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Eric Barnhart and T-Mag: A Program For The Morbidly Obese?

If you guys haven’t read this weeks “Reader Mail”, Eric gives a challege to “Testosterone” to come up with a program for the “truly” (or more correctly) morbidly obese.

I really thought that as I read Eric’s post that there was going to be some reference to an earlier article; but guess what? THERE WASN’T ONE!

Yes…there is “Meltdown”…but as Eric pointed out, a)you better be in a certain degree of shape before you begin it and b)you DAMN sure better not be 300 plus pounds. Two things:

  1. Is Testosterone serious about taking on the challenge of coming up with a program for fat loss in the morbidly obese? (I love you guys…but a lot of your answers, especially in “Reader Mail”, can sometimes be a little “tongue-in-cheek!”)

2)I’m interested in additional thoughts both Eric (and others)may have on the concerns he had while thinking about this issue of fat loss in the morbidly obese.

Again…this has the potential of being a VERY insightful and helpful article to come from the gang at “Testosterone”. It also can be a great benefit to a lot of my friends and clients.

Yes, we’re going to put together a program for the truly obese. It will cover training and dieting considerations. I’ll probably be the one to write it.

By the way, I’d say the morbidly obese make up a “silent segment” of the BB magazine reading population. They’re out there, but out of fear and confusion, seldom make themselves known. So it will be nice for T-mag to have an article for this population in its previous issues section.

I think many T-mag readers would benefit from such an article since many have family members or friends in this situation - and telling them to do the Fat Fast combined with “Fat to Fire” just isn’t realistic for a 350 pounder.


That is simply OUTSTANDING!

Again…“Testosterone” takes the lead in areas of health and fitness often ignored…

I know that in the past, readers (NOT “Testosterone”) have been VERY critical and condescending to the morbidly obese (boy…just click up “NAAFA” in your search engine!)

Again…this should be a VERY insightful program that I look forward to.


I don’t think that the readers were condescending to NAAFA just because they were morbidly obese. I think the “condescending” attitude originated from the fact that NAAFA group refused to do anything about their fitness or health, but rather, they blamed EVERYTHING but themselves for their obesity (such as genetics, etc…although I bet they ate so much crap that they can’t lose weight…just like the fat woman I met at the Portland airport, who told me that someone like me can never understand what it’s like to be fat cuz no matter what she does, she can’t lose weight, while munching on a KING-size Snickers bar and drinking a large Coke.)

A good place to start is reading the archives of Marty Gallagher’s weekly live chats every Tuesday at noon on washingtonpost.com.

He talks about the fitness triad, clean eating/cardio/weight training. He also talks about improving each progressively [i.e. he doesn’t expect their diets to improve overnight, but does expect it to continuosly improve].

So much of it common sense: eliminate soda and snacks; watch portion size, don’t eat after 8pm, eat more protein and vegetables; find a cardio activity you enjoy and progressively increase the duration and intensity. Lift weights with enough intensity to trigger hypertrophy.

I am back weight training after 5 years away and I was/am fat [27% BF]. I started by alternating between 2 full body workouts, 3x week and the vanilla 3 sets/12 reps routine.

Day A: flat bench press / lat pulldown / deads / chins

Day B: squat / seated row / miltary press / chins

Now this program is nothing for everyone on this website; but it is plenty for a noobie.

Six weeks later I am still progressing in each lift and can’t wait for the next workout.

And I went from 215# to 195#…wow do I sound like a born again BFLer or what.

Anyway, the number # 1 thing that has helped me - keeping a food log.


Kudos to Eric for the mail and to T mag for the decision to write the program. I look forward to it with interest. One of the neat things I noticed about the Hot Rox Challenge is that it is not solely made up of guys moving from 7 percent bf to 5 percent. While this might be a prequisite for anyone in the Pound, the Competition thread clearly shows T mag readership to be much more diverse.

I’m readin’ 'ya, Stella…

I think that what you point out is well taken…and it also points out something that appears to be almost “endemic” to American Society…“the blame game…”

With that being said…there have also been many post about the “disgust” people had with the obese…and almost a voyeur’s “glee” at lurking at the “NAFFA” site.

I’m of the idea that one should at least TRY to lose the weight…but I won’t disparage you if you fail…

I have no doubt that Chris and the staff of “Testosterone” will come up with a workable program that will represent a great start.

Oh, I love this. This phenomenon should be given a name.

Actually, I was surprised the T-Mag gang decided to attempt the challenge. At first they sent me an e-mail saying, basically, just do a regular program and substitute appropriate exercises. I guess a little thought changed their minds.

I was going to write them back and let them know some of the unusual aspects of trying to weight train when morbidly obese, since I doubt they have much experience. Instead, I’ll post my thoughts here.

  1. Obese people have a very high probability of having some hormonal problems. (yeah, yeah, blame the hormones, but it just might be true!) In my case, not only am I insulin resistant, but I discovered I was hypogonadal; I only discovered my low T thanks to a suggestion on T-Mag that serious body builders check their hormone levels.

  2. A guy who carries 350 lbs around all day probably has a pretty strong core just to keep him upright. In my case, on day one I was able to leg press 450 pounds. (Squatting is a different matter, since I’ve already got my body weight to press.) On those silly “sit and crunch” ab machines, I was able to do 220 lbs easily, and the stack only goes to 250.

Note also that all the muscle mass is in the legs and the core. Chest and arms will probably suck. This is the complete opposite of those frat boys who only work their chest and ignore their legs; the obese guy works his legs every day and ignores his chest and arms.

  1. A 350 lb guy at 40% body fat (assuming those Omron electronic analyzers are even in the ball park) has a whopping 210 lbs (95kg) of lean body mass. The chances are very good that he is not getting 95g of protein a day on any diet. I only seem to lose fat when I stuff myself with lo-Carb Grow! Who would have thought that eating more means weighing less?

(By the way, is it 1g protein per kg of LEAN body mass? Or total body mass?)

  1. When I started adding in full-body exercises, I discovered that having a huge gut throws your balance waaaay off. You just can’t keep the bar close to your body during a deadlift with a gut.

As I think of any more issues, I’ll post them.


I agree. If you can come up with something suitable, please let me know.

BTW – the woman stared at the apple I was munching on with the look of absolute horror that said, “HOW CAN YOU EAT SUCH A DISGUSTING LOOKING ROUND THING THAT DID NOT COME FROM A BOX/WRAPPER?!” rolling eyes

Regarding this post:

I have trained a few of the MO cohort in my time. There is no question that they have to take things easier than the rest of us (especially at the beginning). But here are a few suggestions that will help get them going:

  1. Walking. Especially if the person is older, walking can be enough of a strain that it will start to carve some of that fat off. Before a lot of these people even think about getting into a gym, they should get out on the road. In good shoes.

  2. Eating patterns. The overwhelming majority of MOs that I’ve known fall into two categories: either they’re eating once or twice a day, and on relatively low cals, or they’re pigs (not to put too fine a point on it). Either way, they could use a little planning in the meal department. Especially in the former case, the main task is to simply convince them to give more frequent feedings a shot in the first place (most are too scared to try it for fear of gaining even more weight).

  3. Health (=hormonal) issues. Yes, it is true that a lot of these people have hormone problems. However, I’ve found that physics is still physics. In other words, if you get them to take in fewer cals and have them on some sort of exercise, they will lose weight. Not at the same rate as others, perhaps, but it will eventually come off.

  4. Psychology: Fat people (and even some who aren’t really that fat but who have a self-image of being fat) have unrealistic views of themselves. No big surprise here, right? But it affects EVERYTHING in their training and diet. They can be smart about everything else, but when it comes to diet (in particular) they will sabotage themselves in all sorts of weird ways. So you have to watch out for that all the time.

There’s more, but I gotta go!

Char-dawg, I have to agree that there is a lot of psychology to address in the MO, but unfortunately I don’t think Shugs and the T-Mag staff can address it adequately. On the other hand, there is one aspect I think they can.

There is nothing so depressing as to work your ass off (or at least think you’re working your ass off) and show no results whatsoever. I find that if I’m not showing results, I’ll tend to fall back on apathy and stop going to the gym. I’ll do other things with my evenings until I get my mind reset to try again. Now is that sabotage, or is that bad Pavlov reward conditioning?

Whatever they come up with, it needs to show some positive results as soon as possible.

In my case, I made great strength gains using the Beginner’s Blast-Off and progressing to a 5x5, but I didn’t lose any fat mass.

Chris Shugart, if T-mag is truly serious about creating a program for the morbidly obese, going over supplementation, nutrition, and excercise protocol, along with lifestyle changes, I would be overjoyed to write it. Please contact me about this, it would be a fun project for me, and since I’m only in the beginning of obtaining my physiology degree I can make it basic enough for the common man, but based on how mcuh I"ve read from t-mag and my studies, I can make it accurate enough to help someone get started. Please contact me back about this.

How was your diet during that period?

Being a fat kid growing up ( and still struggling with my wieght into my adult years ) i have discovered 2 things at least about myself that might aply to this discussion.

First even minor progress used to trigger a fear of succeding reaction.The reaction was simply me allowing myself junk food(for several days) or to take a couple days off(which would lead to a week or more) to the point where i would have to start over. I was so used to being fat i was kind of afraid to succeed and have peoples perception of me change as well as my own.(fear of the unknown i guess.) yeah i know that sounds stupid but i discovered an article about it around 5 years ago and was astonished because i didn’t even realize that it was something that i had been doing.

The second thing was that to break this pattern of action i had to make fitness a lifestyle. rather than focus on losing weight i made exercise and just being active apart of my daily routine, eventually i lost the fear of losing weight because it happened without conscious effort. I am at a point now where weight isn’t an issue as much any more but reseting the bar constantly for my athletic and physical abilities are. I don’t know if this helps with Morbidly Obese but it was what i went through just being 20-25lbs overweight.

Damnit. Here I was gonna publish a book on how to loose weight by eating less food. But now t-mag is gonna shed through those pounds. I was gonna have a nobel prize and a trophy wife. But t-mag beat me too it.

“To lose weight, you must eat less food”

Repeated a thousand times?

Barn-e: Great having you here. Too many people who are overweight make excuses, or blame others. It is easier then changing. Taking responsibility for yourself is more then most people are willing to do, be proud.

I come from a fat family. My parents are very large, though my mother has lost a decent amount of weight recently, and I am trying to help them get healthier.

I was a chubby teen who had no interest in most sports, but was lucky that my weight gain was slowed at various times because of school requirements, and getting into Tae-Kwon-Do. Then weightlifting. I was still a little chubby, but a lot better then I could have been.

Interestingly my brother was tall and skinny, though not sticklike, and I was the short chubby one. Now he has put on a substantial amount of fat.

It is great that T-mag is focusing on helping you out. Hopefully they will get something out soon.

Those electronic analyzers can often be wrong. And calipers are a pain especially for a large person. Until then I would recommend this site:


It may not be perfect, but is easy to use and can give you a good estimate of bodyfat percentage that might be a little more accurate. When I tried it, it matched my caliper-measured estimate, which surprised me.

I would say weigh yourself, write that number down, and ignore your weight for now. If you are like many MO people, you might notice big jumps in your weight, and at times your cloths seem real loose, and at other time they fit more snug. This is mostly due to the large amount of water your body holds.

Body fat produces estrogen, and with a large amount of fat comes a large amount of estrogen production. And estrogen will suppress testosterone as well as promote fat gain. So in your case I recommend Biotests M. Tribex wouldn’t hurt either. Hot Rox, if you can afford it, would be great for you also.

If you are like most people trying to lose weight, you may have been on a continuous diet for years. If so then your metabolism might be very suppressed. I would tell you to go ahead and set your calories at 12 times your weight just like the Hot Rox transformation plan. At 350 pound that is 4200 calories per day. While that might be high, it will let you spend a little time getting your metabolism up. Then each week you drop your daily calories by 500.

At the start of the fourth week, weigh yourself, and measure your body fat again. Then spend two weeks at 2700 calories. And do the measurements again. If you are satisfied with your fat loss then maintain that level for a while. If not then, drop another 500 calories and check again after 2 more weeks. You should lose at least 2 pounds a week by the time you get to 1700 calories, but I doubt you would even need to go down that far. But if you get down that far and still don’t lose weight, hire the T-mag staff.

As far as working out, 5x5 might not be the best right now. 3 sets at a 12 ? 15 rep range would produce better weight loss. It produces more lactic acid, and should be good for your tendons, If Bryan Haycock is correct. You can stick to lifts that don’t involve bodyweight if you have trouble with that.

Do a little stair climbing, (real stairs) because for you it would be like a mini squat. But I would recommend a stationary bike for aerobic exercise as opposed to walking. Burning calories without putting weight on your knees for extended times. Many people who are MO tend to have trouble with their knees, especially if they spend a long time on their feet. Don’t let any delays or setbacks affect you. You need to look at working out like brushing your teeth, or taking a bath. A necessary part of most days. Don’t forget how long it took you to get to your weight. Be patient, and don’t expect overnight success. Even a pound a week is 52 pounds a year.

Hope that helps, until the article comes out.

Char-dawg, I can’t really say how my diet was during “that” period, because there have been several periods. I can guarantee you it was not optimal. However, keeping a food log, I did find a couple problems. 1) I was not getting nearly enough protein to cover my LBM, and 2) I can’t keep cheese in the house, because I’ll eat cheese all day long, 3) I’m only getting about 2500 cal per day. A food log is a pain in the ass to get started and maintain, but well worth it.

And contrary to what Tiree may think, when I do get my proper protein intake, I’ll start losing some fat. Who woulda thunk it?

My real problem tends to be in the lifestyle department. For one thing, the MO tend to be single (for obvious reasons) meaning I have to tend to my household alone. It takes a lot of time just to clean, do laundry, maintain the yard, etc. On top of that, I committed to being on the Board of Directors of a not-for-profit arts organization, which is taking huge chunks of my time, not to mention increasing the cortisol. Oh yeah, I’ve got a full time job too. So when you run out of time, some of the first things to get dumped are shopping and healthy food preparation. (After all, Wendy’s is open late, right?) I have started a new habit of taking a Subway (gasp!) tuna salad to board meetings with me instead of eating the carb and fat crap generally served at the meetings.

Something has to give, and I’m steeling myself to make some changes, or at least one critical change.

I have a very differing opinion when it comes to this. I am a former fat person, not morbidly obese, but still struggling with my weight. I find it odd that eric only mentioned the extremes of the workout spans, beginner’s blast off and meltdown. There are literally millions of other workouts to choose from. If they are too difficult for you, make them suit your needs. Shorter rest periods, different exercises, etc… Read previous issues, things like that. To me, it seems like a cop out to vent your frustrations because T-mag hasn’t tailored its programs to you.

Oops, wasn’t finished with that post.

I hope that the morbidly obese arent’ exercising b/c there is no program outlined for them. Use some common sense to tailor these programs to yourself.

Yeah fat fast is not the way to go for a beginner, but Berardi’s Don’t Diet seems to be a good choice.

I do think it is great that T-mag is writing an article like this, but I just wanted to say that there are more than enough tools on this website and forum so that anyone can achieve their goals.