wrestling. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to believe this dude makes a living as an athlete.
Recently Sandoval debuted a substantially slimmed-down bod on Instagram and has said he plans to drop even more. This wasn’t the first time; he dropped 38 pounds back in 2011 but just as quickly gained it back.
NBA player Eddy Curry was notoriously overpaid by the Knicks, who forked over tens of millions to him. And, in turn, Curry forked over tens of millions of calories…to his mouth.
Eventually Curry was sent packing from New York and lost upwards of 100 pounds before he was signed to a one-year deal by the Heat in 2012.
Nine-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca played most of his 13 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers and played most of them at or around 320 pounds. An awful lot of weight to carry around all those years, even for a 6’5" athlete.
Recently Faneca revealed a physical transformation that can only be described as draw-jobbing. He’s lost nearly 100 pounds, and earlier this year he ran a full marathon in under four hours, according to TMZ.