When super-fit personal trainer Drew Manning decided to “get fat” for six months and then lose the weight, chronicling his journey on his website Fit2Fat2Fit, his story shot into the media limelight faster than a starlet’s nip slip. Everyone, it seems, wants to know why Manning would voluntarily shed his rock-hard body – one he’d used to model in the past – and trade in his thin privilege for something most Americans are doing their darndest to get rid of? He explains,
“My goal is to inspire people to get fit, teach them how to do it and give them hope that it IS possible to get fit and stay fit. I want to share my comprehensive fitness knowledge with my followers so that they can know how to lose weight successfully, even though for many it’s going to be a struggle. People that are overweight have to overcome both physical and emotional barriers when it comes to losing weight. I hope to have a better understanding of this through my experience over the next year. Also, I hope to better gain an understanding of how hard it really is to be overweight. I know it’s only going to be for 6 months, but at least it’ll give me a small window of the physical and emotional issues that come with being overweight.”
This idea of a personal trainer gaining weight and then losing it to better understand his clients has been done before. A couple of years ago a trainer in Australia named Paul James did the same stunt with mostly positive results. But whether it’s a testament to the increased frenzy over weight over the past few years or that Manning is a more astute self-marketer than James, the response to Manning’s crusade has been immense.
I’ll admit to some ambivalence over watching him gain 70 pounds in 6 months – his favorite way was his “doughnut challenge” where he had to try to eat a dozen of his wife’s homemade doughnuts in one sitting without upchucking – as it struck me as frat boy at best and binge eating at worst. As a professed “gym addict” was it really a good idea to trade one compulsion for another? But he’s trying to be altruistic and I’m all about learned empathy and frankly I have to admire someone who goes to this much effort to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Besides, how else is one supposed to gain that much weight in that short amount of time?
While his ride up the weight roller coaster was kind of painful to watch (albeit with moments of hilarity – when he discovers the joy of eating breakfast cereal right before bed it was like explaining Halloween to a toddler), his shot down the other side promises to be interesting. About two weeks ago he passed the 6-month mark thereby starting his return journey from “fat 2 fit” again. Even though he’s only been losing weight for two weeks (down 13 pounds so far!), he admits that it was harder than he’d anticipated. “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.” The fact that his addiction is to Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal only endears him more to me. (Although if I had to pick the best cereal of all time mine would definitely be Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins…ah crunchy peanut-buttery pillows of corny goodness!)
The next few months will tell whether chugging protein shakes and exercising per the recommendations he gives his clients will get him back into his previous shape. Although if I were a betting girl, I’d say he’ll do it. I would think that the pressure from all the public scrutiny alone would be enough to keep him on track, not to mention all the muscle memory he’s built up over the years.
So when Shape.com assigned me to do a slideshow on celebrities who gain weight for movie roles, my first thought was of Drew Manning. While their reasons are different – money, an Oscar, acclaim for their unholy devotion to method acting (what up, Christian Bale?) – their experiences are equally as interesting. For instance, while both Renee Zelwegger and Gwyneth Paltrow admitted to “panic attacks” when asked to gain weight for roles, Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron were very zen. But Hillary Swank gave me a whole knew perspective on our miraculous bodies and Russell Crowe cracked me up. (Eva Longoria might make you want to throw something though – just a head’s up.)
No matter what the motivation, I think it’s fascinating when people intentionally buck the societal standards. What’s your take on Manning’s adventure – unhealthy publicity stunt, well-meaning but misguided or awesome? Does it matter to you if your personal trainer/nutritionist has ever had to lose a large amount of weight? Do you think it’s crazy or admirable when an actor gains weight for a movie role? What’s your fave breakfast cereal??