I Lost 100 Pounds Through Keto—But My Journey Didn’t Really Start Until I Hit the Gym

Jamie, 36, from Los Angeles, weighed more than 250 pounds at the start of the pandemic. Here, he shares with Men’s Health how he shed more than 90 pounds through a self-taught nutrition regime, got into the best shape of his life with the help of his trainer at Ultimate Performance, and is setting new fitness goals for 2022.

I began my body transformation about two and a half years ago. I just decided one day that I’d had enough, and wanted to completely re-evaluate my priorities. I dove headfirst into learning about health and nutrition, which was an incredible experience; it was like a whole world had opened up to me. I pored over as much information as I could, watched every YouTube video, found every Subreddit, and in my first week on a low-carb diet I lost 11 pounds. That initial progress got me completely hooked.

I personally never felt like I had a particularly bad relationship with food, I just had zero knowledge of nutrition or really any care. So I started doing keto, fueling myself with real food, and noticed changes immediately. I lost 95 pounds this way. Then, after following Ultimate Performance L.A. on social media for a year, I decided to take the plunge and try one of their transformations for myself.

The biggest change was learning how to track my calories. I had never needed to track calories when I was doing keto, because the diet just worked for me. I would eat until sated, and then not eat until I was hungry again. When I started with my trainer Julian, I realised I was going to have to learn how to track my food. The food in general didn’t change too much. I was already eating pretty healthily, and was now cooking for myself for every meal. I also slowly started incorporating some carbs back into my diet. I still prefer to eat overall more low-carb, but they’re certainly not the enemy like they used to be for me.

I use whey protein a lot more now than I used to, and I use it for cooking too. Some of my favourites are protein ice cream, and protein brownies in the microwave. They’re not quite as good as the real thing, but they get close enough that you can satisfy your sweet tooth. My meals in general involve one large protein source and then whatever vegetables I have left over in the fridge. I switch between chicken, beef, turkey, salmon, tilapia, and then as much veg as I want. Eating healthily doesn’t have to be boring!

I work in artist management in the music industry, where there are a lot of social events with plenty of snacks and alcohol on offer (which is what contributed to my weight gain in the first place). Fortunately, a good chunk of my transformation took place during the pandemic, and so really I haven’t had too much to miss. There have definitely been some days since I started tracking my calories that I have splurged and gone overboard, but I have always been able to get right back on track the following day, and it doesn’t appear to have slowed down my progress.

Before my initial weight loss I had done absolutely no resistance training at all, and before I started at UP I thought I had already finished my journey! In my head I was a thin person now, having dropped from 255 pounds to 160 pounds. Normal clothes fit me, and I figured I could basically just coast. The reality was obviously very different knowing what I know now. I was 25 perfect body fat, absolutely zero muscle definition. Work had become a bit of an unknown for a time due to the pandemic, and I’m quite a goal-driven guy, so building strength and muscle gave me something to focus on.

I went from literally never training to saying yes to any opportunity that would allow me to move my body. I spent a few months as a member of a CrossFit box that I loved, I got into trail running with a friend who was patient with me and loved that, I played squash regularly with friends, and recently i’ve gotten really into bouldering. Also I live in LA and there are some absolutely incredible hikes right on my doorstep. It’s easy to find time to be outside.

When it came to the workouts with UP, my whole upper body struggled! I remember finding incline dumbbell press particularly difficult because I didn’t even know the correct form to get the dumbbell above my head and down again safely. Julian has helped me literally every step of the way and has saved my face more than a couple of times from a falling dumbbell. I’ve really enjoyed working on my form there, and watching the numbers on the weights go up pretty regularly.

Julian is all about details, and he makes sure we’re making the absolute most of our time in the gym. When there have been movements that have caused me a bit of pain, he switched up the programming and that allowed me to keep going. He keeps stuff fun and interesting and I can tell he’s genuinely excited for me when I hit a new PR or have a great workout.

Photo credit: Ultimate Performance

Photo credit: Ultimate Performance

I lost about 20 pounds in my first 12 weeks at UP. But more importantly than that, I went from 25 percent body fat to 10.8 percent. Once I had reached my goal of 10 percent, I worked with Julian on some new muscle building goals, upped my calories, and now i’m sitting just a little higher than my leanest at 148 pounds and probably 12 percent body fat.

One regret I have is that I didn’t have a baseline blood test when I was at my unhealthiest, so it’s hard for me to quantify how much healthier I am now from a bloodwork point of view, but lowering my body fat by will definitely have taken a lot of stress off my organs. On top of that, I have more energy, feel more confident, and my wife says that even my posture has changed, and I walk more upright these days.

My goal for 2022 now is consistency. I’m not focused on the scale, and I don’t really have any performance goals, but I would love to just continue to become the healthiest person I can be. I love that my gym routine has become a constant in my life, the results are gradual, and I’m excited to see how far this journey takes me. I recently had my first kid, and ultimately I just want to live as long as possible to hang with him!

If you want to improve your own fitness but aren’t sure where to start, my advice is to find something that you enjoy. If you’re coming from a sedentary life, doing anything at all with your body will be a huge step forward, and finding something that you’re excited to do regularly makes it really easy. I think the only way to get results is to really prioritize yourself. Set achievable goals and be as goal driven as possible. Say yes to every opportunity to move your body.

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