EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Drew Manning, a part-time personal trainer and longtime fitness enthusiast, heard time and time again from some overweight clients that he didn't know what they were going through.
In some ways, he saw their point.
"I've always been in shape," he said. "I've never had to struggle with being in shape, I've never had to struggle with being overweight, so, for the first time in my life … I figured why not better understand what some of my clients go through."
Manning decided to trade in his sculpted mid-section for a pronounced gut and add at least 50 pounds to his 6 foot, 2 inch frame over the course of six months. After five-and-a-half months, he's managed to pack on close to 70 pounds and tips the scales around 265 pounds.
"Now I understand a little bit more of how hard and how real addictions are to foods," he said. "It's just like a drug. It really is."
Manning undertook the journey he's calling Fit2Fat2Fit in an effort to gain understanding, but also to give hope. After the six months of sedentary living and unlimited eating, he will embark on a second six months dedicated solely to restoring his body to what it was.
"To me it's worth the risk I've put my body through, being overweight, putting my body at risk in a lot of medical ways, … if a few people get inspired to live healthier," he said.
Manning began the process by allowing himself to eat what he describes as "a diet of typical American foods." Cereals, sodas, juices, white breads and pastas, macaroni and cheese and fast food all made the list. And then he watched his habits shift.
"In the beginning, I never drank soda," he said. "I really forced myself to drink it two or three times a day and now, 5 ½ months into it, I have to have my Mountain Dew, my Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal two times a day. I can't keep enough of it in the house."
When he first stopped exercising, he said he went through withdrawals and resented people he saw outside running. He was tortured by the fine, summer weather. Now, he struggles to climb the stairs in his home.
"I'm worried about being dedicated and being able to push through that initial phase of having to push yourself in the gym, which is tough with all that extra weight and no endurance," Manning said. "My cardio is pretty much down the drain."
But he planned on the physical toll. What he didn't account for was the other effects the process would have on him.
"Mentally and emotionally, it's taken a toll on me, my wife, my daughters," he said. "I don’t have the energy I used to. My wife feels like I've become lazier. I don't help out as much. I'm lethargic. I'm more self-conscious, nothing feels like it fits right. I'm uncomfortable in my own skin."
He said he is looking forward to Nov. 5, when he begins the "fit" phase. For the first month, he said he will solely focus on eating healthier, which he thinks makes a bigger difference than anything else.
"What you put in your body helps your body so much more than exercise alone," Manning said. "If you didn't change your diet at all you wouldn't see the results as quickly."
Manning is conducting a fundraiser for the duration of his experience in which donors can pledge a certain amount of money for every pound he loses. The proceeds will go to The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which targets childhood obesity.
More information can be found at Manning's website fit2fat2fit.com.