How I got a new body in 12 Weeks (and how you can too)
May 2015 and my body was a mess.
I’d picked up an infection in April which flared my Crohns disease. Inflammation ran riot, spreading to my hip joint making it agony to walk and I had a searing pain between my ribs and breastbone. I was struggling to breath and sleep without strong painkillers.
So, I did what I always tend to do when my body attacks itself. I ate junk. More than that, I wallowed in it. I let self-abuse (and that’s exactly what comfort eating is) go hand in hand with self-pity.
By the time I got control of the inflammation, I resembled a marshmallow. A soft, squidgy, bloated, melted marshmallow. I looked like shit and I was miserable.
12 weeks later I was in the best physical condition I had been in for years.
There are tons of programs available which detail the work you need to do in the kitchen and the gym to get a fast physique transformation. But rarely is there any discussion on what’s most important — mindset.
Your body will do what your brain tells it to do. It’s crucial to start making change where it matters most — between your ears.
Getting into the right headspace isn’t easy. It can be quite challenging to admit to some underlying emotional motivation. But that’s where the good stuff is. That’s what I did. I found what my real motivation was and I steamrolled through 12 weeks of intense training and dieting. Here’s how:
Step 1: Realisation
The moment you realise it’s time to make drastic changes isn’t the same for everyone. It could be the dread of not fitting into a wedding dress. Or almost passing out after walking up one flight of stairs. Or even the shock at not recognising your own reflection in the mirror.
The penny dropped for me when my wife told me she was worried I was going to be a bad example to our future kids
The switch was flicked. I still had pride in my appearance but I had discarded vanity with the bachelor life of my youth. But the thought of falling short as a parent horrified me. I was ashamed at how I was dealing with my condition and using it as an excuse to let my body nosedive into decrepitude.
But this was exactly what I needed. Because now I had the most important driving force in changing my body……
Step 2: Motivation
I meet people every day who struggle to understand their motivation. It’s a goal-crushing mistake. A typical conversation might go like this:
“Why do you want to start a training program?”
“I want to lose weight”
“Why do you want to lose weight?”
“Why will losing weight make you feel better about yourself?
………..*awkward shifting in seat*…………..
With some simple questions, it’s as if I’ve just reached across the table, shook them by the shoulders and slapped them across the face.
Your desire to lose weight is not your motivation. Losing weight is an action you take as a result of your motivation. Your motives should always be based on emotion (positive and negative — I find both are equally effective).
“I want to completely transform my body because I’m angry and ashamed at myself for using food to deal with stress. I want to achieve something I can be proud of and be a good example to my kids.”
There will be days when you want to give up. Guaranteed. Temptation is everywhere. There’s a good chance you pass a pub and a pizzeria on the way to the gym. Channel your motivation effectively and you can develop tunnel vision, and charge towards your goal like a freight train.
So how do you consistently tap into your motivation to keep sure you continue to make impressive progress? I found taking progress photos to be the biggest help in showing where I was going, and reminding me where I came from. Images convey powerful messages and, even now, my initial “before” photo can instantly summon up the same emotions that I felt back then. Shame and anger.
Step 3: The Plan
Sadly, this is the stage which confuses most people. And for good reason. With so much information readily available, you have to sift through copious amounts of bullshit to find what actually works. Precious time wasted that could be spent getting your ass moving.
Do not fall into the paralysis by analysis trap. Sadly, this is one of my biggest weaknesses. My personality dictates that I must strive for the perfect plan, the most effective solution for maximum results. I cannot start without it. Which makes me an idiot.
There are many ways to cook an egg. Pick one plan and stick with it. Unless you’re preparing to step onto a bodybuilding contest stage, chances are you’ll be happy with your results. However, approaching the process half-baked by doing one or two Circuits or Zumba classes a week will yield half-baked results. Not that classes are a bad thing, they just wont create the fast, jaw-dropping results that this article is focused on.
Forget about supplements (except maybe a protein powder if you’re in shortfall). Marketing hugely exaggerates their importance. Supplements are the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake.
As the subject can be extensive I will detail my own 12 week training and nutrition plan in a separate story. Until then here are some basic but golden rules for making fast physique transformations:
- If you’re struggling with nutrition, just download the myfitnesspal app. Thank me later.
- If you’re struggling with exercise, hire a coach/personal trainer. A little expert knowledge goes a long way in making your training more effective.
- When shopping for food, stick to the outside aisles of the supermarket. Cook in large batches in advance to make sure you’re prepared.
- Limit any food which comes with an ingredients label or is marketed through a TV advertisement. (sorry Choco-Sugar-Frosted cereal fans!).
- Focus on eating 2 fist-sized portions of veggies and 1 fist-sized portion of protein (as much variety as possible) with every meal. Add a small amount of unrefined carbs (rice, quinoa, sweet potato) if you want.
- Train 4–5 times per week. At least 3 of those should be resistance-based training using weights or machines. Add some high intensity intervals for variety on the other sessions (I only did about 6 HIIT sessions during my 12 week plan).
- There are no “cheat days” during fast physique transformations. A re-feed day may be necessary but only if you know you need it (tip: you probably don’t).
Step 4: The Work
You’re motivated and you have a plan. Now you need to do the actual work. Do not be overwhelmed. For me, this was the easy part. Stick to the plan.
Track your workouts on your phone, a scrap of paper or wherever. You need to remember what days to train and the details of your sets, reps and weights. If you like details then indulge yourself in some fancy spreadsheets. Make sure you warm up effectively and be sensible — if you suffer a bad injury then the process is over.
No-one feels pumped for every workout. Accept this now and save your self from dejection and confusion. I used my 10 minute test when I was fatigued, pissed off or just didn’t feel like training. Force yourself to do the first 10 minutes of your workout and reassess how you feel. There’s a high probability you will finish the workout. If you still feel like wet lettuce after 10 minutes, go home and rest. At least you’ve done something.
Step 5: Tracking Your Progress
Avoid relying on scales to track your progress. I started at 79kg and finished around 77.8kg after 12 weeks — pretty depressing stats had I based my progress on weight loss. If you have a coach, get your body fat measured every 3 weeks. This tells a much better story of how your body composition is changing. Having regular assessments makes you more accountable too.
If you are training solo then use a tape measure to track the circumference of your waist, arms, chest, hips and legs. Just make sure you measure the same exact spots each time.
Take progress photos — a before photo and subsequent photos every 4 weeks. At the end of the process the comparison of your before and after photo will make the whole journey worthwhile.
Step 6: Support
There will always be a partner, friend, or colleague who will intentionally attempt to ruin your efforts. Unfortunately it’s human nature to want to destroy something which one believes they cannot have. Typically their sabotage will be wrapped up in some form of kindness, like urging you to join them for a drink when they notice your motivation is running low.
You need to surround yourself with people who will support you when times are tough. I encouraged two of my friends to do the 12 week transformation with me and we all made excellent progress. We called it a competition but in reality it was a WhatsApp support group, and without each other’s help, encouragement and good-humoured abuse, none of us would have achieved such impressive results (kudos Felix and Neil!).
If you are in a relationship, your significant other must understand not only what you are trying to achieve, but why you are striving for change. There is a high probability that a husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend features very highly in your motivation. I’m lucky in that my wife is also a coach so she was able to help track my progress and suggest an alternative expert opinion at times. Most importantly, she understood why I was doing the transformation and was a constant source of encouragement and support throughout.
Putting it all together
Short term physique transformations are not to be confused with long term health and wellness. It is impossible to follow such a strict lifestyle for prolonged periods without it negatively affecting another part of your life such as work or relationships. If you choose to set out on such an intensive plan for yourself, be prepared for the fact that you, and those around you, will most likely have to sacrifice something for a short period in order for you to succeed.
If you have tried and failed, that is no reason to avoid trying again. In fact, you can use previous failures to optimise future attempts. Before you lift your first dumbbell, or boil your first bag of kale, you must be honest with yourself. What is the emotion which is driving your motivation to improve your physique? You can make significant physical improvements, but without fully understanding your motives, your success will fail to satisfy the hunger which initially compelled you to change.
Have you tried to get a new body in a short period? What was your motivation? Did you succeed? I’d love to hear your thoughts!