I know what you are thinking.
“This is another one of those bullshit transformation posts.”
Sort of, in that it showcases my transformation, but my goal is to shine some light on the mess we call the fitness industry in the hopes that you may find something that works for you. Here is what I won’t do:
-I won’t ask you to take my word for it.
-I won’t tell you that there is a magic solution to your fitness problems.
-I won’t tell you that it is easy.
-I won’t tell you that you don’t have to change anything in your life.
What I will do:
-I will tell you my story and what worked for me.
-I will tell you that it is very hard, no matter what program, or tool you use, but that it gets easier.
-I will tell you that it takes time to change your physical self.
-I will tell you that in order to make progress and retain it, you must adjust habits in your life.
-I will tell you that you will want to quit.
-I will tell you that fitness never ends, like maintaining a well used city street.
-I will also tell you that improving your health is infinitely worth it and the confidence, joy, and energy you gain on your journey will far outweigh any suffering you endured. You probably won’t look like me, but you definitely won’t look like the same you, either! That’s what we all want, right? A new, improved, version 2.0-YOU.
Before I just dive in, I need to give you a little background. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I’ve never been too chubby, but I also never looked like I do now. I grew up playing basketball, soccer, football, boxing and racing motocross. I was a good athlete, but never as good as I could have been. I was always looking for an edge, or something to help me improve faster. I’ve used and tried countless supplements and had varying results. I began my fitness career at 17 when I became a trainer at a small local gym and then went on to SDSU where I planned on trying out for both football and basketball. Who knows what would have happened, but I injured myself severely on my motorcycle before I had the chance to give it a shot. I spent weeks in a bed, 3 surgeries and had a cast on for 14 months. This wasn’t the first, or the last time I broke my body, but needless to say, I know injuries. I also know what it is like to come back from a place that feels too far gone, similar to how many of my clients have felt over the years. I continued to work as a trainer until I made the decision to enlist in the USMC where I sustained many more injuries and ultimately became a scout sniper, assault climber, squad leader and combat swim instructor.
My journey really begins when I get out of the military, but I wanted it to be clear that I have an intimate knowledge of fitness and how far the body can truly be pushed. I’ve spent my life reaching for ways to get outside of my comfort zone. That is where growth happens, where learning occurs, and where progression in fitness takes place. The comfort zone is a threshold that must be breached in order to change, yet it is one we often times are afraid to challenge. Everything you see being advertised for the fitness industry is just a tool to help make crossing that boundary a little bit easier. Every informercial for new workout equipment, commercial for the next trendy group exercise, or advertisement for the next crazy supplement is designed to help you mentally, physically, or emotionally overcome the obstacles holding you back. If you break it down, fitness is as simple as getting outside your comfort zone and staying there for a period of time on a consistent basis. Everything out there just helps you do that. There is no right way, just ways that work for you.
Speaking of commercials, I had just gotten out of the Marines and found myself doing some minor modeling gigs. I was pretty new to social media at the time and I would always see these people posing with insane bodies, holding some product, claiming that it was the reason for their fitness, or that they couldn’t live without it. Im sure there are many out there that believe in their products, but as you reach higher numbers and more money, the honesty seems to erode. In reality, we really have no idea if all these posts we see on social media are legitimate. We don’t know if they used something else to get in shape, first and then just said it was that product for the sake of financial benefit. We don’t know how long they were using it. We don’t know how much it helped, if at all. From personal experience, I know that all of those things happen regularly in the fitness industry and it disgusts me. There are even supplement companies that pay athletes to post pictures with their product, knowing full well that these athletes use steroids. Many of these influencers have thousands of people looking to them for guidance and they fail to recognize the responsibility that comes with their exposure. Some of them knowingly lie to their followers and others are just so desperate for success that they overlook the damage they could cause by promoting harmful products. Having said that, there are also tons of great products out there and sometimes individuals endorse them because they believe they truly help people. Honestly, you can never really know until you do your own homework, try it yourself, or speak with someone you trust that has knowledge in the field.
I remember looking for a way to push my fitness further because I was having fun with modeling and didn’t want it to stop. I’m not particularly a fan of the modeling industry, but it was the first time that I had experienced a profession that gave me a lifestyle I loved. Paid to work out and be fit, travel and meet new people? Getting paid to be fit and go to the gym is basically the dream of every gym rat, or fitness enthusiast. I faced the reality of my situation. The competition in the modeling world is staggering. Never once did I think I would be one of the lucky ones. Bump into someone like Tommy Hilfiger, dazzle him with my silly face and watch my life change with just one pen stroke. No, that was never going to happen. I was going to have to work my ass off and fight for the chance to keep this lifestyle. I wasn’t even close to a competitive level physically, so I began looking for something that would help me make this dream life I had conjured into a reality. I saw the adds and the posts, same as everyone else and wondered if I could someday look that way. I was always initially skeptical of everything I saw. We may not know if a particular individual is genuine, but what we do know is that fitness is a very difficult, yet vital part of life. Being healthy affords us the energy to be the best version of ourselves that we can. It helps our brain keep up with the tumultuous world we live in and allows us to find a level of self confidence and self love that otherwise would be terribly difficult to grasp. We also know that a lot of people out there are figuring out how to make fitness a little easier so that they can go on to experience huge life changes for the better. That means that not everyone was blowin’ smoke. I just needed to find one that worked for me.
I started with the things that hold people back. In fitness, our comfort zone is more than what we do in the gym. It also includes our nutritional intake; our diet. I know this will sound really simple, but the two factors that determine how you feel and what you look like are what you eat and the exercise you do. What most of us don’t realize is that 80% of the equation is nutrition, but it is also the most difficult. Think of your body as a sky scrapper. The workers, foreman, contractors, carpenters, they represent what you do in the gym, the work. Your nutrition represents the building materials. If you give your workers terrible pieces of plywood, it won’t matter how skilled they are (or how hard you push in the gym) the structure will never get very high. If you provide the best building materials, then even an unskilled construction team will be able to build a pretty amazing sky scrapper. I hope that makes sense because nutrition will be the key to your biggest gains and most incredible health. Even knowing this, feeding our body everything it needs at the right times is still the most difficult part because its the small choices all day that determine whether we improve or regress. We often don’t even know we are shooting ourselves in the foot. When I was training people, I could push them very hard, but when they went home, they would not have the willpower to resist their vices and negative habits. It usually isn’t that we don’t know what to do, its that doing it consistently is incredibly difficult, especially if you aren’t internally motivated. In the case of most people with personal trainers, they outsource their motivation to them and when the trainer isn’t around, they let loose, even though they are the only ones losing. What they are really paying for is accountability because if knowledge was really the problem, we would all look like Arnold…We have the internet now and there is a gym every few blocks. Discipline, persistence, consistency, motivation, work ethic and sheer will; those are our pitfalls and they are all internal.
Im not special, this was my problem too. The willpower required to move up to the next level of discipline is all the same, no matter what level you are at. Compromise, adjusting habits and struggle until they become new habits, making that your new normal. This takes weeks if you are perfect, but there will always be setbacks and I don’t know any perfect people, so its going to take some time. Did you notice, I said next level of discipline, not fitness? Most of us think that fitness revolves around our bodies. Well, it does, but what determines your fitness level is your mind. Your body is simply a physical manifestation of the choices you make each and every day. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to eat a banana instead of a bag of chips, but to improve your health you must make changes and stick with them. There are plenty of programs out there that make these obstacles a little bit smaller by making things easier, convenient and faster.
There is a plethora of different types of programs out there and Ill go into a few in a moment, but what was I looking for, specifically? From the modeling perspective, I needed something that helped me get to the next level. I know what I’m doing in the gym, so the solution was something that helped me get very high quality nutrition into my body in a more convenient way so that I wouldn’t skip meals, make poor choices, or simply not eat enough. Our food today has a fraction of the nutritional value that it did 50 years ago due to over farming, pesticides and the difficulty of replenishing the soil. This forces us to supplement because the amount of food one must consume in order to get enough nutrients to perform at a high level is just too much. From the trainer perspective, I was really interested in finding something that I would be proud to recommend to clients. I know I keep repeating myself, but fitness is a mental battle and until you reach a level where your ambitions align with the little voice in the back of your head, its a struggle. I call this getting on your own team. Where, instead of fighting yourself to resist your vices, you don’t even want them anymore because you know the reward is feeling amazing and making progress. This stage is difficult to reach and requires a program that is easy enough to apply to your life so that you won’t reject it, but effective enough to get results so that you believe you can reach your goals. Both factors are needed so that sustainability is possible because only through sustained, consistent effort will any profound changes take place.
So, one type of system are programs that take the decision making completely out of the equation by providing all your meals and snacks. Im not a fan of these programs for one simple reason, you don’t learn. You still have to build the habits and put in the work. These programs will help you change your body, but you will become dependent on them and will revert back to your old ways in a matter of days when you stop. Change your mental self and your physical self will follow. Also, I haven’t come across one that has a very high quality product. Portion reduction is a part of the equation when trying to lose weight, but it can hardly be all of it and many of these programs depend on that alone. They work well for some, but wasn’t what I was looking for.
Even when decision making isn’t the issue, we can often run out of time in the day to plan, cook, or even eat our meals. Eating the right stuff and enough of it takes time and preparation. For athletes, it can become another job. At one point in my life, I was 240 pounds. I had to eat so much food all the time, which meant I had a lot of bathroom breaks to rid myself of the sheer volume of matter going through my body. It was annoying and really expensive. I started to meal prep when I was training for a fight. Physically, it works really well. It helps remove your will power and decision making from the equation because there is always something ready to go. My body responded really well after a few weeks and I felt amazing. The only problem is that this technique requires a huge amount of motivation to maintain. Unless you are training for a specific sporting event, or all your friends are, chances are you will not have the determination to continue this method long enough to see dramatic results. Im talking months, eating the same food for weeks at a time and cooking like a mad man once a week. Plus, you still have to use supplements because of the incredible volume of food one would have to eat to fuel their bodies properly. Im not hating on meal prepping, I’m just saying I didn’t have the time or the ability while traveling to live that way. Nor do I have the discipline to maintain it for long periods of time and neither does 99% of the population. Currently, I use lessons learned from meal prep in my daily life because it makes things easier. Just another tool to help me get closer to my goals, but this wasn’t the solution I was searching for either. I’ve sold meal plans before and most people will only follow them for a week or two at most. I didn’t want someone to pay me for something I knew wasn’t going to be effective.
On that same note, there are plenty of programs and companies out there on the other end of the spectrum that offer quick fixes, like wraps, patches and fat burners. I looked into some of these because I saw them all over social media, but most of those don’t work, while also putting a lot of really nasty chemicals into your body. The ones that do work have even worse chemicals and make you feel terrible. The burners wind you up and then drop you off a cliff, energy wise, leaving you depleted. Yes, these do work, but they are horrible for your body and they don’t help you develop any habits that will allow you to maintain or continue to progress on your own. Now, I have come across some patches for the purpose of injecting vitamins and nutrients. I haven’t tried them, but I’ve heard they work for most people. Personally, I don’t want to use something that has to inject anything into my body and again, these things don’t fix the real problem, which are your habits. If you just slap on a patch and get some mediocre results, will you change anything? No! What these all have in common is that they change the body, but not the mind. People use these, or the full meal programs to lose weight, but they don’t change any habits and that is why people gain a lot of weight after the diet ends. They never corrected the real problem. Again, not for me.
The type of program I was drawn to were the super food, shake and nutritional cleansing systems. I know we have a huge problem with toxins and chemicals today. Our bodies take matters into their own hands by storing all of these bad particles in our visceral fat, making it increasingly difficult to get rid of any extra weight. Combined with fasting, these programs help rid the body of harmful toxins while also raising the natural production of Human Growth Hormone, which happens to be the key to healing, growth and youthful aging. When the shakes and protein are concerned, I wanted something that would fill in all my nutritional gaps with the highest quality natural ingredients possible. There are so many companies that give a good attempt at this type of system, but very few that really have a level of quality suited for athletes. Most use poor forms of protein, processing practices for economical reasons instead of quality reasons, or lack enough trace minerals and vitamins. These factors affect the absorption rate and the overall effectiveness. I thought the model was great, though. Help the body operate at its peak and remove any chemical hinderances from inside, all while mitigating obstacles of time, effort, discipline and consistency. They do a lot, but not everything for the user, so developing better habits was more than possible. This is what I wanted, I just needed to find the right one.
When I finally did choose a program, I gave it an honest effort. I decided to go with one that used a combination of meal replacement shakes with live cultures, nutritional cleansing, cortisol management and multi vitamins as its foundation. I even had my father give it a shot as well. The results were impressive, to say the least. My father reached a weight that he hasn’t been at in over 15 years, in one month. He also loves to indulge so his willpower is always tested and he followed the program with some big deviations and still had a great experience, which to me, meant that it works really well. If he could do it, anyone can. As for me, I leaned out more than I ever had without having to go to extremes. My body performed at a level I had never experienced before. This isn’t because its some magic bullet, but because I was consistently giving my body everything it needed. Because it was simple, I never missed a part of my required nutrition, or skipped a meal. It doesn’t have stimulants or fat burners, just helps me get outstanding nutrition into my body that absorbs incredibly well because of the high quality ingredients. I have now been using the same program for almost two years and the results continue to get better and better. It helped me remove the biggest obstacle to my progression, myself, so that my body could do what it does best, heal and grow. Also, because my body had enough of these great building blocks, my same efforts in the gym reaped much greater reward. My fitness and physique progressed incredibly fast to the point that some have accused me of using steroids. This makes me laugh and tells me I made a great choice. I have never been able to further my fitness, or maintain it with so little effort. Obviously, I am biased, but I believe I use and work with the highest quality program on the market. I won’t mention it here because I am not trying to sway you, just educate you. If you are interested in what I believe is the best program by far, send me a message and I will tell you all about it.
Here is the bottom line. Regardless of the program, you will have to put in a lot of work. These programs are tools to help us get around our shortcomings and the many difficulties in fitness. They help us overcome the low nutrient levels in our food, mitigate bad discipline, boost motivation through results and make an otherwise time consuming process into a much more convenient endeavor. In the past, only the fitness zealots, or steroid users could reach these incredible levels we see all over the internet. Now, the effort to reach these levels is lower because of effective programs and we have soccer moms, teachers, and baristas showing us that anyone can do it. Make no mistake, there is no program or system that will do everything for you. The individual’s motivation and work ethic determines how far they will go, so don’t think you can take a pill and have six pack abs.
When you are looking for a solution, do your homework and make up your own mind. I don’t care what product, or program it is, or which industry it is in, there will always be positive and negative information out there. Most of it is complete nonsense and some of it is very valid. Be weary of really cheap programs that boast speed and ease to a perfect body. For one, the quality of the product will be garbage. What they are really selling you is the community and the motivation it provides. Do they help people? Yes, not because you are putting their sub par product into your body, but because you got excited, believed in yourself and started taking actions to make it so. Personally, putting compromised nutrition into your body because its cheaper is like bargain hunting for a tattoo parlor. Sure, you will get a new tattoo, but its not going to look great. Its your body and its the only one you get. If there was ever a reason to spend money for quality, your health is it. The other problem with really cheap programs and products is that they do not reinforce any type of commitment. One of the biggest problems I see when people attempt to improve their health is that they only half commit, robbing themselves of a chance to succeed. For example, using regular food, an improvement in someone’s diet will be internally noticeable in about a month and visually noticeable in two. If one does not commit themselves whole heartedly, they will never stick it out long enough to feel any results and they will quit. Had they told themselves that it was a three month commitment, regardless of results, then they would eventually reach the stage that rewards all their hard work, compromise and struggle. The results validate the sacrifice and give us the strength and understanding to push further. If you try a program that costs $25, the moment things get difficult you will abandon your cause. Think about why you want to change and write it down, because if you only kinda want to change, you will only “kinda” get results.
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For women looking to push their fitness to the next level, take a look at my sister’s site where she has workout programs, nutrition programs and personal mentoring.