By Samantha Yardley
Photography by Simon Howard
Emergency medical technician, Carl describes the factors that contributed to his weight gain as “a bit of a whirlwind”. At 33 years old, he tipped the scales at over 280 pounds, admitting to using “food and alcohol and coping mechanisms” from the stress of lockdowns and working on the front line during the pandemic. Coupled with gym closures, he soon found himself piling on weight.
“I’ve always been active,” begins Essex-based Carl. “I played rugby at county level, swam for a local club, and enjoyed going to the gym. Then, I busted my ACL playing rugby.”
Despite returning to an adequate level of fitness to the join the military, disaster struck again when suffering further injury that resulted in a medical discharge from army life.
“Looking at myself in the mirror was almost impossible”
“I snapped my ACL, tore my meniscus, and ruined both my knees due to arthritis” he recalls. “I tried to keep myself active but struggled through work and family life commitments, dipping in and out of the gym but never with the consistency I needed.
“Unfortunately, shortly after the birth of my son, my marriage broke down,” he continues. “We’re still very amicable, but it led me into a bit of a spiral. I was going through a divorce and starting out again whilst living alone.”
When lockdown restrictions began to ease and Carl was able to reunite in person with his son, the harrowing realization that he was too unfit to play with his child began to dawn upon him.
“I didn’t want my son looking up to someone like that, and I knew I needed to make a change for the benefit of his future, not just mine.”
“When I got to see my son again after the lockdown, I realized even just trying to play was a struggle. Walking up the stairs seemed to make me breathless and activities like going swimming were a no-go due to pure embarrassment.
“Looking at myself in the mirror was almost impossible,” he recalls. “I wasn’t confident in my own skin and clothes were feeling tighter than ever. I didn’t want my son looking up to someone like that, and I knew I needed to make a change for the benefit of his future, not just mine.”
“I signed up to a 24-hour gym, which enabled me to train before a shift. Even if that meant going at 1 am… I made it happen.”
Wanting to be the best possible role model for his son was all the impetus Carl needed to start implementing healthy habits into his daily routine.
“The first thing I did was to commit to the gym,” Carl recounts. “I signed up to a 24-hour gym, which enabled me to train before a shift. Even if that meant going at 1 am… I made it happen. Then, I realized that I needed some accountability, otherwise I felt I’d slip back into my old ways. I did some research on coaches and found Mel Maguire, an IFBB pro who had some incredible results.
“Food prep was challenging trying to find an easy way to prep meals around working shifts and daddy duties, but within a few weeks I’d found a routine which seemed to work.”
“Getting a coach and being honest with myself was the best investment I’ve ever made, both financially and physically,” says Carl. “I genuinely cannot thank Mel enough- she’s helped me to turn my life around.
“The main challenge for me was food, I knew what to eat but I didn’t know how much. It was a huge wakeup for me, weighing out my first portion of pasta was like one previous mouthful, but I stuck with it” he explains. “Food prep was challenging trying to find an easy way to prep meals around working shifts and daddy duties, but within a few weeks I’d found a routine which seemed to work.
“The water intake was a shock too, but eventually it became my new normal way of life” says Carl. “I also had no idea just how important and how much of an impact sleep could have on our bodies. That took a bit of getting used to because I used to survive on four hours a night and caffeine to get me through. A solid seven hours made a huge difference both in and out the gym.”
Carl paid in sweat on the gym floor, and his pure perseverance ensued a transformation that saw him become practically unrecognizable.
“My routine consisted of a push/ pull/ legs/ upper/ lower split, with 15 minutes of cardio post-workout and 10K steps a day. Cardio increased gradually until prep for the photoshoot where we were hitting 60 minutes fasted on the stairs; that was hard graft I won’t lie.
“Weights normally consisted of a couple of warmup sets and two-to-three working sets with a drop set or a rest pause set to finish. My personal favorite was the muscle round where you hit an exercise for six reps, rest for ten seconds, and repeat four times.
“It’s so easy to get caught up looking at other people and how they look compared to yourself.”
“I videoed my workouts to allow my coach to analyze my technique and form. I was encouraged to slow the reps down, keep controlled and check the ego at the door. Focusing on form and control over how much weight I could lift, was hard at first, because I wanted to lift heavy, but slowing things down meant less injuries and a better quality of workout.”
Having got into the shape of his life, Carl is now reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and boosted confidence.
“My mental health improved massively by being in the gym and having the focus and drive to do something not just for me, but for my future self and for my son too.”
“I was blown away with my results,” he reveals. It’s so easy to get caught up looking at other people and how they look compared to yourself. The mental benefits were huge for me too. The divorce affected me pretty badly and when I couldn’t play properly with my son, I felt so low. My mental health improved massively by being in the gym and having the focus and drive to do something not just for me, but for my future self and for my son too.
“My confidence increased as the results began to show,” he beams. “Not in an arrogant way, but how I felt about myself, the clothes I chose to wear, and how I hoped my son would be as proud of me as I am of him. I had also previously been referred to a sleep apnea clinic, which since dropping the weight, seems to have sorted itself out.”
“Yes, it’s a long process and sacrifices have to be made, but the feeling of seeing results outweighs anything I’ve done before.”
If you’re moved by Carl’s awe-inspiring transformation, he shares his simple but profound advice for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps and become the best version of themselves.
“The main thing is to stay consistent and stick with, the results will come. If I can do it, anyone can. Yes, it’s a long process and sacrifices have to be made, but the feeling of seeing results outweighs anything I’ve done before.”
2 x oats with protein powder, blueberries, and almond milk
2 x carb source plus protein and veg
Post-workout snack such as Coco Pops, protein powder, and a bagel
Eggs with toast
For more real-life success stories, try this Trucker’s Transformation for size. Ricky’s 120-pound weight loss saw him overhaul his former heavy goods physique.