From Overweight To Athlete: Caleb Swanigan’s Weight Loss Story And The Lessons He Learned

Caleb Swanigan

Caleb Swanigan was a professional American basketball player who played mostly for the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA. He was drafted in the 2017 NBA draft. Many fans recognize Caleb for his unbelievable body weight transition. Today, we will talk about the remarkable Caleb Swanigan weight loss journey.

His journey to the NBA is a true fairy tale. He went from a homeless obese child to a professional NBA player. Sadly, he died at the age of 25, but it had nothing to do with his weight gain or weight loss. Let’s take a look at the story of former NBA player Caleb Swanigan.

Who Was Caleb Swanigan

Born in April 1997, Caleb was an American professional basketball player for the National Basketball Association. Before joining the NBA, Caleb played college basketball for the Purdue Boilermakers. Born Caleb Sylvester Swanigan, he was ranked among the top prep players in the national class of 2015.

Originally, he committed to Michigan State University, yet, he later de-committed and chose Purdue University instead. During his college years, he was named Big Ten freshman of the week three times, which was a record at Purdue.

During his sophomore year, he was named to the first-team All Big Ten, and voted as the first-team All-American.

Growing up in an unstable home due to his father who had a crack cocaine addiction, made life challenging and hard for the young man. His mother Tanya had six children. During his youth, he moved between Utah and Indianapolis, even spending time in homeless shelters at some point.

His father died in 2014 from complications from diabetes. At the time, Caleb was entering eighth grade, measuring 360 pounds. This is what prompted him to shed pounds and completely change his life.

Why He Lost Weight?

We all have a guilty pleasure. For Caleb, it was cheesecake. In one interview with ESPN, he said, “I am a dessert person. I am not a potato chip eater. I can say no to those easy, but desserts are really my thing”.

And he knew one can easily become two, three, and over time, unhinge the weight roller coaster. He rode that thing to 360 pounds before his eighth grade.

During his youth, he floated between unstable housing situations and homeless shelters. His mother, Tanya, tried to stabilize her life while his father fought with crack and cocaine addiction. He developed a complicated relationship with food, surrounded by unhealthy options. Unable to consider quality, he was on pizza, sugary cereal, and ice cream.

And then in high school, he lost more than 100 pounds. Sometimes when he reflected on his journey, he called it an experience.

Swanigan says, “One meal won’t kill you, but if it becomes three or four meals that are bad in a row, that’s when it starts to hurt your body”.

The Turning Point

Growing up in a challenging home full of obstacles, he lived a traumatic childhood. His father battled drug addiction, but he was also obese, weighing around 500 lbs. Eventually, his father died of diabetes-related complications.

When his mother decided to move the family to Houston, Caleb was concerned he would keep gaining weight if he moved with her. His brother, Carl Jr., called his former AAU basketball coach Roosevelt Barnes, a former three-sport star at Purdue.

Barnes was living in Fort Wayne and agreed to take Caleb in if he could adopt him and raise him as his own son. Before his 8th grade, Barnes adopted the young man and addressed his eating habits.

After getting clearance from a cardiologist, Roosevelt put him through workouts similar to those college players go through. By the time Swanigan finished high school, he slimmed down to 260 pounds.

Before Roosevelt took him in, he weighed almost 400 pounds and was homeless. In a span of one year, he lost 140 lbs and looked almost unrecognizable.

He was an obese kid. But he worked as hard as anyone to improve his conditioning. Caleb never gave up and eventually developed into one of the most outstanding high school basketball prospects.

Caleb Swanigan before and after weight loss


How He Lost Weight?

The big difference for Caleb was changing his eating habits. Before Barnes adopted him, he had an unhealthy diet, with lots of pizza and sweats. So, the first thing he had to do was change his diet.

He knew his father died from diabetes complications, and he was fully aware that diet plays a big part in your healthy body.

When he was adopted by Barnes, Swanigan discovered the stability he has been searching for. He began an intense training program after a physician determined his heart could withstand it.

And he never stopped. His diet was changed, but the big part was the workout regime. In only three years, thanks to his commitment to exercise and work, he earned a degree and rose to the top 10 recruits.

He opted for Purdue, and during his college basketball career, he recorded 16 double-doubles in 20 games. His coach there, Matt Painter, said he feels amazement at how far the young kid has gone.

How Did His Day Look Like?

Now let’s take a look at Caleb Swanigan’s weight loss diet. We said he had to completely change his diet, but how did it look? Before he was on pizza and sweats like cheesecake. But what happened after?

The main thing is you have to be consistent. Caleb stressed that all the time. Here is a sample of his day.

  • For breakfast, he had whole-grain oatmeal to get the day going with fruits and vegetables
  • Because he practiced at 2 pm, he had something small for lunch. He didn’t want to eat big before practice, so he had a small lunch before it
  • And for dinner, he strived to get a good dose of protein and a good range of vegetables

Caleb understood that bad food ruins your body. Or in the words of his teammate at Purdue, “You do not want to put regular gas in a Lamborghini. As a very fine-tuned machine, you have less room for error”.

Post-Basketball Career and Death

Thanks to his amazing work, Caleb was able to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. Before he declared for the NBA draft, league officials told him to work on his body.

While he lost weight, he had to sculpt his frame. And he continued working on his body. That helped him get into the NBA. The Portland Trail Blazers selected him in the 2017 NBA draft. Swanigan spent five years in the league, three playing for Portland, and two for the Sacramento Kings.

Sadly, he passed away on June 20, 2022, in a Fort Wayne, Indiana hospital. He was 25 at the time and three years removed from his NBA career.

At the time of his passing, many speculated that the former NBA player died because of his weight loss journey. But there is no truth in that. The hospital said he lost his life due to natural causes.

Mourning his death, many basketball players shared their condolence on social media. Caleb’s journey from an obese kid to an athlete is amazing. His death remains one of the great losses in the NBA.

While he never averaged more than 2.4 points per game, his story of how he made it to the league remains an inspiration and motivation for a lot of young people.

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