I have a confession to make:
I hate before and after pictures.
It’s true. I hate them. With a passion.
Most before and after pictures you see are advertisements. Let’s make no qualms about it. And call a spade a spade. Why is there even such a thing? One reason:
Before and after pics sell.
And the fact that most before and after pics are emblazoned across the pages of Flex and Muscular Development in the corner of an advertisement for the latest supplement should tell you something………….
Most before and after pics are complete bullshit.
Photoshopping is the norm. With better lighting, a more favorable wardrobe choice, a spray tan, and some water manipulation, the body can look DRASTICALLY different in the morning than in the afternoon.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this Youtube video highlighting the dubious process of “Before and After Photoshooting”.
And these are for the legit before and after shots. Some are straight up lies.
Stories circulate around the internet of various “before and after” shots ACTUALLY being “after and before” shots. Fit, in shape people are actually paid to get fat……….and then get their pictures taken.
After all, getting fat is substantially easier than getting lean.
But I’m an online consultant. And before and after shots are kinda the norm in this business.
And I’ve got my fair share.
I might hate the concept and the idea of the before and after shot as a whole, I love putting them out on our client transformation page.
For a few reasons:
1. I want people to understand what a real, 12-week progress shot looks like.
Those who send me before and after shots have done an unreal job. No questions asked. And some of the differences are rather profound.
Now, are those people going to lose 40 pounds or gain 15 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks? Not at all. You can’t. That type of progress isn’t possible in 12 weeks.
It’s the “P90x Syndrome”. I know what you see on those commercials. And those pictures might be legit. But from the looks of things, those people lost 2-3 pounds of weight (or more) per WEEK.
The only way to do that is an extremely low-caloric intake on top of brutal physical exercise. Not many can do it. And there’s no WAY they are losing straight fat. A lot of muscle has been lost as well.
And guess what happens when that sort of an intake and workout plan stops?
The. Weight. All. Comes. Back.
Think they’ll do P90x forever? I’ll bet 95% of the P90x DVDs in existence sit unused in a pile of other, discarded DVDs.
Real 12-week progress is more subtle. But it’s sustainable. And if you string together 12 weeks, then another 12 weeks, then another 12 weeks, pretty soon fitness becomes what you do…………….
And you have some real, concrete, sustainable results.
2. My clients are proud of what they’ve done and I’m damn proud of them as well.
I want to show everyone the awesome work they have done and the dedication they have had.
My clients, at the end of their 12 weeks, sometimes are ready to be displayed on the internet, but sometimes they are not.
But no matter their current stage, if one of them wants their progress to be shown, then dammit, so be it.
One of my clients just finishing up his 12 weeks with me was recently highlighted on the client transformation page.
The client’s name is Mike, a (now) 26-year old from Fort Worth, Texas.
He showed optimal compliance and got fantastic results.
Here’s Mike’s before and after, 12-weeks of progress, picture:
But it wasn’t this picture that blew me away.
Yes, Mike’s 12 weeks is pretty damn close to about as good as it gets for 3 months’ worth of progress.
I was happy and proud of him, and I can’t wait to continue to work with Mike. He’s an ideal client.
But it was his one YEAR of progress “before and after” that literally made my jaw drop:
Originally, I wasn’t going to put his one year of progress picture on the internet. After all, 40 out of those 52 weeks were spent either on his own or with another coach.
But I saw a potentially valuable teachable moment.
When prospective clients send me an email, often times I have to set some realistic goals for them. And realistic goals are never, “Lose 50 pounds in 12 weeks”. And sometimes I need to be blunt and honest with people.
I’ve lost a few clients because when starting out, I’ll tell them up front, “This is going to take a year or more to accomplish”, and that scares them away.
But I’m not going to lie to them.
Want to lose 30 pounds? Here you go:
Buy P90x, get on Nutrisystem. If you can make it the full 90 days, I promise you will lose 30 pounds.
But you’ll gain it all back. And then some. And you’ll lose valuable muscle in the process.
So, I asked Mike if he’d be interested in doing a short interview. I thought his perspective could benefit others.
Surely, in a year’s worth of kick-ass progress, he’s had some ups and downs. In the past year, Mike’s lost 45 pounds and has become light years stronger than he was at the start. His waistline has been reduced by a full 5 inches.
My questions are bolded and his answers are italicized. I have underlined the portions that really struck a chord with me.
1. Congratulations on the phenomenal transformation. Your one-year pictures, especially, are remarkable. What initially caused you to decide to make a change in your life?
Thanks, Jason. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share my journey and what I’ve learned with others.
I initially decided to make a change around the time I turned 25 in February of 2013.
I didn’t know exactly what those changes would be at the time, but I wanted to “get in shape” and “be healthier” before my wife and I started having kids.
I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “I need to do something now before I’m 50 and have diabetes or something.”
Basically I knew I needed to lose some weight, but I didn’t have any specific goals beyond that.
The first thing I did was reach out to a buddy of mine from college who was a trainer for the Kansas City Royals baseball team. He gave me some initial guidance when it came to nutrition, but the main thing he did was provide support and hold me accountable. He would text me everyday to see how my diet was going and give me advice.
That support was a major key to my early success.
2. When you decided you needed to make a change, you chose heavy barbell lifting as the means to accomplish that. What made you decide to go this path? Did you try other methods? If so, how did they work for you compared with heavy barbell lifting?
Heavy barbell lifting wasn’t really the plan at first.
Luckily for me, I hired a great personal trainer who got me into weightlifting.
I had zero weightlifting experience before last year and most of my workouts in the past had consisted of running and bodyweight exercises.
As a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University I had some experience with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and bodyweight exercise circuits, which at the time I thought was called “Crossfit.”
So when I hired this trainer and we sat down to talk about my goal, I told him I wanted to lose weight and do Crossfit.
His response was, “Well, I’m going to have to teach you the major, compound barbell lifts and Olympic lifts first,” and then I started learning the squat, deadlift, clean, and snatch.
At first, we did all kinds of exercises just to get me moving and to build some base strength, while learning good technique for those main lifts.
I showed up at the gym 5 times a week and absolutely loved it.
At that time everyday was different, sometimes I would be doing tire flips and pushing sleds, other times would be Olympic lifts, and others would be pushing my limits with the major lifts.
After two months, I had fallen in love with weightlifting.
I still had weight loss goals, but for me it had become all about the BIG numbers.
I wanted to squat heavier, deadlift heavier; I just wanted to keep feeling stronger.
At that point I dropped Crossfit idea, stopped Olympic lifting for the most part, and started lifting heavy on the main lifts.
Both my weight loss and lifting progress started to increase pretty rapidly after I made this change.
I can honestly say that I’m in better shape as a weightlifter doing no cardio than I ever was when I was running everyday in college.
I’m leaner, stronger, and lifting is so much more fun than cardio.
I still train the Olympic lifts occasionally, but it is more for fun and for a change of pace than anything.
Of everything I have tried, I truly believe that heavy barbell lifting is the best way to make changes to your physique.
My wife is convinced now too. She started lifting with me and has been amazed at the changes she is seeing.
3. How important has your diet been in this process? Can you relate to us any alterations or difficulties you had this past year with your diet?
Diet is THE most important part of the process.
Many people that ask me what I did to lose the weight think it is the weightlifting, but I would honestly say it is about 90% diet.
There were periods in the last year where I didn’t track my diet but was still lifting and my results in that time were nowhere near what they were during the periods that I kept track of my diet.
Although I got stronger during those periods of time, I didn’t make any considerable progress when it came to my physique.
The diet hasn’t been too hard because of the incredible flexibility of my diet.
I track my macronutrients and practice intermittent fasting.
Tracking macros is flexible because you can pretty much eat whatever you want as long as you hit your Protein, Carb, and Fat numbers.
This flexibility was great because if I was dieting and had a major urge for say a piece of cake, I would just eat one of my hamburgers without a bun to account for the carbs in the cake.
This let me give into my sweet tooth without wrecking my diet that day.
Learning that a carb is a carb was a big part of my success. I had to get past that “good foods, bad foods” mentality I had when I started out.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) also made dieting much easier for me.
I don’t even remember how I discovered IF, but I was reading about it and thought to myself, “I don’t even like breakfast that much”, so I gave it a try.
I felt that implementing IF was life changing.
Eating a huge lunch and dinner while dieting was so much more satisfying than eating three smaller meals.
On top of that, I noticed that my energy levels were way up once I started practicing IF.
I would eat breakfast and feel sluggish, then when I started skipping breakfast I noticed that I was much more alert throughout the morning.
The biggest difficulty that I faced, and I’d imagine anyone faces, was consistency.
At times it can be hard to be patient and stick to the plan for the long term.
The key is to focus on one day at a time.
If you chain enough days together, then you will get results.
When you mess up, just take it in stride and get it right the next day.
In the grand scheme of things, one bad day doesn’t ruin your progress.
If you hit your macros 6 days out of the week you will probably get the results you are looking for.
The other challenge with consistency was not letting family and visitors derail your weekend.
My worst days were always when we had visitors, because there are a lot more temptations in the form of restaurants, snacks, and desserts.
I mean honestly, think about how hard it is to turn down that apple pie that your Grandma made from scratch because she knew it was your favorite. It’s hard.
My solution was to eat a piece, but keep it small.
That and realizing that not eating someone’s cooking doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
4. What does a normal meal plan look like for you? What types of foods are staples at your house? Any indulgences? How about drinking? Has this new lifestyle affected your social life? If so, in what ways?
A normal meal at my house is some sort of grilled meat and veggies for dinner most nights and some form of leftovers for lunch most days.
If it is a training day, then I will add a sweet potato to the mix or cook a meal that has a bigger carb component like burgers, tacos, or stir fry with rice.
I have always loved cooking and my wife’s talents lie elsewhere, so I cook most nights of the week.
Being responsible for the cooking and grocery shopping makes it much easier to stick to my diet.
As for staples, there are always a ton of eggs, broccoli, green beans, and salsa in our house.
My wife and I used to never eat eggs, but now we eat eggs mixed with just about anything that is in the fridge daily.
Broccoli and green beans are our go to veggies and salsa is a great low calorie item that any good Texan can add to a meal to give it some spice.
We also tend to keep either a pot of chili or leftover grilled chicken in the fridge at all times so we have an easily accessible protein to snack on or fill the gaps in our macros.
When it comes to indulgences, I have a serious weakness for Mexican food and pizza.
Luckily, Chipotle has a great nutrition calculator on their website that I can use to plan a burrito that fits neatly into my planned macros and satisfies that craving.
To get my pizza fix I will make little flatbread pizzas at home occasionally.
If my sweet tooth ever gets really bad, I tend to reach for some fat free vanilla Greek yogurt which is easy to fit in my macros and usually does the trick.
I can honestly say that this lifestyle hasn’t affected my social life too much.
I do my best to plan ahead if I know I will be going out to a restaurant and I don’t snack much at parties anymore, but if you do it right no one will notice.
I still drink, but my drinking habits have definitely changed.
I’m a big fan of good whiskey and red wine.
I probably drink a couple glasses of red wine each week during the evenings.
I occasionally have a glass of scotch or bourbon.
I used to be a big beer drinker, but I cut it out of my diet when I first started and my tastes have just changed over time.
My go to drink when tailgating at an Aggie football game nowadays is whiskey and Diet Coke.
I’ve found it’s pretty easy to make progress while having a drink occasionally if you make good choices.
Being on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.
5. Lastly, what would you say to someone who is in the same position as you were last year? Any advice for someone just starting out?
Make changes now.
This will change your life.
It will improve every aspect of your life.
You will feel better, look better, be more confident, and more than just your physique will change.
You aren’t too busy.
I made these changes as a full time law school student with a job.
My grades and work didn’t suffer, they got better. If I can manage it so can you.
This is important, so make time for it. Make it a priority.
If you are afraid that by making time to workout and cook good meals you will have to sacrifice time with your loved ones, then invite them to join you.
Cooking a meal with your spouse or children is better quality time then sitting in front of the TV and working out with spouse can be a lot of fun.
Also, research and learn as much as you can, but don’t suffer from paralysis by analysis.
Pick something, give it a try and make adjustments as you go.
Reach out to people that have had success, I guarantee they will go out of their way to help you.
Take advantage of the internet and social media.
There is a lot of great information and people out there.
Follow fitness professionals on Twitter and read what they write.
Ask them questions, they will answer.
The internet makes it easy to learn everything you need to do to make these changes in your life.
Above all have fun with it and get better everyday.
Whether it is another 5 lbs. on the bar, one more rep, or choosing to put down that Oreo, it’s progress, so be proud.
I would like to thank Mike for the awesome interview. He has promised to keep us updated with his future successes.
If you have a question for Mike, please place it in the comments box, and I will see that he has a chance to respond.