PN member YLR astounded the judges at the end of the 2009 Lean Eating Coaching Program.
His remarkable transformation — losing 50 lb and 13% body fat in 6 months — earned him a cool $10,000 as the winner of the Lean Eating men’s division.
But, do you think he stopped there? Spent his 10K on junk food and ballooned back up to 250lbs?
Well, think again. He enrolled in the Lean Eating program again and he’s down another 20lbs – all in all, he’s gone from 255 to 185 in 11 months with Precision Nutrition.
Was he a superstar? A keener? No, he was just a regular guy who got a second chance.
YLR, and his first round transformation – 2009
YLR, during his second round of Lean Eating – 2010
Want to know what it takes to lose 70lbs in 11 months? Well, here’s his story:
Starting: 40% bodyfat, out of shape, “morbidly obese”
Physical and emotional pain
I’ve been struggling with my weight since college. In high school, I had typical high school body issues, but I was on the high school crew team and the daily training and my teenage boy metabolism seemed to keep my weight in check.
But, in college, I quit sports and began to gain weight. I gained, then lost a bit… and gained some more. Over and over. I’m sure most people know the routine.
Fast forward to 2008. I felt hopeless. I was at my heaviest weight: over 250 lb.
Sure, I didn’t like being that heavy. But, you know what I really hated? I couldn’t do anything physical without pain.
- I couldn’t walk a mile without getting a burning sensation on the outside of my calves.
- The specialist I went to gave me meds and special shoes for this calf pain, but nothing helped.
- I couldn’t walk three city blocks without breaking into a sweat.
- I was physically incapable of walking six city blocks.
Worse, I was really struggling with night eating. I used to raid the fridge in the evening while watching TV. It was mindless eating. But it was causing even more weight gain.
Of course, my health was suffering too.
- I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- I would wake up choking on my own vomit in the middle of the night.
- I would have to prop myself upright in a recliner and try to sleep with my head up so I wouldn’t choke.
Make no mistake, I was dying. I needed to change my life if I wanted to stick around. So I started looking for answers.
Other programs didn’t work
I think I’ve tried every weight loss program out there: Atkins, South Beach, Zone. I would lose some weight, but gain more back.
I found and read the book Metabolism Advantage by John Berardi, and started to try the featured exercises at my gym. A trainer spotted me doing deadlifts, and started chatting to me about my form. He said he “liked Berardi’s work,” and offered to train me. I ended up doing personal training 3x a week for 6 months.
At first, you’d think this was a great accomplishment, but at the end of that 6 months, I had put on another 5 lbs of fat. I was now 40% bodyfat and “morbidly obese”.
The decision to sign up
At this point, I was really discouraged. I’d started out in bad shape. And now, I felt like I’d tried and failed so many times in the past — even with “expert” advice — that I was hopeless case.
However, I saw the before and after pics from the prior Lean Eating Program, and that made me hopeful. (Editor’s Note: To see the before and after photos yourself, go to the Lean Eating for Men and Lean Eating for Women pages; scroll down and you’ll see them in the sidebar.)
But, to be honest, I didn’t expect real results. Nevertheless, I signed up — desperate and skeptical, but optimistic.
Finding my motivation
The week before the Lean Eating program started, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. That was a real turning point for me. When she said yes, I knew I needed to commit to the program. I wanted to share a long, healthy, happy life with my future wife.
Trusting the process
Before any lessons started I felt some relief. I was surrendering my health to the Lean Eating program and coaches. Now it was in their hands. If I did everything the program told me, they guaranteed results. Of course, I was skeptical, but I didn’t see any other options.
I logged in every day, read all the posts and did all the lessons. I was on autopilot. What they told me to do, I did.
Interestingly, before my body started to change, my attitude changed. I’m sure it had to do with the pace of the program, and the lessons. So, before I lost a single pound, I felt lighter. And hopeful.
Getting ongoing social support
The private Lean Eating support forum was good. People posted every day, and I would check in every day. It kept what I was doing in the forefront of my thinking.
Actually, that, to me, was the biggest difference between private training and what we were doing with Lean Eating.
In Lean Eating, you’re engaged with the program every day. You’re either working out, doing a lesson, or practicing habits. But there’s something to do, no matter how small, every day. And that keeps you “fitness minded” every day.
With my personal trainer, it was 3 x a week. So, between sessions, I simply went back to my old habits. I was “fitness minded” for only about 3 hours per week. And back to my normal self for the other 165. Not good.
How my eating changed
I used PN-style recipes and prep tools
I would prep all my food on Sunday and have it easy during the week. I didn’t have to think about what to eat or not to eat on the fly — it was determined by my shopping on Saturday and my prep work on Sunday. Dr. John’s Chili was a big time early favourite for me. I would freeze individual portions and be set for the week.
The “80% rule”
Initially, eating four meals a day was tough for me. I felt like I was eating too much. We then had a lesson on Hara hachi bu, or eating until you’re 80% full. This was a great habit for me. It helped me “listen” to my body and dial in my meals as my body needed.
That was about halfway into the program. At that point, everything started to click.
How my workouts changed
Learning to “just do it”: I had a really hard time with many of the exercises the first few months. I didn’t always finish the workouts. But I did push myself. I was really sore the first few weeks! Gradually, I was able to get closer to completing the reps and increasing weight.
Learning to “find time”: I also found it tough initially to get to the gym for each scheduled workout. Life happens and you run out of time. You can’t get the workout in. There were a couple of lessons that helped address how to work out when your schedule suddenly changes — those helped a lot.
Learning to push myself: Then a lesson came out about pushing yourself hard, giving 100%. The lesson coincided with watching the movie Pumping Iron with Arnold. That’s when my workout went to a new level. I really focused my workouts while I was working out and (I think) I became the slightly scary guy at my gym.
Learning that regular activity is not “optional” but necessary: To make sure I got the Lean Eating workouts in, I put them on my calendar for six months. They were a very high priority for me. I would schedule business meetings at my gym’s cafe around my workouts. When travelling, I would pick hotels with good gym facilities.
How my outlook changed
I feel like I have been given a second chance.
- Without your health, you really have nothing.
My GERD somehow disappeared around the second or third week of Lean Eating, and is long gone.
And my biggest surprise — my wife adopted many of my habits! She is and has been a source of positive reinforcement.
In fact, her support was probably the one thing that really helped me succeed.
She would call me “slim” even when I hadn’t dropped any weight. Even when I didn’t notice any changes, she did.
She got in on measuring my changes with the tape measure every Saturday. She learned how to use body fat calipers. The pounds continued to drop. We started going to the farmers market on Saturdays and making healthy meals together during the week. She helped me with my Sunday prep.
We picked a day to get married at the end of the program. As Lean Eating came closer to ending and my wedding date approached, I became increasingly motivated.
At the end of the Lean Eating Program, we had the wedding. It felt incredible for my friends and family to see me 50 lbs lighter.
For our honeymoon, my wife and I picked a resort with an excellent gym. We played a lot of tennis and took many walks.
Insight from daily lessons
The daily lessons were a constant source of self-reflection. Two books that were part of the lessons had a particular impact on me:
- Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin, by Alan Zadoff, helped me identify a lot of food issues I had as a kid
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan really made me question everything I thought I knew about food.
How do I eat and live now?
I now walk to work every day. Round trip is about 3 miles.
Here’s an average day of eating for me now.
Meal 1: Veggie-heavy frittata
Meal 2: SuperShake
Meal 3: Salad with lean protein source
Meal 4: Greens or veggies with protein source
Meal 5 (if needed): Cottage cheese plus nut butter or berries
Lean Eating round 2: Re-learning the basics
At the end of Lean Eating, I was stunned looking at my before and after pictures. The pounds on the scale were nothing compared to the impact of the before and after pictures.
Even though the program was over, I still felt I had some lessons to learn. I wasn’t ready for it to be finished. I was surprised to be a finalist for the $10,000 prize, and did not think I would win. I decided I would sign up for the program again before I learned the results.
I’m glad I did. Some lessons needed to be taught to me twice.
Even though I’ve never met coach Ryan in person, he has had a tremendous impact on my success with the program. It’s clear that he maintains a personal interest in everyone’s individual success with the program. It’s great to have someone coaching you that loves what they do.
Final thoughts on my Lean Eating transformation
My transformation can be divided into two parts: my physical transformation and my mental transformation.
I know the physical transformation looks the most impressive. However, the pictures cannot show the mental transformation, which to me is 100 times greater than the weight I have lost. My sense of self, my relationships with my family, and who I am in the world has been dramatically improved.
My advice to Lean Eaters
To people just starting out: Just go along with the program. Make checking in and doing the assignments a ritual. Don’t overthink it. Just do what’s asked of you.
To someone a few months in, and getting discouraged: Stay with the program. It took you a long time to develop unhealthy habits (for me, about 40 years) and get the way you are. Six months is not a long time to invest to undo all that damage.
There is no secret beyond working hard and committing fully. People ask me all the time: “What’s your secret?” They want me to say something like “cut out carbs” or “no fat” or “don’t eat after 8 PM”, but the real secret is commitment — commitment to the healthy, strong person inside you that might be weighed down by negative thinking, fad diets, and loads of unwanted blubber. The first day I signed up for LEP I was committed to the program. Even though I hadn’t yet lost a single pound, I had already succeeded.
Accept the program at face value. Trust the coaches. This was ultimately my secret to success. I could have questioned every lesson, the exercises, why this exercise now, or this lesson then. Sure, I had doubts and questions, but committing fully to the program makes it work. And for that, I’m grateful every day.
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