From Stressed to Strong: Meet Chris 

 February 28, 2017

By  nick

A Need For Change

About eighteen months ago, my life changed dramatically.

I promoted into a new job, one that was going to be a challenge, but one that I knew would be exciting.  I also purchased a new house – my first – and was in the process of turning it from a cavernous, empty building into a home.  My friends and family kept saying how lucky I was and how happy they were for me.  I always thanked them and then cynically thought how wonderful it was that someone was happy because I wasn’t.

I was stressed out.


Because of the combination of work and home stress, I started eating like it was my job.  I was gorging myself every chance I could.  Popcorn and peanut butter became my best friends.  I visited them both daily and sometimes multiple times each day. 

Thankfully, a few months later, my stress started to reduce.  I had a better handle on my new job and my house was coming together nicely. 

Now if only all my clothing hadn’t shrunk in my new dryer…. Oh wait. 


When I moved back to Philadelphia, I was wearing a 32-in waist.  By the time I realized how much I was stress-eating, I was pushing into a 36-in waist.  But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I caught a glimpse of myself from behind:  Somehow my father’s back was staring back at me from the mirror.  NOPE! 

I needed to fix this – and it could all be easily done on my own, or so I thought. 

I started going to the gym and running on the treadmill.  It was hard, but I managed it a few days a week.  My goal was five days a week, but I was pretty happy with three.  I told all my friends to call me Fatty-Fatty Oink-Oink to encourage me to diet and eat healthy. 

What?  That’s not how you diet?  To each their own

After a few months of that, my weight went down a little, but I still felt like a saggy, baggy elephant.  The real problem was that I didn’t have any muscle tone, and as I was getting older, this was becoming evident. 


I didn’t like the way my clothes were fitting and I felt even worse looking at myself without them. I needed professional help. 


I asked at my local gym, but the trainers there were employed by the gym and seemed more concerned with upgrading my gym membership than with actually helping me.  I went on Thumbtack and tried to find someone, but as conversations progressed, it became evident that these people were either not as qualified as they claimed to be or were pushing to raise their fee through nickel-and dime tactics.  I felt discouraged by it all, but I kept looking. 

A New Hope

Eventually, I stumbled across an article on the Top Trainers in Philadelphia.  Reading the article, I liked what Nick had to say about stress and also with working diverse populations.  As a guy in my mid-30s, I’m not really young anymore but I’m not really old either.

Okay, I thought.  It’s time to bite the bullet and do this. 

I called Nick and we talked for a while about everything I’ve mentioned above.  It may have been the anonymity of never meeting, but I found myself telling him things I’ve never told anyone before.  We talked about my fears and my goals.  His positive attitude to meeting both head-on gave me a boost of self-confidence.  He mentioned his price – a lot less than the local gym, but more than the Thumbtack people – and I said okay. 

Project: Make this Work.


Then after I hung up, I immediately grabbed a sheet of paper and my checkbook ledger to see if it really was okay.  I started doing the math – I was eating out once or twice per day or ordering in… If I cut out those extravagances, the program was both affordable and considerably less than what I was paying for dining out.  This was do-able! 

Day One.

I met Nick and he was just as friendly in person as he was over the phone.  We chatted for a bit and then he asked me to do an assessment so he could see where I needed to start.  

He also took pictures to document my journey to a healthier life.  


Those pictures… weren’t kind.  But they cemented the idea that I was making the right choice.  Also, please say hello to my father’s back and then ask it why it’s on my body.  

This assessment was also an eye-opener because I didn’t realize how limiting my gym use was.  Over the weeks that followed, Nick was opening doors to every part of the gym, from the weight room to the cardio areas.

Fast Forward: The Present.

I’m a little more than twelve weeks in at this point, and frankly, I’m amazed at the progress I’ve seen so far. 

I feel incredibly healthy, but more importantly – I LOOK GOOD. 


Here are the visuals from our follow-up assessment:

I don’t look like that saggy, baggy elephant that I was embarrassed to see in the mirror every morning. 

I’m mostly joking about looking good being more important that being healthy (mostly), but the best thing to come of all this is that I’ve learned so much about nutrition and the importance of weight-training in a healthy lifestyle. 

I’ve actually learned more than that.  So much, that I’ve compiled my top five revelations for you.

My Top Five Revelations

1)     People in the gym don’t care to judge me.

Before going to the gym, I was always terrified that guys in the weight room were judging me for not being big.  I thought everyone was staring at me with You-don’t-belong-here-so-get-out eyes.  Yeah, that’s not true.  No one in the gym was ever looking at me.  People are either focused on working out or are so fatigued they can’t be bothered to notice you.  The ones working out are usually too busy looking in a mirror to make sure their form is good to really pay attention to you. 

2)    Diets are incredibly easy to change. 

Remember that melon-sized ball of peanut butter and popcorn I was shoving into my face every day?  I don’t miss it at all. 

I haven’t felt restricted by this program as I have by diets in the past. 

It’s not about deciding what’s good and what’s bad, it’s about deciding what will get me closer to my goals. And truthfully, I’m eating more now than I was six months ago – I’m just eating better things and in a better ratio. 

3)    Be Open To Learning

At some point in your fitness evaluation or while working out, Nick is going to tell you ridiculous things that could never possibly be true… until they are. 

Seriously.  The first day we worked out, Nick observed something and told me my ribs were going to move. 

THAT’S JUST CRAZY!  Ribs don’t move!…  

[gasp] And then they do. 

He also told me I was going to be less ticklish.  That was never going to happen. 

And then it did. 

Trust what Nick says.  His knowledge is one of the tools you’re going to need to succeed. 

4)    Nutrition goes beyond food. 

Stress, sleep schedules, etcetera all contribute to nutritional health.  Nick’s guidance has made me feel healthier and more productive in areas of my life that were unexpected.  I feel as if I’ve gained back an extra two hours a day because of my energy and my ability to wake up – and get up – earlier in the morning. 

5)    I’m saving money by having a trainer. 

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.  Because nutrition is at the fore-front of my mind, I’m taking my breakfast and lunch to work with me, and cooking dinners for myself.  Instead of blowing my money on semi-nutritious meals out (or ordered in,) I’m responsible for my nutrition and am saving the wasted expense. 

If you’re reading this, I hope it means that you’re also looking to make a positive change in your own life.  I wish you good luck.  It’s not always easy to start, but once you do, you have the power to make those changes happen. 



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