12 May Tom Bridges Case Study: How Tom Broke The Dieting Cycle To Be In The Shape Of His Life, For Life
The reward phase, where you’re in the shape of your life, for life, is where everyone would like to skip to from the beginning. But few reach it for one of two reasons:
– A failed consolidation phase, so they rebound after their first time getting into shape and fall into the trap of yo-yo dieting.
– Insufficient time spent in the investment phase, so they don’t build any muscle mass, or develop a change in their mindset, identity and behaviour. This causes either stagnation, or worse yet, a slow demise back to the starting point.
Tom didn’t make any of these mistakes this time around. For years, Tom had been trying to get in shape. With high cholesterol, poor blood markers and a lifestyle of heavy drinking, fast food and long working hours, he knew his efforts were going to waste. He was the classic programme-hopping Monday to Thursday dieter who struggled with yo-yoing, lethargy and poor body confidence.
He was guilty of each of the four reasons for transformation failure, which are:
– A lack of perspective regarding the different milestones. This is when you think of the end of a diet as the end of the plan, not a checkpoint for further improvement.
– A lack of knowledge of the long-term process. This comes from not knowing what lies after a fat loss phase, and not understanding the importance of consolidation.
– A lack of belief in what they can achieve and how. This stems from the restrictive dieting culture that we live in, whereby getting into shape and living your lifestyle is not always seen as conducive.
– A lack of clear underpinnings to their journey. This relates to not having a clear and strong enough why for wanting to transform.
In June 2017, shortly after the birth of RNT, Tom decided to take a new path. He was fed up of spinning his wheels making the same mistakes. It was time to change his thinking and approach, and work through the five phases to take him to the holy grail he craved: being in the shape of his life, for life.
Tom’s Comments: ‘I’d been constantly trying to get into shape and improve my physique for years but nothing ever seemed to work. I was constantly identified as the “fat kid”, albeit somewhat constructively by my friends and I got to a point where I needed to change. It was summer 2017 and I had been looking at recent photos of myself and it just clicked “I needed to change ASAP”. The holiday was a good excuse for me to really kick myself into gear and set a hard target to change myself, to improve myself. At the time I lacked a lot of confidence in myself due to the way I looked and I was tired of continuously feeling this way. I had seen a few of the clients RNT had trained already, and I was confident that working with RNT I could make the change I’d been promising myself to make for the past 5 years!’
And so we began the journey. Close to three years later, Tom’s a completely different man. He’s no longer consumed by drink and fast food, he’s a high performer at work, and his cholesterol is under control. Tom’s used the physical as the vehicle for the greater good in his life. He’s in the coveted reward phase, which is defined by three criteria:
– Mastering your 3Ss (structure, strategy and systems)
– Creating your unique lifestyle solution
– Having an evolving big why
We’ll dive into these later on in the case study, but for now, let’s take it back to the summer of 2017, where Tom’s story with RNT begins.
You can listen to Tom’s episode of RNT Fitness Radio here:
Phase One: Cleaning The Palate
Being the king of experimentation, Tom needed to lay down a regular structure into his busy working day, a system for ticking all the boxes of the transformation checklist (training, nutrition, steps, hydration and sleep) and a strategy for integrating it into his lifestyle. The first part of this journey was to start building his 3Ss, which for Tom meant three key rules that he still lives by:
– Waking up early to train before work
– Batch cooking his food every week
– Building steps into his commute and lifestyle
With a background of programme hopping and consistently trying new ideas, nailing down these initial 3Ss was at first difficult, but Tom knew if he wanted to fulfil his true why and reach beyond only the first checkpoint, it was critical.
Phase Two: Process
At the start of his journey, Tom weighed in at 185lbs. He had a short-term mini checkpoint of a holiday in 8 weeks, which served as great initial focal point to gather momentum. On the day of flying, he checked in at 167lbs.
After the holiday, it was time to drive towards the first transformation checkpoint. On his previous dieting attempts, Tom had never been below 170lbs, so this was already unchartered territory. But we wanted more, and so after his return from holiday, we led a further six months push to go from 170lbs (he’d put on 4lbs on holiday) to 152lbs.
Transformation checkpoint reached. Tom was down a total of 33lbs and in the shape of his life.
Tom’s Comments: ‘The process was nothing like I had attempted before. I had previously jumped from programme to programme, following fad workouts like “6 week summer body” and not achieving results. I had gotten to a stage where I didn’t really enjoy the gym anymore and would only go sporadically (usually after a big meal). This first checkpoint was completely different to anything I’d tried before, and I attribute that to the accountability I had to RNT on a weekly basis, and to the knowledge behind the RNT team. I can’t stress enough how important of a factor accountability is to a successful transformation.
Previously if I didn’t make it to the gym or cheated on my diet I’d just write off that day and ignore it but this would quickly spiral out of control. The weekly check-ins ensured that I wasn’t allowing myself any excuses to not hit the gym, not meet my daily step target, and most importantly to not cheat on my diet.
Once I got this under control I started seeing results quickly and consistently. There’s nothing like weighing yourself each week and see the scale continue to drop, especially where I previously struggled with this. I quickly became results driven pushing myself harder every day in the gym, exceeding my steps where possible and being as meticulous with my diet as I could be. I soon noticed sizeable increases in my lifts which only fuelled my drive, and I realised I got excited to hit the gym every day and give each session 100%. Seeing those photos at 152lbs was a shock for me. I didn’t think I could look like that for a very long time and I couldn’t believe it really was me.’
Phase Three: Consolidation
The critical period. Tom had no plans to make any of the mistakes he’d made before. No chance of rebounding, rapid weight regain or a loss of control. It was time to take a new path, the safe passage home of consolidation. He was already a new man for integrating his 3Ss, and he wanted to build on this.
Having lost the weight, he wasn’t happy with his size, so we began to put together his investment strategy, where he’d place himself on the far right of the investment continuum as a pure muscle builder.
After nailing consolidation with minimal weight gain, he was primed to focus on PRs in the gym and PRs on the plate.
It was time to invest.
Tom’s Comments: ‘Having the support of a coach during my consolidation was critical. Before if I had lost any weight, I would almost instinctively reward myself and binge eat, subconsciously thinking I could afford to now. This time around I was conscious of the result I had achieved and I was definitely wary of losing all that hard work. It’s definitely tough to not make excuses for little slip ups in your diet, to go out for a meal and forget about that macros, or to skip a day or two of training once you reach a significant milestone. This is where having an experienced coach really proves their value as you know they’ve gone through the exact same things before. As with the previous stages accountability was key. Knowing I still needed to check-in, and that I would be called out if I had cheated ensured I stuck to the plan and followed my coach’s guidance. After seeing the slimmed down version of me I knew I needed to invest in a period of muscle gaining, and to steal one of your phrases, “embrace the fluff”. However, before doing any of that I needed to make sure I slowly increased my calories in a way that wouldn’t result in a sizeable weight gain.’
Phase Four: Investment
Reflecting on Tom’s journey so far, this phase was the real lynchpin. While we often talk about the critical period of consolidation, it was this investment phase that was responsible for upgrading Tom to his ideal version 2.0.
He became obsessed with performance, regularly bench pressing and deadlifting over 100kg and 140kg, respectively. He wasn’t afraid to push the calories and embrace the fluff because he knew the bigger picture. Tom had spent time connecting with his long-term vision of who he wanted to be: lean year-round, living a healthy lifestyle and being a leader to his friends, colleagues and family.
The latter is an integral part of this phase. While your transformation checklist is driven by performance, the difficult work that precedes entry into the reward phase is in the shift in your identity, mindset and behaviour. You start becoming a new person. The changes in the process phase can be fleeting if you stop at your first checkpoint; taking the time necessary to invest is what facilitates true transformation.
Tom’s Comments: ‘Muscle building was a whole different ball game to dieting down for me. I would classify myself as someone who is able to add mass quickly, which sounds great in theory but it’s very easy for that mass gain to not be attributed to muscle mass. Having undergone a successful consolidation phase my body was primed to start taking on more carbs and more calories. Initially this was great! I was seeing jumps in my strength at the gym and every session I would be hitting a new PB. The obvious downside to this phase is a loss of condition. After getting to a stage where I was relatively lean, it was hard to accept that I would have to lose this in the short term to benefit in the long term. I’m sure anyone who was once overweight will agree; the moment you get abs you never want them to leave!
The investment phase requires a serious mental shift compared to seeing results on a weekly basis on the scale and in the mirror, while feeling the drain of a calorie deficit! Instead, you see much no/smaller changes on a weekly basis, and instead only feel the fatigue of trying to fit all your macros in one day in! The thought that kept pushing me forward throughout all this was the understanding that the results in the long term would be immense.’
After eighteen months’ worth of pennies deposited daily in his fund, it was time to cash out. Tom ticked all the criteria boxes to qualify for the reward phase and he marked it with a photoshoot where he took himself into the extreme depths of the grind to surpass any previous checkpoint.
Phase Five: Reward
It’s rare I’m impressed by condition, but Tom was an exception. We started the entry to his reward phase at 162lbs, reflecting a 10lb gain during his investment phase. A reason for his success in the building period was his continued refinement of his 3Ss. They were locked in with the opportunity to adapt, improve and evolve within the context of his rules, which were transferrable across all environments.
Tom had now changed his mindset so that even when he wasn’t dieting, he still respected the rules and habits to live a healthy lifestyle. He’d developed his own unique lifestyle solution to stay in the shape of his life, for life.
During this 18-week period in the first half of 2019, Tom went from 162lbs down to 143lbs. He was now a total of 42lbs down from his heaviest and he’d clipped 20cm off his waist.
Tom’s Comments: ‘I guess with every phase so far I make it sound like it’s hardest I’d done to date, and for me, each phase was harder than the last. Following the investment phase I was mentally prepared to bring in my best condition to ever and push myself harder than I had done before. Setting that hard 18-week deadline guaranteed there was no room for slip-ups or taking it easy. Having gone through various phases beforehand I had already laid the ground work both physically and mentally, making this stage a little bit easier than the others with regards to following a plan and diet. The first big milestone for me was hitting sub-150lbs, which had always been a mental blocking point for me. Once I had dropped below that I knew I could keep going and that the results were going to be worthwhile. The last 2-3 weeks pre photo-shoot were by far the hardest for me. I was in a significant calorie deficit and I was still training as hard as I had been at the start. My strength had maintained somewhat but I slowly started to notice drops in my key indicator lifts. Again, another mental element that needed to be overcome. Those last few weeks really cemented the phrase “check your ego at the door”. I wasn’t there to lift the heaviest anymore, I was there to follow my plan and come out shredded, it didn’t matter what the weight I was lifting was.
Peak week arrived as did the infamous #VaghelaGrind. These few weeks were mentally and physically taxing. I was still working a stressful job whilst ensuring I hit the gym every day. I had already engrained the non-negotiable of going gym daily at 5am, so this helped to an extent but each day of the grind I was fatigued. The only thing pushing me on was looking in the mirror and seeing the hard work I had put in come to fruition. That and sending fellow RNT’er Minil aka the Vegan Doctor daily ab shots to make him jealous! I still remember the times my coach would ask me to do a photo-shoot and I would say “maybe” or “not yet” because I wasn’t satisfied with my condition yet, but the day I agreed to do the photo-shoot gave me the final kick to bring in the best condition we’d both seen.
Throughout this transformation I realised the skills you have to use and develop to meet your goals are transferable to any aspect of your life. Additionally, the importance of having a strong support group behind you. Aside from the RNT family, I had the continued support of my fiancé Jeena, my family, and my friends. Without this there would have been a much harder mental battle to fight in order to succeed.’
Recycling the Journey
Despite having the physique of his dreams, Tom knew it wasn’t over. Since reaching his new lifestyle checkpoint (over 12 months ago as of writing this), he consolidated and entered back into an investment phase. This is what’s known as the reward-investment period, whereby you’ll go through multiple variations of annual investment cycles (which you can read about here) to continue striving toward self-mastery.
In this reward-investment period, Tom has been investing with a middle ground stance with a focus on three key areas:
– Slowly build muscle and gain strength, but stay leaner than previous investment phases
– Make his 3Ss more seamless to add more flexibility into his lifestyle
– Continue to use the physical as the vehicle to improve his relationships, career and mental wellbeing
What’s cool about this progress timeline is that Tom’s exactly the same bodyweight at investment and reward-investment, but take a look at the composition difference. He’s leaner with more muscle mass, and that’s a credit to his diligence and transformation so far.
Tom’s Comments: ‘2020 is turning out to be an interesting year now for all of us. I had initially set a target with you to try and get in a competition-ready state for end of the year but this has definitely been put on hold (something which I’d never even considered before!). I plan to use this time to reign in the condition a little bit so I can have a manageable lifestyle physique. That being said I still haven’t lost my desire to try competing, there’s something about the thought of pushing myself even harder and farther and stepping out on a stage to showcase all that work. I’m sure some would call me a glutton for punishment!’
How The Physical Has Been The Vehicle For Tom So Far
‘The past 3 years have been incredible. I’ve seen a massive shift in both the physical and the mental, which I never thought I could achieve before. Going through this process I’ve managed to transform my body to a level I didn’t think was possible. I had been saying for years that each year I would do it and commit but it never happened. Having the accountability of RNT and the knowledge of the RNT team helped me reach my goals and exceed them immensely. I got to a stage where my cholesterol levels had dropped to normal and all other blood indicators were healthy as well. I felt healthier than I had ever done and this reflected in mental state too. I had suddenly gained so much more confidence in myself, not just the way I looked but the way I acted and spoke, which resonated in my working life as well. Going through this process isn’t just about getting into the best shape of your life, it has much more far-reaching impacts in every aspect of your life that lead to a holistic self-improvement.
I can’t express enough how much RNT has transformed my life. I’m a completely different person to who I was 3 years ago both physically and mentally. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have been able to achieve that without the support network you have put in place. For anyone who’s considering undergoing this process you should know that you’ll only get out what you put in. Your “why” needs to be strong enough for you that when it gets tough and mentally straining that “why” will push you forward. There’s no magic pill to reach your targets, but RNT can definitely work with you to make them come to realisation.’
Transform Your Body Transform Your Life
Transform Your Body Transform Your Life is out May 24th 2020 on Amazon and Kindle. Stay tuned!
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To read more case studies like Tom’s, have a read of the different articles here.
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