T Nation

Training the Morbidly Obese

This topic had come up a while back, but then disappeared. I’m wondering if it’s still of interest. Specifically, I have a m.o. girlfriend (5’8", 370lbs, bf% unable to measure accurately) who has been going to Curves since Christmas, lost some weight and gained some strength, and feels ready to tackle a real gym. The problem is that she really has no idea of where to start. Before Curves the extent of her exercise was walking and the occasional swim. On the plus side, she has been reading T-Mag since shortly after I found it and is working hard on getting the diet part of the equation in order. (Newly married to a junk food addict, an uphill battle!) It’s the exercise that poses the main challenge - as has been pointed out, even some of the beginner’s programs here aren’t suitable for a m.o. person.

A big part of the problem is that I’m up in northern Ontario and she’s moved to Baltimore, so we can’t hit the gym or the grocery store together. She’s bought her first bottle of Hot-Rox but wants to wait until the workout is in order so it’s not wasted.

Are there any T-People in Baltimore who are up for a challenge? Who want to help an average girl turn into a T-Vixen? Or simply anyone with experience in training the m.o.? Better yet, are there any formerly big people with examples of workouts that worked for them at the beginning, any advice, motivation, inspiration or a starting point to share?

Thanks alot!

I am 6’2", I was 267 (166 lbm?) and went down to 177 (151 lbm) in under a year. That was pretty obese, maybe not morbidly. Anyway, here’s what I did:

Before I found t-mag I read BFL. I found T-mag right after, and I kind of combined BFL and Meltdown I.

Every other day: intervals on the elliptical machine ala BFL, later “graduated” to the stairmaster :slight_smile:

Alternate days: weightlifting sort of like meltdown (sets of supersets of the following:)
I did it all on machines, because when in a crowded gym and trying to minimize time between sets to do circuits, it really is just easier to use machines.

10 Machine hack Squats
10 Pushups
10 Pullups on that weight offset machine
10 Dips on the same device
10 Lunges
10 Rows
10 Military Press

I picked heavy weights so on the 10th rep I could do it with good form, but probably couldn’t do an 11th with good form.

Then just as in Meltdown, I increased the number of circuits I did.

Also, after a few months (not 2 weeks as in meltdown), I added more interval training in the afternoons (so on weight day I did weights in the morning, intervals in afternoon (probably better to do reverse but i couldn’t), then on interval day, I did intervals in morning and again in the afternoon).

I also work in a high rise in Chicago and ran up that for afternoon interval workouts (we have a shower too).

Here is an important point i think:

I think Christian wrote about it as well, using more weight and lower reps than above helped me keep more lbm. When I went to the 10 reps scheme I lost about 9 pounds lbm… but I was only eating 1900 kcal a day (I was about 209 lbs then, so that was way not enough food).

So… as a change when I got sick of the scheme above, I would do a month of the same excercises but with more weight less reps:
3x5 Deadlifts* alternate with Lunges (some days deadlifts, some days lunges)
3x5 Bench Press
3x5 Pullups on that weight offset machine
3x5 Dips on the same device
3x5 Squats*
3x5 Rows if I didn’t do deadlifts
3x5 Military Press
3x5 Calf raises

*You can’t go too heavy doing both of these on the same day!

Again every other day as before. Doing the above didn’t burn as much fat, but it did help me get stronger and keep my lbm. So… I alternated the two schemes every couple months.

Another important point, once her bodyfat gets down to a measurable level, it is best to have someone else do it with at least a 7 point method, and have that same person keep doing it each month. That way you know if you are losing too much lbm and have to eat more, etc. I didn’t get my fat measured often enough, and I lost a lot of lbm because I didn’t realize I wasn’t eating enough.


Well, in the beginning she could just stick to walking. There is really no need for her to do any other activity besides a proper diet until she drops enough weight that she can jog, and then she should start weight training (just my opinion).

Remember, she expends as many calories per hour walking as a 150lb woman would expend RUNNING. Walking for her is about 840cal/hour! And that’s no joke; that’s how much i expend for biking (25min) to college and back, PLUS a short (40min) session of weight training.

I’m training a guy right now that was 275 two months ago. Now he’s down to 252. It’s as simple as wanting it bad enough to change your diet, start exercising, and be consistent.

I know this goes against the grain here, but to make it simple I’d recommend going to 1500 cals and just keep her doing cardio type stuff. I can’t imagine there are many exercises she can safely or easily do at her weight.

She has a big enough battle living with a junk food addict.

I don’t want to cloud the message: When you’re training MO it’s as simple as eating clean, watching calories, and exercising on a consistent basis . The pounds should just melt off. She doesn’t have to go to a hardcore gym.

Folks listen to Harkonnen on this one. He used to weigh 200 kg. and had to have suspensor units strapped around his body just to get around! Ooops, sorry about the Dune reference, besides you never said your first name was Vladamir.

In all seriousness the hardest part about a morbidly obese person losing weight is the mental aspects. I can attest to this first hand as I’m trying to lose a LOT of weight that I put on over just a few years of piss poor eating habits and inactivity.

Thanks for the replies.

Warhorse - it’s not that she wants to go to a hardcore gym, just that she wants to go somewhere she can bring her husband too, and at Curves she can’t. And, since she is big, she wants to go armed with as much knowledge as possible so she doesn’t get jerked around by trainers. For obvious reasons, the uber-fit intimidate her.

Her husband is also a huge part of the problem. The guy has a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, a junk food problem and a 48" waist. He’s not interested in walking regularly. It’s free, so if he misses, no big deal. Same with getting a few dumbells and starting up at home. She figures the incentive of having paid for a gym membership would make him more committed. Curves, where she’s been, is an idiot-proof system, and she just wants a simple starter program that won’t intimidate or kill her man!!

Polar Princess:

Good to see your friend wanting to do something and you wanting to help. Kudos.

Hey, does she have a computer at home where she can log into T-mag? She’ll be receiving a lot of encouragement and help from the forum if she does.

Remember visualization techniques. She has to see her self as an in-shape person to become one. To change her self image to a more positive one. :slight_smile:

Ok, I’d like to avoid reitterating what people said, but I must agree that a lot of it is mental. She must understand that cheat days are out, high carb foods are out, alcohol is out, and “bad” fat foods are out. It doesn’t sound tempting, but she has to understand that she’s not at the point where they will be useful “refeeding” techniques and more importantly she’s also psychologically not at the stage where she can handle them.

2ndly, I’d like her to figure out what her “trigger(s)” is/are. Psychologically, there is usually something that drives us to do something we know is not in our best interest. Why is she overeating? If she doesn’t have the slightest clue, she’s one step behind the game…she needs to be in control of her life, and knowing why is part of that.

3rdly, she needs to find inspiration. You and her husband seem like great motivating spirits. I also agree that if she can get logged on to T-mag, she’ll be highly supported here. But she needs to find some sort of inspiration (other than death). I must admit Polar Princess, I thought YOUR story was perfect for it. The fact that you were able to do what you did, should be able to get her going (be careful to walk this line, as it can be easily taken as you rubbing it in, on one of her “low” days).

I commend her desire to get her life back on track. I commend your desire to help your friend. I hope you both keep it up. Training smart is more important than training hard (have her keep that in mind).

Best wishes.

I agree on that your goals are all important. When my goal was just to look better, I yoyo’d all over the place. Once I committed and wanted it for my health, I was able to do a lot more workouts than before, eat more strictly than before, and keep it up for months on end like I needed to.

I couldn’t do that when my mental focus was not in place. So,… that’s why people kept trying to drag me down saying “you’re doing too much, you’re going to quit” (great friends, huh?) But I did it.

Anyway, that’s why I disagree with the walking (after the first month) Of course the person must ease into it, so then it’s appropriate. But… if your mental focus is there you can work out. If you do a ton of walking and see no benefits, it may make you want to quit (plus the low amounts of calories burned and the cortisol that gets released).

So… I think there are motivational principles… like visualization, that really help. Also she should set reasonable short term goals that can be achieved every month. Reading motivational books (not really self help, maybe some, but also things like biographies) can also help. Anything that gets her motivated.