We're all born with a certain amount of fat cells in our body. If we gain weight over time, those fat cells swell and will actually multiply as we get heavier. If you lose weight, those fat cells will shrink (you get smaller), but the extra cells that were formed never go away. This is why a person who was fat is at a much higher risk of getting fat again in their lifetime. Sounds kind of shitty, right?! Once you swell and multiply fat cells, it's a little easier for the body to regain fat if you let your nutrition slip up. But this doesn't mean to give up and stop trying to stay lean and healthy. It means to be more proactive and stay on top of your training and eating habits.
Ok. Enough with the "science-y" mumbo jumbo, let's talk about how you can get leaner and stay leaner. Most people see a trainer and automatically assume that we all have eight-packs, are the strongest humans on the planet, and that we're great at everything. Well, I can assure you that this is NOT the case. In-fact, it's extremely far from the truth. Trainers may try and hide their flaws and hide things that they're not good at (many do), but I personally don't. Early on in my career I knew that connecting with clients was vital in helping them. To successfully establish these connections, I've always been very open, honest and real with clients--especially, when it comes to things I eat or things I struggle with.
Growing up, I ate like most American kids--pizza, chicken fingers, hot dogs, french fries and I drank a ton of soda. I also played sports my entire life, even as a little fat kid. Baseball was my passion, I would play seven days a week, year round. I played basketball a lot too. I even lifted weights for most of my life. BUT...I always ate like crap. That type of eating led me to struggle with getting and staying in shape. Training as hard as I was with poor sleeping habits, poor nutritional habits and drinking alcohol all the time allowed me to slowly pack on the pounds. My body was breaking down and I started to get nagging injures, which eventually led to bigger injuries and finally put a halt on my athletic career.
The decisions I was making were all self-inflicted. There's no one to blame but myself and I take full responsibility. It's easy to point fingers and blame others for things that happen to us, but deep down we know who's to blame. Taking accountability for yourself and your actions is the only way to make changes. If you don't fully accept where you are in life, you can't take the appropriate steps to make things better.
My eating habits, injuries and poor mental strength led me to balloon up to about 335 lbs. I was big and I could feel the weight pressing on my joints and on my mind. I knew I had to do something about it. I looked up training schools online and found the National Personal Training Institute of Philadelphia. I didn't initially think of becoming a trainer, more, I wanted to learn about the body, training and nutrition at a deeper level so that I could help dig myself out of my obese state.
After sitting in on one class with the head instructor, Barry Fritz, I was hooked. This man captured my attention immediately with how well he explained very complicated topics. He was funny, witty, humble and very intelligent. That day I knew that I had to go change my coins in for bills at the supermarket to pay for the first month of school....I was going to become a Trainer!
Learning became life. I would show up early to class and study the skeleton "dummies" in the class room. I made flash cards with classmates to learn all of the origins, insertions and joint actions of all the muscles in the body. I stayed after class and re-read the nutrition chapters that we had just gone over. Plain and simple, I found my passion. I learned how to cook basic, healthy meals for myself at home. I learned how to lift weights properly with the right intensities. I learned how to control my portions better, and I learned that consistency was the key. I applied everything I learned to my personal life and after the first seven months in school, I dropped fat like a boss. I went from 335 lbs to approximately 280 lbs.
I graduated school and worked at a great place in New Jersey for a couple of years honing my skills. I worked double shifts, five days a week, training four people an hour for eight hours a day. Also, I was bouncing at an after-hours night club most nights of the week to make some extra cash. I got a lot of experience in a short amount of time that helped me become a better coach. As I was working in NJ, bouncing and saving up to open up a spot of my own, I started training clients outside the gym. I was so motivated to help people and give them that positive outlook that we're all looking for. I knew that by just planting ideas and motivation in people's minds that they could accomplish whatever it was they wanted to--just like Barry did for me...
I still have a "fat kid" mindset sometimes when it comes to food. I have to be careful or I could blow up to 335 lbs again and it wouldn't be hard to do (remember the fat cells). But with a little preparation and consistency with my training and meal planning, I stay around 250 lbs - 265 lbs. In the winter, I lift a lot heavier and eat a lot heavier, but still pretty healthy. In the summer, I cut down my portion sizes, train a little lighter and lean up for race season. I'm definitely stronger when I'm heavier, but not as mobile or as healthy.
The bottom line is: you can't out-train a poor diet. If you eat like shit and lift weights, you'll look like you eat like shit and lift weights. Getting control over what you put into your face is vital if you want to get leaner, there are no exceptions. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar goals, makes this a lot easier to attain. When you have a friend, a teammate or a coach who gives you the right motivation and the right direction, it's hard to fail. As long as you put that gift into action; most of us just need to be told that we can do it.
I'll never forget a fellow classmate who had a phrase he would yell out at me all the time if I had any self doubt on a lift or if I would question myself on my next move for my future. He would look me dead in the eyes and say: "Why the fuck not?" The way he would say it to me left me without a very good response, so I would just do it! And that was his goal, to show me that I could do it and that I should do it. To this day, when I have an idea or if I'm about to smoke a big lift, I tell myself that line. When I was hesitant about opening up my own gym, I finally told myself, "Why the fuck not?" When I want to PR my Dead Lift, but the weight was a little out of my range, I tell myself "Why the fuck not?" That phrase for my buddy and I was what we needed to motivate each other, if you want to do something, just go do it. The real difference between people who succeed and those people who fail, is action. The people who put their plan into action and just go for it, succeed; it's that simple.
For anyone looking to make a big change with their health and fitness, I'm here to tell you that you can indeed do it. It won't be easy and there will be struggles, but you can do it. Make a plan, stick to it, and watch the magic happen. A lot of people just don't have the toughness to stay consistent and this leads to their ultimate failure. Don't fall into that group, with the right mindset ("why the fuck not"), the right amount of intensity, and proper consistency, you will succeed.
Lastly, when I took control of my training schedule and eating habits, a huge part of my success was my intensity in the gym. If you ever trained with me you know that I don't like to play around during my workout. I'm a happy, fun loving guy, but when I'm lifting I want laser focus on my movements. When you really pay attention and give every bit of energy to every single lift, you will get better quickly. You allow yourself to gain a better mind/body connection, which turns into better form and more intensity. That added intensity allows your body to pack on more muscle and bone, which leads to more fat loss because your body becomes a fat burning machine.