It was a summer vacation in the Philippines, but Jan Patrick Romero wasn’t feeling it. The 32-year-old "professional closer" who splits his time between Norway and the Philippines had a nice list of professional accomplishments, but felt inexplicably unhappy. He’d been trying to work out why, and on that vacation he realised how heavy and out of shape he felt. “I was saying to myself,” he says, “‘How long am I gonna let this be my story?’”
He’d always loved food, cooking, and eating. As an adolescent, eating a lot hadn’t been much of a problem; Romero was an avid basketball player, even making Norway's Youth National teams. Late in his teens, his interest in basketball waned, but he stuck with the same diet: shawarmas, kebabs, cheeseburgers, pizza, and Coke. From about age 21 his weight yo-yo’d, as he gained pounds, then tried short-term fixes. “I had very little knowledge about nutrition, calories, and macros,” he says.
He remembers the low points: stretchmarks, having to borrow larger trousers from his father. At his heaviest he weighed 187 pounds (84kg). “I felt awful,” he says. “I couldn’t believe what I’ve done to myself.”
Just as he was confronting himself, he happened to get an email about Jeremy Ethier's Built with Science program. He enrolled, telling himself, “I’ve now invested into developing my body.”
He started at about 172 pounds (78kg), with around 22 per cent body fat. He wanted to drop around 11 pounds, at around a pound a week. The meal plan, he found, was a challenge. He craved sugar and fast food; for the first four weeks, he’d wake up craving chips or chocolate. He followed the plan about 70 per cent as his cravings decreased.
But around the fifth week he started struggling, dropping to maybe a third of his meal plan. In response, he started meditating; he recommitted to his coach, and he started meal prepping and using MyFitnessPal to track his food. He used a spreadsheet to count calories. For the first five months, he never missed a single workout. He cycled through twice-weekly upper body and lower body workouts, with zumba dancing, basketball, and cardio running interspersed. Weekends were for resting.
In three months he lost 11 pounds (5kg), while gaining muscle. His body is still changing, he says, and this is the first time in years he’s taken a set of “before” pictures and been happy with the “after” results. Being able to see the changes kept him motivated. “I was shocked to see my six-pack popping out after eight weeks,” he says. He’s happier and more confident; he’s even modelled, “which I never thought would happen to me.”
Next he’d like to get to ten per cent body fat, hopefully while freeing up time and income to further invest in his body. “The only thing that helps me to keep going is that I have a strong why,” he says—after all his earlier attempts, he now knows what he wants.
“Don’t compare,” he says, if you’re looking to make a change. ”Focus on your own journey.” What works for others may not work for you; most importantly, you need a deep sense of why you want to change. “The journey differs per individual,” he says, “so make sure to know your why to the importance of why you are doing this.”
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