Hunk Gets Chunky: Personal Trainer Vows to Get Fat

Australian trainer "PJ" James fattens up to better understand his clients.

February 27, 2009, 11:09 AM

Feb. 27, 2009— -- If you can't beat 'em, get fat with 'em.

A chiseled-turned-chunky personal trainer from Australia is more than halfway to his goal of obesity, having swapped veggies for deep-fried Mars bars to better understand the overweight clients he can't seem to reach.

"All the trainers, everyone thinks I'm crazy," Paul "PJ" James told from Doherty's Gym in Melbourne.

The 32-year-old former underwear model has ballooned from about 180 pounds to 233 since last month. He has given himself until the end of March to get to his goal of 265 pounds, a weight he intends to keep for a few months.

"A lot of my clients have been skipping classes," he said of the motivation behind his burgeoning pudge. "I decided I really didn't understand what they were feeling and their emotions."

When he starts training to take the weight off, most likely sometime in July, James said he plans to take a few of his clients with him so they can lose the weight together.

James, who has been working as a personal trainer for five years, has 22 clients, a mix of people who are overweight and those who are into body-building and gaining muscle.

Doherty's, he said, is mostly a body-building gym, so he understands why his heavier clients have a hard time forcing themselves to walk through the door.

"There's a lot of muscle walking around," he said. "It's very daunting."

Allan Douglas, 26, also of Melbourne, began training with James for eight or nine months after he saw news reports about James being named "Melbourne's Hottest Hunk."

"I said, 'Well, you know how you always have to have someone to look like,'" Douglas said.

But now James is starting to look more like Douglas, who, at 5'10" and nearly 300 pounds, describes himself as "overweight."

Krispy Kremes and a Deep-Fryer

"At the start, I was like, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" Douglas said of James' plan. "It's not that fun being overweight."

That's something James is learning first hand. His clothes no longer fit; he has been wearing second-hand track pants. His blood pressure has risen slightly. He reports being more lethargic and having a hard time motivating himself to do anything.

And for the guy that spent years being photographed in his skivvies, he's not quite sure how to handle his new body.

"I feel very self-conscious," he said. "I've never been this weight before."

Douglas said the other trainers haven't been helping much with James' ego: They sneak up on him to pinch his growing belly and call him names. But it's all in good fun, they all insist.

"I do get inspired by it," said Douglas, who is one of the clients looking to drop weight alongside James. "I'm going to try and put in a real good effort when he loses the weight."

To gain the weight, James said he has stopped exercising and taken to foods like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, pizza and "a lot of heavy pasta like cream-based pastas." And he bought the deep-fryer, where he sticks chocolate bars among other typical diet no-nos.

But while James has gotten a lot of international attention for his efforts, he's also gotten some criticism from the medical community.

Exercise expert Steven Blair, a professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, said James' plan is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

"It's attention-getting and, obviously, it's working," he said.

But while he may see some short-term changes in his health, including spikes in blood pressure and blood sugar, Blair said gaining and taking off the weight in such a short amount of time won't expose him to the more serious consequences of obesity, such as diabetes.

When dealing with obese clients, Blair said fitness professionals typically advocate for a behavior modification approach in which they teach clients to monitor their food intake and set reasonable goals.

As for James, if his efforts do motivate people to lose weight, "more power to him," Blair said. Though, he added, "maybe his girlfriend won't like him as much."

James said he understands his critics, but said he has already tried the traditional methods, including being a role model for his clients. By becoming heavier, he said, he's hoping to gain some insight into what really holds them back.

As for his girlfriend, she has been supportive.

"But, having said that," James joked," she's overseas at the moment and has extended her stay."