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From Flab To Fit: How I Got Into Fitness Model Shape In 90 Days

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by David Garland in David's Blog, Health & Fitness

Three months ago, I decided to take on a massive personal challenge to get into fitness model shape in 90 days and here are the results in picture form:

Photo Credit: Fashion Photographer Attilio D’Agostino – Corridor40 and my wife Marcie 🙂

My goal in this article is a few things:

#1: Share the story with you as I’m proud of it.

#2: More importantly, I hope it inspires you to make some kind of change or try something that you have always wanted to try. Maybe it is a personal transformation you are looking to make. Or maybe it is a business transformation. Whatever it might be, I think you will find a lot of insights and ideas from my story.

DISCLAIMER SORT OF: If you are reading this and think to yourself “Holy freaking shi*t this sounds like a lot of work!” my response to that is…yes it was/is and it was/is freaking worth it.



Fitness and nutrition with me has been an ongoing battle since high school. I was chubby my freshman-junior year of high school (not that there is ever a great time to be overweight, but I can certainly tell you this is not a good one) and on my own lost weight and got into pretty darn awesome shape. Then college hit and my fitness level went in and out. Some years it was great. Other years it wasn’t. Then the “real world” hit and I began fluctuating a bit more. And I have to tell you, while The Rise To The Top rocks my socks, it can also not-be-so-awesome to sit in front of a computer all day (check out this cartoon from The Oatmeal for a giggle).

It wasn’t that I was massively fat by any means, but I just wasn’t in the shape I used to be and just wasn’t feeling like myself. This wouldn’t be as frustrating if I was sitting around eating fast food and not working out. However, the problem, was I WAS spending a lot of time trying to be in great shape, but the results weren’t happening. I was going to the gym. I was trying to “eat right” but slowly (since college) began putting on a bit of weight.

It might be nit-picky and perhaps a little trivial, but I wasn’t happy with myself. Because getting in and being in shape isn’t just about aesthetics. It makes you feel good and I know when I’m feeling good I’m the most happy, energetic, creative, interesting, etc. I’d say most people are.

And I was in denial as well. For example, I’d convince myself that my pants must have shrunk in the dryer or the photo of me was at a weird angle.

This was carrying over to other aspects of my life a bit. I didn’t feel as energized as I used to (and if you know me, you know I live and breathe off energy). I felt lethargic and sometimes a bit snippy. I didn’t feel as ambitious and was maybe getting a bit complacent with things.

I didn’t just want to get in shape in and then quickly fall back the way I’d done before. I wanted something I could maintain. A new lifestyle. A massive reprogramming and overhaul. No crash dieting or weird fads.

It was time to action, but I had no idea where to start…because honestly I’m NOT good for asking for help and trusting someone to help.



Before bed in early June, I was searching around online to see if anyone else had a similar problem to me (meaning they were also working out and eating “right” but not getting the results they felt they deserved) and I came upon this article by Rob Murgatroyd.

Funny thing, is Rob was one of my favorite former guests on the show along with his wife Kim who is a rock star bikini model and nutrition extraordinaire among many other things. Rob actually had reached out to me months ago to do an interview on his podcast and we immediately had an awesome rapport (he is like my long lost brother or uncle or something and Kim is like my “fitness mama bear”). I shot him this email:

“Hey Man,

Hope all is rocking. I was googling around last night (don’t ask) and came upon this article you wrote:

And I was like “holy shit that is me in many ways”. Now, I’m 27…but I totally get what you mean. I work out 6 days a week (2 days boxing with a trainer, 4 on my own), I watch what I eat, etc. But, I’m not as shredded as I once was or think I can be (and I want to be…duh).

Any advice as to getting a bit more help? Hate to bug you with it (as I know it is annoying when peeps ask for advice) but I’ve been a bit frustrated with progress and trying to change it up.


And he responded:

“First off you are NEVER a bother! Dude, do you know how many emails I get like this (probably as many as you get asking what kind of video and mic set up do you have!:) Because of this we are creating a product called Jet Set Body. In fact we are shooting the videos for it in South Beach next week. The program answers most of what you asked. I would love to share the program with you. It’s a 90 day program. What made the incredible change for me was making the commitment to get on stage in a Speedo and be judged (see pic attached). Which wasn’t easy at 45 years old!  It was that pressure that made it real and I changed!

Would you be willing to apply some pressure on yourself? If yes, here’s my thought…. Make a “public” 90 day commitment to your audience that you are going to get shredded! We’ll start with a before picture, update your progress every few weeks or so and end with a great professional after picture. Kim will walk you through the food each week and I’ll walk you through the training. If your into it we can start on the first of the month?

Now, do we need to do all this. NO…but I promise if you put yourself on the line you will deliver in a big way!”

I said I was in and the journey began. I wanted to get in ridiculously awesome shape in 90 days and then stay in that awesome shape.

So, at that moment I became a guinea pig for Rob & Kim’s new program Jet Set Body (you can check out more about it on the RISE Recommends page).



The journey wasn’t easy, but I was freaking determined. A HUGE part of that had to do with the support of Rob & Kim who really took my mind out of it.

It was sort of like they provided the outline and action steps and I provided the hard work.

And because I knew the shape they were in, I knew they knew what they were doing. Proof was in their own pudding.

When I first received the program, I knew, because of my personality that I either had to go 100% in with massive accountability or not do it at all. I went with the 100% and realized I would have to make sacrifices and people might think I was nuts, but I trusted Rob & Kim and was ready to rock.


Immediately, I was out of my comfort zone with the workouts and that was a good thing. Before doing the program, I would just sort of casually lift weights often doing the same exercises over and over, the same reps, etc. And then maybe every few months I’d get bored and change it up. Rinse, wash, repeat, few results.

The workouts were super challenging and changed up all the time but were consistently 4 times per week for about 1 hour to 1:30 minutes. First, I had to join a “real gym” as opposed to working out at my condo fitness area (which is quite nice for a condo gym…but nowhere near a full gym). And then, I had to essentially learn the way fitness models workout.

Entire exercises changing every single month (keeps your body on its toes…)

Sets and reps changed every week (never boring and again keeps your body guessing).

I took all the workouts and put them on my iPhone and brought it to the gym and opened in iBooks. Avoids carrying around paper or something.

And Rob reprogrammed a lot of bad advice I’d heard in the past with weightlifting. The goal of this program was not to become a some kind of roided silverback gorilla, it is to become lean and strong. So, I had to learn a lot of ways to improve my weightlifting form. This meant, not focusing on huge weights but instead focusing on how the weights work and looking for weak muscles as opposed to using strong muscles over and over again.

What was cool about the program, especially for a visual person like me is they have special videos of every exercise done by a fitness model under their supervision. This was EXTREMELY helpful as I’m pretty sure I watched each one 50 times to learn the form, breathing, mistakes to avoid, etc.

Certain philosophies became embedded in my brain (thanks Rob) including to focus on shaky muscles (which means, NOT to adjust when your body starts shaking from the weights but stay in it). Reason is our body is lazy and tries to use muscles that are already strong. Shaky muscles are weak and if you stay in them, they will stop shaking in a couple of weeks.

Another philosophy was focusing on your entire body for every exercise and not just what you are working on at the moment. This means always great posture, keeping abs tight and exploding through the movement. This is known as “body as one machine.”

And, as weird as it sounds, a big component of the program was flexing. This doesn’t mean walking up to strangers and getting all Arnold up on them, but rather a series of flex-and-hold poses to do in the mirror twice a day. Seems random, but made a big difference as your body learns to control itself.


I also had to re-educate myself on cardio and Kim did this by teaching me about the “cardio queens” that we see in the gym with the Diet Coke and Cosmopolitan Magazine (there are also cardio KINGS of course…not sex specific). If what they did worked, everyone would look like a super model.

The cardio program was actually very light and varied month to month, but was often just a couple of times a week for 20-30 mins. If that made you drop your mouth, I was surprised too. The thing is, I learned that cardio is necessary and important, but we don’t need a HUGE amount of cardio.

I varied it up between elliptical, a bit of running and every Wednesday boxing with Matt Brown my boxing coach. Sessions varied from steady state (same pace the entire time) to intervals (switching up intensity every few minutes) and focusing on heart rate as opposed to other metrics like calories.

On Saturdays or when I felt like stepping up the game a bit, Rob & Kim also provided “functional workouts” that are designed essentially for you to swear your ass off without the need of weights or cardio machines. Essentially these are quick, “do anywhere” workouts (perfect for travel) that focus on your body weight like burpees and push-ups.


Ah nutrition. The key to any fitness lifestyle. You can never outwork a bad diet. Now, here is my story with nutrition. I was never horrible, but never great ESPECIALLY with portion sizes. I tried to eat “healthy” before this program, but never had a game plan or realized what a REAL portion is until this program. I used to to be the guy who would eat brown rice (healthy yay!) but probably like three portions of it at once because I didn’t know any better (boo!).

Kim is the MASTER of nutrition and really changed everything I knew about what I put in my body.

At first I thought the nutrition was going to be really complicated, but it ended up being pretty simple after getting the hang of it and also developed into a habit after a few weeks.

The food philosophy is pretty simple and the opposite of what many people “try” (which is usually trying to cut, cut, cut, cut, starve, starve, starve, rebound) and is much more lifestyle than diet.

The idea is to eat every few hours to keep your metabolism strong and not starve yourself.

When you starve yourself, your body goes into shock mode and hangs onto fat…and burns muscle. Not good.

Food selection is as much natural food as possible. No low-sugar, low-fat, low-taste crap. Very little processed food. Lots of delicious veggies. For each point in the program, there is an outline of what types of foods to eat for each meal that all correspond to a letter. For example: “Meal 2: Have a starch, 6 oz lean protein and a serving fat which might correspond to A,B,E.” I really didn’t feel restricted. Instead, it was actually liberating to try different foods that normally I might not eat.

LOTS of water. A gallon a day and then 1.5 gallons per day. This helped eliminate bloat and also feels really freakin’ good (who would have thought water would feel good?)

I actually had to eat a LOT more than I was normally eating (yay!). 6 meals a day on average. At first this seemed stressful, but I became a master of creating shakes and smoothies (especially thanks to Kim’s Shakes & Smoothie e-book which you can check out in RISE Recommends)

Variety was encouraged. I was a victim in the past of eating the same things over and over. This expanded me big time and then I had a far less chance of burning out on a certain type of food.

No supplements, drugs or anything weird. Only thing that is “not natural” but encouraged was protein powder.

A few weeks in, I no longer craved a lot of things I used to crave like sweets. Not that I don’t enjoy sweets, it just wasn’t a hardcore craving. I know, that sounds nuts.

Nutrition changed a bit on a monthly basis (carbs sometimes zig-zagged and other fun stuff). This was definitely challenging when I first started having lower carb days and higher carb days. I realized fitness models do this all the time to keep their bodies guessing and metabolism high.

On this program did I have to give up every type of crappy food that we all love and enjoy? Nope. There were a certain amount of reward meals/cheat meals per week. At first it was awesome and later as my body adjusted all it wanted to do was get rid of the crappy food. Funny how reprogramming can change you so much.

I ended up really enjoying cooking (and continue to). Big props to Kim for creating an awesome cook book. I’ve tested out most everything in there and it is incredible: Holy Sh*t Delicious Meals To Keep You Fit (check it out in RISE Recommends)


There was a LOT of accountability and an end goal (and then another set of goals). This is what I mean:

Every Thursday morning I sent in photos to Rob & Kim of me in a swimsuit in three different poses: Front, side, back. At first this was pretty horrible as I didn’t like how I looked, but as the program advanced I became more confident and couldn’t wait to take them.

I also sent in my weight, but it was re-emphasized over and over that this was NOT an important metric. Instead, I was to focus on how I look and feel and not what the scale says. However, I lost over 20 pounds on the program in the 90 days.

And perhaps the big thing was the food log. This felt crazy at the beginning and like everything became a habit For the last 90 days everything that has gone in my mouth (insert joke here) has been recorded into a log and shared. The food log is a great mental trick to keep you on track because you know if you eat it…it has to go in there.

The focus of the first 90 days was on the final photo. And this was mentally big because it seemed attainable and was a very concrete goal. All focus was on the big photo shoot.

I also knew that after 90 days I would continue the program with a new set of goals of the next 90 days and so on. This avoids potential fallout after the 90 days. This is a lifestyle and continues. It isn’t mean to be a crash and burn.

A funny by-product I realized is that when I’m excited about something, I love to tell people about the concrete goal. This creates massive accountability. I’ve also realized the more people I tell, the higher chance I will complete it. Examples in the past: “The Rise To The Top TV Show Launches on November 6th, 2008”, “My book comes out December 10th, 2010” and in this case “I’m doing a big transformation and have a fitness photo shoot on September 7th, 2011!”


The 90 days wasn’t all roses, sprinkles and pudding pops (well…definitely no pudding pops).

I had to fight through a minor injury which sucked and re-emphasized the importance of making SURE to lift with correct form and not try to be superman or “out do” other people in the gym.

Saying “no” to certain types of foods I used to devour always took some getting used to, but over time that became much easier.

Travel was also a challenge as I had to learn how to eat healthier on the road and also get workouts in. Thankfully my travel partner and wife is also a fitness nut so it wasn’t extremely difficult. I realized that I then had more energy on trips by doing this so it ended up a huge positive.

And at the beginning, I had to really evaluate the time on other things in my life so I could make time for the dedication required.

Mentally, it was tough at the beginning and the end. The beginning, because like any transformation, it takes a lot of time and effort before you see results…and I’m impatient. I was busting my butt in the gym and eating correctly, but I had to keep reminding myself to stay the course.

The end was also tough, because Rob & Kim pushed me to go the extra mile for the fitness photo shoot. That meant, the final two weeks were sort of like preparing for a fitness and/or bodybuilding competition. No BS, it was tough. Food was restricted and I had to mentally hold myself together (sometimes more than others) but kept driving forward. A big thank you to my wife Marcie who didn’t kill me despite one or two uncharacteristic blow ups by me.



These last 90 days have changed me in so many big and small ways it is difficult to list them all, but here is my best shot:

A new passion for fitness and nutrition that has just been unleashed. And also a passion for transformations in general.

I literally feel like a completely different person. I had to buy all new clothes. My energy is through the roof. I feel like I have my drive and ambition back to ridiculously high levels. I feel like I can conquer anything.

And the funny thing is, while it took a fair amount of brain power, will power and lots of time on this program, it became like breathing for me…just something I do. It is sort of like being completely reprogrammed.

Sure, the program took a lot of time, but I have to also say my business is MUCH better because of it. I’m one of those people that when I have a finite amount of time, I work better as opposed to unlimited time. Because I had to spend a lot of time working out, cooking, etc. my business became ridiculously more efficient. I learned to waste very minimal time, outsource more and just get what needed to be done…done. In fact, revenue has increased over 20% since I started the program, yet my time spent per week on business has diminished. Tim Ferriss would be proud!

And this transformation reinvigorated The Rise To The Top. I felt like before I jumped into the program, I spent a (definitely) unhealthy amount of time thinking about the show and business. Now, because of my new found love for the lifestyle, I’ve become much more balanced and even picked up some new skills (like cooking) and that has only increased quality of life.

Plus, it has changed my perspective on so many different things. I no longer fear asking for help from the right people or attempting a major transition or transformation. Once you accomplish something big, everything else seems a bit easier. I want to take on more challenges even if they seems really difficult.

Finally, home life has rocked as well. Much of that has to with energy and happiness…my wife can definitely tell a difference.



No matter what you are looking to take on (personally or professionally) here are a few words of advice:

1. Find A Freakin’ Amazing Coach

If you are looking to make an important transformation, your determination and will is vital….but finding the right help is JUST as critical.

Look, I used to not be one for asking for help. I get it. You might be that way too. When I created The Rise To The Top I asked for very little help. When I lost a bunch of weight in high school, I didn’t ask for any help. But later on, in both these areas I have asked for help and the results have been astronomical.

For example, I hired Elizabeth Marshall as a business consultant for certain periods of time to work on The Rise To The Top business model. Her help was incredible and it was a great shoulder to lean on as well.

And in this case, Rob and Kim were my coaches, confidants, mentors, and everything else (and so much more).

My recommendation? Find a FREAKIN’ AMAZING COACH for whatever pursuit you want to take on. Perhaps it is fitness. Maybe it is writing a book. Maybe it is creating a screenplay. Maybe it is….(fill in the blank). The right teachers and mentors (especially who can speak from experience/provide a model for you to copy) can make all the difference.

2. Make A Quick Decision To Start

No simpler way of putting it. I had to put myself on the line when I emailed Rob. I had to tell him about how I was feeling and how I wasn’t happy with my body. That is NOT an easy thing to do!

Rob & Kim asked for a commitment right away and I gave it to him. I didn’t think about it for weeks. I didn’t dream about it for months. I started on it right away. Within 48 hours after making the commitment I:

  • -Took embarrassing photos (my “before” photos).
  • -Joined a gym so I can use all the equipment that was required.
  • -Went to the store (well…actually Marcie did as the store makes me nervous) to buy new types of food.
  • -Started logging everything I ate.

One of trickiest parts of any transformation or new project is getting started. The less time you spend thinking and more time acting, the better.

3. View It As A “Project”: Find A Beginning, Middle and End.

To reduce overwhelm and feel like you aren’t in some kind of never-ended race, look for ways to quantify a beginning, middle and end to whatever you are doing.

It can be overwhelming, tricky and difficult to get started (if you let it). How do you combat it? I like to view it was a project. A project that has different phases all having a beginning, middle and end.

Even if there REALLY isn’t an end, create one. In my case, the end was the 90 day period where I took my photos. And I feel really darn accomplished. Of course, fitness will continue and I will have new 90 day goals.

But, think about it this way, what sounds more exciting and possible?

#1: “Get into really good shape and stay in really good shape for the rest of your life.”

#2: “Get into really great shape in 90 days and culminate it with a fitness photo shoot.”

Mentally, I think #2 makes all the difference.

4. Find Consistent Accountability

Daily, weekly and monthly accountability are massively important.

Every day I knew I had to drink 1 gallon of water, get my six meals in and do the workout required (or rest for that day).

I knew every Thursday I’d get my butt out of bed, put on a swimsuit and have Marcie shoot photos of me. And I knew my food log was due.

Every month, I knew I’d have a Skype convo with Rob & Kim to see how I was doing, answer questions, etc.

This accountability is fantastic. It keeps you on track. It keeps you to your word. And it is consistent enough where I couldn’t escape it.

You might be different in terms of frequency to keep you on track, but I’d recommend finding something consistent that you have to report..whatever it might be. It will make all the difference between one of those “started but never completed” projects and accomplishing a massive goal.

#5: The More You Want Something, The More Effort You Will Put Into It

Transformations or taking on a massive new project aren’t easy…or everyone would be able to do them at a drop of a hat.

There will be jerky negabots who rear their ugly heads telling you that you are crazy or you will fail (and you might even think that sometimes).

You will probably have to make changes to your life that are uncomfortable (and for some, change itself is a massive challenge).

You can have the amazing help and accountability you need, but without wanting it bad enough and being willing to put in the work, it will be impossible to complete.



As they say often at graduation ceremonies, “This is only the beginning.”

I’m excited for the present and the future and hope to inspire you to make a transformation or take on a difficult challenge.

Go get ‘em.




Rob & Kim – “Thank you” aren’t even sufficient words. For all the love, caring, motivation, ideas, keeping me on track and dealing with my 10,000 emails and text messages.

Marcie – For putting up with me through this challenge and being a sport taking all of the photos every Thursday morning…and for not killing me.

Mom & Dad – My always supportive parents always get a shout out.

Matt Brown – My boxing coach for always kicking my butt and being a great friend.

Random Strangers & Friends who made a comment to me during the challenge how they could see a difference or asked what I was doing. Little motivations to keep going.

All Of You – For everything.



You can find out more about the program, cook books and all that jazz in the RISE Recommends section of the website.

8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

The 8 step process to the successful with online courses + free gifts for attending!

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