Lessons From a Trainer Who Put on 50 Pounds to Help Others Lose Weight

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We all have our own unique goals for health and wellness, but losing weight is often high on the list. Considering how difficult weight loss is for most people, it's hard to imagine intentionally packing on the pounds once you've reached your goal—but that's exactly what Seth Kaufmann did.
yoga instructorgym owner and sports nutritionist in South Florida, Seth was one of 10 trainers starring in A&E's docuseries "Fit to Fat to Fit." His assignment: Gain 50 pounds in order to motivate his 380-pound client, Dave, to change his unhealthy ways. This extreme weight loss experiment was designed to give the trainers a firsthand understanding of the struggles faced by their overweight clients, and then lose the weight along with them.
How He Packed on the Pounds in Just 4 Months
At first, Seth was excited at the prospect of eating unhealthy, delicious foods—"I thought it was going to be a four-month-long cheat meal"—but after the first over-indulgent meal, he was ready to go back to his healthy ways. For someone whose life, education and career were rooted in health and fitness, the idea of undoing all his hard work was daunting, but ultimately he was up for the challenge.
During the filming, Seth attempted to eat 10,000 calories a day, in stark contrast to his normal caloric intake of 1,800 to 2,500 calories a day. He ate anything and everything, including plenty of pastries, cookies and pies. He also drank a lot of soda and anything with a high amount of calories.
With the exception of sugar spikes and crashes, Seth found that gaining the first 30 pounds was shockingly easy. All of his friends and clients were happy to shower him with their favorite cheat foods. The next 20, however, posed a sizable challenge, as Seth started to resent food and stopped enjoying his meals.
For Seth, an even harder task than unhealthy eating was not being able to exercise for four months. "I just didn't feel like myself," Seth says. To get him through the dreariness of the weight gain, Seth relied on his meditation practice to maintain a positive outlook and to stay centered and focused.
The Extra Pounds Pay Off
Once Seth hit the 50-pound weight gain target, he was ready to do whatever it took to get back in the best shape of his life. He started again with a vengeance, working out two or three times a day and eating a clean, nutritious diet. But after six weeks, he got an unwelcome surprise.
"I literally couldn't have done anything better, yet when I looked in the mirror, I was still fat," he says. "It was the most defeating, demoralizing moment of my life—I just wanted to quit and go eat a piece of cake!"
Seth rationalized that it had taken longer than six weeks to gain the weight, so it would take longer to lose it. He was suddenly on the receiving end of all those pep talks he'd been giving his discouraged clients for years. After another six weeks of hard work, Seth had lost all of the extra weight and was in even better shape than he'd been before, both physically and mentally.

Seth's weight gain and subsequent loss also inspired his TV client Dave, to lose more than 125 pounds. Even now, Seth and Dave continue to work out together, losing more weight and pushing each other to be their best.
Ultimately, Seth's weight gain helped him to better empathize with his clients. Before, as an uber-fit trainer, he could logically tell them what to do and how they should feel, but until he went through the process himself, he couldn't truly relate to their experience. "Now, my clients trust me more because they know I've been there before," he says. "I know what it's like to work so hard and make so many sacrifices, and not get the immediate results we all think we should get."
Seth's Two Nutrition Secrets
In his personal training and nutrition counseling, Seth shares these two important practices with his clients:
  1. Include a protein with every meal. "You should never eat a meal with only carbohydrates and fats without a protein in it," Seth says. "When eating protein, our energy levels will remain more stable, we'll get full quicker and it will last longer."
  2. Never let yourself get too hungry. Seth recommends eating or drinking something with substance every three to four hours. "Although the science doesn't prove that it's better to eat six small meals versus two or three larger ones, when we allow ourselves to go too many hours without eating, a lower calorie meal will not satisfy that hunger," he explains. "When we bridge that gap by eating something, even a juice or a protein shake, every three or four hours, we never allow ourselves to get to the point where we are starving and more likely to overeat."
Seth's Sample Meal Plan
Seth's typical diet consists of five to six meals a day, every three to four hours, although some of those meals consist of juice or a protein shake. "I'm really eating three actual meals and drinking three drinks in between to bridge the gaps," he says. "A typical meal for me is pretty simple: It always contains a protein source, a green vegetable, and depending on the intensity of that day's workout, a 'good' carb source."
Here's an example of Seth's daily menu:
  • Early morning black coffee and protein shake
  • Omelet consisting of three whole eggs with bacon and a green veggie included
  • Cold pressed juice, mostly of a vegetable base (Seth limits his fruit intake because of the sugar content)
  • 6-8 oz. chicken breast and Brussel sprouts with mustard and hot sauce
  • Post-workout protein shake
  • 6-8 oz. steak or pork loin with sautéed spinach and sweet potato 
Seth's Daily Workout Plan

The one constant of Seth's fitness regimen is his daily yoga practice. "It's not so much about the physical postures as it is the meditation and balancing of my mind, body and spirit," he says. He also enjoys weight lifting, and does a regular strength routine four or five days a week. This includes metabolic conditioning workouts, where he lifts lighter weights at a higher intensity to burn fat.
For his clients who struggle to stick to an exercise regimen, Seth's words of wisdom are to find something, anything, they enjoy doing. "There are so many ways to exercise and get in shape—you just need to find something that relates to you, that you don’t find torturous, and stick to it," he says. "Just do what you can to the best of your ability and do it consistently. With time and desire, you will get the results you want."
Seth's Weight Loss Tips
  • DON'T weigh yourself while you're losing. During the weight loss process, Seth advises his clients to stay away from the scale, and just stay committed to the process of losing weight. "I find the scale can lie for numerous reasons," he says. "I tell people to base their progress on how good they feel, the unsolicited compliments they receive and how their clothes fit."
  • DO weigh yourself once you've hit your goal. "When they've reached their goal weight, I recommend that my clients do daily weigh-ins," Seth says. "If they creep up a few pounds, they notice it immediately and can make an immediate shift to take those few pounds off before it gets out of hand. In long-term weight loss success, there will always be minor fluctuations. It's all about keeping them under control."
  • Commit to the lifestyle. "Weight loss isn't something you work super hard to achieve and then go back to your old habits. It has to be a complete lifestyle change, a 24/7 commitment, not just a one-hour workout a few days a week."
If he could go back in time, would Seth do the weight gain experiment again? Absolutely, he says. "Not only did my experience inspire Dave, but the feedback we've gotten from our local community and worldwide has been so amazing," Seth says. "Words can’t describe how great it feels to know that my crazy experiment touched inspired people to make healthy lifestyle changes."