From Fat to Fit – Getting Out Of Your Own Way

By JC Deen



Today’s article is written by a friend and current client of mine, Bryan Barletta.  I’ll also be publishing another article he wrote this month as well.

You want me to eat how much? I had just read JC’s latest email response. It said that I need to eat more, across the board. At 5’8, 165lbs I was having trouble gaining weight for three weeks at a 3200 kcals/training days and 2400 kcals/rest days allotment while working out four days a week.

Now, JC wanted me to drop my training to three days and increase to 3400/2600. I poured myself another bowl of cereal and my wife asked if he was going to start paying for some of our groceries.

Skip back to October, our first month working together. My calories were 2700 kcals/training days and 1800 kcals/rest days and I was working out three days a week. Pre-JC I did Crossfit for three months. Before that I did every stupid diet out there, starting with 4 Hour Body, then Atkins, then Paleo.

But it got me from 190-195 pounds down to 155. The lower end of that happened through what I’ll blatantly admit was starving myself, but I had convinced myself that I was “fasting.”  Sadly that experience cost me just as much muscle as fat. Up until this point, I had never really worked out before.

While the scale did say 155, I couldn’t have looked worse. This was my first experience with “skinny-fat.” The scale couldn’t lie, right? 155 meant I was skinny, but the effect of all my poor choices had resulted in what looked like a skinny kid wearing a trash bag with a few gallons of water in it. It was gross and it left me in a worse mental place than before. Here I was, at a lower weight than I had been since Middle School, but nowhere near looking how I wanted.

Following JC’s instructions wasn’t easy at first. Food makes you fat, right? So I didn’t want to eat that much and tried to always eat less on rest days. I didn’t get it. I realized eventually that regardless of what you’re doing, your body needs a certain amount of fuel or you’re doing more harm than good.

But logic be damned, I wanted to lose weight. So I continued to squeeze myself into my tight clothing just to feel “skinny” while I told myself “you wouldn’t look good all muscly” and followed JC’s advice, well mostly.

Fast forward to the 75-day mark. For some reason I can’t see the results. Everyone else can but when I get out of the shower all I see is the fat around my belly button. Everyone has a sticking point, and this one is mine. The recomp plan I was on did it’s job and leaned me out across the board. Not any great muscle growth, but I looked lean, almost fit, and definitely healthy.

However all I saw was that stomach. The 315lbx5 deadlift set I completed the day before is pushed out of my mind, regardless of the fact that I could barely do 225×5 on my first week. It wasn’t enough, so I badgered JC until he set me up on a Rapid Fat Loss diet (Protein Sparing Modified Fast) for 12 days so I could look “better” for my cruise.

Bryan deadlifting 315×5 – officially achieving a
2xBW deadlift when calculating his 1RM

The result was me being the scrawniest I’ve ever been. And JC warned me of that, multiple times. But as someone who was fat before, why would scrawny be a bad thing? He didn’t understand, right? Better to be scrawny than fat.

Wrong. They both suck.

But while I lost more time with my suggestions over listening to what JC laid out for me, it did open my eyes. I had made substantial progress but I would have made even more if I would have eaten what I was told every day and not have done the PSMF diet. I had done exactly what I promised JC I wouldn’t do on my first consultation; I tried to lead his training in a direction I wanted.

Around the same time, I had finished reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones for you illiterate folk who prefer HBO over a book). One of my favorite lines in the book repeated often, is “you know nothing.”

This became my motto. I knew nothing.

Before this past year, I thought it was smart to just eat 2lbs of fruit for breakfast/lunch and struggle through my hunger. I didn’t understand what diet really meant. I most certainly didn’t get exercise. Yet here I was paying someone to train me and then pushing him to do what I wanted to do.

JC did this fantastically by compromising on his plan just enough to show me how bad my ideas where and help enlighten me.

It just took longer than I had hoped.

People forget that exercise and diet is a science. Most people view it with their own opinions. The parallels between ‘science vs. religion’ and ‘science vs. diet and exercise’ are astounding.

Each day at work I build a massive sandwich. Usually it has 4oz of fresh mozzarella, 4oz of prosciutto, 12oz of fresh roast beef all on 10oz of ciabatta bread. As I build my giant sandwich, which I eat 1/3rd a few hours before the gym and the rest after, everyone in my office has an opinion. I’ve been working here for three months and I still can’t eat my healthy delicious meal in silence.

Ciabatta 11oz – 28p/156c/11f
Fresh Mozzarella 4oz – 24p/0c/18f
Roast Beef 12oz – 100p/0c/14f
Domestic Prosciutto 4oz – 32p/0c/12f
1855 calories –  184p/156c/55f

“That’s too much fat” one states.  I ask if he knows how much fat he’s eaten that day. Based on the two cliff bars near his desk, it’s hard not to laugh that he’s almost halfway to the fat content of this sandwich with 1/8th the protein.

“But carbs after 8pm are bad” I hear. They’re astonished when I tell them I finish the gym by 7:30-8pm and eat this after. They’re confident that this is how one gets fat. I resist taking off my shirt, as this is an office environment and plus, I really don’t want to mess up my hair.

“So you only eat a sandwich, nothing else?” I’m asked. And this is where I laugh. Because on this day I’ve primed an entire box of cinnamon toast crunch and a bottle of double chocolate Nesquik for my second meal after the gym.

That’s when they become flustered and refuse to believe. More cardio. Less Carbs. Clearly their plan and dogma hasn’t worked before so by doing more of it now surely will provide the results they strive for. I smile and devour my sandwich, reminding them I’ve only been working out for 6 months.

It gets even worse when people tell you you’re unhealthy. Unhealthy compared to what? To them? Doubtful. To how I was before? Not a chance. To the ideal human? Yea. I’ll give you that. But his life is boring and the trade offs are minimal.

Even when sharing my blood test scores, the conclusion of those around me who watch what I eat are confident, I will die of some medical malady that has no signs but is definitely caused my all my bad decisions. I laugh when they take a cigarette break.

It gets worse at the gym. When you stop thinking about being fat you stop being fat. You perform better. You feel better. And eventually, you look better. Slowly the trainers and others at my gym went from ignoring me to complimenting me on my gains and lifts and even comparing numbers.

They ask how clean I eat. Then they refuse to believe what I tell them I ate today and will eat tonight. Some times, just to rile them up, I eat Twizzlers during my workout.

The most frustrating part of all of this stems from the awakening. I get it now; this makes sense. It’s so simple and you want to share it with everyone. Nobody wants to listen. Nobody wants to be saved.

If they do, they’ll find you. No matter how many times you explain to people that you do zero cardio and work out for 3 hours a week, they know better.

Don’t get frustrated. At one point you were in the same shoes and unless you’re switching professions, these people are not your problem. These people are JC’s problem, so seriously, stop being such a slacker and teach these people how easy everything is.

When you get better, the hero complex becomes something you have to deal with. Your form improves. Your skill improves. You stop making dumb mistakes. This doesn’t mean everyone else has to. There’s only so many people that you can say “hey, is there a specific reason you don’t go full ROM on those squats?” or “have you tried the barbell instead of the smith machine?” before you realize nobody wants to listen.

It’s even worse when the super shredded guy throws 6 plates on each side of the barbell and does 5 mini squats with everyone watching. Thank you for enforcing poor form, buddy!

So here I am. Shoveling a steak and cheese into my face because JC wants me to eat more. And when I weigh in tomorrow and he tells me I need to eat even more, I will shut up and do it. Because so far, the only bumps in the road while working with JC have been caused by me trying to drive this process.

“You know nothing.”

That’s why I hired him, because I need to learn. And it’s really cool when you look back on the progress you’ve made, the friendship you’ve formed, and all the stuff you’ve learned by just letting someone else show you how it’s done.

-Bryan Barletta

30 thoughts on “From Fat to Fit – Getting Out Of Your Own Way”

  1. For me balancing my nutrition played crucial role. I’ve cut my everyday meals, increased the amount of vegetables and meat, and started taking nutritional supplement – Navy Seal Formula. I must say, I could never expect such an outstanding result! My wourkouts became much more intensive, I’ve lost more than 100 pounds, and now I am in the best shape of my life. Will definitely go on like this.

  2. I think I need to relocate to wherever JCD is! It is just too sad, confusing, frustrating, and dissapointing to be working with a PT (I’m on #3.5) and seeing little result.

      • I’m in Bayonne, NJ: the center of absolutely nothing.. I have been working with a PT since I started my journey to better health,December 2011. I’ve lost 20-25 lbs, and have stalled out at 203-204lbs.
        My current PT,who has certs out the wazoo, works with me 30 min 3x a week. The diet he formulated is the typical eat 6x a day to make 1380 cal, 168 carbs, 122 Protein, 25 fat-
        I am doing something wrong

        • ever considered working with someone from afar? either doing a consultation with someone like myself or Roger Lawson (

          • Actually YES!!! I wasn’t aware that you offered long distance advice. I had been in touch with our mutual aquaintance Steve Troutman..
            I can’t honestly say if it’s a PT issue or if It’s me messing up

              • OK, Lets chat… Problem is,I’ve been at this since December;have my local gym after me for breech of contract, don’t have my own weight room, and have developed a zero confidence in myself attitude towrds gettin’ the job done

  3. The phrase, “When you stop thinking about being fat you stop being fat” is a phrase that I need to listen to. I’m sometimes hesitant to eat enough calories to build muscle, because I’m worried about regaining the 100 lbs. I lost.

    • I lost 40 and have since built back up 15. It is terrifying. But there’s something comforting about knowing you put those pounds there and you helped guide most of those calories into muscle building vs fat that make it easier to deal with. Personally, when I get hung up about my gut sticking out more I think about how awesome those muscles are getting behind it and how I’m not that far from getting rid of it completely. Remember, it’s not a step backwards if it’s part of the plan.

  4. Well done on your transformation, the results are fantastic!

    One thing I would say, though, is you seem to eat quite a lot of red and processed meat. I only mention this as I’ve recently done an investigation article into the side effects and they are not pretty, health wise. As long as you’re sticking at no more than 70g of red meat per day you should be fine though.

    (I will admit other than that, I also, know nothing!)

      • I’ve spoken to JC about this. There are alot of studies that are anti-red meat, but as you can imagine some of the methods employed are dubious.

        HOWEVER, the Department of Health (in the UK where I live!) is advising people who eat more than 90 grams (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day to cut down to 70 grams. This is being backed up by the NHS over here. Just my $0.2!


  5. This is a good message: if you hire professional (in any field), trust in them and do as they say, otherwise you can’t accurately evaluate their worth.

    Great progress and great story.

  6. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a Cliff bar – as part of a healthy post work-out carb binge of course.

    Nice summary of your progress and change in perception. Great job!

  7. Very nice article! Yes, everyone has an opinion about what everyone else “oughta” be doing in the gym and in the kitchen. I’ve learned to shut up and send ’em to JC – they’re his problem, right? ; )

  8. This was great for so many reasons.

    The similarities between us (ignoring better wisdom)
    the awesome accomplishments
    the “game of thrones” references

    Awesome stuff!

  9. Cool! Even when you do think you know it all and have the best advice for others, you can find yourself not doing it and going into extremes (e.g. with diet) because you think you’re different. Nobody is different. Good job man.

  10. Good stuff. It’s sometimes easy to recognize when other people are being irrational, yet we continue to do stupid things when it comes to ourselves. That’s why it helps to have an outsider like JC to set you straight. Lesson: You know nothing, do what JC says.

  11. Great article! Very inspirational as well(plus a good advert for our boy JC!) Congrats on your current progress and Good luck for all your future endeavors!

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JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer from Nashville, TN. Currently living in the blistering Northeast. Follow me on X/Twitter