Sunday, 21 July 2013

Fat and Back

I am in the process of watching a documentary on T.V., as I write this so this post will be a little bit disjointed.

The doco I’m watching is called“Fat and Back”. It is both fascinating and terrifying. It’s an Australian documentary focusing on PJ, a personal trainer, who decided that for the space of one year, he was going to gain 50% of body weight and lose it again.

A personal trainer, PJ, made the comment that one of his overweight (obese) clients had cancelled for the third time in a row and it made him annoyed that the client was “giving up”. PJ rang him and said, “just follow what I say for 3 months and after that you’ll see how easy it is.” The client replied with “live like I do for 6 months and then you’ll see how hard it is.”

That was the starting point.

From the first of January PJ made the journey to go from 80 kilos to 120 kilos. He did this by stopping exercise and by eating junk foods. It was surprising to see how quickly he turned to food. He was noticing that because he wasn’t getting the energy burst that he used to from exercise, he was relying on food. When he did his grocery shop, he made the commentary “oh, see, they put this food and the end of the aisles to get you sucked in … and it works” (he grabbed one for his trolley). He also saw chocolate bars on special “oh I don’t really need them … oh, maybe just one”. It was that easy. He just kept picking up the food and putting it in the trolley

It was especially strange/scary to see how easily he forgot how much food he was eating. He went through a Hungry Jacks drive-thru and as he was there, ordering his food, he kept adding“just one more,” and “oh, I more thing”. When he got home and was talking to the camera, he tipped his chips (fries) out onto the table to eat them, when one of his mates (filming) pointed out they weren’t his chips. It took a while for PJ to believe him, because he had completely forgotten that he had eaten his in the car. That was scary to watch him realise that he had no recollection of having already eaten.

The doctors/nutritionists/psychologists that were part of the doco also mentioned things like this. That when obese people recount what they've eaten, they appear to have eaten less than fit/healthy people. But when it came down to it, obese people didn't even realise sometimes when they were eating.

By April he’d gained 28 kilos. And he was struggling. He was depressed and unhappy with himself. He pointed out that his arms were coming up in bumps – the toxins from the food he said. Like tiny pimples. I get them too and never realised that there was a connection to what I was eating. PJ also brought up how one night he went to bed, and without anything seeming to trigger it, he felt his entire left side go numb. He freaked out, thought that maybe he was having a stroke. He was even contemplating calling his doctors to find out what was wrong. When he did get up, he noticed it was better, he was okay, but, the thing he went to was more food, jelly snakes. He even wondered if they might have been the cause of the incident because he’d had some earlier in the evening, but then changed his mind after he ate some more.

He got to the point where he had reached his target goal of 120kg. But he couldn’t handle it. The pressure he felt at what he was doing, and how awful he felt was so much that he became reclusive and wasn’t leaving the house or answering the phone. He ended up going overseas for a couple of weeks, just to get away. And he pointed out on the camera diary, that that was it. He’d had enough.

I’m going to try to not write a whole review of the doco (it’s finished now – I’m a terribly slow typer!) but the reason I wanted to write about it was because it shocked me just how similar what he was going through as he was gaining the weight is how similar I feel now, at this weight.

His next 6 months involved him getting fit again and taking on an overweight client to motivate and lose weight at the same time. That started off okay, but by the end, she wasn’t someone he could help. She stopped coming & didn’t have the commitment. She also felt that he wasn’t the right person to motivate her because she felt that even though he had gained all this weight, he still didn’t get what it was like to be a fat person. To be someone who has always been fat and has felt the mental struggle with overcoming that.

She also felt that he was more interested in the doco than helping her, which I felt was unfair, and maybe only slightly true, given that we didn’t see how he was with other clients.

In the end, PJ did get back down to the weight he was at the start of the year. But it was a struggle for him. On the very first day he was to change (1st July), he “eased back” into exercising. After just two minutes on a treadmill, he was puffed. He struggled to sit up after being on a weight bench. PJ mentioned he actually felt like some junk food. Right there, he wanted to stop training, just to go get some junk food. Later that day he was caught trying to sneak some pizza. This was after having two meat pies for lunch. That just goes to show how easy it is to get into a food addiction and just how hard it is to switch off. This is a guy who is a personal trainer, who has won some titles and photo shoots for being “Mr Fitness Muscles” (or whatever those titles are). His life revolves are fitness and eating well. In 6 months, he has picked up so many bad habits, he couldn’t just bounce back into it like he thought. And that scared him.

What was also scary was his weigh-ins. He wasn’t finding out the results. I think part of the deal was he had to ‘wait and see’ in December what he would be. PJ just guessed based on how his body felt and how he could see how his body looked. His guesses of where he was at, were nearly all 3-5 kilos lowerthan what he weighed in at. He honestly thought losing the weight would come quickly and easily once he got back into routine. It took him nearly 12 weeks to lose 10 kilos. Granted, towards the end as he got fitter, he was losing more because of course he had more energy to keep exercising. A self-fulfilling cycle. But the very beginning was a terrible shock for him.

I found this doco confronting. It shocked, saddened, upset and terrified me as he was going through the putting on weight phase. The physical and mental issues that he was dealing with were way too familiar and hit too close to home. It was awful to realise what I am doing to myself. It was upsetting to see played out on the screen in front of me, just what I had done to myself over the past 5 years. How easy it is to fall into those mind traps of “this food can’t have that much calories, surely” and so on.

This just serves to reinforce how much further I have to go and how much more work I need to do mentally.

Four weeks ago I started tracking diligently what I was eating. Two weeks ago I stopped being so diligent and started being careless and sloppy. Tomorrow is my weigh-in day.

Let the results speak for themselves.



  1. This was a really interesting post to me. Certainly, you are a good writer to explain it so well. I did have to look up that guy on Google because you did a very good job of enticing my curiosity.

    It is interesting how PJ also got negative thinking when he was overweight. Further, he knew exactly what to do to lose weight, but still had bad habits fighting against him, as hard as bad habits can fight. Which is very hard.

    I had to *completely change* my way of thinking to lose my pounds. And it still didn't all come off at once. I was size 18 for a month, but that weight was not in my comfort zone! I was size 16 for many years. After working out, I was size 12 or 14 for 2007-2012. Only in 2012, did I get to size 10. Every size step felt so huge, it took a long time to getting used to the growth.

    You say that the woman he was training ended up quitting? Too many people expect trainers to provide the magic, but the magic has to come from the individual. If there's no personal magic, it is struggle all the way. When I first realized that, I decided to go fully magical. May as well! :D

    I bet you were happier when you were on top of it. So the way to get happy about it--just get on top of it again, and you'll feel better in no time. "The process" is a happy one.:D

    :-) Marion

  2. Wow- I am glad I ran into this post on your blog. I remember when that was being filmed and how stupid I thought it was. Just the main story line of how trainer gets fat and then looses it. It was interesting to read your synopsis and now I actually want to see this. LOL I poo-poo'ed it because the concept to me was dumb. He has no idea what it is like to live like that for X number of years. He KNOWS how it feels to be healthy and knows how to get back. Most obese people do not have that knowledge IMHO.