Project Lean, Part One: How to lose a pie in ten days

Looking like a One Direction cast-off, circa 2008

It will probably come as a surprise to no-one that I’ve never been much of an athlete. While I have no-one to blame for this but myself (and maybe one or two bad genes) I can’t help but feel that in this respect, among others, I was born on the wrong continent – as a youngster, the only sports I showed any promise in were baseball and basketball. Typical me. Of course I would be good at two sports that the British school system showed (at the time) almost zero regard for. So sports slipped off my radar, leaving me to spend all my free periods listening to Dashboard Confessional and Thrice CDs and thinking about growing a flicky fringe rather than spending them in the gym or on the court.

My failure to make a mark on the world of sports is one of my biggest regrets. But now, it seems I have a second chance. A Maximuscle project challenging guys to get stacked in three months was recently brought to my attention by the lovely Amy, of Wolf Whistle, and I signed up. First step was to take all my measurements, which are posted at the end of this post if you’re interested (I have no secrets now…), so I could measure growth at the end of each month.

I also wrote a food diary for my nutritionist (that’s right, I have a nutritionist! Eat your heart out, Patrick Bateman), Gareth, who talked me through some diet choices and workout tips. So, I pledged to ditch a lot of the junk food in my diet and am now eating chicken, lentils, eggs and spinach like they’re going out of fashion.

My body goal has been the same since I was about 16 – look less like Edward Norton in Fight Club and more like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. With a renewed commitment to making it happen, not to mention a BOATLOAD of Maximuscle products…

…I felt like maybe I could finally make it a reality. But somehow, it still didn’t feel like quite enough. The gym is a place of performative masculinity – how much you can lift is equated to how much of a man you are, and you’re never ‘done’ with increasing how much you can benchpress. Hence bodybuilders devoting years of their life to lifting more and more weight…While there’s no doubt I’ll be benchpressing more at the end of three months, setting a particular weight target to hit didn’t feel quite right – it felt like too arbitrary a measure by which to define success or failure.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about my youth a lot (my 25th birthday is this month and I’m having a mid-twenties crisis…) or maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too many One Tree Hill reruns, but I’ve been playing a lot of basketball recently. I think I’m still as good at it as I used to be…though I’m not sure you’ll see me in the NBA anytime soon. But there’s one thing I could never do on the court as a kid that I always wanted to. Despite my height, I never came close to being able to dunk. There’s something incredibly powerful and majestic about watching someone tear through the air and smash a ball through a metal ring. It’s practically poetry in motion. I had found my target – to be able to dunk by Christmas.

For now, these Hyperaggressors are my weapon of choice on the court.

Two weeks in and things are going well – I’m lifting more, and more often, jumping higher and eating better. Well, except for that Nando’s yesterday. But even that failed to give me a food baby or make me feel sluggish, so I’m hoping that I’ve supercharged my metabolism enough to be able to cope with an occasional treat. I even have a bit of a sore arm from hitting a punchbag awkwardly yesterday. Imagine that…me with a sports injury. ME. My dad would be so proud. Well, not my dad; he bakes and drinks pink Prosecco. But someone’s dad.

As for what posts come next? Well, that’s kinda up for grabs. I may have sweet-talked the beautiful people at Nike into sending me some Hyperdunk+ shoes, which I’d be using to measure my jump progress, but they’ve yet to arrive. If there’s anything you guys want to see me write about on the journey (diet tips, what exercises I’m focusing on…), let me know in comments or on Twitter. That’s it until next time, wish me luck…

Chest – 38″
Biceps (untensed) – 10″
Waist (at hips) – 34″
Shoulders – 43″
Thighs – 20.5″


  1. Dan

    I understand squats are good for explosive jumping. And there’s nothing like a few dozen casual pull-ups on the hoop – once you’ve slam-dunked – to humbly assert your masculinity.

    I’m on a similar trajectory; although my goal is to look less like Bob in Fight Club. Good luck and I’ll see you somewhere in the middle…

    • stu

      Haha, good luck, man!

      Yup, I’ve been doing a lot of squats, calf raises and tuck knee jumps. Killing me a bit, as I’ve sort of neglected my legs at the gym for too long…

  2. michael murray

    I remember going through a spell of this once too: got into lifting weights in a dank, underground smelly gym.
    But I felt so good after a few months, your body becomes toned, your nerves steady, and you gain a certain confidence: those scrappy kids no longer intimidate, and they sense this too. Life does become a little easier in some ways.
    Balance diet, exercise, and life and… who knows.
    Everything in moderation, though!
    Why does it usually…peter out?

  3. Joseph Kent

    Gosh, good luck to you. I should try this myself. The only sport I partake in regularly is cycling, so my legs are pretty solid. The upper half of my body, not so much. Maybe I should join the uni gym?

  4. mat

    i joined a gym about 2 years ago now (when i hit 25) as i thought it would be a good way to exercise and also hopefully gain weight. it’s been worth it, i only go twice a week, i eat a lot better and eat a lot more too. i was weighing around 10 stone and seeing photos of myself was constantly disappointing. now i weight around 11.5 and feel so much better in general. still got a belly and love handles though, i dont think there’s any shifting them in 2 sessions a week.

    be good to see how you get on

  5. Jackie

    I’ve been struggling to find a diet and exercise program that really works for me. I’m definitely finding that it’s harder to lose weight the older you get and I’m not even old yet!

  6. Pingback: Project Lean, Part Two: How to lose an ankle for ten days | Not So Lonely Londoners
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