When we first heard about Drew Manning and his Fit2Fat2Fit journey, our first question was, “Why?” Why would someone who was in, by anyone’s standards, in excellent shape voluntarily gain weight only to turn around and lose it all again? And do it twice? We caught up with trainer Drew Manning to chat about his second Fit2Fat2Fit journey, his motivations, and the challenges the second time around. Here's what he had to say.
What first inspired you to start your Fit2Fat2Fit journey?
I grew up in a family of 11 brothers and sisters and we all played sports. So I was always in shape. I decided to become a personal trainer in 2009 and here I was, someone who had never been overweight a day in my life, trying to help people who were overweight the majority of their life. There was an obvious disconnect because I couldn't understand why it was so hard for them just to stay consistent and follow the meal plans and workouts I gave them. My brother in law at the time told me that I didn't understand how hard it was for him or people like him because it was easy for and had always been easy for me because I had always been in shape my entire life. And he was right! I took that to heart and started thinking of ideas that could give me a better understanding. That's where this idea of gaining fat on purpose first entered my mind and it almost felt like a calling for me to do this crazy experiment.
You talk a lot about how mental and emotional health are often forgotten in the fitness industry. How are you working to change that narrative?
Yes, I do believe that transformation is mostly mental and emotional and that's why people struggle. Ever since I did my first experiment in 2011 I was truly humbled at just how hard it was and had many powerful experiences that reshaped my beliefs. One of those experiences was realizing how much of my own journey became mental and emotional instead of just physical, both, as I gained the weight and as I lost the weight.
That's when I realized just how wrong my approach was in helping people. All I knew how to do was help people with the physical side of weight loss (eat less, workout, macros, calories, supplements, etc.). So how am I trying to change that? By standing up for those who struggle with weight loss and body image issues and letting people know through social media, video and written content, etc. that we need to change our approach. We need to be more understanding and we need to have more empathy.
"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." - Theodore Roosevelt.
This is why I'm on a mission to bring more awareness of the importance of empathy and a better understanding on the mental and emotional side of transformation within this industry. I'm doing this by creating programs that truly help people overcome those mental and emotional challenges as well as the physical stuff we know we are supposed to do. These aren't separate, but rather so much more intertwined than most people think. I'm also creating a new breed of trainers by creating my own Fit2Fat2Fit certification course that teaches trainers how to lead with empathy and how to gain a better understanding on the mental and emotional side.
This is your second time going from fit2fat2forty. What has been different about this second time? What has been easier or harder?
Back in 2011 when I did my first ever Fit2Fat2Fit experiment I was only 31 years old and in a much different place in my life. I was married with 2 young kids and not really knowing what I was doing. Social media back then wasn't what it is today and there was pretty much only facebook around. There was no Live streaming. There were no stories to post. So not a lot of people actually followed it back then. So when I decided to do this a 2nd time in 2020 I even thought that I was crazy for even considering it, but once I again I felt "called" to do it a second time. The biggest differences doing it this time vs. the first time are:
31 years old vs. 40 years old
My daughters are now 9 & 11 vs. 2 & 1
This time around it was about getting my message across of more empathy vs. the first time it was more so about me learning what it's kind of like to be overweight.
Social media is way more prevalent and more powerful in 2020 vs. 2011 so that means more eyes on this journey, which means I have a chance to make it more powerful, more impactful, more educational and more inspirational.
The first time around I was unprepared for how hard it was going to be mentally and emotionally. This time around, even though I was prepared, I was still truly humbled. Emotional eating became more impactful this time around as I went through a rough break up in the middle of my journey, which caused me to emotionally eat and helped me to understand why people gravitate towards food when sad, lonely and depressed. So overall this second journey was harder for me because of that.
Why complete this journey twice? What is your main purpose for doing this a second time?
I have 3 main reasons for doing this a second time:
1). To disrupt the fitness industry by creating awareness of the importance of more empathy in the fitness industry and the world in general
2). To inspire the 30, 40, 50+ year olds that struggle because metabolism and hormones shift as you age, which can make it harder the older you get.
3). To make this journey more impactful and educational to hopefully inspire people to embrace a healthier lifestyle
As a trainer how has journeying from fit2fat helped you be a better trainer/advocate for your clients?
As I'm on my 2nd journey of fit2fat2fit, there have been many lessons I've learned along the way that have helped me become a more impactful trainer since I've done these two experiments. First of all, more empathy. More empathy for those that struggle, because I better understand that struggle. Secondly, it's helped me better understand emotional eating on a whole other level that I just couldn't understand when I had always been fit. And lastly, it's made me more relatable to those that struggle and I can better understand their struggles having been through some of it myself. So I am now better equipped to help people overcome their mental and emotional hurdles that have been holding them back from living a healthy lifestyle consistently.
Do you have any tips or words of advice for people stuck in their fitness journey?
Yes, I do! First of all YOU ARE WORTH IT! You are worth it to fight for your health. Every. Single. Person. A healthier you is a happier you. So for those that are stuck the first thing I would say is to learn to shift your perception of what success looks like in this industry. Most people think success is achieving the "ideal body" like they see on social media and if they don't achieve that then they are a failure. It's time we change this. My hope is to teach people how to operate out of a place of self love vs. self hate. It's time we stop trying to hate ourselves to skinny and learn to love ourselves and learn how to fall in love with the process. Most of the time we put up with the process (diet and exercise) because we see it as a chore or something we have to do in order to get the results (the skinny fit body) and once we get the results then we will be happy. Then we will love ourselves. This is a myth and so many of us have bought into this. If we can learn how to love ourselves now, even though we aren't perfect or we aren't where we want to be, then we can learn to fall in love with the process because we realize it actually makes us feel good in the long run. Then we start to focus on the process because we realize we're worth it. And after focusing on the process the results end up taking care of themselves over time as a byproduct of living that lifestyle consistently. So focus on the process, not the results only.
How has sleep played a role in your transition back2fit?
Sleep is probably the most underestimated tool when it comes to our overall health. When I was gaining weight part of the reason I was miserable was because my sleep was so affected from the unhealthy diet and lifestyle I was living. That's why my hormones were off and I was a lot more emotional and reactive vs. when I sleep efficiently through the night. Now that I've been taking care of my physical health through healthy diet and exercise my sleep has improved dramatically, making my recovery from workouts so much better. Plus I'm not in constant survival mode all the time and my ability to handle the stresses of life has drastically improved since I started sleeping better through the night. Plus it's also helped to balance out my hormones, especially healthy testosterone levels, which every man in their 40s needs.
How can people follow along or join with your journey?
Current favorite item of Rhone clothing?
The Reign Long Sleeve!
Current favorite song to workout to?
Kia Toa by An-Ten-Nae