I think about bodies all time. It’s actually part of my job — I write about inspiring weight loss stories and try all sorts of fitness trends. (I’ve cleansed like Gwyneth, worked out with Adriana Lima, and eaten clay like Shailene Woodley.) Since I have to be on top of the latest workouts, I take different exercise classes around three or four times a week. I get in my 10,000 steps almost every day.
But while I’m fairly knowledgeable about what’s trending in the wellness space, until a few weeks ago, I rarely ate balanced meals. I might start my day with a smoothie, eat a big sandwich for lunch and then snack on chips and salsa for dinner around 9 p.m. I had migraines that corresponded with my menstrual cycle — often making me physically sick — along with chronic neck muscle spasms and moods that affected my husband and co-workers. Even when I’d “cleanse,” I’d barely lose weight. When I heard that experts at David Barton’s N.Y.C. gym, TMPL, could help me find a long-lasting solution to my health issues and also help me lose weight, I was skeptical. After all, I worked out a bunch, didn’t I? I knew that I shouldn’t be eating the way I was, but I wasn’t that bad, right? Maybe this is just what my body is meant to look and feel like. What would make this plan actually work for me?
According to Barton, it uses cutting-edge technology to make sure your metabolism is running efficiently. “This type of plan used to be only available to celebrities and CEOs,” David Barton told me. “Now, it’s more accessible.” Barton offers it to members at TMPL, starting at $750 for a four-week plan, which includes two body scans (see three of mine, below). Sound expensive? In my experience, the results just may be worth the price.
The first step in TMPL’s Metabolic Activity Plan (or “M.A.P.”) is to do a 3-D body scan on a machine called the Styku, which takes accurate measurements of your entire shape, followed by an InBody Composition Analysis, which measures your body’s fat, muscle and water. For the Styku, you stand on a circular pedestal that spins you around slowly for 30 seconds while it’s scanning. I didn’t feel comfortable in just a sports bra and shorts, so I kept my leggings and tee on for my first scan. I was shocked to see that my waist was 33 inches, and that my posture was terrible. David gave me a 3-D printed action figure of my body scan to keep with me as motivation.
Next, I took a 178-question survey online based on clinical nutritionist Jim Lavalle’s Metabolic Code that asked me about my eating habits, medications and how I feel on a regular basis. The results, my “Personalized Health and Vitality Assessment Report,” showed that I was in the red — or “high risk”— in 6 out of the 10 categories, including my intestinal health, my brain health/mood and my cardiovascular health. There was no denying that I needed help — the combination of my body shape and survey results motivated me, because I knew this could not be filtered or edited like a strategically angled gym selfie. So, I met with metabolic expert and nutritionist Danielle DeSimone to figure out how to get my body back on track.
Let’s just say my initial goals were a little unattainable. I couldn’t look like Carli Lloyd at her wedding (not an Olympian), a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader (not a world-class dancer) or the hot female bunny from Space Jam (not a rabbit). But Danielle and David helped me come up with goals that didn’t involve me comparing myself to other people (or cartoons): I’d try to get my body fat percentage toward the lower end of the healthy range (between 23 and 26%), increase my muscle mass to burn more calories at rest, and reduce my visceral fat level (which is a fancy phrase for “shrink my waistline.”) Supposedly the changes would not only make me look leaner, but they would help sort out my other physical issues, namely the headaches, bi-weekly vomiting and menstrual pain.
In terms of my diet, I’d be eating around 1,200 calories a day for the first three weeks — cutting out most carbs — then bump it up a little bit for three weeks and add carbs twice a week, and try to come back down to around 1,200 for the last two. The first two weeks I had to be extremely diligent: no booze, no carbs, no corn, no sugar, no dairy. Each morning I’d down a huge glass of water and followed it with coffee (yes, I could have coffee every day) or tea with 1 tsp. MCT oil for fat and energy, mixed with 1/4 cup almond milk. (Pro-tip: Use an inexpensive milk frother and blend the oil and the almond milk to make it taste creamier.) I’d throw in a whey protein shake with unsweetened almond milk depending on what time of day I worked out. For lunch and dinner, I stuck to hormone-free meat and eggs, and paired them with spinach, cauliflower or broccoli. I could eat small amounts of nightshades, so I wasn’t going full-on Tom and Gisele.
I told them that I was completely against doing cardio: Because of the way my body was shaped, bouncing up and down was uncomfortable and often painful. David told me that to get the results I wanted, I’d have no need for traditional cardio. Instead, I’d be lifting weights at least 4 times a week. Given my love for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, I don’t consider it a coincidence that the two incredible trainers David chose for me to work with were both former high-level cheerleaders: Jerry Witherspoon and Dawn Slocum. They created intense strength-training workouts and helped me focus on muscle groups I’d never worked before, like my back. They also taught me simpler exercises I could do when I wasn’t with them. On my own, I stuck to like straightforward circuts that alternated between lifting weights and dynamic movements. I’d do a set of 12-15 reps of something like leg presses, and then a set of something like reverse lunges. I didn’t step on a treadmill or an elliptical once.
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Danielle also provided me with a comprehensive supplement plan to balance my hormones and help me build muscle. I took a few things I’d recognized, like magnesium, fish oils and probiotics. But then she introduced me to several hormone-supporting supplements and digestive enzymes. Based on the severity of my symptoms — the headaches, ovulation and premenstrual pain, and stomach issues — I had to take around 15 vitamins a day. I also took powdered BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) and Glutamine daily. I can’t pretend this was cheap: I probably spent around $250 on supplements alone for the full 8 weeks.
The first four days on the plan were extremely tough. I felt like I had a cold, and found myself getting sweatier than usual throughout the day. But after that, I noticed my skin immediately clear up, and my energy went through the roof.
After three weeks of being a saint, toting a dozen vitamins and portioned-out chicken breasts to work every day, I went to my doctor. When she saw me, she was floored. At this point I’d lost several lbs., but she told me I was glowing and much calmer than she’d ever seen me. I’m usually a frazzled, floppy, late mess whenever I see her. Think Oscar the Grouch but with better hair. I was bursting with news for her that I hadn’t had a single debilitating migraine since I started my M.A.P. I told her that no, I didn’t need a prescription refill for my headache meds or muscle relaxants for my neck. I high-fived myself, a.k.a. applauded.
High on BCAAs and confidence, I hit up a friend’s birthday party that weekend. I had about three tequila drinks, probably 8 oz. of chips and guac and half a quesadilla. Later that night and into next morning, my body threw a fit. I felt like someone had taken a sword and just placed it horizontally across my stomach and bent me over it. It was just like the old days. I resigned never to do that again…
…Until New Year’s. This time, I was smarter: I downed two glasses of water for every drink, and ate a protein-packed dinner before I went out. Still, a week later, at the end of my full 8 weeks following the plan as closely as I could while also participating in all those things that make life fun, I had lost 15 lbs., and 6 inches in my waist. I haven’t had a headache resembling the ones that would render me totally useless for at least four days a month. Here’s what shocked me the most: I didn’t have to do traditional cardio to transform my body. I may even try to take a gym selfie or two. No filter? No problem.