“I was never the most athletic or confident kid,” says Andrew Brown, 26, of Tampa, FL. Back when he was 22, he’d started hitting the gym, successfully getting fit. As time wore on, that habit sputtered, and he began putting on more weight. A tumultuous relationship—marriage, a quick divorce—and a new career left him feeling stressed. He told himself he didn’t have time to eat right or go to the gym
The failure of his marriage had him feeling he’d hit rock bottom. “My confidence was gone,” he says. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough.” He couldn’t motivate himself to do much of anything, and he kept gaining weight. At 24, he was six feet tall and weighed 98kg. His body, as he saw it, had regressed back to his inactive teenager days.
Brown knew he was in a spiral. His family pointed out how much he used to enjoy going back to the gym. They even offered to pay for his first month if he wanted to get back into it. At first, he was apprehensive, but after looking at an old photo of himself, he decided to give it a shot. “Once I was in,” he says, “I was hooked again.”
Balancing work and working out
Working two jobs—almost 80 hours a week—made workouts a challenge, but he prioritised them. He used a push-pull-legs program, alternating between dumbbell and barbell variations for his bench every four weeks to keep things fresh. He focused on lifting weights, but still did cardio three to five times a week and ab work twice a week. “I really wanted to gain most of my strength back before deciding to add cardio in,” he says. Videos from Athlean-X, “Silent” Mike Farr, and Ohmar Isuf helped him stay motivated, as did seeing his changes in the mirror.
“My diet wasn’t the cleanest thing in the world,” Brown says, “but the major change was tracking my calories and understanding what I was putting in my body.” With a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of around 2500, he aimed for about 1900 calories a day. He used macros, split into 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. “My approach was slow and steady wins the race,” he says. “I realised it needed to be a lifestyle change and not just a diet.”
In just under 14 months, he’s dropped 18kg. “I feel better than I ever have,” he says, “more confident, more outgoing—just like I have my life back.” His friends and family saw the difference, and not just in his body. “The thing my friends noticed the most was how much happier I was,” he says, “the fact that I had a smile on my face.”
Now he wants to get the word out to others that they can change, too. “You can change as long as you take the first step,” he says. “Take the first step and go into the gym.” Even if you find it intimidating—and you really shouldn’t!—just being around other people trying to better themselves can be motivating. “The important part for most people in the gym,” Brown says, “is seeing people trying to make a positive change in their life and working towards it.”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health