From Fab to Fat and Back: Trainer Gains Weight to Better Understand Clients' Needs

Australian trainer "PJ" James gained 88 pounds to better understand his clients.

ByABC News via logo
August 10, 2009, 12:09 PM

Aug. 10, 2009— -- An Australian personal trainer who deliberately packed on 88 pounds in six months so he could better understand his overweight clients' trials has learned personally just how difficult slimming down can be.

Paul "PJ" James had a sort of reverse New Year's resolution to gain as much weight as he could and on July 1 he began the second half of his challenge getting back into shape.

"The reason for doing it was to better understand and empathize with my personal training clients," said James, of Melbourne, Australia. "There's a lot of people who can't come into the gym for the first time because they feel embarrassed and they really appreciate someone […] to walk a mile in their shoes."

The once chiseled James, who used to sport picture-perfect abdominals and ripped muscles, now boasts a much more rotund figure. The 6'2" James has shed 10 pounds in six weeks and gained a greater compassion for those struggling to battle the bulge. The former underwear model has had to rethink his own training as he whittles down his waistline starting out slow and struggling to see progress.

"I think I owe it to everyone to get my old body back," he said. "I just want people to see that it is possible to get back in shape."

For six months James didn't engage in any exercise and his diet was unrestricted.

"I decided to eat whatever I wanted," said James, whose journey is being chronicled for a documentary called "Fat and Back." "There were no restrictions."

Within in a few weeks, James began to feel a difference in his body. By the end of February the 32-year-old weighed 233 pounds and felt lethargic. His clothes no longer fit and he had begun wearing second-hand track pants.

James' blood pressure also had risen slightly.

As he continued gaining weight, James found it more difficult to walk and experienced muscle pain along with dangerous spikes in his cholesterol and sugar levels. "You're whole body changes. It's very difficult to deal with," James said. "My doctor advised me to slow down."

After months of eating nothing but fatty, fried foods and sugary drinks, James began liking his new diet perhaps too much.

"I really enjoyed the food," he said. "But it soon became an addiction and I am currently fighting that addiction as well to sugar and fat."

James' first step to getting fit was to break his addiction, but he couldn't do it cold turkey. He gradually weaned himself off of sugar and fat. Today he believes he has kicked his habit.