My Biggest Training Struggles Early On

My motivation was driven by vanity to look good. I was permanently dieting, which meant the first time I wanted to focus on building muscle was daunting, to say the least.

I was worried about gaining fat and losing my abs, which is silly to think now. I was way too focused on aesthetics and was willing to do as much cardio & eat as little as possible. You probably know where I’m going with this – it didn’t work.

You see, the process of actually gaining weight, that wasn’t so bad. I mean I spent the first few years of my training life dieting, so I knew I was capable of dieting down if I needed to.

But on the inside, I felt like I was supposed to be this person that was lean all year round. This feeling became a reality when I made the transitions to move to Sydney, Australia at age 21 after being scouted by a well-known modeling agency.

I followed a strict Ketogenic diet, avoided weights all together to lose my hard-earned muscle mass and did an hour of cardio a day. I was so committed that I never fell off the diet and always accounted for my macros each day without fail.

I told myself I’d give it 3 months to drop as much weight as I could. At the time I was 88kg and ended up a skinny 78kg by the end. I followed a strict Ketogenic diet, avoided weights all together to lose my hard-earned muscle mass and did an hour of cardio a day. I was so committed that I never fell off the diet and always accounted for my macros each day without fail.


I had been dieting so long that I had forged my identity around looking a certain way, which if I’m honest made me feel like I was forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t.

Who would I be if I gained weight & was no longer lean/shredded?

For so long I had been the guy with the abs – people recognised me as such, didn’t they? I was so obsessed with seeing a smaller number on the scales – how was I supposed to actively chase something that I’d always run from?

Sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud but I think a LOT of people struggle with this, particularly when the majority of your training life has revolved around being lean.

I remember thinking I had worked so hard to get abs, but at the same time, I was so tired of eating so few calories. It probably comes as no surprise that I soon developed an unhealthy relationship with food, which began to really take its toll on me physically and emotionally.

I was maintaining my weight on only 1800ish calories per day & couldn’t understand how people could build their metabolisms to consume & maintain on 3000+ calories.

If YOU are struggling with the concept of gaining weight or eating more food, here’s what I would tell my 21-year-old food-fearing self in order to encourage the right kind of weight gain with minimal anxiety: The thing I’ve learned is that a six-pack alone never made anybody truly happy & the sooner you can figure that out too, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy the process more & worry less about what others think too.

I fell into the trap of eliminating the important aspect of my life that I truly enjoy – my friends and family, my career, my social life, drinking, partying, all in the pursuit of looking a certain way.

It’s crazy how you can justify things at times, but this led to the realisation that a somewhat lower body fat percentage likely isn’t ever going to make anybody truly happy.

Not if it means you can’t have the above.

After all, to maintain a certain level of body fat would mean actively choosing to put it above all of those important aspects of life that most people would consider being the best parts of life. What is life if you can’t enjoy the most important bits?

So when it comes to gaining weight for both you guys and girls out there:

 1. Gain weight slowly & on as few calories as possible.

You aren’t going to just get fat overnight, but if you’re still concerned with maintaining a certain image, then ensuring you don’t gain too much unnecessary body fat too soon is key.

2. Eat to fuel your training sessions & set strength-based goals to progressively improve each week.

Think plenty of carbs before you train! There is more to life than a number on the scales, so much more. Focusing on things other than this means when the scale does increase, it isn’t the end of the world.

3. Understand that if your weight does increase, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have put on body fat!

There are many other variables that come into play such as increased sodium, DOMS, inconsistent water intake, cortisol levels etc – That can manipulate your weight. Do yourself a favour & avoid weighing yourself often if you become too focused on your weight.

Whether your goals are to lose weight or gain weight, my biggest piece of advice would be to find a realistic approach that fits your lifestyle, so it doesn’t feel like it’s the sole focus of your life.

I can tell you first hand that throwing all of your eggs into one basket might give you the body you want, but it isn’t going to give you the life you want.


Sign up now and let’s focus on what is going to get you results.

Jay Darko