Tom Whitehead

"From blobby body to model body"

In Tom’s very detailed words, read all about his experience with UP and how he went from being Mr Blobby to appearing in a national media campaign for beautiful, attainable bodies!

“Telling Nick Mitchell of Ultimate Performance that I expected him to ‘Beast’ me into shape may have felt like a mistake at times – a Beasting I wanted…..a BEASTING I got!

Having left the Armed Forces in December 2004, it took a further 4 months for my release papers to be finally processed, leaving me with time a plenty to navel gaze and ponder my next step. And so it was, with time no longer a premium, I began to structure my day around hitting the local gym and carving that chiseled physique I had always sort after.   At 6’3” and sporting a Rugby players build, I had always been large but not necessary defined and so I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and went for it hell for leather.  I adopted the low carb lifestyle under the guidance of the ‘South Beach Diet’ book which had been festering on my shelf since time immemorial.  I had previously flirted with an ‘Atkins-esque’ lifestyle and saw decent enough results in a relatively short period of time but the nature of life in the Forces made this diet choice nigh-on impossible to maintain, (subsidised booze and cheap, highly calorific, low quality food did not help).

Despite a positive start, within two days I was literally climbing the walls with cravings, the likes of which would turn the average skag head back to the bad old brown stuff quick sharp! Sure enough though, the cravings past and the weight started to fall off.  However, despite my best efforts to lift heavy and regular, a vast amount of muscle mass appeared to melt away too. This left me with a flat, emaciated look, much as if I had just returned from a stint on the Bataan Death March.  In hind sight, the daily hour long runs on top of the gruelling gym work, whilst ingesting near starvation like rations may not have been as beneficial as I had once thought! Never-the-less, at the end of the 4 months, I had dropped about 10 kilos and had secured myself a low-brow finance job in the City to boot.  At this point I weighed in at 89kg, the slimmest (smallest) I had been since leaving school.

Two months later, however, having gained ‘a couple’ of pounds, I finally admitted defeat and headed to M&S for a cheap replacement for my now incredibly uncomfortable, badly fitting pin stripe. The weight gain did not abate and 6 months later I was proudly sporting an impressive City Boy gut along with the mandatory moobs and portly jowls – proof that, early starts, two breakfasts a day, fatty/carb laden lunches, energy giving chocolatey-suggary snackettes and XL burger meals to wash down the gallons of ale, had all taken their toll.

Despite making reasonably good money, the next three years were a fairly miserable mix of self imposed deprivation of socialising and fun food coupled with increasingly monotonous (not to mention fruitless) gym and cardio slogs.  The cycle of weight loss and gain was fairly predictable.  Losing the first few kilos came easily enough and the strength gains I made lifting weights were enough to convince me that I was packing on some decent muscle.  However, one small set back, usually a heavy night on the grog, would throw me off for the next few days and sure enough I would be back at the starting weight and preparing to start the cycle all over.

I followed the pearls of wisdom in the popular muscle press religiously; oats in the morning, whole meal bread and lean meat for lunch and low carb dinner punctuated throughout the day with a smattering of protein shakes, fruit and veg.  In addition, I formulated a structured weight lifting and cardio programme – yet the results were, at best, no better than short term deviations from my bloated journey to 110kg.

Despite my best intentions through dieting and exercise, getting below that magic 100kg mark just never happened and bang, I would have a week long blow out and be back on my way to that hideous 110kg mark. Through frustration and boredom at this continued circle of dieting, exercise and eventual weight gain, I even experimented with an extremely ill-advised ‘bulking phase’. Bearing in mind I was carb depleted to begin with, I followed the guidance of a ’10lbs in 1 month’ programme, and at first I had the pleasing feeling of full, swelling muscles, bundles of energy and complimentary remarks of how quickly I was filling out. However, within a week I was bloated – looking back at pictures now I resembled Mr. Stay Puft, the marshmallow man.  Never the less, I persevered with my double bagel and cream cheese breakfasts and by the end of two weeks I was tipping the scale at the top end of 111kg sporting cheeks, likes of which would put even a Cabbage Patch doll to shame.  It was at this point I realised that, despite all my research, I really had no idea what I was doing!

Starting a new job across town provided me with the time and motivation to take the whole process more seriously and maybe even get some professional help.  My first internet searches into the murky world of the London Personal Trainer were fruitless to say the least.  The internet presents a dizzying choice of individuals promising you the earth but having seen some examples of these ‘paragons of health’ at my local gym, with their beer bellies and man boobs,  I was decidedly apprehensive in handing over cash to someone who did not practice what they preach.

After several false starts I eventually stumbled across the website for the Muscleworks gym in Bethnal Green. I had passed this gym several times on the way to work and could see by the size of some of the clientele that it must have a credible reputation as being a proper ‘iron’ gym.  And so it was, that as I flicked through the site that I first came across Nick Mitchell and his company, Ultimate Performance.

Judging by Nick’s publicity shots he had been there done that and could just about squeeze his guns into the T-shirt.  The website had shed loads of articles which took completely opposing views on fat loss and muscle gain to those of the high street muscle magazines and seemed to lean heavily on the teachings of Coach Charles Poliquin, the Canadian strength coach.  Fish oil and BioSignature Modulation seemed to crop up at regular intervals – I liked the idea of latter considerably more than the former.  The term Bio Modualtion seemed technical enough and seemed to suggest that where you store fat on your body was a direct result of certain hormonal imbalances. I have to confess to being a sucker for this type of thing but if it could shift my moobs and love handles I would be more than willing to give it a go.

I first spoke to Nick on his way to the airport.  He was due to fly out to the States and meet with Charles Polquin who was giving a seminar at the time.  First impressions of Mr Mitchell were that of the a no nonsense Northerner (he turned out to be such a meek, mild mannered and gentle man in the end!). I quickly established that he ran other trainers but he regarded himself as the best which subsequently meant paying top dollar. A moments hesitation followed once he gave me a run down of his charges but I quickly decided that this was a once in a life time expense for me so why not throw caution to the wind. I was going to be 30 by the following July and I had set this as a target for me get in the kind of shape I would want to be for the next ten years…at least. If he could really ‘guarantee’ me results then I would be a fool to bow down to economic pressure – incidentally the financial markets were melting at this point in time so job security was not great to say the least.

tom test4 300x2671 Tom Whitehead – “From Blobby Body To Model Body”

He reiterated that his training was mostly strength orientated and pretty much threw out the rule book which said sustained bouts of steady cardio was the key to shedding that pesky belly fat and reveal that elusive Brad Pitt six pack you had been hiding all these years. Worryingly he seemed happy to know that I was ex-forces, a rugby player and, worst of all, I wanted a Beasting! I should have suspected the worst when he asked if I had any objection to being trained to the point of vomiting – “the bigger the chunks the better” I replied…mistake!

Our first session passed smoothly enough. I popped into MuscleWorks, where Nick trained his clients, for our first meeting.  I was somewhat taken a back by the sheer size of the man.  The fact that most people were ‘large individuals’ at Muscleworks was a given but, much as I hate to massage his ego anymore, Mitchell had GUNS!  So far so good.  I saw him finishing off his previous client – the pool of sweat surrounding this poor broken man as he lay on the floor should have warned of things to come but I was keen to get cracking ASAP – I wanted to be that broken man…..it meant I would be one step closer to achieving the ‘look’.

A brief introduction, then off down into the bowels of the gym for my skin folds to be calculated.  Using his trusty set of calipers, Nick took readings from seven areas of my leg and torso.  This, I learned, was part of the Bio-Signature Modulation protocol.  From these measurements he could accurately calculate my body fat percentage and any hormonal imbalances I may have – of which I did indeed have! My large love handles suggested that I had been battering my poor bod with refined carbs for too long and my insulin sensitivity was way out of whack.  The reading from my shoulder blade confirmed my genetic predisposition to storing energy from carbs in my mid section.  The pectoral skin fold reading was not as bad as I had feared but the tricep reading suggested that my testosterone was lower than it should be.  Apparently males today have half the testosterone as our Grandfathers so fear not dear reader, I am not the only one!

Next, we journeyed up into the gym to go through the structural balance protocol.  This involved going through various compound movements in order to ascertain my strengths/weakness and any muscular imbalances that I may have.  Poor flexibility, rotor cuff issues, bad bench press form…quite the ordinary for a desk bound 29 year old who had been self-ego-training for most his adult life.  A little disheartened that I only managed to bench 100kg with good form but still keen as mustard I booked myself in for a 6.00am session the following Monday.

5.00am in November is not nice.  It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s Monday morning, I am tired and Bethnal Green is even more depressing than normal.  I managed a protein shake upon waking and staggered down the road praying that the large cup of very black coffee I had necked upon leaving the flat would work its magic.  Thank God it did and by the time I met a rather grumpy Mr Mitchell (not a morning person I can assure you) we cracked on with the first set of exercises.  What became very apparant was my overall lack of fitness. I had been pumping iron consistently for about two years and quite frankly even the first easy set (he promised to go easy for the first session so I would be in a fit state to move for the Wednesday workout) ruined me.  All I remember is a blur of lunges, squats, press ups, step up with weights and collapsing in puddles of my own sweat – at a later session I vaguely recall Nick capturing on camera a ‘sweat angel’ (imagine a snow angel with sweat substituted for snow) I had created. What I soon learned was that I could infact push my body far harder than I had ever expected, and it was this new found intensity level in my training under Nick’s tutelage that really drove my muscle and fat loss gains over the proceeding 5 months.

I had started his prescribed diet the previous Friday and to my delight I had already dropped the best part of a kilo – in preparation for the grueling six weeks ahead, I had force fed myself every conceivable delight that I would be banned from on the new diet, so the majority of the initial weight loss was most probably water as I cut the carbs.  I have to confess not being particularly fond of fish so I was over the moon when Nick put me on pretty much fish and greens for the first two weeks, but in for a penny, in a for a pound….I still can’t look at salmon without gagging. In his defense, he did say there were alternatives but I was adamant the hardcore way would be the best for me.

The diet, combined with the new exercise regime, showed almost instant results and weight just fell off.  Admittedly, from all my efforts in the gym I was walking like hunched-back geriatric with crippling diarrhea for the first week and a bit but once the body started to adapt, dare I say it, I actually came to look forward to our early morning wretch fests.  Oh yes, so keen was I to make the grade that I pushed my self to my lactic acid threshold almost every time for my first 8 sessions and spent the next 5 minutes hunched over the Muscle Works toilet wishing I had not. Believe it or not but this seemed to give some kind of kudos amongst the hard core lifters at the gym and actually got a couple of ‘hell yeahs’ and ‘good stuff fella’ from these behemoths.  By the end of the first two weeks the changes in my body composition were starkly obvious – most noticeably from behind.  The bane of my life, my saddle bags, love handles, bugger grips, what ever you want to call them, had begun to shrink drastically.  As a motivational tool, Nick had taken several pictures of me at our first session to be used for ‘motivation’ and comparison as we went along.

However, I would be lying if I said that by the end of the first two weeks my number one fantasy concerned a buxom brunette (apologies to girlfriend if she reads this)…..no, this had been replaced by the thought of that first cheat meal.  I started to literally dream of Jaffa Cakes, chips and all those wonderful carby nuggets of love I was depriving myself of.  Despite this, when that wonderful Saturday evening meal arrived, I think disappointment would be an under statement.  Though I craved those carby chips, I actually found that my taste buds had started to change and the lasting feelings of this first treat was that of bloating, lethargy…and nausea. Dare I say it but I was starting to enjoy the low carb feeling!

The cycle of intense dieting and training followed by the one prescribed cheat meal continued and the fat continued to melt away.  I stopped weighing myself on a regular basis as I could see the results happening right before my eyes.  Even my long suffering girlfriend admitted that, even though we were eating separate meals and I was always too tired to be of any functioning use, I was starting to look rather trim.  Spurred on by this and even the occasional back handed compliment from my younger brother, I cracked on under the guidance of Herr Mitchell.  By Christmas I still had 1 week left of my six week fat loss course but I was hungry for more.  Nick took my skin folds and upon crunching the numbers gave me my results and…….much to my delight, I had dropped 17lbs of fat and put on 7lbs of lean muscle.  An unbelievable return for someone not a novice with weights.

But then Christmas happened.  All was going swimmingly until Christmas Eve and then it all went a little pear shaped – literally. I had promised myself a Christmas Day blowout, which I duly obliged myself with. However, this led to Boxing Day blowout and you can you can imagine the rest.

I had warned Nick that I had let myself go a ‘tad’ but as it was the New Year now, I was completely re-focused on our little fat loss odyessy and I wanted to roll over my existing sessions and do another course.  A look of dismay and disappointment washed over Nick as I rolled into the gym.  I had bloated from a ‘trim’ 96kg to 101kg in a matter of weeks – I have now realised I have a genetic disposition to Quality Street addiction, which saw me wolf down nearly two whole tins – Bad Boy!  In Mitchell’s own words, “I am going to make you earn every one of those sweets, rep-by-rep!”. He was good to his word and in no time at all, I was broken…badly! I could literally smell those lovely Orange Crèmes coming out of my pores.  Scolding myself again for being such a glutton, I limped home to soak in the bath and praying I still had the use of my legs the day after.  Unfortunately I did and I think the muscle soreness could have been worse than when we first started back in November (foolishly I had decided to come completely clean and admit, not only my sweety consumption in all it’s bloody detail but also that I had not trained legs since the last time I saw him).

Anyhow, within a week I was back on track, sub 100kg and on my way to the next mile stone – 90kg! Once I past the magic 95kg in early February we embarked on the hardest two weeks I can ever remember.  Maintaining ultra low carbs and reduced calories we spent two weeks on almost none stop depletion workouts.  By the end of the second week I felt terrible.  My joints ached, my head hurt, my sleep was shocking and my face looked sunken – however, the muscle remained and the fat seemed to disappear and dare I say it but I even had the embryonic outline of some abdominals.

The training changed shortly after and we started to mix it up throughout the week.  High reps, low reps, Giant Sets, Super Sets, a little Depletion you name it, we did – just kept the body guessing and with it, the fat continued to burn off.  I was now even allowed a carb up day every Saturday.  The rules were fairly strict, no fat, medium protein and high carb but only from quality sources.  Sounds awesome, but having spent a whole week extremely low carb and training like bastard the sudden influx of carbs would bloat the hell out of me .  We soon reduced this to 12hrs instead of 24hrs. The carbs would replenish my fasted muscles and I actually started to look quite buff.

So where am I now?  I hit the magic 86kg which means that hopefully my body’s ability to process insulin in back in line so I can benefit from the muscle building qualities of flooding my body with those post workout carbs. As a result of all our hard work over the last 6 months, I am now starting a 1 month muscle building program under the watchful gaze of Nick at his new state of the art Personal Training Gym near Liverpool Street.  I have some doubts about the newly installed track which runs slap bang down the middle of the gym. It is specifically designed to aid the pulling and pushing of something called the ‘sled’.  Sounds innocuous enough but the grunts and wails coming from those dragging this contraption would suggest otherwise – Nick and his trainers swear by it though.  The worrying thing though, is that having whittled my way down from +100kg I am actually trying to get back there as quickly as possible but in this case slapping on as much of the lean stuff as possible will none of the unsightly, wobbly stuff that you would associate with a typical ‘bulking program’.  Only time will tell but hopefully if Nick can work his magic again by the end of the summer I will be a changed man….again. (As a side not it must have worked as not long after initially writing this I went to feature as a model in a national campaign for beautiful yet attainable bodies!)”

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