I know what you’re thinking. These ‘before and after’ pictures are out of order, right? The middle picture is supposed to be the ‘after.’ Well, it was my ‘after’ picture 2 years ago. The picture on the right is what I currently look like. You might say, “But Brett, I don’t understand. You’re a trainer. Aren’t you supposed to always look like the guy in the middle?” I used to think that too, because honestly, that’s what we’re told to believe. But through my journey I’ve realized that the level of work and dedication it takes to not only get the body in the middle, but also maintain it, isn’t sustainable for me - and it isn’t even remotely fun.
So how did I go from the left, to the middle, to the right?
I was the guy on the left up until about 9 years ago, and I was miserable. I ate whatever and whenever I wanted (mostly favoring fast food) and my version of exercise was getting off the couch to grab more ice cream. As a result, I hated how I felt. I hated how I looked. I had no energy; no self-confidence. And I was far from who I wanted to be.
When I finally decided enough was enough, I committed to making changes in my life so that I could leave this version of myself behind and never return. I started with at-home workouts, and later started participating in High Intensity Interval Training classes. Along the way I also established healthier eating habits. Slowly but surely, I started to see results. I started feeling better about myself and my body, so much so that I wanted to help others feel the same way, so I became a fitness trainer. After several years of hard work, the guy on the left became a stranger to me.
Then, in 2018 some coworkers and I decided to undergo a nine week transformation challenge to try and get in the best shape of our lives. I ramped up my workouts and buckled down on my nutrition more than ever before, and by the end of the nine weeks I became the guy in the middle. I succeeded in the goal of getting in the best shape of my life. But there was one major problem: I was miserable. Not the same kind of miserable as the guy on the left, but miserable nonetheless.
I was happy with my body, sure. But I hated the process and all of the work it took to get it. I was working out two to three hours a day, six days a week. I felt the need to add on to the HIIT workouts I loved with extra cardio training that I despised. I tracked every single thing I ate. I deprived myself of many of the foods I enjoyed because they were “bad.” I drank nothing but water. There were absolutely no cheat days to enjoy a few slices of pizza. No beers with the boys while watching football. No ice cream outings with my family. And any time I was craving something or was tempted to veer off my plan, I told myself “it’s just nine weeks.” I was disciplined and I was seeing results, but I wasn’t having any fun. More importantly, I was missing out on the things in life that mattered more to me. All of the extra time I put into working out kept me away from spending time with family and friends. And even if I did have the time to join in for some fun activities, I was so fixated on sticking with my nutrition plan that I couldn’t even fully enjoy myself. I’ll never forget one day about halfway through the challenge when I was with my family on a hot summer day. We had just finished a round of golf, and my wife and step-kids wanted to stop and grab a snow cone to help cool down. They all ordered their treats and I ordered a large water. I remember sitting there miserably thinking to myself, “This is ridiculous. Why am I drinking water while they’re enjoying a snow cone?” But I continued to tell myself “It’s just nine weeks. Suck it up, and gut through it, and then you can eat some treats again.” I was willingly suffering through the process of getting the body I thought I wanted, and thought I needed in order to be a fitness professional, but I realized through it that the work I was putting in wasn’t worth it to me.
There had to be another way. There had to be more than being all-in or all-out. There had to be a happy medium between being a couch potato who eats fast food and ice cream all the time, and being uptight about working out constantly and eating vegetables with every meal, because neither side of the spectrum was proving to be enjoyable for me.
It was then that I decided that I would rather cut myself some slack to eat the right stuff most of the time and exercise often enough for me to look like the guy on the right, rather than kill myself to look like the guy in the middle. And to be honest, I feel just as good now as I did then, but I’m much, much happier. I’m still disciplined with my food, and practice moderation. I still exercise regularly. I’m still gaining strength. But now I do it in a way that allows me to live my life without constantly worrying about what I’m eating and how I’m going to maximize my gains each day. The work that I put in now feels so much more worth it to me. If I don’t do anything, I go back to the misery of the guy on the left, and I know I don’t want that. But I also don’t want to put in so much work, that I’m stressing myself out about doing everything perfectly. One guy was all-in and the other guy was all-out. And both weren’t very happy. I’d rather live in the gray and do the right stuff most of the time. It’s just taken me all this time to figure out exactly what balance of that works for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, in order to achieve results, there is hard work to be done and sacrifices to be made. You’re going to have to cut back on processed sugar. You’re going to have to replace soda with water. You’re going to have to stop eating out as much and put more thought into your meals. You’re going to have to push through workouts that challenge you. You’re going to have to put in some work. But my goal is to help people figure out what kind of balance works for them, and is in line with their overall goals. That’s the biggest key to sticking with it over the long-run. And isn’t that what’s worth it in the end?