You can often look back on your life and trace dramatic changes to a pivotal moment that shook you out of your stupor.
Maybe it was the day your child was born, and you realized you had work to do if you want to become the kind of role model you aspire to be.
Maybe it was when your girlfriend broke up with you out of the blue. Eventually, you realized that the signs were three for a long time and you simply ignored them.
We all have these lightbulb moments. Mine happened over seven years ago when I asked a friend to take a shirtless progress photo for me. And I got the shock of my life...
At the time I felt like I was in a place. I had a flourishing career in finance in London. I wasn’t exactly the Wolf of Fleet Street, but things were going well.
I was in a loving relationship with the woman of my dreams. She was drop dead gorgeous and I was very happy. So far, so good...
My progress in the gym was modest, but I was content with it. I could deadlift 450 lbs for multiple reps and my squat and bench were decent.
I trained balls to the wall for years. I didn’t consider it a “workout” unless I was completely wiped, drenched in sweat, sucking in oxygen through my tired lungs, and close to puking.
(Some bodybuilders would consider that a light workout.)
in hindsight it was perhaps not the most sustainable way to train. Alas, in my mind, the stronger I became, the better I would look.
And the better I looked, the more confident and attractive I’d feel.
Then, I reasoned, all my problems like anxiety, lack of focus and motivation would disappear.
At least that’s what I reasoned...
I had seen my physique in the mirror every day and thought I looked pretty good.
Nevertheless, I hadn’t seen a picture of myself shirtless a while, so I was keen to see how I looked objectively, because as they say – the camera never lies.
On the day of the picture I was buoyant. I’d been training my ass off for months and was excited to see how I looked.
But I wasn’t prepared for this level of honesty...
I had big shoulders and a broad chest, but they were covered by body fat. It’s like big boobs on a fat chick or abs on a skinny kid: They don’t count for much.
Needless to say, my abs were non-existent. I was going for the lean and built look –
The kind of physique that makes it apparent that you lift weights whether you wear a slim fit tee or New York Giants jersey, but, isn’t so much that you look like a caricature of a Marvel character.
Instead, I had a kind of “Ugg the Caveman” look going on. Years of bench pressing and poor training practices left me with rounded shoulders any self-respecting caveman would be proud of.
It kinda looked like I lifted. When in reality, I spent four to five days a week pounding the weights. It was a little disheartening to say the least. They say the camera never lies
So how about the look on my face? That told more than any other part of my anatomy:
I looked unconfident, anxious and almost embarrassed. Although it didn’t dawn on me that I felt that way until I saw the picture.
In short, I was nowhere near the athletic, confident, go-getter I had imagined myself to be. This photo, which was meant to measure my progress, turned out to be a watershed moment in my life.
Not only did I see I was not in the kind of shape I aspired to. But I also realized but there were other areas of my life that I was glossing over
Once the initial shock wore off, I reflected on my life. I was actually anxious A LOT – almost every day in fact – but I had ignored it because it was so frequent.
Anxiety had become my new normal. And if I'm totally honest, I felt insecure about myself and the way I looked.
Yet I had stuffed it down and chose to ignore it. Looking back, I realize this had dramatically impacted my personal life.
I was anxious and reclusive in social gatherings, especially in situations where I didn’t know people. I was in a stable relationship at the time, but due to my rockbottom confidence, I secretly worried if my girlfriend was looking at other men.
When I first began lifting in my teens, I assumed that hitting big numbers in the gym would increase my confidence.
I was reasonably strong, yet I still didn’t feel confident about taking my shirt off while on vacation.
And my libido? I couldn’t remember the last time I had a morning wood. Sex felt more like a chore than the intimate, enjoyable experience it’s supposed to be.
While it depressed me to see how mediocre I looked and felt, it was also a blessing in disguise. It was a wake up call that made me rethink my entire life.
A verdict of low testosterone…
The following day I performed a life audit. It was clear that several things needed to change. I completely overhauled my nutrition, training and cut back drastically on drinking.
So much so, that I gave up drinking for two years altogether (but that’s another story).
I added more vegetables, protein and good fats to my diet – such as olive oil and avocado – and tracked everything that went into my mouth.
And instead of training like a powerlifter, only concerned with how much weight I could lift, I focused on hypertrophy (i.e. building muscle) with higher reps and more volume.
I did a lot of research and it appeared that my anxiety, low confidence and excess body fat all had one thing in common –
In other words, my hormones (and probably a host of other biomarkers) were out of whack. I took a blood test and found out it was true...
It revealed I had the testosterone level of an 80 year old man! I was basically running on empty.
It took more than a year of trial and error to figure out what worked in terms of diet and training, not only to support my fitness goals, but to get my hormones balanced again!
Low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, booze, no booze, working out two days a week or five…
Trust me, I’ve done it all.
I felt like a new man
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to balance it all with a demanding and stressful job that required me to work long hours.
While it was difficult figuring out what nutrition, training and lifestyle hacks worked, I’m glad I went through it.
I battle tested pretty much every diet and training program out there.
I worked relentlessly to improve my sleep, lower my stress, and essentially, declutter almost every aspect of my life.
Within a few months, I began to feel much more mental clarity. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had quite a bit of brain fog that meant I couldn’t focus. Which meant that my performance at work was mediocre at best.
I had been seeing a therapist for my anxiety. This did help to some extent, but I felt like it was always there in the background, like an elephant in the room.
But once my body started to feel more balanced, the anxiety began to subside.
For months, my progress in the gym had trickled along at a snail’s pace and I had almost given up hope. Now, my strength went through the roof and I was gaining muscle once more.
The changes in my body composition made me feel much more confident about taking my shirt off. In fact, I even looked for situations where I could do it!
My sex life, which had virtually dried up, now came roaring back into life and I enjoyed physical intimacy with my girlfriend again – something that was sorely lacking in my life.
Today, over seven years later, I can say with hand on heart that I feel happy with my health, the way I look, and in particular, how I feel about myself.
Below is a picture of how I look now most of the year:
Now, I don’t show this picture to boast or to make you feel bad. It’s simply to show you what’s possible for you, too.
I didn't get this way due to good genetics (definitely don’t have those), drugs or anything else – it’s down to that foundational work I did all those years ago.
So how did I get there?
Truth be told, it's a combination of multiple things:
- Consistent training – I've not taken time off from the gym EVER
- Prioritizing sleep – if you don't recover you don't grow, simples!
- I took my diet seriously – before I used to half-ass my diet and it showed
However, if I could boil it down to one thing I’d say it was down to hormone optimization.
You see, if you have no testosterone in your tank, you’re not going to get very far. And despite my best efforts, I was going nowhere, all because I had low testosterone.
My progress in the gym had ground to a halt – not because I had maxed out my genetic potential, but because I had zero testosterone to build muscle.
The anxiety, low libido, and depression weren't personal issues, but were more a consequence of low testosterone.
Ultimately, this led to me undergoing testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which helped in many ways. But in hindsight, I realized it was a big, fat mistake.
The exuberance of youth perhaps?
I became a health optimization coach because I realize there's a TON you can do to raise your T levels naturally. Without ever resorting to testosterone.
That's exactly what I teach my clients to do – through simple lifestyle changes. Click here if to find out more about my coaching and how I help men like you 10X their energy, get deep, restorative sleep and rekindle their love life!