This Guy Got Shredded by Trusting a New Process

mark leruste before and after shirtless
This Guy Got Shredded by Trusting a New ProcessUltimate Performance

Mark Leruste, 39, is a speaker and leadership coach living in South London. He's the founder of Ministry of Purpose, author of Glow in the Dark, and host of The Unconventionalists podcast. His aha moment led him to shed the weight and habits he had accumulated and lose 28 pounds and 14 percent of his body fat in 24 weeks. Here, in his words, is how he made it happen:

sitting down holding two dumbbells
Ultimate Performance

A combination of my kids saying I looked like Daddy Pig, me almost dropping a coffin at a funeral, and a photoshoot gone wrong all contributed to me finally pulling the trigger and fully committing to the process of losing weight and getting in shape.

On the 4th October 2022, I struggled to carry the coffin of my best friend's dad down what felt like the longest aisle in the world and look calm in the process. My shoulder and arms were throbbing, and thankfully we were helped by the funeral team right at the end to put his coffin down in front of the priest to begin the memorial ceremony.

As I sat down to catch my breath, I realised two things:

1) I need to get stronger so that when my dad dies, I can have the strength and stamina to carry him and be able to be present in the moment and not have to think or worry about potentially dropping him because I’m physically not up to the task.

2) I need to lose weight and get in shape, not just now, but for the rest of my life, as I also have two young kids and I don’t want my kids to struggle to carry me when I die.

At that point, I weighed about 181 pounds with a body fat percentage around 25.6 percent. Huffing and puffing in church, nursing my throbbing arm and shoulder, I really reflected on where I was.

I thought about how I’d gotten here; how I’d known I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be but kept doing all of the same things that had gotten me there. I exercised, well, kind of regularly. But I also ate a lot – food that I thought was healthy, even as I wasn’t losing weight or really feeling much better about myself. I was cresting 40 years old having drifted into not recognising myself.

I needed a change. And I knew I needed outside help. I started working with Ultimate Performance in London City. I’d done sporadic training before, but this time I wanted to commit. I wanted to commit my time and money, because this time I really wanted to see results.

I started taking the Tube three times a week to meet my trainer. When I travelled (often), I’d still get one or two training sessions in (cardio or weight training, depending what I had to work with). And I always hit 10,000 steps a day – a challenge when you’re working from home and used to not moving much. I’d work in two 30-minute cardio sessions a week, warming up with shadow boxing and segueing into a run or bike ride.

My Diet Changed Dramatically

Before, I’d thought I was eating pretty healthily. I wasn’t. I was eating close to 4,000 calories a day. I’d mostly eat carbs, pasta, pizzas, burgers, turmeric lattes (I know, it’s a thing), avocado on toast (I know, could I be more cliche), cakes, chocolates, smoothies, beers, Pret sandwiches or ready made salads, you name it.

But ironically, I was confused as to why I wasn’t losing weight even though I was sometimes exercising three times a week because I assumed that what I was eating wasn’t that much. Or what I was eating wasn’t "that bad."

And that was one of the biggest problems, I was assuming and operating blindly while hoping for the best.

Hope is a terrible strategy when it comes down to body transformations.

Learning how to break down macros – to balance fat, carbs, and protein in my diet—was a huge shift for me. Now I had a plan. I even signed up with a meal-prep service that gave me all the ingredients I needed, with macro information on them. I realised that for me, having carbs around my workouts and before going to bed worked really well for my metabolism and helped me sleep better.

It was challenging to rein in my diet while watching my kids and partner tuck into big bowls of pasta and dessert in front of me. Or to let people know I’d be bringing my own food with me to outings because I wanted to stick with my diet. But I’m an adult, and I knew I was working to better myself. (Even when people worried that I looked 'too skinny.')

I should be honest, because this is what I wished I had heard from other people as I was going through the process: I felt pretty horrible the entire time! As in, I was cranky, hungry, irritable, and struggled with my sleep the whole time. (You can probably still hear some of that crankiness!) But I loved seeing my body changing, knowing that this difficult sacrifice was leading to a better me. And for the first time in my life, I love my body.

The Zig-Zag Path to Success

I started out thinking this would take 12 weeks – your typical body transformation. Then life intervened. Having two kids, my own business, needing to travel and be with a partner I love and respect: all of that takes time. I didn’t have a straight-arrow path from where I was to where I wanted to be. I had to zig-zag a little bit, and that took time.

Over those six months, though, I lost 29 pounds and cut my body fat percentage by 14 points. I lost more than 5 inches from my waistline.

For me, success came down to balancing my commitment to what I was doing with knowing when to cut myself some slack. I trained almost religiously, but if I faltered in my diet a bit I didn’t beat myself up over it. Having one central app to track my meals, steps, weight, and sleep really helped, because it gave me a holistic view of my progress.

Keep Going

I could probably write a 10,000 word essay on what I’ve learned in working with my trainer, from form to consistency, but what I will say is this: there is nothing sexy about the process of progress or success.

The most important lesson I learned was that I needed to keep going no matter how I felt about the process. I had to park my own disbelief in my own ability to succeed; to ignore what the numbers on the scale of the body fat monitor read.

I would sometimes plateau, and sometimes regress, but as long as I kept going and was directionally correct, I would eventually break through to the next step and achieve my goal. And I did.

Previously, I would constantly fall short of my goals because I would let something silly like a cheat meal, or a few days without exercising derail me completely and give up. But this time, I kept remembering why I was doing this (so I can be strong enough to carry my dad and light enough for my kids to carry me), I trusted the process, and my trainer kept telling me that I could do this.

That’s what I’ve learned the most: Not to trust my own limiting beliefs or that voice inside my head that says I can’t do this. I’ve read stories of countless people transforming their bodies and lives in Men’s Health, and I always made up that they were built differently, that they were special (I wasn’t) and that I never could get in the same shape.

I’m here to tell you you can. I know, it’s ironic because I used to think the same thing as you – that it's easy for someone else to say. But you so can do this.

As a dad and business owner, I’ve got a lot on my plate. But anyone can start out with the things that are under your control. Maybe it’s a ten-minute walk at lunch, or ten pushups when you wake up. Start small and stay consistent. Sticking with it, that’s what leads to change.

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