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."

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DEE107 3/28/2020
wow that is something dont want to gain it back Report
I just hope he did the experiment as a way to learn how to sympathize with people who struggle to lose weight. Especially those that work, have a family and other obligations besides living in a gym. Like he does. Report
Thank you Report
One thing about this article...and this second time with SP. I was much too influenced by the number on the scales the first time. Even having the long term ups and downs to look at, the number affected my self worth much too much. I’m an intelligent, reasonable person, but still couldn’t deal well with that. This time I have a SP plan, and will weigh as infrequently as possible. I do plenty of exercise, eat to either the top or the bottom level of my SP range, changing it occasionally, and am following the plan. I never want to be limiting my calories to 1200 anyway which seems too extreme and not realistic, so that seems fine. Otherwise, I choose to worry less about it. I’ll weigh myself at the end of the summer and adjust from there. Report
Hard to believe Report
This is not a good article. How do you know you are at the end to weigh yourself if you can't weigh yourself until you are at your goal weight? Did I miss something and like a bell goes off, or maybe a small parade occurs as soon as you hit your goal weight? My body for years couldn't tell me I wasn't hungry, how am I supposed to trust it to tell me that I have hit the exact goal weight I want? Report
Thanks for the information. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I like the concept of not weighing often! When I use heavier weights I gain 2-3 pounds the first couple weeks—yet I still lose inches. Gosh, I couldn’t do what this trainer did! Report
A very unique way of helping others! Report
An interesting read but an example of ding the wrong thing for the right reasons. What if, just say, Seth gained all that weight and then decided not to lose it back. There would be no article, no one would know how good his motives were and Seth would just be another fat person. Report
I think that was a wonderful thing to do to encourage a friend. Although it isn't right for everyone, it was a great way to show support! Report
Seriously? How is this supposed to compare to real life except in this one situation? And, how often does one run across people who purposefully gain weight for a reason with the end game being have it come back off again. Maybe actors, wrestlers, other types of athletes, I have no idea. That being said - I call BS too! I'm guessing his 380-pound client, Dave didn't put the weight on in 4 months and didn't get there through intention. This in no way compares to what happens to most people who have weight to lose. Do you ever ask the SP folks what kind of articles they'd like to see? Report
This is just wrong in so many ways. I think this guy did a foolish thing that is hardly inspirational to anyone trying to lose weight. Just like a British woman who intentionally gained 30 lbs in a few weeks to "prove" that obese people eat like pigs, this is an inaccurate comparison. Many overweight people gained just a few pounds a year over a period of time which amounts to maybe a couple of hundred extra calories a day. (Two slices of bread more than you need is enough to put on 20 lbs in a year.) That is hardly the "pig fest" that these people indulged in to gain weight rapidly and make a point about how others become obese. It is also a lot easier for someone who did this to lose the extra pounds since they ate an artificially high number of calories for a short period of time and all they had to do is return to their normal eating patterns and it will quickly fall off. That doesn't compare to someone who gradually picked up 30 pounds in middle age who has to learn a new way of eating and exercising to reflect the changes of getting older. I call BS on this whole experiment! Report
I don't agree with not weighing yourself until the end. I do agree that you need to think of more than just the scale but I think a weekly weigh-in is a good rule of thumb before during and after the process period a daily way in it's just too much pressure to me Report
I didn't see the show but I do know a well fit trainer will always lose weight faster than an overweight female who is not a trainer. Really bad comparison. Report
So avoid the scale until you've hit your goal weight? How in the world are you supposed to know if you are there? Report
Interesting! Report
Really? I don't think this qualifies as a success story at all.I lose weight every New Year, because the short term weight gain is easy to shift. Your body is at its normal lower set point and hasn't had time to adjust upward.He has not been at the higher weight for 20 years and stuck eating at low metabolism making 1000cal without budging.In fact he has a boosted metabolism from eating 10000 cals a day! the whole thing is Complete BS.
Seth is just a thin guy pretending to be fat, all it proves is that he has a low set point and can lose weight easily as anyone who ate to much over a short term. shouldn't even be on Sparkpeople. Report
I like the idea of daily weigh ins for maintenance. Report
Inspiring? Not even a little bit. He was a healthy MAN who gained weight by eating and as a MAN who has a very different metabolism than a woman, he lost weight - then used that to sell himself. Bah. Come back when he has diseases that cause slow metabolism, and side effect is weight gain. Come back when he has to take medication for the diseases he has, such as steroids, that have a side effect of weight gain. Come back as a woman with PCOS or a woman after menopause or heck, just come back as a woman. Then I would like to see him use his "oh so wonderful tips" to lose the weight and inspire the world. He cannot even begin to have empathy from his experience - not as a healthy man who deliberately ate himself up 50 lousy pounds and then, lost it all in a snap. That's like saying I know and have the experience of losing a limb because I pulled up my leg and hobbled on crutches for a day. Or I can experience what it's like to be in a wheelchair because I sat in one for a hour and tried to negotiate the streets. He is an idiot and who knows how much damage he did to his body in his little "experiment." SP why do you promote such unhealthy ways, as health and inspiration. It's not inspiring, it's ridiculous. Report
good article Report
First of all fluxing your weight like that is just as bad as yo yo dieting, it's bound to take a toll on your organs, mainly heart. Not a good idea. In fact very bad idea. Be an example on how healthy you are, how you are achieving it, and sharing the results with others. That would be more help to them, and less taxing on your system. Walking a mile in someone else's shoes? Problem is, your not them. Report
This is a Paleo diet. No grains. Leave out the grains, ESPECIALLY the highly-addicting WHEAT and ANYONE can lose weight, quickly. Feel so much better? DUMP the wheat. Report
So Seth's daily menu is as above. I really don't see how I could even stomach eating as much as he has listed here. Obviously he was also working out a lot but even reading that amount of food makes me feel I wouldn't want to eat it all in one day. Report
I watched the show. What I found fascinating was - that almost all of the trainers when they gained the weight- their entire outlook changed. They felt depressed, they couldn't leave the house, one woman (if I remember correctly) started to feel like she couldn't possibly be a trainer.Do I think they 'understand what it is like' to be overweight? No.But I started to think that maybe a lot of what makes it hard for me to exercise/eat right- is a result of where I am starting from- rather than my 'not trying hard enough.' Report
I really dislike stories like this and trainers who gain weight on purpose just to show us lazy fat people what we are doing wrong, and inspire us to lose weight. All this does is show me that they are willing to live the unhealthy, sick lifestyle they claim they are trying to help us overcome. It would be like a drug counselor going out and getting hooked on heroin just to show the addict how to overcome the addiction. Which is the part they dont get. It is an addiction for some, it is for some, a matter of poor health, metabolism, pcos, diabetes, etc that causes them to have trouble losing weight. I wish the trainers and yoga instructors would stick to what they know and stop trying to prove something to us. Report
I would not do it because I know how much work it is to lose weight. I understand it though. Report
I too saw the show, it was interesting to see his thought process change and how he developed empathy for his client. The difference was that the trainer was not a food addict and thus not driven internally to overeat on a daily basis. Report
Than k you Report
Interesting. I will not intentional gain weight, it is to hard to lose Report
I saw the show. What I thought interesting was that he became so lethargic & unmotivated while overweight. It is something that made me think about how obesity has affected me mentally as I have become the same way. That was eye opening to me. Report
The fact that he couldn't wait to stop eating the unhealthy food again tells me he's not wired like many of us who need to lose weight. Even feeling lousy because of my extra weight, I DREAD stopping eating the unhealthy food. It depresses me to think about doing it. Once I've ever done it, it's not all that hard, but thinking about doing it and making myself start doing it feels terrible. Though he was right to try to understand his clients, he never really will. That doesn't mean he can't sympathize with them, but he can't really empathize. Report
YEAH! I would rather just eat healthy, measure portions and exercise daily Without weighing myself once a week. How my clothes fit is a better indicator of weight loss for me too. Wonderful article. Report
These were good ideas. Gaining weight back is what I fear so much. Report
I'm glad most of these comments point out the obvious. I actually watched this episode and the trainer's comments of "I get it now, I see the mental aspect of it"...honestly, he still doesn't. The man he was training admitted to still wanting unhealthy food and not knowing why and his reaction was still just "unacceptable". It's called an addiction. Some people even struggle with BED which, yes, is a real eating disorder. The problem is too many people think that "tough love", being hard on someone, and fat shaming them is how they will help them lose weight. In most cases, it's not.
You have to work on the psychological side as well as the physical. Support, motivation, patience...not lectures, insults, and punishments. Report
As they say walk a mile in my shoes! Good for him, at least now he will not be giving advice that is meaningless because he now knows the struggle is very very real. Report
The article title drew me in to learn how one might have empathy for those of us who need to lose weight. After reading it I give the guy credit. He had an opportunity to actually "feel" what it's like to "eat unhealthy, not exercise regularly, etc. I wonder how successful he would have been if he didn't have his livelihood and day to day environment directly associated with health - meditation, eating well and several daily opportunities to engage in physical activity. Report
I am sure Seth is young and very active. I admire him for doing this for his Clients, but eating not even half of what he did, it took me 15 yrs. to take off 50 #. Report
I weigh myself everyday, because when I didn't is when I packed on the pounds, so I certainly don't agree with his idea on that matter. While he had to eat 10,000 calories a day to gain 50#, I'd bet I could gain 50# in four months by eating about 3,000 calories per day. LOL I gain weight that easily. So losing it and keeping it off is always a struggle. But that is the difference between being a woman who has had five children and his being a man. Report
Imagine how this guy would have felt if he went into it knowing that he could lose weight sensibly for several months and STILL be fat, as is this case with me and many of his other readers. I applaud the effort, but I suspect that he may have inadvertently reinforced his own ideas about how easy it is to lose weight through diet and exercise. I mean, wow - if I had access to a gym 24/7, and my job and family commitments allowed me to spend hours working out 2-3 times a day (not to mention my energy levels, which are typical of a large person who is struggling to change a slow metabolism), AND I already had the habits, strength and skills to work out on that level - yeah, I'd probably lose weight faster too.

I have a feeling he has absolutely no clue what it is like for those of us who have to fit workouts around already full lives (or else we'll, y'know, get fired) and watch the pounds come off slowly over months or years. I hope he can remember his feelings of frustration and that his empathy continues, but he should also be fully aware that his experiment was one that was relatively easily reversed. For the rest of us, it's exponentially more work. Report
I might do it if I was younger than I am now. I'm already middle-aged, and it's just too risky to do it right now. It's like walking a tight-rope. You might become diabetic. Or have a heart attack, or cause yourself to have strokes later. That's why I wouldn't do it now, on purpose. But I already have, though, I gained some extra weight. It just wasn't on purpose! And I do try to have protein with every meal and to work out every day, to help keep my blood sugar in check, so that I don't get diabetes. I also weigh myself once a week, and will continue to do so when I'm thinner. I'm a little skeptical about how he just ignored the scale the whole time he was losing weight and tells people to do that. To me, that's stupid, because it helps to know where you are. It also is a huge motivating tool for me to see how when I do all the right things the scale moves in the right direction, or stays the same, which is also a victory. I think patience is key. Report
I don't think I would do that experiment. To go up and down and up and down is just messing with your body's 'mind'. I think it would be harmful. Though I admire his wanting to help others. The only other thing I would differ on is that I wouldn't do DAILY weigh ins during maintenance. Too much variable. I might do weekly ones, though. Report
I agree with AKOWEN2 and many others on here. I also believe the trainer doesn't seem to struggle with portion control issues (something I fight with daily) or other mental aspects that go along with being overweight. The fact that, as the article states, "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" tells me that he didn't face exactly the same struggles as the rest of us.

Also, honestly, I think it's just plain crazy and self-destructive to intentionally make yourself overweight and unhealthy like this just so you can empathize with what your clients are going through. If I see someone suffering in pain from an accident, I don't need to get injured myself in order to feel empathy for the person.

If I had achieved his (and other trainers who've done this) level of fitness, nothing would compel me to go back to being overweight with all the related health issues and struggles... there would not be enough professional or scientific interest, money or fame in the world to get me to do that experiment. Report
Seth, your experiment gives me a "starting point" that I can possibly live with. Not a "brussel spouts" individual, but have lots of other options: spinach, kale, cabbage, green beans, zucchini, etc. This experiment has certainly inspired me. I just purchased a Total Gym a few months ago, and not been gun-ho about using it until now, and feel it is something that I believe I will enjoy, as far as working out, along with light weights, and my exercise bike. Thanks for sharing. Report
I think it's unhealthy and would never do it. Report
I agree with MonkeyDriven.

And, not only are good habits already ingrained, a good metabolism is already in place as well. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I don't necessarily believe in "set-point theory," but I believe in something I'll call "set habit theory." We all have a set of habits that we default to, unless things change drastically. While it's kind of admirable what this guy did, he came into it with way more skills and a different mindset than others who need to lose 50 pounds. He already had developed a taste for healthy food -- I know many people who take years to truly enjoy healthy food! He had already known what it was like to be totally buff, so he had a better motivation than those of us who have never felt like that (well, I've been in shape, but never "personal trainer" in-shape!!).
The opposite of this is when people work hard to LOSE weight, but then go back to their prior habits and start to gain weight again. This guy just went back to his prior habits to lose weight, just like most of us do the opposite.
That said.. I do agree that his tips are on point. Report