The idea sounds clichÃ©: A personal trainer creates a website to encourage healthy living.
But there's nothing clichÃ© about the twist Drew Manning added: He gained 73 pounds. On purpose.
That weight gain and his subsequent struggle as an overweight person trying to lose the excess pounds resulted in the New York Times best-seller Fit2Fat2Fit and landed the Eagle Mountain trainer in a media frenzy that has included recent appearances on "Good Morning America," "Nightline," and "The View."
"He was a nobody personal trainer in Eagle Mountain," joked Lynn Manning, his wife. "He wasn't even in a big city. We're not geniuses, just very lucky."
Drew hatched the idea to gain then lose weight in February 2011 while working full time as a medical technician and part time as a personal trainer. For him, being in shape was routine. He felt a disconnect with clients who struggled to lose weight.
"To me, it was so easy to be in shape," Drew said. "If you eat healthy and you exercise, there are no excuses. The idea was just crazy enough to get people's attention, but it was not too over the edge."
In May, he stopped working out and ate whatever he wanted. His go-to snack foods were Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Hot Pockets. He created weekly "food challenges" where he went to restaurants and tried to eat enormous amounts of food. Lynn and Drew documented everything he ate, and how he felt mentally, physically and emotionally.
Drew still kept his job as a medical technician, which often took him three hours away to Idaho. Lynn also worked a full-time job from home as she raised two daughters, a newborn and a toddler.
In October, five months after he began gaining weight, the national media discovered his endeavor. Yahoo.com posted a story about Drew, which attracted so many visits to his website it crashed. He began a nationwide media tour and on Nov. 5, reached 265 pounds, a 73 pound weight gain.
Email flooded the couple's accounts as the story gained national attention.
"We literally weren't getting any sleep," Lynn said.
Lynn said she awakened at 6 a.m. to take care of her daughters and work on the website. She then worked in her home office from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.
"We were pretty much shut in here," Lynn recalled. "On the weekends, he would go out once to do a food challenge, which consisted of him stuffing his face while I recorded it. Then we'd come back and he wouldn't want to go on a date because he didn't feel good or felt fat. I would get no date nights, nothing."
Lynn and Drew, who moved to Utah in 2008 from Chicago, lived active lifestyles before the weight experiment. They often jogged together and walked as a family.
The first month back to healthy living, Drew lost 19 pounds just by eating fresh foods consuming five meals per day totalling 2,000 calories, down from 5,000.
In January, the website and a new book deal with Harper Collins made it impossible for Drew to continue working his full-time job. Lynn felt the strain as well, and stepped away from her job in March.
In May, a year after he began adding pounds, Drew weighed in at 190 pounds. Each week, he asked website followers to fill out a survey if they were trying to lose weight with him. The average weight loss: 60 pounds over six months.
"I wanted people to join me on my journey," Drew said. "To me, that was fulfilled when I knew thousands of people were inspired by this. In a way, I'm OK with the publicity because hopefully people will become inspired. People think it was a publicity stunt, but I didn't know it would be."
Lynn and Drew plan to continue operating the website and keep his weight loss story free to read. He is also working with a Utah formulist to make all-natural supplements, and is building a gym downstairs to potentially take on clients and return to being a personal trainer.
"It is different working 90 hours a week doing something you love," Lynn said. "We literally don't take a break."
Meanwhile, Drew is still a bit self-conscious about his body, despite nearly returning to his pre-weight-gain form.
His only complaint?
"There are maybe a few stretch marks," he said. "But I can deal with it. You can barely notice unless you're up close."
He's also found a treatment: Lynn's pregnancy cream.
Fit2Fat2Fit book signings
Planned book signings in Utah by Drew Manning include:
Saturday • 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Deseret Books at City Creek, 45 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City; 2 and 3:30 p.m. at Deseret Books in Midvale, 1110 Fort Union Blvd.
June 19 • 5 and 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 10180 S. State St., Sandy