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What trainer Drew Manning learned after gaining 60 pounds

So back in 2011 I had this crazy idea to get fat on purpose...

I remember very clearly the morning I woke up and decided to get fat. On purpose. The year was 2011, and I had no idea how that decision would change my life.

Before explaining what led to this moment, let me share a little of my background. I was number seven in a family of 11 siblings. I loved sports. I spent most of time playing football and wrestling, which meant I was always in pretty good shape. I never had to watch my weight, and never had any food issues. I ate when I was hungry and that was the extent of my relationship with food. So for me, being in shape came pretty easily and it’s all I ever knew.

Fast forward to 2011 when I became a fitness trainer, teaching people how to get in shape. Since being in shape came easy for me, I thought is should come easy for everyone else. I just had no concept of how difficult it could be for others to be consistent with meal plans and workouts. But I was about to realize that a one-size fits all approach to fitness does not work. No way. No how.

One day during a training session with a male client, he said to me “you have no idea what my struggles are. You just can’t relate. It is easy for you to sit there sporting six pack abs and tell me how to get in shape, but I will never look like you no matter how hard I try. You should try walking in my shoes for a few days.” His comments resonated with me. The more I thought about what he said, the more I realized he was right. I took that to heart and immediately started thinking of ways I could gain a better understanding of where my clients were in their journey and the difficulties they faced.

And the very next morning I had my epiphany. I would walk in his shoes by gaining weight. A lot of weight. I would document the entire process from being fit to being fat so I could better understand the challenges of getting back into shape. This was my calling.

After a week of preparation and planning, I decided to gain as much weight as I could over a six-month period. I would eat essentially whatever I wanted, indulge in standard American diet foods such as white bread, cereals, sodas, chips, cookies and fast food, and stop working out. At the end of six months, I would then begin a journey back to fit.

The weight came on easily. In six months I gained 75 lbs. But what I also gained was a new perspective. I realized just how unbalanced I had been in my approach towards helping my clients get in shape. My focus had always been on the physical that involved meal plans, workouts, macros, calories and supplements to the exclusion of the mental and emotional side of their transformation. I also gained a sense of empathy that I had previously lacked. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what my clients felt about themselves and the real struggles they faced.

I grew in many other ways through the fit2fat2fit journey. I had never understood the powerful, emotional connection people have with food. Not being able to resist certain temptations, in my mind, was just a lack of discipline. I now knew that wasn’t true. During my weight gain, I experienced food cravings that I almost always succumbed to. The struggle had become real for me.

After 6 months or so, when I finally was able to lose the weight and return to my fit self, I was a different person-a better person I would like to think and definitely a better trainer.
Understanding that being fit is both physical and mental, I wrote a book about what I had learned. Fit2Fat2Fit became a NY Times Best Seller and spawned an A&E TV show.
I turned 40 this past December, just as I hit the half-way mark of my second Fit2Fat2Fit journey. Why would I do this again, you ask? What could I possibly learn a second time? The first journey was about me learning things I needed to know for my own growth. This time it is different. This time it's about me trying to spread the message of empathy, especially in the fitness industry, which lacks an empathetic approach in my opinion. My hope is to bring awareness to the importance of the mental and emotional side of transformation.

I also wanted to do it at 40 because I kept hearing people say that getting back in shape at 40 is incredibly hard. I wanted to show people over 40 that it is never too late to live healthy lives, even as our metabolisms slow down.

My second journey is much more data driven too. I am tracking heart rates and sleep patterns. I am doing cognitive brain testing to see what impact an unhealthy lifestyle has on our brains. I am doing blood work to analyze blood glucose levels. I am monitoring sexual and emotional health and stress levels.

The data doesn’t lie, and paints a clear picture of how living an unhealthy lifestyle and eating processed food can have an effect on our mental and emotional capacity to handle other stresses in our lives like kids, finances, relationships and work.

I started my journey back to fit on January 4th after gaining 68 pounds. These two journeys have taught me so much about myself and my approach to what I do for a living. My goal now is to share what I have learned and hopefully build a community of people who accept and love who they are, strive to make the changes in their lives they want, and support each other in their journey to living a healthy life, and I invite you to join me on this great adventure.


Health and fitness expert Drew Manning is the New York Times best-selling author of Fit2Fat2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and Losing 75 lbs on Purpose and has for years been a leading voice in the burgeoning Keto Diet movement.
Drew is also the creator of the A&E Show Fit to Fat to Fit and the host of The Fit2Fat2Fit Experience podcast. With over a million social media followers, Drew continues to transform people’s lives all around the world.

Known for his straightforward and empathetic fitness and health coaching, Drew has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, The View, and MSNBC, among other media outlets.

He lives in Hawaii, with his daughters, who remind him every day not to take things too seriously.

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