Chronicles of a sick person

My trainer today informed me that I am at a point in my fitness journey where I need to make a choice: I either need to trim body fat or add muscle.  He says that while this can be accomplished if you’re very meticulous in the early going (as I have been), then you can manage both.  Now, he says, I am past that point.

He also told me the wise thing to do would be to bulk up first and trim down later.  I need the muscle to eat away the fat.  This means eating even more than I presently am (about 2200 calories per day), which is hard enough.  It also means a small increase in body fat %.  This will be something probably only noticeable to me.

But I’ll still notice.  I’ve worked so hard to not be fat anymore, and the thought of knowingly increasing my body fat %, even in the short term, is scary.  I cried today.

However, part of managing the sickness is acknowledging that your own judgment is corrupted.  I am not a fitness expert.  I need to trust the people I pay to be fitness experts.  In short, I need to do this.

So I immediately assembled a new diet.  My daily totals will be:

Calories: 2,276
Carbs: 183
Fat: 25
Protein: 308

You try putting together a diet where you get 300g of protein in 2200 calories without eating nothing but tuna.  It’s not easy.  The plan is to put on 10 lbs. of muscle over the next few months and then to start trimming body fat % again.

During that time, I can already tell the war between my psychological demons and my rational mind is going to be as violent as ever.  I know I have nothing to worry about – that the increase in body fat will be scarcely perceptible if I monitor my diet as psychotically as I always have.  Still, I’m scared.  I find myself looking at my reflection at every opportunity just to remember what I presently look like.  Even though I know my midsection’s appearance isn’t going anywhere, I’m still sure that it is.  This is what it means to have this type of disorder.  This is what it means to be crazy.  You can reason your way to reality (if you’re healthy enough), but you cannot accept it.

I started working out because I was fat (or at least I perceived myself to be).  It will be weird working out without the goal of getting less fat, at least not in the short term.

It got me looking at pictures from over the last year.  I didn’t think I looked as fat in them now as I used to.  It’s nice to see myself making progress.

Here I was in Summer of 2010.  This is about the size I was when I moved to Ohio in January.

Here I was at Skepticon 3 last November.

This was taken at the end of January this year, right as anorexia was re-gripping me.  On Feb. 12 I was in the ER seeking help.

This one is from April of this year, after I’d lost about 30 lbs and shortly after I started working out.

And this was taken this last weekend.

It’s amazing how quickly things change…

MENTAL ILLNESS & PERSONAL: Pictures of my brain.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Time to go be a lab rat.
MENTAL ILLNESS: I see affection as a competition.
MENTAL ILLNESS: Today's session.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • James Croft

    I’m continually inspired by these posts to get into the gym myself – thank you!

  • Joshua Fisher


    I am slightly overweight myself. I am currently about he size you are in the first pic in this post. I have a bit of a belly and a small amount of fat over my whole body. Thankfully, I do not have any psychological issues concerning this. I cannot imagine the hell that must be for you.

    Certainly, I want to look better. Not only am I overweight, but I am also out of shape. I have many problems with back and neck pain that I suspect are mostly caused by my lack of physical exercise. I was told by a physical therapist that my back problems are caused because the muscles in my back are compensating for my weak abdomen.

    I have enjoyed watching your journey over the last year and root for your success. I think you look great. I know that your inner deamons keep you questioning yourself, and I know that my say so will not quell your worries, but hopefully the affirmation of those around you will at least bolster your rational mind and help give you the strength to keep up the good fight. You look great! Keep up the good work!

  • B-Lar

    Its great to know that you, as our front line guy, are such a perfectionist with yourself and that is inspiring for us all.

    You’re beautiful man. Once you get to the place that you feel comfortable, stay there, and do the dance of the self assured.

  • Mario Melendez

    Dear JT,

    First, good luck to you on all this. A couple of questions about your new diet:
    While I understand increasing your calorie total for now, is it necessary to increase your protein total to such a high number even on a temporary basis? Could you not achieve your objectives with a lower proteing total?

    Again, good luck y un abrazo.


  • JT Eberhard


    I’m honestly not sure. I’m going what my trainer tells me to do, since I suspect he knows more than I.


  • Laurence

    Good luck JT. I have trouble going to the gym when there are a lot of people there because I feel like I’m being judged by all the people who are gym regulars.

  • James Ewert

    JT, your carbohydrates (and specifically your protein) constitute a huge portion of your diet. If you wish to consume 2200 calories (or more), you may need to increase your fat consumption (~9 kcal/g), as opposed to increasing protein and carbohydrate consumption (~4kcal/g for each). Also, most tasty sauces need to be made with fats. If the palatability of your meals is an issue, you might want to consider this.

    Remember that fats are not the enemy, they are burnt constantly through the day; especially when recovering from workouts. They are also required for steroid hormone synthesis, which will be especially beneficial while building muscle. Remember that muscle you build now will be muscle that burns calories for you later.

    Jokingly: If you ever find yourself short on money with your current diet, you could probably pee in a barrel and sell the huge amounts of excess ammonia to DOW chemical.

    Hoping you reach your health and fitness goals!

  • James Ewert

    Sorry for the misstatement above:

    “your carbohydrates (and specifically your protein) constitute a huge portion of your diet.”

    -Most excess amino acids will be converted to glucose in the liver (glucogenic amino acids). This is why they have a caloric value.

    -Obviously, calling protein a type of carbohydrate is wrong, but not by much. (At least when there is significant excess protein)

    -Also, as someone aspiring towards this field: you should feel comfortable asking your trainer about your diet, especially if (s)he is helping you build it. Research the claims/responses your trainer makes. Be skeptical, and be health-conscious.

    Exercise Physiology is Fun!

  • JT Eberhard


    What’s your email/expertise?


  • James Ewert

    I’m a lowly undergrad:
    Kinesiology/Biology major/minor. Planning to certifying as a clinical exercise physiologist after graduation.

    You can reach me at:

    OR (preferentially) you can reach me using social media at:

    Have fun getting fit, hope to talk to you soon!

  • Rob El

    I’d say you’re on the right track, accountability such as this blog is important.

    Could you not try that which promotes muscle gain in a fat loss program (metabolic resistance training/strength training/HIIT, including, dropping things that reduce metabolism such as distance running) as well as doing low and high Caloric days, to promote and/or maintain muscle mass, while slowly reducing bodyfat percentage? Instead of going through the psychologically taxing ‘excess Caloric intake to gain muscle then lean down later’ route?

    I of course say this not knowing your current measurements, etc.