by Erin Weiss-Trainor, January 29th, 2009.
sense. He spends most of his day at a desk where he “burns fewer calories than
if he was in a coma”. He comes home to the family responsibilities of being a
husband and father to five kids. And his workouts often come in the form of
walking with his wife and/or his kids. He’s a self-proclaimed average guy, who
at one time used to feel like he was a victim of the circumstances of his
What’s not average about James is how he went about making significant
changes to both his body composition and to his attitude about his opportunities
and his capabilities.
A member of the Precision Nutrition community since December 2005, James
realized that he wasn’t making progress on his own. James’ strategy for bulking
was to indiscriminately eat more food without measuring the changes in his body.
This had left him with more added fat than muscle. For all the time and energy
he had put into training, he didn’t feel he had much to show for it. James
didn’t know where he was going wrong but he did know that he wanted to look and
At the time that James was feeling most frustrated by his lack of results, an
opportunity to sign up for the first Lean
Eating Coaching program for Men came up. At first, James was torn about
whether to sign up.
- Would this become just another thing he spent money on that would leave him
without the results he was after?
- The description said to trust the PN Coaching team; that the program would
be life changing — would it be for him?
- How would his wife react to him taking money out of the family budget to
spend on a PN course when they had already purchased the Precision Nutrition
Yet James was drawn to the format of the program. His past experience told
him that he always seemed to get a better grasp of material when it’s spread out
over time and incorporated into lessons to reiterate the main points, rather
than simply reading it in a book. He also believed he was coachable and that
maybe he just needed a little nudge to get things moving in the right
direction. James thought about all of the awesome opportunities that he hadn’t
taken advantage of throughout his life, and he became determined not to miss out
on any more. Within 12 hours of seeing the course open up, James’ wife Jennifer
had encouraged him to go for it. And in the end, his wife’s support was
essential to James getting the most out of what the Lean Eating program had to
She must have done a great job, considering James’ results. Over the course
of 16 weeks, James was able to drop from 184 lbs and 17.5% body fat to 169 lbs
and 10.3 % body fat. The daily lessons, content, and community support within
the Lean Eating program provided James with the direction and accountability he
needed to develop consistency in his nutrition and to reignite his drive for
training hard. The changes James made weren”t complicated or time consuming;
they were just exactly what he needed to do to get his body to change.
Nutrition that used to be an inconsistent and a half-hearted attempt at
following the PN guidelines easily became habits. Before the program,
vegetables were an after-thought; something that usually got bumped out for
fruit at most meals. This isn’t a terrible habit on its own but combined with
poor compliance with some of the other habits, it’s a strategy for making
progress in the wrong direction. As simple as it seems, James began to focus
on sticking to the 10 Habits consistently (especially eating every 2-4 hours,
and adhering to the anytime and post workout nutritional meal strategies). These
days he wouldn’t even dream of skipping or skimping on the vegetables in a
meal. Once he combined this vegetable habit with developing an awareness of
hunger cues, James was able to hone in on the right kinds and portions of food
for him to progress.
James has actually become so in tune with what his body needs to thrive that
when his wife prompted him to estimate and measure his intake, he found his
“guesstimate” was within 50 calories of what both Fitday calculated he was
actually eating, as well as what the on-line calculator
provided as a target for the “Don”t Diet Plan”. No dieting, no calorie counting,
nothing complicated –- by simply applying the 10 Habits consistently, making his
portions a little smaller, and adding in a little more activity when fat loss
stalled, James was able to find the right intake and activity level to allow him
Although James had always worked out consistently, training had previously
felt like a chore – something to just get through, something he had to do to
make progress. However the structure and variety of the workouts in the Lean
Eating program combined with having tangible, measureable goals led James to
relish seeing what he was able to do in the gym and push himself to do more.
In order to make the most of his time, James most often trains at the gym
where he works. It’s not fancy but for the price and convenience of being able
to fit workouts in to accommodate work and family demands, it does the job. For
the days when training before work or during lunch breaks isn’t doable, James
has a fallback plan. He’s able to squeeze in a home workout in his basement gym
set up with an Olympic weight set, power rack, high/low pulley, bench and
dumbbells. Often his older boys will join him. Aside from the perk of spending
time with his kids, James also appreciates the way they look up to him and say
they’d like to have muscles like his.
James found a way to do whatever he needed to stay consistent. And as the
new habits became established over time, James began to see that the things that
once felt like a chore had simply become a part of what he did every day. He
began to connect the effort he put into his training sessions and nutrition and
getting closer to his goals.
James has continued to rely on these habits as well as the continued social
support at home and in the community to make further progress since the program
ended in October 2008. He has come to realize that posting weekly progress
measures of body composition and compliance is not only motivating, but also
helps to ensure the he doesn’t jump the gun on making changes. In the past James
was guilty of tweaking his nutrition or training based on a feeling that he
wasn’t making progress; he switched things up too often to give any one thing a
chance. James now limits adjustments to his plan to every 2 weeks, after he has
at least 3 measurements to assess a difference in the numbers.
By doing this, James was able to recognize that his body fat and lean mass
were continuing to drop, and that it was time to adjust the plan. When he hit
9.3% body fat and 166 lbs a few weeks after the end of the Lean Eating program,
James turned his focus to adding some lean mass while maintaining his new lean
physique. Having had great success using a basic meal template and outcome
based decision making to help him lose fat, James approached his new goal of
getting to 175 lbs and 9 % body fat the same way.
5:40 am: wake up
6:20 am: Denver omelet from Gourmet Nutrition V1,
with added zucchini and mushrooms; 4 fish oil caps
Before he leaves work, James packs his meals into
a cooler to take along for the day.
9:00 am: Chocolate Peanut Butter bar from Gourmet
Nutrition V1, green tea
12 noon: this meal is generally a variation of 5-6
oz of lean meat, stir-fried vegetables or salad with olive oil, and some
combination of nuts, cup of coffee
1:00 pm: during training – ½ serving of Surge with
½ tsp of creatine in 1 L water; same thing immediately post workout
During his fat loss phase, James used 5-10 g BCAAs
in place of the Surge
3:00 pm: Post-workout meal – Reese’s oatmeal with
fresh vegetables on the side and a piece of fruit
6:00 pm: Supper with the family – This varies
night to night but as an example, this might be something like spaghetti squash,
ground beef and vegetable sauce and 4 fish oil caps. Generally a serving of
meat, with vegetables and olive oil, and fish oil.
9:00 pm: Supershake – frozen cherries, Greens+,
flax meal, dry curd cottage cheese, kefir, protein powder and mixed nuts.
Of all his meals, James especially likes all the omelet recipes from Gourmet
Nutrition v1 and the anytime bars from Gourmet Nutrition v2. The omelets are
easy to cook up and make it easy to adjust the ingredients to increase the
calories. The bars are a convenient and tasty way to work in a mid-morning
snack, especially when James is running errands on the weekend. Paired with
some packed raw vegetables, he always has a meal to turn to.
The basic template stays the same but James tries to include a variety of
different foods and meals that fit the outline. This makes it pretty easy to
adjust his intake up or down without the hassle of having to count calories or
For example, on the days where James doesn’t do higher intensity training, he
forgoes the post workout meal and drinks, and will have something similar to his
lunch meal. Since focusing on adding muscle, James has increased his intake by
250 kcal/day simply by adding an extra whole egg in his omelet, a banana post
workout, and an extra half-ounce of nuts in his last meal of the day. He’s
increased his weekend meals from 5 to 6.
James has also made some adjustments to his training program and is giving
Carter Schoffer’s Body Transformation Plan for Men a go. James found that the
closer he came to his physique goals, the less concerned he became with
aesthetics, and the more motivated he was to lift more weight and correct his
posture. He prefers to follow a laid out plan and he’s simply modified it
slightly to incorporate some extra walking, stretching, mobility and activation
work to correct imbalances. In doing so, he has found his recovery is much
improved and spending a little extra time with his family without distractions
is a nice perk.
However he tweaks the plan, James has learned that consistency is key. He
used to think he had all sorts of “special issues”: low testosterone, poor
carbohydrate tolerance, or other factors out of his control that he could blame
for his lack of progress and success. During the program, James realized how
negative his inner voice was and how in the past, that had impacted his choices
and outlook on life. The simple truth is that he doesn’t have special genes — he
was simply not following the plan; as he observes dryly, “The better my habits
got, the better my genetics have become.”
There were many steps taken throughout his transformation, but it’s been the
step out of his comfort zone that has led James to transform more than just his
body. In seizing the opportunity to join the Lean Eating program, James has
taken advantage of the opportunities to change his mindset, feel in control of
his choices and prove that he is capable of a lot more than he ever thought.
And he’s got the transformation to show for it.
Sounds like an athlete to me.