This is the full case study of my extreme 18-month body transformation, written by my coach Akash Vaghela from RNT Fitness. You can read the original case study here, but I’ve republished it in full below with a few tweaks of my own.
When you’re hit and thrown to rock bottom, you have two options.
You can dwell in the misery of the pit and continue to linger on past events that keep you pinned to the ground.
Or you can fight.
You can learn to let go, allow yourself to grow, and drive yourself back to the top. No one else can do that for you, it’s all on you. The driver of the car. You’re the only one with the hands on your steering wheel, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it.
I knew this all too well. After hitting rock bottom through the breakdown of my marriage in 2017-2018 and the sale of my business, I could easily have spent years in the mist with no real direction or purpose in life. In fact, that’s exactly how I felt for a long period of time – purposeless.
I knew that while I was unable to undo the past, I could learn from it and create a better future for myself. I also knew that this all starts with relentless focus on myself.
I had to make myself number one again. Back in the spotlight. I had to expose all my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, test myself to the limit, and climb my way out of this pit of misery that I found myself in.
People around me said I should learn a language or find a hobby. I felt it was forced and didn’t really see myself committing to learning and practising a new language, but when my mindset counsellor suggested I should go to the gym, a spark was lit inside me. I felt that this was the perfect thing to get my mind off the day-to-day and try something new.
That’s when I found Akash. I had seen some of his other case studies on Instagram and was amazed by the change people who I could relate to had made in their own lives. It was August 2017. That’s when I decided that I was going to transform my body, change my life, and push myself in a domain I’d never taken seriously before. I had never trained or worked out seriously before, but I felt compelled to throw myself into this with 100% conviction and determination.
So my journey began. And what a journey it was. Through mastering my physical being, I’ve been able to use it as a springboard to improving everything else in my life.
My confidence shot through the roof.
My relationships in life are stronger than ever.
I broke free from the shackles of my past and through this journey I’ve been able to find an avenue to deal with the pain of that past, and forge together a future that is extremely exciting.
I started my RNT journey as something to focus my energy on during a difficult period of my life, at work and at home. What started as something to get my mind off things quickly became something of an obsession and I found myself enjoying the benefits of working out early in the morning and having a cleaner diet.
Going to the gym became a time for me to switch off from the world and have 1-2 hours of pure focus on myself. With my headphones in and zoned out from everything else, the gym became my second home and I started to experience the non-physical benefits you get from lifting weights.
The gym lit a spark in me that I didn’t know I had – a newfound passion for improving my mind and body. It became my elixir for life.
The Starting Point – Day 1
Through a lack of structure, direction and a culmination of bad habits, I started my body transformation journey weighing in at 85kg, with very little muscle mass. I was medically obese according to my BMI calculation for my height, weight and age. Great start!
In the past, training and nutrition had never been at the forefront of my mind. My nutrition was similar, as I’d hop my way around the fad diets with no real results to show for it.
Up till then, I had no intrinsic ‘why’. But once that switch was flipped, and I’d connected with how transforming my body could impact my life, everything changed. I embraced the RNT principles that Akash gave me to follow and dived headfirst into this journey with the following initial changes:
My success in fixing my nutrition can be boiled down to three key factors:
- Batch cooking
- Eliminating decision fatigue
- Mastering the art of the buffer
With a busy social and business lifestyle, I needed a plan that made it as simple as possible to adhere to a calorie deficit. Complicated, exciting meal plans with vast amounts of variety would not work for me (or most people), as it only serves to create more decisions and make it easy to fall off track.
The structure that worked well for me was as follows (amounts varied along the journey):
- Breakfast – Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Berries, Veggies
- Lunch – Chicken, Nuts, Rice, Veggies
- Afternoon Snack – Whey, Peanut Butter, Rice Cakes
- Dinner – Chicken, Olive Oil, Rice, Veggies
Simple. Easy to prep, easy to follow, and meets all the requirements of an effective fat loss diet – a calorie deficit and a minimum protein threshold.
To begin with, the key shift was to only follow one plan, and create a single-minded attitude to learning the movements, and then getting as strong as possible on them.
Akash started me on a three-day full-body split for a few months before transitioning to a four-day split and utilised a system where I had two heavier days and two lighter days.
Over the course of the next 15 months, the two splits used were as follows:
Split 1 (8-10 months):
- Day 1 – Chest/Arms/Posterior Chain (Heavy)
- Day 2 – Back/Shoulders/Quads (Heavy)
- Day 3 – Chest/Back/Shoulders (Light)
- Day 4 – Legs/Arms (Light)
Split 2 (5 months):
- Day 1 – Upper (Heavy)
- Day 2 – Lower (Heavy)
- Day 3 – Push (Light)
- Day 4 – Pull (Light)
The changes in the splits came at a time when there was a significant internal shift in my habits and mindset around my health and fitness, which we’re going to dive into now…
First 15kg – Habit Formation
When we examine the journey over the 18 months, there are two distinct parts to it – the first 15kg, and the last 10kg.
The first 15kg was spread over 14 months, with the last ten being blitzed off in the final 4 months.
On the surface level, you may wonder why it took so long to lose the first 15kg. But there were some very good reasons and benefits of doing so.
If you think back to my ‘why’, this was never truly about the physical. It was about a journey of self-improvement and using the physical as a vehicle to help me achieve a better mindset.
Through the habits of structured training sessions, meal prepping, steps and everything else that comes with a transformation, I was shifting my focus completely internally. I was building habits, laying new foundations, and becoming a much stronger version of myself – mentally and physically.
During all of this, I wanted to make it a real lifestyle, not a flash in the pan process where I ended up putting all the weight back on once I was finished. Which is why despite travelling 13 times in a period of 12 months, and even having the agony of having my appendix removed 4-months into my training, I was never thrown too far off track.
My extended ‘Clean the Palate’ phase meant I was able to build such robust systems in place that I’d always be striding an inch forward every couple of weeks, while knowing if life got in the way, or I was thrown out of routine, I wouldn’t be taken completely off track.
First 15kg – Muscle Building
By taking my time over the first 14 months, I was able to build a substantial amount of muscle mass that very few people achieve when they embark on fast fat loss transformations like mine. You only need to compare my chest, arms, and shoulder development in the before/after pictures to see what I mean here!
It’s one thing to lose weight and get slimmer, it’s another to build a real physique, and that’s what I focused on here so that it lasted, and I didn’t get chubby again. Through those 14 months of chipping away and solidifying lifestyle habits, I was able to achieve a recomposition effect, whereby I lost fat and built muscle at the same time – the holy grail.
Shifting the Why
Around 12 months into the journey, my ‘why’ began to shift. What started as a way to regain my sense of purpose and find myself again, switched to now wanting to inspire others, and help educate my friends and family on the powerful benefits of this type of journey.
I realised how many people around me were suddenly started to be intrigued by what I was doing, and could see how it changed my life, and that made me want to push even harder. I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to be an example to people who were also suffering in pain, and couldn’t find a way out. My why was now to show how focusing on yourself in a relentless manner can be what takes you out of any mess you’re in.
The switch had flipped.
The Spartan Effect
I started this next level with another push way out of my comfort zone in the form of extreme endurance Spartan Races. The idea wasn’t to tread the waters and see what it was like. It was to fly around the world and complete multiple extreme endurance races, which I did…not once, but 7 times!
This isn’t easy, and became another stepping stone and example in finding myself on a much deeper level in the pain and suffering of a physical challenge.
Competing in the Spartan races was important to me because it gave me a target to work towards in my training and allowed me to really test and push myself further than I had ever been before. I took on the Spartan Trifecta (twice!) as a personal challenge and this added an extra layer of focus and accountability in my training, long before I decided to do a famous RNT photoshoot!
The Shoot Grind
With the Trifecta under my belt and already 15kg taken off my body weight, it was time to go deeper, and really go into the depths of my mind to see what could be done. It was grind time!
At the turn of 2019, and now 14 months into my journey, I decided it was time to book a shoot and see what I was really made of and if I could push to myself to a new level of extreme.
Over the course of the next 4 months, I put my blinders up and applied tunnel vision to my goal. I dropped the final 10kg, and got into the best shape of my life a month before my 34th birthday in May of that year.
As you’ll see in the graph above, my drop in body weight was never completely linear. I was a big ‘fluctuator’, but what was important was the overall downward trend. Weight will fluctuate through the process, and it’s important that I accepted this and avoided creating an emotional attachment with any spikes or drops that happened (this was much easier said than done, I assure you!).
At this stage, t’s all mind games. It’s constantly fighting that devil on your left shoulder telling you to have that biscuit, skip your morning cardio, or have an extra day off. It’s fighting that voice in your head that keeps saying “one jaffa cake won’t hurt…one missed gym session won’t make any difference” but this is where the growth comes, and it’s in fighting this devil every waking minute of the day that forces you to reach within and learn more about yourself than just about anything you can do.
Getting this lean isn’t a four hour week solution. It’s 24/7. It’s learning to deal with hunger, managing your energy and stabilising your mood through the day, all the while living your normal, daily life. Learning to juggle all those hats is the growth.
That’s where you talk to your demons and fight.
The final grind towards my photoshoot was one of the most physically and mentally challenging, yet satisfying, processes I’ve put myself through. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, from feeling anxious and nervous to determined and excited, but I had my eye on the prize, my photoshoot, at all times. I remembered my coach’s advice of being ruthlessly consistent and focusing on my ‘why’. Along the way, there were some blips and setbacks but making sure I was honest with my coach about any deviations from my diet or training helped me to quickly get back on track – this accountability was at its most critical during this phase of my journey.
During this period, it’s not just enough to rely on your willpower to keep you on track. I had to adjust my environment too – hiding away snacks/sweets/chocolates at home to stop myself from getting tempted in the final few days before my shoot. This final process is not just a lone journey either – you inadvertently take those closest to you on the journey as well so it’s really important that they also buy into it and support you, especially during this final grind.
To help me through some of the more challenging days as my shoot got closer, I had to think of it like the final sprint at the end of one of my Spartan races: have total focus on the finish line and see and feel yourself crossing the line, imagine how good it will feel and the feeling of accomplishment you will get. I kept reminding myself of this which helped change my focus from ‘this is dragging on’ to ‘get up and finish strong’ which got me to my exact target weight of 61kg on my shoot day!
Parallels of Business
Losing ownership of my business was a key driver in my initial spark to change. What’s interesting is how since embarking on this journey, I’ve has been able to start two new businesses (DesignHero and EntrepreneurJam) and take another existing one, WPMaintain, to new heights.
This is no surprise. As soon as you begin to master your body, you start growing the confidence needed to push yourself in all areas of life. Business is one that is always positively impacted. And for anyone who’s aiming to operate at a high level as the owner or as part of a growing business, being on your physical A-game is absolutely critical.
The other interesting part of this is the parallels it teaches you. Going to the extreme physically can serve as the ultimate playbook for business, and the lessons run in complete parallel.
The three biggest lessons I learned from the physical transformation that helped me blow his business up were:
- Ruthless consistency. I learned that building a business and building your body is all about doing a handful of basic things over and over again, sometimes without seeing any results for a while, and staying consistent with it, as opposed to jumping around looking for the latest shiny object.
- Know your end goal and track your numbers. Along the journey, I’ve always set goals, whether it’s with my body weight, a strength lift, or even as simple as a new lifestyle habit I wanted to implement. With each of these, as you do in business, I had to reverse engineer and apply a ‘future back’ approach to be able to implement it in the present day.
- Seek help and accountability. For my physique, Akash at RNT was my mentor and provided me with the knowledge I was lacking, while keeping me accountable to my goals. This is the same in business. Whenever I have a problem I want to solve, I seek out business mentors who can help me see things I can’t.
To gain more of an insight into my story, make sure you tune into episode 78 of RNT Fitness Radio or listen directly here:
Key Lesson to Learn
Since embarking on this journey, my life is completely different. I became a new man with a new lifestyle, and I’m hardly recognisable from where I was, both mentally and physically.
The key lesson to learn from my journey here is that when you’re thrown in the pit, the only way to get out is through your own doing. You have to claim control and work relentlessly on yourself to climb out. It’s the only way. Through mastering your body, you can create a springboard to do anything in life.
- Starting Bodyweight: 85kg
- Leanest Bodyweight: 61kg
- Starting Waist (at umbilical level): 39.5 inches
- Lowest Waist (at umbilical level): 28 inches
Here’s my testimonial for Akash and RNT Fitness in full:
As a small business owner, going to the gym and planning my meals was not something I thought I ever had time for until I met Akash. Working long hours to grow my business and with the usual family commitments to juggle at the same time, focussing on my health and well-being was not high on my priority list. Little did I realise this was the missing piece to being more productive and profitable in my business and finding something to focus on for myself outside of my work, which is often all-consuming for entrepreneurs and business owners.
I met Akash when I was going through a difficult period of my life, both at work and at home, and decided to spend some time taking care of myself by hitting the gym and eating clean. What started off as ‘something to take my mind off things’ turned into a full mindset and body transformation over the next 18-months which has been completely life-changing – losing 25kg and getting totally ripped to be in the best shape of my life for my 34th birthday! I started nervously, not knowing what to expect, but massively inspired by the other transformations I’d seen RNT clients achieve so I wanted to give it my best shot to see what I could do myself!
My personalised training and nutrition plan was designed to fit into my busy lifestyle of running a business as well as regular travelling and was easy to get started with to build some momentum and get results fast. I started losing weight and getting stronger after just a few weeks of following the plan religiously and this gave me a whole new outlook on what I could actually achieve – a total body transformation rather than just ‘get a bit healthier’! For someone who had never been a ‘gym person’ and had hardly ever cooked (let alone macro-friendly healthy meals!) I found myself unlearning old bad habits and learning new ways of getting fit and eating consciously to get into the best shape of my life. I have a completely newfound respect for clean eating and training hard, and now actually find my ‘meditation’ during my training!
The RNT process works when you follow the process fully. I had to learn to let go of certain decisions and control over my daily routine such as how much and what to eat (as well as what not to eat!), when to train and what to do in the gym, and what supplements to take. My advice to anyone starting this transformation journey is to trust your coach and focus your energy and efforts into implementing the plan that is made for you. Have an open mind to unlearn what you think you know and re-learn from the experts who know more than you.
The results I achieved on my RNT journey are nothing short of life-changing. As dramatic as that sounds, it’s not an exaggeration. Not only am I in the best shape of my life at 34 years old, but I’m also much more aware and conscious of how to maintain my fitness going forward. The education I have received during this process about making better food choices, reducing decision fatigue, conscious meal planning and how to buffer around social events has been invaluable and I’m now fully equipped to maintain my physique and health going forward. I’ve also found a much better work-life balance, which is something I didn’t expect but had longed for as a business owner and entrepreneur.
The physical transformation is definitely a great feeling and confidence-booster but the mindset shift is the truly life-changing impact that I have taken from my RNT journey. I’m extremely proud of my journey so far and feel like I’ve accomplished something I never thought I could.
It’s true what they say: fix your body, fix your mind.