This is the 3rd article in a series aimed at helping people reclaim their health, namely through examining dietary habits and making positive changes.

In the first article, we examined why are we so dedicated to disease, and in the second one the diet-inflammation connection.

This month I felt compelled to share with you a remarkable story that I think everyone needs to hear about. Just over a year ago, a man named Drew Manning embarked on an experiment to dramatically change his diet and exercise habits with incredible results. Now before you think, “oh no, not another story on someone who did an amazing makeover”, just read on about how radical this was.

Drew happened to be a very fit and muscular 31 year old man – let’s just say his chiseled physique could easily have graced the cover of a GQ magazine and had a few ladies do a double take. He also happens to be a personal trainer and admits to being a lifelong fitness junkie and ate a healthy diet to match. He works with and coaches a wide range of people, all the way from athletes to people who need to lose a few or even several hundred pounds.

At 6 ft 2 inches tall, in May 2011 he weighed 193lbs and had a 34” waist. He decided to embark on a physical transformation to purposely gain weight and live an unhealthy lifestyle for 6 months and then spend the next 6 months trying to regain his former shape – hence the title of his endeavor: Fit to Fat to Fit. His main goal for doing this was simply to gain insight into the plight of his obese clients.

From Fit to Fat

So at first the fun began. He quit exercising altogether and admittedly loved the feeling of eating all those foods he didn’t indulge in before. So you can probably guess what he filled himself with: soda pop, white bread, Kraft dinner, sugary cereals, fast-food hamburgers – basically the typical standard American diet (I’ve referred to this S.A.D. acronym before).

It wasn’t long before his washboard abs washed out under a layer of flab, and then gradually over the months he said he felt “lethargic and gross all the time”. By the end of the 6 months, he weighed 265lbs and went up to a 48” waist; in other words, in 6 months he gained 72lbs and added 14” to his waistline.

From Fat to Fit

The real eye-opening transformation was going back to his former lean self in the same amount of time it took to gain it. He developed a serious addiction to Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and Mountain Dew soda pop, and he readily admitted that these were very difficult cravings to overcome psychologically. And as he states when he quit the junk foods, “it was hell for the first two weeks” and went through withdrawal symptoms and headaches. Wow, it sounds no different than addiction to drugs!

All in all, he was able to return to his old buff self even though he had serious doubts if it were even possible at first, not to mention the apathy he first felt towards the thought of exercising again. Within 6 months with the combination of healthy eating and exercise, he was no worse for the wear except for a few residual stretch marks on his sides. His full year experiment ended just this past May (2012) and if you want to be even more amazed, visit his gallery of photographs.

It’s About More Than Just Weight

What I found the most interesting part of his journey were the effects other than the visible physical changes that Drew struggled with while gaining weight. He said his self-confidence plummeted, he had no energy, he slept worse and worse over the 6 months (he even developed a snoring habit as the weight piled on), and it strained his family life. And incredibly, he didn’t even notice his mood swings until his wife pointed them out to him, as well as how much his laziness was taking a toll on their marriage.

This left me wondering just how incredibly powerful the effects of our day-to-day choices are when we don’t really think about what we are feeding ourselves, or putting off exercise because we simply don’t make the time for it. How many people walk around living a life of far less than their full potential without even realizing it? It took Drew a mere 6 months to see and feel the negative effects; imagine those that live on unhealthy or excess food or don’t exercise for years! How is this affecting family relationships and what kind of messages are filtering down to our children in the ways we eat and behave? And believe me this is not just about losing weight because I know many people who are slim but eat a diet that leaves me wondering how they are even still alive.

Ultimately the choice has to be made in one’s mind to turn around unhealthy habits. The first step is to start to observe a little more about what goes into your body. Acknowledging that improvements can be made and becoming conscious is the first step. Educating oneself about new habits takes some time and effort, but as knowledge grows and action steps are taken, confidence grows as well. Just think: you have only this one life to live with your body being the physical house for your soul. Are you not worth it to treat yourself with the utmost care and to feed yourself healthy?