"I felt like less of a person the bigger I got, as if I’d lost a bit of what made me …well, me," Manning said in a press release
. "I realized that being overweight wasn’t all about the waistline. It was about self-worth, and the reality that the world looked down on you without even knowing your story.”
And before this journey, Manning admits he was one of those people.
Manning's wife, Lynn, told
Good Morning America's host George Stephanopoulos that the reason Drew didn't know their stories, was because he figured he already knew them.
To him, overweight people had the same story: "You either wanted to be healthy or you didn't."
Because of that, CNN
reports, Manning was a "judgmental" trainer.
"He would look at someone who was overweight and say, 'They must really be lazy,'" his wife explained.
"I was convinced people used genetics or similar excuses as a crutch," Manning writes in his new book, Fit2Fat2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and Losing 75 lbs on Purpose
But then one day he realized something was wrong. As a fitness trainer, he had problems, well, getting his clients fit. His overweight clients would tell him that he just didn't understand what it was like to be overweight.
"I decided to do something that most personal trainers will never do," Manning confesses on his website
. "I accepted the possibility that my clients were right and I was wrong."
"If my message wasn’t sinking in, maybe I didn’t really get how hard the road from unhealthy to healthy was. Maybe the ‘trainer’ needed to learn some things first."
And he did, in a drastic way: He gained 75lbs.
Ripped to Fat
Manning,30, who is a medical technician by day and a personal trainer in his spare time, decided to spend 6 months becoming fat and then the next 6 months losing weight.
CNN says that Manning, a fitness junkie, never had to struggle with his weight. "He's that guy at the gym the rest of us love to hate, the one who likes to use his biceps for pumping iron instead of changing channels, and who prefers sucking down a spinach shake to indulging in a brownie sundae."
But on May 7, 2011, he gave up pumping iron at the gym just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah where he lives with his wife and two children, in its place, he took up surfing TV channels.
Instead of craving spinach shakes, he craved a bottles of Mountain Dew. Fruit and vegetables? Not for him, he devoured doughnuts. He even completed “the Fuddrucker Challenge” (dining on a one-pound burger, one pound of bacon cheese fries, and a huge brownie sundae)
Manning caught international media attention when he posted a blog revealing that he had gained more than 60 pounds (he ended up gaining 75). In just six months, he went from 193 pounds with a 34-inch waist to 265 pounds with a 48-inch waist.
Eye-opening emotional journey
But what started in his mind as a physical experiment transformed into an eye-opening emotional journey. CNN writes that Manning didn't realize the effects his weight gain would on his relationships. It altered his most important ones: with his wife and two children.
The Daily Mail
reports that October 12, Manning reflected on a moment that really hit him emotionally. He was in the kitchen playing with his 2-year-old daughter, running around.
"After 15 “laps” around the kitchen, I was winded and my chafing had started to become a problem... In truth, I can’t really say I’ve been truly depressed so far during this crazy journey. I’ve had moments of sadness, self-consciousness, or lack of confidence, but I can’t say I’ve been near to shedding tears. Until now...'
It also put a strain on his marriage. "It's been really hard" his wife told the Mail.
"He used to help with washing the dishes, cleaning and chores, but now he doesn't have the energy to. I told him "You've turned into the average lazy American husband."
For his part, Manning felt much the same way.
"I’m not going to lie" he wrote on his blog. "With less then a month left, I am relieved and a little scared. Part of me fears it will be hard to curb some of my addictions (I keep a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bag of Captain Crunch under the bed.) I guess I’m just sick of feeling like a different person. I want the old Drew back."
So Manning devoted the next six months to losing the weight as quickly as he had gained it. On June 4th, 6 months after gaining the 75 pounds, and one year after launching the "Fit2Fat2Fit" experiment, Manning revealed on Good Morning America that he lost all the weight. He now weighs 190 lbs.
Ignites controversy: Why did Manning really do it?
Manning's journey to understand the struggles of those who struggled with being overweight, won applause from many. "I think all fitness instructors should do this in order to understand what their clients go through," a viewer said online, adding "How can you teach something if you can't empathize with it?"
Mark Mayfield says he believes Manning was trying to connect, but it wasn't with his clients. "Am I the only one who suspects this trainer's "journey" was more about "connecting" with his 15 minutes of fame?" he asks
on the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Facebook page.
“But perhaps its me, it's not that hard to show empathy to all clients we get to meet and work with,” Jeffrey Brous added. “It's not like I can just 'have arthritis' for a day to better understand what my clients with arthritis feel.”
Playing with fire
But Kinetic Scuplt's Erwin Gonzalez disagrees
. This man wasn't lacking compassion, “he was lacking competence,” Gonzalez said. "Any pro with integrity would have gotten the education on nutrition and personal training that he was and is lacking. All we know for certain is that he knows how to engage in self-abuse, train his own body, and is a narcissist. How is any of this serving the world?”
Manning also had his critics from the medical profession. American Council on Exercise says
back when Manning’s story first hit the Web in 2011, he caught the attention of Dr. Pamela Peeke, Chief Medical Correspondent for Discover Health. Also a keynote speaker at the 2011 ACE Symposium and a WebMD contributor, Peeke addressed Fit2Fat2Fit on her WebMD blog.
“No one should ever radically alter their weight,” she wrote. “With rapid weight gain, you’re making permanent changes. … In the future, it will be very easy for him to regain weight. He has also picked up food addictions he never had before.
This is also permanent. … Metabolically, he has raised his lipids, put a huge burden on his pancreas as it churns out a tsunami of insulin for his rising blood sugars, and he’s packing his liver and other organs (including his heart) with extra fat.
His blood pressure is through the roof, telling me that he probably has a genetic propensity for hypertension. His genes have altered their genetic expression and impacting upon immune and metabolic functions.
He’s short of breath, and he’s accumulating fat in and out of his neck, resulting in obstructive breathing and snoring. I don’t know what his family medical history is, but he’s playing with his life.”
Despite the medical warnings, Manning says he has no regrets. And Lynn is just glad to have her husband back, maybe a bit better than he was before,CNN reports. Before Fit2Fat2Fit, she would make treats, and Manning wouldn't even look at them.
"Now he craves them," she says with a laugh. "It might be cruel, but I like that. I like that he's humanized.
What do you think?
Does a "stunt" like this actually cause more pain and shame for overweight people by creating unrealistic expectations? Let us know in the comment section below!