I moved to Los Angeles in October 2016 and spent the following five months eating and drinking whatever, whenever. I’d justify my unhealthy food choices by saying, “Well, I’m new to this city, so it’d be wrong not to try all the local dining options,” and my friends would be like, “Chris, you’re eating Panda Express, what are you even talking about?”
I’d eat 90% processed foods, with a salad thrown in there once in a while, as if some occasional lettuce could negate the mountains of unhealthiness that’d come before it. To give you an idea of how deep-fried and takeout-oriented my diet was, take a peek at some of my GrubHub history:
I’d also been working out sporadically since moving. On good weeks I’d make it to the gym four or five days, but other weeks I’d only go once or twice. This inconsistent effort combined with my takeout-based diet led me to being more out of shape than I ever had.
Then one night, something happened. I’d literally just finished ordering pizza when I stumbled upon this picture of Baywatch-body Zac Efron online:
I just stared at it for a minute, wondering...how? How does one get their abs to look as if they're carved in stone? How does one get such solid muscles with protruding veins? HOW?!
I had to know how I could even begin to be in that condition. I told myself right then and there, “Chris, you have to stop being lazy and do whatever it takes to get back in shape — THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW!” Then my pizza arrived, so the time for change was briefly postponed.
After doing a little research, I reached out to Patrick Murphy, Zac Efron's trainer for Baywatch who created the Baywatch Body Workout. Thankfully, he agreed to guide me for eight weeks to see just how fit I could get.
Disclaimer: I chose to do this for my own personal goals and desires, but in no way am I defining what fitness or beauty should mean for others. This required extreme lifestyle changes that might not be for everyone. You should always consult your physician before making any drastic changes to your diet & fitness regimen.
The first order of business was to write everything I ate in a food diary so Patrick could evaluate what I was putting in my body.
Shockingly, he wasn’t impressed by the massive amounts of orange chicken I eat on a regular basis. He graded my first food journal an F and told me which things I’d consumed that week needed to be dropped ASAP. Here was the list:
1. Orange chicken
2. White rice
3. Airheads candy
4. A pulled-pork sandwich
6. Chocolate-covered almonds
7. Chipotle burrito bowls
8. Chocolate chip cookies
9. Pita bread
10. Teriyaki sauce
11. A cheeseburger
12. A hot dog
For the next couple of weeks, I cut out foods that weren't nutritionally beneficial. Murphy provided me with a long list of recommended nutritious foods, and I chose my favorites from it:
We began the fitness aspect of things with a screening so that Murphy could assess where I was at physically.
It took some time and repetition to get accustomed to doing various exercises the right way, but Murphy was patient and calculated, waiting to introduce me to new routines or increased weight until I'd gotten the important stuff down pat.
To keep the diet ever-changing, Murphy had me begin doing “intermittent fasting," which is when you pick an eight-hour span during the day and you only eat during that period.
This led to me going to bed earlier to avoid late-night temptation, and for the first time in several years, I was getting eight hours of sleep on a regular basis.
Over the first couple weeks, I improved my stability by doing exercises with cables, resistance bands, weights, and my own body weight.
Eventually Murphy had me move on to full-body routines, incorporating all of the things he’d taught me about stabilization, posture, and proper alignment into the workouts.
I’d seen and felt subtle changes in my body early on in this process — more energy, less bloated, jeans fitting loosely — but I didn’t see any abs, which I was primarily concerned about.
Significant visible progress came in the second month.
During week five, I noticed that if the lighting was just right, I could see a couple abs coming in. In week six, my face had lost the puffiness it’d had at the start. My cheekbones were more distinct and different muscles I hadn’t seen before started popping up all over my body. By the start of week seven, I felt firm, tight, lean, and more defined, as if I might finally be getting close to reaching a minor level of being ripped.
Staying within the confines of the diet required constant adjustment.
When I craved candy for my sweet tooth, I’d eat berries or unsweetened, dried mangoes instead. When I craved a beverage other than water, I’d have green tea or KeVita Probiotic Tonics instead. Admittedly, I did have a stretch during April where I kept eating handfuls of chocolate-covered almonds every day.
In my defense, there’s a seemingly infinite supply of these chocolate almonds in the BuzzFeed office, and they’re inconveniently placed near the fruit.
However, I curbed my chocolate-covered almond addiction, and my dedication to the diet peaked one evening, when I passed on queso and ordered salmon from a bar.
I wanted to finish strong, so I took a page out of Zac Efron's book:
I discussed it with Patrick and decided to attempt a diet of NOTHING BUT MEAT AND GREEN VEGGIES for the final nine days. This meant no fruit, quinoa, or brown rice, which I’d heavily relied on.
I weighed 190 pounds at the start of this, and after eight weeks with Patrick Murphy, I’m down to 169. I feel better in ways I hadn’t even realized I was ailing. My improved endurance allows me to go harder for longer during cardio, and lingering knee pain I’d had for months has gone away entirely.
It was incredible to see my body reach the best shape it has ever been in over the course of two months. I felt confidence that I've never had before, so I posted a picture of myself at peak condition on social media.
After those eight weeks I spent a cool 24 hours having all the sugar and fast food that I wanted.
While it was fun to reintroduce my taste buds to Skittles and Taco Bell, my body wasn’t thrilled with me.
As soon as I started eating all the stuff I couldn't have on Murphy's diet, I felt bloated, and I wound up falling asleep early after an intense sugar crash. I realized I'd finally grown accustomed to life without sugar and processed food. Before working with Murphy, I couldn’t imagine myself eating mostly whole foods for an extended period of time or making a serious lifestyle change. I had to take baby steps to get started and not let small hiccups turn into big meltdowns, but if Two-Months-Ago-Me can do it, anyone can. Moving forward, I hope to eat more in line with my goals, indulge occasionally, work out hard, and maybe one day reach half as many abs as Zac Efron.