On the cusp of turning 30, Peter Do felt dissatisfied with his body. He set out to get lean and toned, losing 40 pounds in the process. He told Men’s Health how he did it:
I was on a family trip back to Vietnam, waiting in line for a roller coaster. Just as my brother and I were set to enter the front cart, an attendant told me that I couldn’t ride—I was “too fat.” I was so angry, upset, and embarrassed. It was humiliating. And it made me decide to change.
The decision had been coming for a while. I knew I’d been carrying extra weight; physically I felt so big. I didn’t feel comfortable in my clothes; sometimes I would stretch out my T-shirts just so that they were looser. Wearing bigger clothes was a trick I played on myself to feel smaller in my mind. I was self-conscious and unhappy with how I looked; I didn’t want to take my top off at the beach, even surrounded by my friends and family.
After the roller coaster incident, I resolved to get into a shape that helped me be happy. I decided to enroll in a transformation at Ultimate Performance Manchester. My trainer, Kylie, believed when I signed up that I could lose more than 13 pounds and go from 179 pounds to 165 pounds, while also honing my muscles. She believed I could achieve more than my goal, and I was excited to get started.
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First, figure out food
Getting my diet under control was a priority. Before starting this transformation, I’d start every day by eating a lot of sugary breakfast cereals, then keep snacking throughout the day, because I didn’t feel “full.” I’d have some fast food for lunch, and then, most nights, I’d have takeout for dinner. I’d rarely cook, because it’s just too easy to order food online while I was on the way home.
So I started with a meal prep setup from Ultimate Performance, which I did for a few weeks to understand the basics of eating healthy and sizing my portions. Later on, I shifted to making my own meal preps at home. It was a real eye-opener, just thinking about how and what I was eating. I learned that good, healthy, nutritious food doesn’t need to be complicated to be enjoyable, and it keeps me full longer. Tailoring my diet kept me at a calorie deficit without feeling like I was starving. Even when I ate more than I should, it was easy to get back on track.
Prior to this, I hadn’t done much weight training. I had tried some conditioning classes, and done a little bit of strength training, but outside of that I didn’t really know what I was doing in the gym—I was just jogging on the treadmill and running outdoors.
I went from that to strength training three times a week. Each session, I’d learn what muscle group I was working on, and how that fit into my overall progress. On off days, I’d go on a 30-minute walk in the morning to elevate my heart rate, and generally try to move more during the day. I wanted to target my stomach, and even though I didn’t do any ab-specific exercises, by the end I could really see my core. I also got good results in my back and thighs.
Let your mind change, too
My biggest challenge was staying focused and determined. There were times when I went off plan, and Kylie would remind me to ask myself “why?” As in, “Why am I doing this? Why did I sign up?” And I would just have a talk to myself to get my head together. Another trainer gave me some great advice: “The body can change quickest, but it’s your mind that takes time to change.”
After six months of training, I’d dropped from 29.4 percent body fat to 11.7 percent. My muscle mass stayed about the same, but I lost 42 pounds. My friends and family were really supportive; my twin brother now says, “We don’t look like twins anymore!” Customers pretended not to recognize me, saying, “Where’s Peter?” They’re amazed how much I’ve changed, and when they ask for my secret, I just say, “Good food and a great personal trainer.”
It’s been a truly positive journey. I’ve come out of it happy and more energetic. My clothes fit better. I’m much more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I’ve also been on more dates, which is always a plus!
I remember sitting at work and saying to myself: “OK. I am going to get the body that I want when am 30.” I can’t believe all this hard work has paid off. This is a big achievement in my life, and I’ve done it myself! No surgery. No fad diets. Just simply following a plan and making it a daily habit and that’s what my trainer Kylie has taught me—to make better choices towards the foods at I was eating, picking out food that would keep me fuller for longer and would be nutritionally better, and also to be motivated, disciplined, accountable, positive (even at times when I wasn’t) and, most of all, patient.
From here I want to get bigger and stronger. I want to improve my strength and focus on my current weak points. I’m still working on and learning about the different muscle groups, so I can really understand how they all work together.
People ask me how to get started, and I say, honestly, if you really want that change, then go out there and do it! Even if you can’t get a personal trainer, there are so many tools that can help you in your fitness journey. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Your fitness journey is different. Find a way that you enjoy, recognize that the journey is yours, and don’t compare yourself to other people. Be patient and believe in yourself.