16-year-old Hugo had been experiencing some difficulties at school. At the start of 2020, he started being home-schooled to give him space to rebuild his confidence.
But whilst his academic work thrived, his emotional confidence suffered in ways nobody could have foreseen.
“Suddenly I was able to eat pretty much whenever I wanted, and I was moving around a lot less,” he said. “I gained a lot of weight and started feeling bad about how I looked.”
For a young man whose confidence had already been rattled by school, Hugo wasn’t equipped to handle the weight gain. He worried it would make his transition back to school more difficult.
Losing Weight The Unhealthiest Way
“I started taking unhealthy steps to lose weight,” explained Hugo, “It wasn’t a conscious decision. My actions turned into habits and I kind of got stuck.”
Before long, Hugo was skipping meals, eating a small dinner, going on long dog walks, and exercising obsessively.
“I ended up scared to eat more,” he said, “and was doing stupid amounts of exercise – sometimes late at night if I felt I hadn’t done enough.”
Hugo’s parents tried their best to help, but realised he would benefit from some outside support.
“I’d had Personal Trainers in the past, but never enjoyed it,” he said.
“My Mum had worked with Joe, but I was still wary. I suppose I was worried about giving up control over my regime and didn’t want to do exercise that I didn’t enjoy.”
The next step was that I arranged to meet Hugo at his home, and his worries quickly disappeared.
“I clicked with Joe straight away,” Hugo said. “From that moment on, I trusted him.”
Building Trust And Calories Slowly
My coaching is always completely bespoke, but given Hugo’s experience with food restriction and over-exercising, my approach had to be different.
We certainly couldn’t aim for fat loss or high-intensity interval training.
Our focus was on a slow, gentle increase of calories so Hugo got comfortable eating more.
Training sessions were a no-cardio zone, with plenty of weight training and a big focus on squats, deadlifts, and other healthy muscle-building exercises.
“I was so sick of my situation, and wanted to get out of it,” said Hugo, “but I didn’t know how. Joe had so much knowledge, and knew exactly how to educate me so I felt like I had control over my choices”.
It was clear Hugo was anxious about increasing his calories (he was only eating around 500 a day when I met him).
We needed to go slowly to find a balance between keeping his body and mind happy.
Working Towards Healthier Goals
When we started working together, Hugo guessed he was carrying 20% body fat.
In fact, he was already a lean 14%. But his cardio regime and low-calorie intake meant he had a low amount of muscle.
Slowly we brought his calories up and introduced weight training, and Hugo began to put on weight – this time from healthy lean muscle tissue.
“Joe really knows what he is talking about,” said Hugo. “He helped me understand things in a way that meant I had total trust in him.”
Learning To Enjoy Nourishing Food
During Hugo’s disordered eating, he had definitely not been getting enough energy or essential nutrients.
I helped him understand the science of calories, protein, and other macronutrients, and coached him in healthy food prep.
“With Joe’s patience, I started to get into healthy food,” said Hugo.
“He helped me understand what to eat and what not to eat, how to make healthy food, and how to enjoy it.”
Building Strength In And Out Of The Gym
I set Hugo a realistic training plan of four weight training sessions a week (no cardio!) and his body responded to the calories and training stimulus. Before long he was setting personal best and enjoying the amazing feeling of getting strong.
“For the first time in my life I was super enjoying training,” he said. “Joe taught me to squat and deadlift – it was something to look forward to, not dread. Training is no longer a way to burn calories.
“I really love the kind of training Joe has shown me,” he said. “Strength is definitely more important than weight!”
Building A Lifelong Love Of Fitness
Hugo’s coaching journey continues to have numerous benefits. He’s happier, healthier, stronger, and more confident. But one thing we didn’t see coming was a true passion for the science of training.
“Joe has really got me really into fitness,” said Hugo, who now willingly digs into the research himself. “We exchange information and share ideas. After my A-levels, I might even pursue a career in fitness – who knows. Either way, I love having something I’m so excited about.”
After a year of coaching, Hugo has increased his calories to a very healthy 2000, and has gained several kilos but reduced his body fat. He’s strong, lean, and healthy – with a confident mindset.
“I’ve still got a few issues,” said Hugo, “but I’m so much better than I was. Joe has helped so much. He is always there to reassure me. I no longer panic about food or exercise. Working with Joe has taught me to be calm and reasonable in my thinking.”
Hugo is getting ready for 6th form, and feels ready to go back to school.
“I’m more confident in myself, I’m happy in my body, and I know I can cope with challenges,” he said. “Joe has given me a different kind of education. He’s taught me skills for life.”
I hope Hugo’s story inspires you to make changes in your own life, he’s got a very bright future ahead.
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