I’m someone who’s pretty experienced with working out and training. I’ve been doing it for years, but I’ve always had a problem with making great progress over four months or so, then slipping back into my old ways and ending up right back where I started. I also suffer from bipolar disorder and really felt that the constant all-or-nothing approach I had was impacting me mentally.

When I was at probably my heaviest, around 196 pounds (89 kg), I felt sluggish and lacking in confidence. I was also going through a mild relapse of my bipolar disorder. I hadn’t really trained or eaten well for about four months, after starting the year off strong—yet another yo-yo period.

I really wanted some extra help with a fantastic transformation, but also on finding a sustainable balance. I’d been training with Ultimate Performance through an app for a while, and I thought that doing it in person could really help me. So I started training at Ultimate Performance in London.

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Eating More Frequently

I knew that step one would be improving my diet. I’d typically skip breakfast and even lunch, then come home stressed and hungry, down a beer or two, then scarf down some takeout.

This time, I made some changes. I never skipped breakfast, and then would eat lunch and dinner, plus a protein-heavy snack or shake mid-afternoon or post-workout. Because I would eat every 4 hours, I rarely got hungry.

Before I did this, I knew what I needed to do nutritionally to get results. I understand calorie deficits and macro tracking. I just wasn’t doing any of it. I went into training determined to make it work. I think food prep on the weekend was critical to my success. It’s so much easier to just take a meal out of the fridge, and it keeps you from thinking about ordering takeout.

And I still enjoyed the food I chose. I picked protein and fat sources that taste good, like sea bass, ground beef, guacamole, and eggs. I also cut out alcohol completely.

The Big Workout Surprise

I worked out four times a week for the first three months, then five times a week from then on. Having someone guide me through the exercises really improved my form, even if it was little tweaks that I couldn’t have recognized on my own. My trainer helped me shift my mindset, getting me in the right space for success. I did virtually no formal cardio; I didn’t need it, because I was making so much progress.

I have to say, the biggest change in my lifestyle, and the one that’s provided the most tangible results, has been walking more. I initially aimed for 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day. Making that work meant things like convincing myself that getting up 90 minutes earlier was worth it, and buying a hat, jacket, and gloves for walking on colder days. I’d get off the subway a few stops earlier so walking felt like part of the routine. By the end, I was getting closer to 20,000 steps a day.

Walking burns calories. But getting out into nature daily, especially first thing in the morning, has been the biggest positive change to my mental well-being. I can’t recommend it enough.

My transformation was 23 weeks total, with a five-week holiday in the middle where I wasn’t as rigorous about my nutrition. I think that helped me mentally to stick with the process. Over that period I lost 53 pounds (24kg) and went from 34.8 percent body fat (on calipers) to 7.1 percent (on DEXA). Maybe most importantly, my trainer taught me how to manage the future, and how to keep myself within this weight and body-fat window.

I came out of it with much greater confidence, more energy, and improved concentration. My mental health improved a lot, which is of the utmost importance with my diagnosis.

Pretty much everyone was stunned and very complimentary. And of course wanted to know how I did it! During the last four weeks as I got very lean, people noticed big changes, and were very curious about what I was doing. It made me realize that so many people have a skewed understanding of body composition. People would say I’d never looked overweight, and now I looked “skinny,” when really I’d gone from obese and unhealthy to a much more sustainable BMI.

This whole process really gave me time and space to reflect. Sometimes, because I’m a well-trained medical professional, I think I know everything. Getting into the gym with someone who really was an expert made me check myself and trust someone else’s judgment. But it was really worth it, and for anyone trying to get fit, I say: Get help. You don’t have to do it alone, and you can learn so much more working with a professional.