I’ll never forget the very first time I got ripped, how I did it and how it felt. I’ve never told this entire story before or widely published my early photos either. Winning first place and seeing my abs the first time was sweet redemption. But before that, it was a story of desperation…
I started lifting weights for bodybuilding when I was 14 years old, but I never had ripped abs until I was 20.
I endured six years of frustration and embarrassment. Being a teenager is hard enough, but imagine how I felt being a self-proclaimed bodybuilder, with no abs or muscle definition to show for it. Imagine what it was like in swimming class or when we played basketball in gym class and I prayed to be called out for “shirts” and not ‘”skins” because I didn’t want any one seeing my “man-boobs” and ab flab jiggling all over the court.
Oh, I had muscle. I started gaining muscle from the moment I picked up a barbell. I got strong too. I was benching 315 at age 18. But even after four years of successful strength training, I still hadn’t figured out this getting ripped thing. Muscle isn’t very attractive if it’s covered up with a layer of fat. That’s where the phrase “bulky” really comes from – fat on top of muscle. It can look worse than just fat.
I read every book. I read every magazine. I tried every exercise. I took every supplement in vogue back in the 80’s (remember bee pollen, octacosanol, lipotropics and dessicated liver?) I tried not eating for entire days at a time. I went on a rope skipping kick. I did hundreds of crunches and ab exercises. I rode the Lifecycle. I wore rubber waist belts.
The results were mediocre at best. When I made progress, I couldn’t maintain it. One step forward, one step back. Even when I got a little leaner, it wasn’t all the way. Still no ripped abs. When I played football and they beat the crap out of us at training camp, I lost weight, but STILL didn’t get all the way down to those elusive six pack abs. In fact, it was almost like I got “skinny fat.” My arms and legs lost some muscle but the small roll of ab fat was still there.
Why was it so hard? What was I doing wrong? It was driving me crazy!
My condition got worse in college because I mixed with a party crowd. With boozing came eating, and the “bulk” accumulated even more. At that point, the partying and social life were more important to me than my body. I was still lifting weights, but wasn’t living a fitness lifestyle.
Mid way through college I changed my major from business management to exercise science, having made up my mind to pursue a career in fitness. That’s when I started to feel something wasn’t right. The best word for it is “incongruence.” That’s when what you say you want to be and what you really are don’t match. Being a fitness professional means you have to walk the talk and be a role model to others. Anything else is hypocrisy. I knew I had to shape up or forget fitness as a career.
But after four years, I STILL didn’t know how to get ripped!
Nothing I learned in exercise physiology class helped. All the theory was interesting, but when theory hit the real world, things didn’t always work out like they did on paper. My professors didn’t know either. Heck, most of them weren’t even in shape! Two of them were overweight, including my nutrition professor.
However, out of my college experience did come the seeds of the solution and my first breakthrough.
In one of my physical education classes, we were required to do some running and we were instructed to keep track of our performance and resting heart rates. Somehow, even though I was a strength athlete, I got hooked on running. After the initial discomfort of hauling around a not so cardio-fit 205 pound body, I started to get a lot of satisfaction out of watching my resting heart rate drop from the 70’s into the 50’s and seeing my running times get better and better. And then it happened: I started getting leaner than I ever had before.
The results motivated me to no end, and I kept after it even more. My runs would be 5 or 6 days a week and I’d go for between 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes I had a circular route of about 6 miles and I would run it for time, almost always pushing for a personal record. When I finished, I was spent, drenched in sweat and sometimes just crashing when I got home. And I kept getting even leaner.
That’s when I started to figure it out.
If you’re expecting me to say that running is the secret, no, that’s NOT it per se. I was thinking bigger picture. In fact, I noticed that my legs had lost some muscle size, so I knew that over-doing the runs would be counter productive, ultimately, and I don’t run that much anymore these days. But that’s how I did it the first time and I had never experienced fat loss like that before. The fat was falling off and I had barely changed my diet.
My “aha moment” was when I realized the pivotal piece in the puzzle was calories. It wasn’t the type of exercise, it wasn’t the specific foods and it wasn’t supplements. Today I realize that it’s the calorie deficit that matters the most, not whether you eat less or burn more per se, but in my case creating a large deficit by burning the calories was the absolute key for me.
These runs were burning an enormous number of calories. Everything I had done before wasn’t burning enough to make a noticeable difference in a short period of time. 10-15 minutes of rope skipping wasn’t enough. 45 minutes of slow-go bike riding wasn’t burning enough. Hundreds of crunches weren’t enough. I put 1+1+1 together and realized it was intensity X duration X frequency = highest the total calorie burn for the week. How much simpler could it be? It wasn’t magic. It was MATH!
It was consistency too. This was the first time in SIX YEARS I stuck with it. Body fat comes off by the grams every day – literally. Kilos and pounds of body weight may come off quickly, but they come back just as fast. Body fat comes off slowly and if you have no patience or you jump to one program to the next without following through with the one you started, you’re doomed. In six years, I had “tried everything”… except consistency and patience.
Then the stakes went up. I had finally gotten lean, but there was another level beyond lean… RIPPED!
My buddies at the gym noticed me getting leaner and then they popped the question: Why don’t you compete? My training partner Steve had already competed 3 years earlier and won the Teenage Mr. America competition. Since then, I had been all talk and no walk. “Yeah, I’m going to compete one of these days too… I’m going to be the next Mr. America.” Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. The only title I had won was “Mr. Procastinator.” Then finally, Steve and my other friends challenged me almost in an ultimatum type of way. Well, the truth is, I set myself up for it with my big mouth and they called me out, so I would have been the laughing stock of our gym if I didn’t follow through.
The first time you do a real cut – all the way down to contest-ready – is the hardest. Not as much physically as psychologically, simply because you’ve never done it before. Doing something you’ve done before is no big deal. Doing something you’ve never done before causes uncertainty and fear, sometimes even terror! I was plagued with self-doubt the entire time, never sure if I was ever going to get there. It seemed like it was taking forever. But failure was not an option. Not only did I have an entire gym full of friends rooting me on, I had great training partner who was natural Mr. Teenage America! The pressure was on. I had to do it. There was no way out. No excuses.
Some other day, I’ll tell you all the details of the emotional roller coaster ride that was my first contest diet, but let it suffice to say, at that point, I still didn’t know what I was doing. It was only later that I went into “human guinea pig” mode with nutritional experiments and finally pinned down the eating side of the equation to a science (and gained 20 lbs of stage-weight muscle as a result).
In the late 1980’s, the standard bodybuilding diet was high carb, low fat. For that first competition, I was on 60% carbs – including pancakes, boxed cereal, whole grain bread, and pasta – so I guess you can toss out the idea that it’s impossible to get ripped on high carbs – although high carb is NOT the contest diet I use today. But it didn’t matter, because I had already learned the critical piece in the fat loss puzzle – the calorie balance equation. Understanding that one aspect of physiology was enough to get me ripped. It only got better later.
In the end, I took 2nd place at my very first competition, the Natural Lehigh Valley, and one month later, I won first place at the Natural New Jersey. Seven months later, the overall Natural Pennsylvania.
Looking back, was all the effort worth it? Well, my good friend Adam Waters, who is an accountability coach, teaches his students about using “redemption” as a motivator. Remember the Charles Atlas ad where the skinny kid got sand kicked in his face and then came back big and buffed and beat up the bully? That’s redemption. Or the dateless high school nerd who comes back to the 10 year class reunion driving a Mercedes with the prom queen on his arm? That’s redemption.
After all the doubt, heartache and frustration I went through for six years, I not only had my trophies, my abs were on the front page of the sports section in our small Pennsylvania town newspaper. The following year, I was on the poster for a bodybuilding competition… as the previous year’s champion. THAT’S REDEMPTION. You tell me if it was worth it.
There are 7 lessons from my story that I want to share with you because even if you have a different personal history than I do, these 7 lessons are the keys to achieving any previously elusive fitness goal for the first time and I think they apply to everyone.
1. Set the big goal and go for it. If your goal doesn’t excite you and scare you at the same time, your goal is too small. If you don’t feel fear or uncertainty, you’re inside your comfort zone. Puny goals aren’t motivating. Sometimes it takes a competition or a big challenge of some kind to get your blood boiling.
2. Align your values with your goals. I understood my values and made a decision to be congruent with who I really was and who I wanted to be. When you know your values, get your priorities straight and align your goals with your values, then doing what it takes is easy.
3. Do the math. Stop looking for magic. A lean body does not come from any particular type of exercise or foods per se, it’s the calories burned vs calories consumed that determines fat loss or fat gain. You might do better by decreasing the calories consumed, whereas I depended more on increasing the calories burned, but either way, it’s still a math equation. Deny it at your own risk.
4. Get social support. Support and encouragement from your friends can help get you through anything. Real time accountability to a training partner or trainer can make all the difference.
5. Be consistent. Nothing will ever work if you don’t work at it every day. Sporadic efforts don’t just produce sporadic results, sometimes they produce zero results.
6. Persist through difficulty and self doubt. If you think it’s going to be smooth sailing all the way with no ups and downs, you’re fooling yourself.. For every sunny day, there’s going to be a storm. If you can’t weather the storms, you’ll never reach new shores.
7. Redeem yourself. Non-achievers sit on the couch and wallow in past failures. Winners use past failures as motivational rocket fuel. It always feels good to achieve a goal, but nothing feels as good as achieving a goal with redemption.
Postscript: My journey continued. Since that initial first place trophy, I have competed as a natural for life bodybuilder 26 more times, including 7 first place awards and 7 runner up awards. And yes, I finally nailed down the nutrition side of things too. You can read more about that and the fat loss program that developed as a result at www.burnthefat.com
About Tom Venuto, The No-BS Fat Loss Coach
Tom Venuto has been a trusted natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert since 1989. He is also a recipe creator specializing in fat-burning, muscle-building cooking. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and today works as a full-time fitness coach, writer, blogger, and author. In his spare time, he is an avid outdoor enthusiast and backpacker. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. The Body Fat Solution, Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 52,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details
Tom, thanks for sharing that tremendously revealing and humorous antecdote from your childhood. That is very powerful stuff! It reaffirmed everything I already know, yet the most important piece of the puzzle will always be the CALORIE DEFICIT. It all boils down to burning more calories than you consume, period. I’m one of those guys who runs A LOT, and that has worked wonders FOR ME. You’ve stated in your program that running isn’t for everyone, but I’ve taken to it like a fish to water LOL. I appreciate the fact that you keep things simple, yet do not sugarcoat the fact that a great deal of hard work is required if one is to truly become “ripped.” It’s a gauntlet for sure, but anybody can navigate it if they are armed with the right information from the get-go. That is where your program has proved invaluable to me!P.S. I would like to see you compare abs with Greg Plitt, that would be a sight to behold LOL. I look forward to your next e-mail.
Tom,This is absolutely inspiring! It’s great to finally know the reasons and challenges behind your success. It’s good to know that you’ve had similar struggles in the past, like many of us do as well I’m sure.I really agree with a lot of things that you’ve said and learned. Persisting through self-doubt is one thing I’m definitely learning to do. I’m somewhat similar with your case, it’s better for me to burn off the fat than to lower calories too much. I’ve been more consistent with my running (fasted AM outdoors) lately for 4-5 times per week and am seeing noticible results! I’ve done only sporadic amounts of cardio (some weeks on, some off) before this, and as you’ve said, results were sporadic or NONE! Although the magic isn’t in the running itself, but basically any form of cardio that burns enough calories to make a caloric deficit and produce results (I go hill hiking too sometimes!).However, this doesn’t mean I neglect weight-lifting. I’m currently doing about 2-3 days full-body training, focusing on compound lifts. I also eat clean (natural, wholesome foods) 80-90% of the time.I’ve learned A LOT from BFFM. Your success today is really well-deserved!
Tom, your article came in really handy as I had leveled out on my weight loss/muscle gain program. I realized I had dropped my cardio from 45 min to 30 minutes a day, since I had lost weight and was in better shape. I substituted doing farm chores but I think I acclimated again to the increased activity.I have been doing the Burn the Fat program since 2005. Since I have Lupus and fibromyalgia, I have to take it slow. A muscle burn for me can cause flu like symptoms and lupus flares so I have to be super careful and very goal oriented.I think you need to add #8: Know your own body and it’s particular unique requirements, and modify your goals accordingly.So it is possible to lose 30 lbs (so far…20 to go…) and get in great shape and have medical issues. It’s just a management problem. Not an impossibility.
Dear Tom,I have been invisible to the world, and I am tired of it.I am a very busy person, working full-time, mother, wife, helping with recording studio, helping with home therapy for our son, doing the finances, housework, cooking organic wholesome food daily, and still find time for my friends and my aging parent. As many women, I find myself kicking butt on all fronts, but loosing “me” in the process.I have been slowly drawing lines in the sand on what I need to be successful in my personal goals, one of which is to compete in the US Boxing Amateur Competition in Kansas City this August. Strangely enough, I have had a number of disturbing conversations since… one in particular that really stuck in my mind, made me angry, and motivated me. A close girlfriend had said that “it is OK to have the intention of doing something, but we are not always able to do things we want to do. The reality is different from what can be– its Ok to have the intention…” Then she went on to mention how busy I am and how my husband’s music project is just getting off the ground, etc.Is it OK to just have good intentions? How that just pisses me off! I guess it would be alright to only have good intentions, if I want to walk through my life in a haze, to be invisible. I will admit it, I am good boxer, but I am fat. I have been cranking it up on the home stretch and seeing results, but I will still be fighting heavy weight, because I didn’t do what you said sooner. I let all my responsibilities encroach upon my personal goals, and I only recently broke that cycle.Thank you for writing your inspiring Blog entries that hit my email consistently and remind me to fight my way into an exceptional life. It has been a real struggle, but I finally feel like I am aligning my values with my goals.I make a promise to you here, today, that I will not be invisible anymore!All the Best!
TOM. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE YOUR ARTICLES. I BEGAN TO EBCOME PHYSICALLY FIT BACK IN JANUARY 2008. I HAD NO IDEA AS TO THE OBSESSION WEIGHTLIFTING AND RUNNING WOULD BECOME TO ME. I AM NOW RUNNING 3 MILES A DAY AND AM AT THE YMCA EVERY MORNING AT 4:30.I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM OYU. I WILL BE 43 IN SEPTEMBER AND AM IN BETTR SHAPE THAT WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. MY PROBLEM AREA SEEM TO BE MY MIDSECTION, I WANT THE FLAT ABS. I AM WORKING ON THEM. THANKS, FOR ALL YOU DO.
Tom, the hairs on the back of my neck are still standing as I write! I cannot believe how much we have in common. I can’t believe you writing about bee pollen, dessicated liver, trying this excercise, that routine, this supplement, Lehigh Valley (hah!) and on and on and on. It was as if I was writing this article.I too started lifting weights when I was 12/13 and had a 42 inch chest and a 30 inch waist when I was 17 years old. My strength was unusual as I could bench press 320 when I only weighed 160. Yet I too could never “see” my muscles. I always called myself a weightlifter because I was so embarassed to say I was a bodybuilder.But Tom, unlike you, it didn’t take me 4 years to figure it out. It took me 30. Yet I was finally redeemed! By you! To think back just a few months ago I was ready to give it all up and just be content forever with something I could never overcome. But now … I’m actually embarassed to take off my shirt when we have parties by my pool! The neck turning and triple takes from friends and family! Trying to avert my eyes because I know somone is staring at me!! Hah! My cousin said recently as I took my shirt off to go for a swim: “Holy Cow look at Paddy!” Yep, that was sweet redemption, but you were the redeemer!How do I thank you Tom for all you did for me! I’ve become a bodybuilder for the first time in my life …Sincerely,Paddy :)
Thanks TomYou rock!!I have love handles which I cant get rid off.I will definitely set bigger goals for myself.Running is on! Sorry gotta put on the gear and i’m out a here.
I have been on the program for just a short time. It will be one month on June 30. I am 56, and had put on some weight in the last 2 years. I had previously been eating an extremely healthy diet, and was in great shape. I got married a year ago, and slacked a bit on the eating—the treats and the dinners I made my new hubby were a huge temptation. I hit rock bottom on May 30. I was very unhappy with myself and they way I looked and felt. I HAD been about 118 pounds, and was now 129. I know that may seem minor to some, but I had lost muscle, and most of all confidence in myself. I no longer felt wonderful and sexy. I set a goal for myself of losing 15 pounds of fat, and gaining muscle. I think I feel my best at about 113 pounds. I have been faithful, and have not cheated AT ALL. I exercise every day, but here is where the discouraging part comes in. I simply can’t do some of the moves, or the LONG cardios that someone 20 something can. I have days when I feel inadequate, and low. I keep plugging away. I know it will be slow and steady. I have not weighed myself in awhile. I have no scale and mainly rely on what I see and feel. I THINK there have been changes. I am proud that I have been religiously following an eating and exercise program without a single ‘cheat’ meal. As anyone knows, it is hard because everyone wants to see quick results. I just wish I didn’t feel a bit like a failure because I can’t do ‘body builder’ caliber work outs! I wish I could afford a personal trainer, even for a few weeks, but I can’t. Anyway, Tom, I have my goals all written down, and I read or think of them every day. I will NOT give up until I reach them!MaryNew Hampshire
Dear Tom, I’ve been average for too long and started full gym only a couple of months ago. Seriously. This story moves me because I can see you as a normal human being… a regular man doing things EXTRAordinarily, and that´s what counts, achieving goals no matter what, with no advantages. And there’s the key: the EXTRA part. Thanks a lot to share this personal story, that really motivates me.
Tom,Thats really inspiring. I sometimes loose motivation for the very same reason you mentioned above,not getting results as expected, but once i see your newletter i kick my butt and go to gym.Keep up the good work. God bless–Rajesh
Tom,At 53 years of age I thought maybe it was too late to really make a difference. I attended college on a track scholarship and have gone from 6’3″ 171 lb 400 meter runner with 7 % body fat to a 256 LB blob. I am able to follow the diet, the lifting and the cardio even though 15 years of competitive racing has ruined my knees and I have had most of my cartilege removed.Your article today gave me the encouragement to move forward. I was slowing down my cardio, justifying it as an age thing but I have been successful in losing body fat and weight in the short few weeks of using your BFFM protocol.My new motto is “Go forward Unafraid.” Thanks, Bob
Hi Tom:I’m a soon to be 50 year old with severe ostoarthritis in both knees from old football and hockey injuries. My surgeon told me back in November that I need a total knee on one leg and a ‘re-alignment’ on my other. Over the last few years I’ve gained weight due to my own perceived lack of ability to do things, and if your mind believes it your body will start to as well. After Christmas, my weight reached 210 lbs, and I was in a physical and mental rut. In February of this year I finally decided to do something about it.I’ve been reading your ‘Burn the Fat’ newsletters and they’ve helped me to motivate myself to get trim and fit- not bulked, as excess weight isn’t good for the knees. I’m now at 175 lbs; I weight train for an hour each day and walk or bike hard for another two hours (I can’t run however- not yet). My diet has changed completly, and as you’ve preached- you have to burn more than you consume! I’m now back to my fitness level of 15-20 years ago when I was still playing sports.I saw my surgeon again this May and he was amazed at the change. I’m more flexible and have far less pain than before. He said that I must be as tough as nails to be able to do what I’m doing with these knee joints! I’m really not- but I am motivated and that can overcome a lot of physical obstacles. My wife kind of likes the new body also!Thanks again for providing sound, simple advice that works!Regards, Dave
Hi Tom,I’m not a bodybuilder, nor I’m i trying to be one. I’m just a mother of two who’s trying to keep my body in shape and show difinition, hence the reason I do some weight training.I read your articles and always learn a lot from them. Sometimes, your article touches my heart so much that it brings tears to my eyes. You voice your words with such wisdom and sincerity. Your principles are not only for those who are in the athletic world, but for anyone who’s trying to achieve anything positive in their life. It boils down to two words “Persistence” and “Determination”.I want to say thank you for contributing to my life in a positive way.May God Bless and keep you!DianeNY
Hello Tom,Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations of the health and fitness lifestyle. You write articles because you care and that is great for us readers. Kudos’ to you. I was wondering if you can you get some stories on persons or women that are hypothyroid and not getting the correct prescription yet have had fitness successes? Is there such a thing? We are definitely not the norm for getting fit and losing weight and there are not enough ‘experts’ that know or cover this topic. It would be great, actually wonderful if you could pass some info on. If you have any readers requesting for more info on hypothyroidism, one great website out there is called, Stop The Thyroid Madness. Thanks and take care,Paula
Tom,Thanks for the motivational emails. I live down here in “Katrina Land” and was always thin most of my life. Except now, I realize that I was just a skinny fat person. However, after Katrina, my weight ballooned to 184 pounds. Mostly from stress and 3 months of MRE’s. (Just in case y’all don’t know…that tiny little food package has close to 3200 calories! Try eating those 3 times a day for 3 months!) We had so much destruction…no electricity so you couldn’t eat healthy and the health clubs didn’t reopen for months. Couldn’t even walk around the neighborhood because of all the trees and debris everywhere. That’s my excuse for gaining the weight and I’m sticking to it, LOL!About 6 months after Katrina, I decided to get back to my normal weight, doing my normal weight loss strategy…eating low fat and cardio every day. Guess what? Didn’t work! I couldn’t get that weight off to save my life and I couldn’t understand why! After all, that strategy worked when I was in my 20’s. Why didn’t it work for my 40’s?? So I started using those “miracle” weight loss pills too. Still, no weight loss. Then I found your website and ordered your book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. What an eye-opener!! I educated myself on what I needed to do. Unfortunately, I still thought that maybe my way was best because after all, who really wants to do strength training AND high intensity cardio AND eat properly, right? So, still no weight loss. Finally, I had to go to a wedding and wear the only “fat” dress I could fit into…one with an elastic waist, for heaven’s sake! OMG!!That following Monday I bit the bullet and signed up with a personal trainer. Gave him my goals…to lose weight by building muscle and burning fat and I wanted to learn how to eat clean. My trainer is wonderful (translation: evil spawn of hell) and has helped me to achieve ALL my goals with a combination of high intensity cardio and strength training. (Always joked how I don’t run, but he’s actually got me running on the treadmill! Still hate to run…but it works, so I’m doing it!) So here’s the tally so far: Weight from 184 to 154. Body fat from 28% to 17%. Lost 30 pounds so far and 28+ inches!! I now fit into a size 6 jeans and actually, they are getting too loose now. (For the record, before Katrina I weighed 138 and wore a size 10!!) While I’m not trying to get “ripped” like a bodybuilder, I have great muscle definition everywhere…including my abs!!I am sticking with the program as I have the last (hardest!) 10 pounds to lose. I hit a plateau for a while, so my trainer has changed my routine to a plateau busting workout (translation: legal torture) and have started dropping the pounds again as of last week (thank God!!).I celebrated by buying 6(!!) bikinis!! Thank you, thank you for getting me on the right track. After all the stuff I tried, it comes down to a very simple equation: Cardio + Strength + Nutrition!Tom you found the “secret”…now keep telling everyone what it is!!!KristeeNew Orleans
I love that story sooo much. Apart from the main point the best section was rule number one…set a goal big enough to scare the daylights out of you… Something exhilirating that unshackles you from ALL comfort zones. Like me…45 and starting marathon training this Monday, only started exercising a year ago and never done a single sporting activity prior. It has all made success in business and career look perilously unbalanced. Good work Tom.
I appreciate all of the articles, tips and anecdotes provided by your site. They seem to arrive right about the time I start to lose some of my enthusiasm about going to the gym. (mildew – smelling showers – yuck!) I’ve lost 10 lbs of FAT which were obscuring a fairly decent physique hiding beneath. Another 5ish lbs will put me in the “ideal” category. Even my dental hygienist commented that I look good and she’s NEVER happy even if you brush/floss 5x a day. My diet is waaaaay healthier too. Don’t eat cookies for breakfast? Who knew? I recommend your program all the time. Especially to the guys that figure they’ll get thin by not eating solids and drink meal supplements by the gallon.Kudos and thanks for impressively comprehensive program.
First I apologize for my bad english! I’m a 22 years old italian boy, and after reading your history, Tom, I feel very near to you, because I’ve tryed, like you, everything to have a body like models on the magazines covers. When I was 14 I was fat because I eat too much, so I started eating less, and I lost weight fastly, due to high metabolism, but I wanted more, so I joined a gym. When I was 16 I asked myself: “why can’t I be like models? I’m young, strong and motivated” I went to gym every single day, even on sunday, I lifted weight, I did spin bike, every machine in the gym, every course (dancing, crunches, total body workout and so on) and I lost a lot of fat but even a lot of muscles. at 18 years I was 185cm tall and my weight was 68kg.. I had 13% of fat, but I looked like anorexic, even if I eat a lot more than before, I think due to a too high metabolism. then I decided to stop, even if a lot of people envyed my body, I didn’t like myself. I stopped exercising, and I started smoking 20 cigarettes a day. when I turned 22 my weight was 91 kg, and I couldn’t even see myself in the mirror.. I threw my cigarettes away and I started “running” 1 hour a day.After one week I discoverd your site.. today my weight is 84, I’m still overweight, I know, but I’m working hard, because I’m in love with a girl, and my goal is telling that I love her only after my abs will become visible, and you made me believe this was possible.. it’ a long road, I know, but it’s easier with someone on your side..
thanks a million for your inspiring words. You give me the motivation i need to go out and do what needs to be done.thanks again tom
Great motivating article Tom… I like the steps at the end… goal settting is just SO important! And with the tips you have here – who can lose? Thanks for this information – I might just have to go workout right now!
Hi Tom, Great article. In fact all of your articles are great. As a fitness professional, I really appreciate your good advice and fat loss assistance. On my WEB site I’m tracking my improved muscle growth and fat reduction. You are a great help in this. Take care, Larry
hey tomthis is a message all the way from south africa….this is just to thank you for the inspiring thoughts you always share and i hoped you would enjoy seeing that you even influence people to be leaner and look amazing in far off countries like south africa. After i read your post i felt i needed to thank you, today you made a difference, i am also one of those girls that have tried everything, i used to teach aerobics classes in my hometown and never saw any results even after years of doing sometimes even two hours at a time classes.. so maybe i should buy one of those “cardio sucks” t-shirts? it’s so true. well the last two years i started weight training and this year i fixed my nutrition so im happy to report i’ve built some muscles and i’m getting leaner by the second and you know what…it feels AMAZING!! i am healthier than ive ever been, so thank you for all the advice, your’e a star!! :) so here’s to getting leaner and looking awesome… i am so excited to go forward and look even better!!charlene- south afirca
A good true story Tom. Thanks for the motivation and encouragement.
Tom,I want to thank you so much for your BFFM program. I, like so many others, have “tried everything”. I’m 5’4″, and at my worst a few years ago, 170#. I got down to about 130, 125 at times, but did it by eating about 800 calories a day and running almost daily. I killed my metabolism. I’ve been working on your program now for about 4 months. I’m at 122#, and 16.1% body fat (hydrostatic test) – even with some cheating on the weekends! Once of my boyfriends friends even commented that I looked like “that chick from Terminator”. OK…I disagree, but it’s nice to get recoginition for all of the hard work. Thanks again for your book! You say it’s not simple or easy, but it is. It’s certainly easier than the previous ways I’ve tried to loose weight/fat!
hi tomjust a little note to say thanks for your continued emails ,as these are so encouraging.I have just purchased a running machine “for convienence only”. I have such a busy scheduel. i find the machine purfect .I have been following your program and i must say its so simple but ever so powerful,i have told at least 7 of my friends about your e book and told them to get it as soon as possable they wont have to spend another penny on fad diets and supplements( THATS AS THE MAGAZINES SAY ARE A MUST)what lies.SO KEEP GOING WITH YOUR ECOURAGMENT ITS MUCH APPRECIATED “THANKS AGAIN CARL”.
Tom,I have been receiving your newsletters and definitely find inspiration in them all. But this article was IT. I have always been physically fit, and it was very easy when I was younger being a fit Marine was not an option. Over the past few years I have become lazy and have taken the easy way out and have let work and other things get in the way of what has been important to me. Although I have become very avid in watching what I eat as far as sodium, etc. I watch my cholesterol closely and recently have a medical cholesterol screening done each year. My readings were Perfect. But I’m still disappointed in the way I look – my fitness level is so-so for a 43 year old. Friends think I look good but I literally “jiggle” and I absolutely hate it. I have been successful in that my upper body responds very well to weight training but my thighs and buttocks need lots of work and I get very frustrated.This last newsletter has given me new motivation and ideas of how and what I need to do to get to the fitness level I want to be at.Thanks Tom for the new found motivation.Holly, Ft. Worth Texas
Hey Tom,Great article buddy and thanks for sharing that piece of your personal history.I think the lessons learned from your sharing can be applied by each and every one of us who read it.Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.Train with purpose,Kyle Battis CSCS, NSCA-CPTwww.FatLossLunchBreak.com
Hello Tom,Well well well, I can honestly say, I believe I finally got it, I truly and honestly know I finally got the missing link of never ending trial and error. I can’t believe this, I finally finally got it from reading your newsletter titled “How I Got “Ripped” Abs For The Very First Time”.I similiar to your story 5 years of trying anything and everything, even after purchasing your e-book,how you can miss it a million times over and yet I’m still indisbelief that I think I finally know what I personally need to do to get the last painful, discusting, agonizing, failing 10%-12% of body fat loss that I have been yerning to acomplish since 2002.I shall e-mail you on my progress (Tom) as I am making a personal commitment publickly and truly holding myself accountable by making it public. I thank you for your imense knowledge, wisdom and honesty in sharing everything about your true self that inspires the rest of us. I have deep admiration and respect for you.Thank you, In time I shall be a true testiment to your wisdom and passion in share your knowledge not out of personal financial gains but to see us reach our personal best and in achieving and in reaching our personal best each and every day and you are doing so one person at a time Tom. I thank you for that.Best regards,Donna Jundi
I guess many people are really grateful to you for sharing this. I know I am, because I have an endomorph/mesomorph bodxyy type and have the same problems, the advantages in gaining and maintaining muscle which is really great, and the difficulties in losing fat, and most bodybuilding experts focus only on the skinny people and their difficulties in gaining muscle which was always a bit alien to me. So thank you, I really love your story and find it inspirational.
Tom, you are honestly my inspiration. for many years i’ve made countless references to your URLs, guides, discussions and so forth. i can relate so much to your tounger years as i too had a bulky build, i’m in much better shape than i was before i learned of your writings.i just want to take this oppertunity to thank you for all the help you have given me. your wisdom is not only vast, but you promote realistic ideas of health.im sure i speak for everyone who has read and of your writings that im very greatful that you have chosen to share your experiences with us.
Hey Tom,this is extremely inspirational, I am just glad for the fact that this book exists right now (I am 15). Its so often that you see your friends going on fad diets (low-carb Atkins etc.), it just nice to beable to eat healthy and i feel as if I am reaping the benifits. the best part is that i get to eat…alot!!! and loose fat; fat not muscle. 5’7 and about 19% fat (from about 30%) and getting lower….thanks
Amazing story! Before I read this story I had already lost 30 lbs. My body and waist has shred alot of weight. Still waiting to get ripped though. I have been running for hour and a half consistently everyday. I do my cardio runs in resistant areas like hills. I agree so much in your story. I could not keep fat off during just working out, when I started cardio I lost all the weight but I have been stuck in the past 2 weeks at 30 lbs. I’m trying to reach 45 – 50 lbs. But for some reason I can’t surpass 30 lbs. I haven’t yet given up. Any idea’s?
Thanks for being you! You are non-nonsense and straight to the point! It’s refreshing how you explain your journey with the reality of bad decisions, moments of weakness and the lessons you learned from them. At first glance we see the shape you’re in and dismiss that physique as unattainable, only to find out that at one time you were JUST LIKE US, therefore it IS attainable! Thanks for your inspiration! ~kim~
I was really chubby in middle school and high school, and never lost it until I started running 5-6 days a week.
At the same time I cut out all junk food and soda, and the fat MELTED off me.
Like you said, it’s about calorie deficit. But I will say that I think some calories are much lower quality than others.
I havent done a ton of research into it, but it makes sense to me that our bodies can process 100 calories of broccoli better than 100 calories of chemical-filled cookies or fast food
Hi Tom, glad to have read this story about your journey to having ripped abs! I share many of the same frustrations in my life. Being a shy guy I always excelled at individual sports but was too shy for the big boy stuff! I was the ‘husky’ one always, but strong. Most of that strength nobody ever saw. One day in gym class we were learning to wrestle and to everyones amazement I could overtake the kid I was teamed up to wrestle. I’ll never forget that! Many years later still with the wish of looking athletic I taught aerobic exercise (I skipped many years here) but this was yet another attempt to have a well defined core. You know! Oh I was fit but never had a body that said ‘this guy is in shape!’. Jumping many more years ahead – I’m now 62 and do have a ripped physique and I do have those same feelings as you when you achieved the same goal. Proud I am and now wonder why the task was so hard because as you say, now that I know how to get lean it seems rather easy. I’ve been fat and I’ve been skinny (fat) but never like now with abs that people are inspired by and think it’s not too late in their lives to ‘go for it’ moreover they usually say I’ve inspried them to get off the couch. What they had seen as impossible I’ve proved is possible. With the consistancy that you speak of being lean at any age I believe is possible. Thanks for the article!! Best, Phil – P.S. I’m at roughly 7% bodyfat and I’m now somehow inspired to want to be less even though just yesterday I’d thought not! Thanks!
Thanks for the great story. What I would like to know is how does a person efficiently reduce his calorie intake if he is an athlete without losing performance? So I did the math and since I am active 5 times a week(3 times 2h Basketball, 2 time weight training), technically I should eat up to 3700 calories a day. I am already lean but I cannot reduce my total body fat to get ripped. I don’t want to undereat too much so as to not being able to perform at high levels however I want to get ripped. I try to eat 5 times a day but it isn’t as easy due to work schedule. Is it possible that I am actually eating too low of calories so my fat burning stops? 3700 cal seems kinda high and I really don’t think Im eating more than that. I should always be under due to exercising. I can’t seem to get over the hump to lose that last belly fat. I appreciate your time and answer.