I’m what the industry (or society or whatever) would call a “skinny fat person.” I have a decent metabolism and my build mostly stays put – so I can eat a lot of junk before I start seeing it reflected in my body’s physical appearance. I used to assume I was in the clear, that I wasn’t negatively affected by the foods I was eating because I wasn’t gaining weight. But then I discovered this show, Fit2Fat2Fit, and it’s shown me an entirely new way of viewing food and nutrition. It has totally reframed my perspective on physical health and I’m so, so excited to share this new knowledge with you!
A bit about the show – it all began with the main guy, Drew Manning, who was a personal trainer that was struggling to help his heaviest of clients to get in shape. The most impactful of these clients was his brother-in-law, who he had tried and tried and tried to help lose weight using all kinds of methods, but nothing seemed to stick. Drew had the insight to see that the common denominator in these “failed” cases was him. Something in his approach wasn’t working. To figure out what that might be, he spent the next six months on a mission to gain seventy-five pounds.
He quit exercising altogether and switched to a sedentary lifestyle, and changed his diet to match those of his heaviest clients. That meant lots of fast food, sugar, soda, processed snacks – we’re talking thousands and thousands of calories a day. By the end of those six months, he had lost all his muscle definition and had gained a big ol’ beer gut (watch the show to see what I mean!) But what happens next is what’s really incredible. From that place of having gained seventy-five pounds and having lost all stamina, strength, and endurance, Drew and his brother-in-law tackled the weight loss journey, together, and from a level playing field. This is how he discovered the missing component to his approach.
Spoiler alert! The main component that he was missing was empathy. Empathy and understanding of that starting place – what it’s like to have extra weight on your body, not having the level of strength and endurance that’s built through a lifetime or over many years, plus battling a legitimate addiction to greasy and sugary foods (they affect your brain chemistry similarly to hard drugs!!) When a person is first starting to transition away from a highly processed diet, it can trigger actual withdrawal symptoms, like intense cravings and blood sugar crashes. It can be difficult to fully grasp that if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
Drew went on to write a book about his eye-opening experiment results, which then became the TV show that I’m referencing here – Fit2Fat2Fit. In the show, other trainers from around the country conduct a similar experiment, where they spend four months trying to gain twenty-five to thirty percent of their body weight. From there, the trainer and their client attempt to lose the weight together. Most of the time it’s successful, but sometimes it’s still not – and it’s interesting to witness those who still aren’t successful in this scenario. It paints a clear image of the strong hold that food can have on people (myself included) and how real the emotional component is.
Binge eating has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. To have a food binge every single day was just kind of the way that I ate. Eating nothing all day long and then eating 4,000-calories in one sitting and promptly going to bed, any variation of that, was my normal. It was so normal to me that I didn’t really even think anything about it. But then I discovered this show, and I watched these healthy, happy, fit, energetic trainers go through the same cycles that I’ve gone through all my life. Across the board, when they first start the weight-gain part of the process, they’re all so excited to splurge and have a big cheat meal. To eat all of the things they normally never do, with reckless abandon – and most of the time, they throw up afterwards. Their bodies are not used to junk food, to the point that it physically rejects it.
But after some time, they adjust (besides one chick who threw up the whole four months!) and even start to crave processed foods. What initially nauseated them was now calling their name, and they’d admit that the craved-food tasted soooooo good once they got it. It was mind-blowing to see how quickly the body can adjust to what we put in it, and it sparked a whole new line of thinking for me about food and nutrition. I’ve felt inspired and motivated by weight loss experiment shows like The Biggest Loser, sure, but a weight gain experiment? This was totally revolutionary for me, because I really saw myself in it.
By about two months in, every trainer hit a wall and began to experience depression. They’d nap a lot, sleep in later, didn’t feel like going anywhere or seeing anyone, fought more with their spouse and engaged less with their children. That’s where they all were at the two-month mark, because food had taken its toll and created brain fog, depression, and zero energy. Wake up feeling bad, then attempt to feel better by eating a bunch more of the food that made you sick in the first place – it’s a cycle, one I’m no stranger to. You fall into this cycle and you’ve lost the energy needed to pull yourself out, so you feel stuck. By the end of the four months, they’re undeniably miserable and sick on every level.
Watching how processed food can suck the life out of perfectly healthy people in such a short period of time had my jaw on the floor, and now I don’t ever want to eat fast food again. These people became so depressed and anxious, full of self-loathing energy and were falling into patterns of isolation – and I thought all of that stuff was just me, parts of who I am. I always thought I was just a depressed person, suffering from a melancholy personality, but no. I was just feeding myself toxic crap – but I won’t allow that anymore. Now that I know better, I will not accept this for my body.
Any other time in my life that I’ve made a conscious effort to get healthier, it’s been from a place of wanting to change my body’s appearance. I’ve struggled with body image issues all my life, which is a talk for another day, but every single time I’ve tried to engage with healthy eating it’s been about an exterior motive, an aesthetic transformation. What Fit2Fat2Fit has demonstrated to me is that healthy eating is an emotional transformation, first and foremost, and that’s where true staying power lies. I’m only one week into my new health journey, but I can already feel the difference, because it’s coming from a place of pure hope. From a desire to genuinely feel good rather than just to look good. I’ve made a whole lot of progress with emotional management and raising my vibration while still eating crap foods, so it makes me wonder – what is possible if I’m no longer limiting myself by eating processed foods?
When I eat healthy and I’m active, I have more self esteem, more confidence. I just feel better about myself, but I never really credited that to the food itself and its physiological impact on my emotions. Prior to this past week, I had no idea how much the food we put in our bodies impacts our emotional wellbeing. But I know now. And the fact that I know now means that I can make a different choice if I want (and I do very much want!) which feels so empowering. As I move forward on this exciting new path toward holistic health, I’ll hold those feelings of hope and empowerment close to my heart – and I’ll be sure to share my journey along the way!
Thank you for reading, dear friends! Find more articles like this one on the Owning Authenticity blog and hear more stories on my i Learned podcast. Explore the rest of my offerings on my website www.owningauthenticity.com
Content from Episode 71 of “i learned…” podcast by Carly Whorton, adapted by Maddie Billings