I’m confident enough to admit when I’m wrong (most of the time). And let me tell you, I was wrong about Drew Manning.
Unless you live under a rock (if so, I hope it’s a very nicely-appointed rock), you probably heard about Drew Manning’s story a few months ago. He’s the trainer who purposely gained and lost 70 pounds in a year so he could get a better idea of what his overweight clients felt like. You, remember? This guy:
When I first saw the story pop up on CNN, I was admittedly skeptical. And by “skeptical” I mean “totally annoyed”. There were so many things running around in my head. I thought it was stupid. And dangerous. And even a little bit offensive. I mean, how dare this privileged white guy with the resources, education, genetic-disposition and motivation to be healthy pretend that his brief trip into the world of being overweight gave him the tools to understand what it’s like to deal with being overweight for a lifetime? How dare he pretend that he “gets” us just because he put on a beer belly for a few months? And even worse, how dare he perpetrate the notion that it’s easy to lose weight if you stop being so lazy and start eating some kale? Look! I can gain and lose 70 pounds in a year! Fat asses stop being so lazy and you can do the same! Ra-ra-ra!
Yeah, as you can see, there was a reason I never posted anything about it here. My feelings on the subject were decidedly negative and, honestly, a touch hostile. Beyond all of this, I felt like it was the biggest publicity stunt I’d ever seen. A desperate attempt to get clients, make a quick dime and get noticed. I wasn’t about to add fuel to the fire by posting about it on my blog. No way, no how.
So, when I saw that Mr. Manning was speaking at the Anytime Fitness conference I was…uh…unimpressed.
But being the polite girl I am, I sat and listened to Drew speak and within a few minutes, I felt my cold, hard annoyance melt away. Drew was personable, funny and, pardon my French, not the douchebag asshole I thought he’d be.
This is me, eating crow.
First-things-first, he totally made me laugh by making a joke about being Ben Stiller’s body double. Of course, I’m a big fan of self-deprecating humor, so I was immediately softened to him. Anyone that can make fun of themselves in front of 1400 people can’t be all that bad, right?
Then, Drew went on to admit that the whole thing started off as a way to do something “big” to grab attention. He admitted that he thought it’d be easy and get him some national exposure. But he also admitted that there were a lot of things he learned along the way that he didn’t expect. And that the process changed the way he himself felt and acted around overweight people. He also made it very, very clear that this was totally dangerous and stupid and that he, in no way, has any idea what it’s like to truly identify with being overweight. He always knew the weight was going to come off. And he had the education, resources and tools to do so, so he never had that unknown.
Most impressively, Drew made sure to remark that before, when training clients, his focus was on weight. How much did you lose? How much do you want to lose? How much can you lose? But he quickly realized during the process that the weight wasn’t the problem, it was what he was doing to gain the weight that caused the issues—eating junky and not exercising. The actual number on the scale was secondary to the way he felt. His whole philosophy changed. Weight didn’t matter. Doing the right things for your body did.
He also spoke about dealing with food addiction. He talked about how he grew to love Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Mountain Dew during his weight gain and how difficult it was to give up when it was time to go “2 fit” again. Of course, six months of food addition is nothing compared to a lifetime of environmental conditioning, but still, it was nice to hear that he got a small glimpse of the physical and emotional pull food can have on a person.
Obviously, hearing Drew speak in person changed my tune. I still think it was a stunt that was pretty narrow-minded and incredibly dangerous, but hearing Drew own up to that, and own up to the things he learned and experienced made me feel a little less yucky about the whole deal. Especially once I learned that he’s parlayed the success he had with the project into a website with free resources to help people learn how to eat healthy and work fitness into their lives. I honestly feel like Drew started off the fit2fat2fit journey as one person with one type of motivation and ended up a totally different guy. A guy whose story I don’t mind sharing here.
Part of me feels like if there was a healthy and non-dangerous way to do something like this, it’d be an amazing experience for all trainers to go through. I think people who are naturally slender or naturally athletic or even conditioned environmentally to eat healthy or be active struggle with thinking that it’s just so damn easy to be that way. They don’t understand that if you don’t have that conditioning, those resources or that knowledge, it can feel like an absolutely impossible task to be healthy. I think now, Drew probably understands that a little more than he did before the journey. And I think that’s commendable.
Dear Drew: if you happen to read this, I’m sorry I judged you so harshly the first time ’round. Thanks for being awesome and sharing your story with us.