American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

If you’ve ever felt a disconnect from your personal trainer because it seems he or she isn’t tempted by the same foods you are and doesn’t struggle with feelings of embarrassment at the gym, meet Utah-based personal trainer Drew Manning.

You first met Drew in October 2011, when he gained 72 pounds as part of his Fit2Fat2Fit program. The self-described “fitness addict” was having trouble connecting with his overweight clients, so he decided to become one of them – in 6 months.

On May 7, 2011, he began eating fast food, drinking sodas, and relying on processed white breads, pastas and high-sugar cereal for his usually strict diet. The physical side effects began to show within only a few weeks, and the emotions that come along with being overweight did too.

On Good Morning America, where Manning revealed his trim figure once again on Monday, his wife Lynn said the weight made him lethargic, lazy and caused his relationships with his children – and with her – to suffer. He lost his trademark self-esteem and gained high cholesterol and glucose levels.

Aside from just getting his body back, Manning said the entire journey has helped him become less judgmental of some of his clients. Before, Lynn told CNN, he would “look at someone who was overweight and say, ‘They must be really lazy.’”

Now, Manning said, he’s equipped himself with a better sense of understanding – due in part because he now knows what it’s like to enter a gym feeling embarrassed.

A couple important notes to take away from Manning’s journey, even if you don’t buy his book, are that the best way to safely and effectively lose weight is with a healthy diet and exercise and playing with fire isn’t always the best way to become a better trainer.

Back when Manning’s story first hit the Web in 2011, he caught the attention of Dr. Pamela Peeke, Chief Medical Correspondent for Discover Health. Also a keynote speaker at the 2011 ACE Symposium and a WebMD contributor, Peeke addressed Fit2Fat2Fit on her blog.

“No one should ever radically alter their weight,” she wrote. “With rapid weight gain, you’re making permanent changes. … In the future, it will be very easy for him to regain weight. He has also picked up food addictions he never had before. This is also permanent. … Metabolically, he has raised his lipids, put a huge burden on his pancreas as it churns out a tsunami of insulin for his rising blood sugars, and he’s packing his liver and other organs (including his heart) with extra fat. His blood pressure is through the roof, telling me that he probably has a genetic propensity for hypertension. His genes have altered their genetic expression and impacting upon immune and metabolic functions. He’s short of breath, and he’s accumulating fat in and out of his neck, resulting in obstructive breathing and snoring. I don’t know what his family medical history is, but he’s playing with his life.”