The New York Times best-selling author and personal trainer Drew Manning caught the nation’s attention in 2011 with his Fit2Fat2Fit journey, which saw him put on 75 pounds, then lost again, for mental and physical health over a 12-month period better understand processes some of his overweight customers went through.
Picked up by CNN, Good Morning America, and the Tonight Show, the story provided evidence that weight and body fat can be lost in the same amount of time it takes to gain weight. His story even inspired a spin-off TV show on A&E.
Now at the age of 40, Manning decided to repeat the process again, this time as a test to see if maturity would slow his ability to get back in shape.
He started round 2 in 2020 and gained 60 pounds over the course of a year, then lost it. Not only did Manning drop the excess weight, his final weight was a pound below where he had started. And to top it off, his body fat content dropped to 4.5%, as opposed to his initial reading of 8.4%.
M&F spoke to Manning, who attributes his ability to lose fat to a paleo and keto-based diet. The trainer says that during this physically and emotionally stressful process he developed more empathy for the challenges some of his clients face while losing weight. In order for others to win their weight loss battle, Manning begins making sensible decisions while finding balance. As an example, Manning shared a clean peanut butter biscuit recipe that he used many times during his Fit2Fat2Fit journey to show how you can both make profit and enjoy life.
Courtesy Lyman Winn
Was it scary working on getting out of shape the way you ever were?
The idea was to quit exercising for the entire six months, which of course got me into the worst shape of my life. Was it scary? Absolutely! I’ve never been overweight in my life so this was my first experience.
How did you find the process of “letting go”?
It was fun letting me go at first, but that’s short-lived. It may have been fun for a couple of weeks, but then it got a lot harder. The weight gain felt like an identity loss to me so I kind of freaked out. My identity was based on my body being in some shape, and now being overweight was a very humiliating experience.
Did you develop a food addiction during these experiments?
I wouldn’t use the word “addiction”, but I definitely had a very strong desire. I also noticed that my body craved these foods every day, which I fed it over and over again. But even though these foods temporarily made me feel better, I ended up feeling worse.
Did you have any health concerns about being overweight?
I didn’t have anything important that would make me stop what I was doing [in the short term]. The body is quite resilient and can take a lot of abuse, but my blood pressure was very high, my testosterone dropped to very low levels, and most of my lipids were out of whack.
What was the most pleasant aspect of gaining body fat during these experiments?
The most pleasant part was the convenience. It’s a nice feeling when you’re hungry and no matter where you are, you can have your food delivered or you don’t have to drive far to find the nearest fast food restaurant. The food definitely tasted fantastic and you feel great – even if only for a short time.
Were you surprised that you could lose weight as quickly or faster than you gained?
I think one factor that shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that I’ve only been overweight for four or six months, so my body’s homeostasis is inherently leaner and thinner. I’m sure this has helped me lose weight within the timeframe that I have given myself. For others who have been overweight for years or even decades, weight loss may be a little slower depending on their lifestyle and the habits they have developed over the years.
I was also really impressed with how my body reacted at 40. Age is just a number, and although it might be more difficult for some due to hormonal and metabolic changes, it is still possible.
Do you think people could get better results when they get in shape when they set specific goals?
Yeah, I think so, but it’s more than that. Instead of seeing your body as something you hate and despise, it’s time to change that and appreciate what you have, even if it’s not perfect you should enjoy every progress. This is a much healthier approach than hating yourself all your life. Therefore, transformation is much more mental and emotional than people think.
How important is it for people to understand that the fitness journey is full of ups and downs, rather than just going in one direction?
This is a great component for people. Many people think that to be successful they have to be perfect all the time, and when they “screw it up” they think they have to start over. It’s almost like an on and off switch for them. They are either 100% off or 100% on. There is nothing in between.
I like teaching people the “dimmer switch” approach. So instead of ON or OFF, use a mental dimmer switch that can sometimes be used to increase or decrease the brightness. So if you’re having a cheat meal / cheat day, don’t turn this switch off, just dim it a little. Then the next day, flip it back exactly where it was before. When it comes to health and fitness, it doesn’t always have to be about getting lean or getting lean. Sometimes it can be more about therapy, healthy habits, increased mental clarity, positive emotions, and dealing with stress. This is not a sprint to an imaginary finish line. There is NO finish line. The journey never ends and it is okay to take breaks on this journey, but never give up on yourself.
Courtesy Lyman Winn
Drew Manning’s Clean Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe
Courtesy Karen BethersM + F magazineM + F magazineM + F magazine