You might have seen or read about Drew Manning, the personal trainer who decided to gain 70 pounds of fat in six months and then get back into shape in six months. Manning’s purpose was to better understand the physical and psychological issues that his clients go through when it comes to weight gain and to provide them with a blueprint as to how to get it off.
Almost 20 years ago I had my own unintentional Drew Manning experiment. After tearing my Achilles tendon playing basketball, I was placed in a cast for three months. Complications from recovery (my own fault, which will be a story for another day) caused me to remain basically immobilized for another three months. Up until this time, I was like Drew Manning. I had worked as a personal trainer, was in the gym six days a week, ate pretty clean and was really into the whole bodybuilding scene.
With the injury, things went south quickly. Not being able to work out depressed me. This depression, along with a lousy diet (see below), caused me to put on weight at an alarming rate.
The Fat-Boy Diet Plan
Cap’n Crunch Cereal With Milk
Fast Food Meal (Don’t ask me why but it was usually Taco Bell. Maybe because it was right across the street from the house.)
Ice Cream or Some Sort of Dessert
PLUS: Soda, Chips, Candy, Crackers, Cookies, Filipino Sweets, Bread and/or anything else I could get my hands on.
In the next several months, I proceeded to put on roughly 60 pounds of fat. I was now around a whopping 220. I can go into all of the gory details but suffice to say I was wearing sweats a lot, I was short of breath walking from the driveway to the front door and my self-confidence/esteem was pretty much shot.
Fortunately I was surrounded by extremely supportive (and fitness conscious) people. Within a year of gaining the weight and being able to walk again, I managed to get the weight off and return to my normal self. I cannot begin to explain the physical and psychological relief that I felt when the weight finally came off.
This is an extreme example. For most of us, job, family, personal responsibilities and other priorities usually get in the way of our diet and exercise. Then one day you’re shaving and you notice your little pouch resting on the sink counter. You take a picture with friends and see an extra chin starting to develop. More commonly your “comfortable” clothes aren’t so comfortable anymore.
The fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar business. There are a lot of people in the “I’m fat so now what?” boat. There is an overwhelming amount of information available to you, so I won’t talk about exercise and diet. Here are some things that helped me through my own Drew Manning experience:
- Set The Target: Losing weight is not a goal, it’s just a vague thought. Be specific. I will lose 50 pounds by this time next year. I will fit comfortably into a (insert pants size here). Like with any other goal, if you’re not specific, your mind will wander off the path.
- Get Some Help: I’m not saying go out and hire a personal trainer and nutritionist (although that’s definitely an option). But find a good guide to help you on your journey. There are a million different resources and fitness personalities out there. Do some research and find someone (or some program) that feels right to you. The amount of information can be overwhelming, so take your time. For me, I used Bill Phillip’s “Body For Life” program. I still use some of his principles to this day.
- Find A Trigger: Motivation can be a fleeting emotion and often times it isn’t enough to sustain a long-term goal. But like Nietzsche says, “A strong enough why can bear almost any how.” For some, it could be a heart attack. Others, the inability to play with their kids. Mine? Finding the guts to really look at myself in the mirror. It made me sick. That plus a friend’s wedding in several months. I knew there would be people there I hadn’t seen in several years and I didn’t want to show up in the condition I was in.
- Be Patient: This is the real killer right here. Look, it took you an extended period of time to gain weight. You won’t lose it all by next week. People diet, exercise their butts off and then quit after two weeks because the scale only says they lost one pound. Execute your plan knowing it’s going to take time. Long-term weight loss is a lifetime commitment. In other words, a marathon, not a sprint.
- Find Enjoyable Activities: You shouldn’t be dragging yourself to the gym or your group fitness class. Find an activity that you actually look forward to. Martial arts, Crossfit, swimming, running, morning boot camp, alone, with friends or co-workers…whatever it is, do something you enjoy.
- Reward Yourself: A big vacation? Major purchase? New wardrobe? When you hit your target, make sure you reward yourself big time. You’ve sacrificed, planned, worked hard and reached your goal. This is something worth celebrating.