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April 30, 2011

Inspired to Fitness: FMI & Gary Warren’s Transformation Story

I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Warren, one of the founders of FMI Events (along with Fitness Entrepreneur Clark Bartram) at last year’s FMI conference in October.  Gary is a hard-working, sweet guy who has been transforming his health, fitness and waistline over the last 2 years.  His story is extremely inspirational and I am excited to bring you an interview we did with Gary recently, one highlight of which he admitted to loving the JillFit “Plyometric Pukey” workout :)

  I hope you enjoy the interview and can feel as inspired as I did! Go Gary!!

Gary, you recently shed a lot of weight–can you give us the details?

In a little over 2 years, I had a complete lifestyle change. I readjusted the way I ate, exercise schedule, along with my stress management habits. It took a near fatal event to shake me up enough to make my health a priority. In the process of making these adjustments, I ended up losing over a 100 lbs.

What was the impetus and how much did you lose?

Two things motivated me. First and foremost, in January and February of 2009, I had 2 severe diverticulitis flares in a 2 week time span. To explain exactly what that means, diverticulitis is an infection of pockets that are formed in the gastro-intestinal g.i. or digestive track. This usually occurs due to the overindulgence of processed foods. That condition is known as diverticulosis. The inflammation of those pockets is diverticulitis.

The infection I possessed had turned into perforations in the colon. It was quite severe. In terms of degree of severity, let’s just say I was very close to being sent into emergency surgery and wearing a colostomy bag for the rest of life. That was “the wake-up call”. I knew right then and there, if I didn’t make a change, I wasn’t going to be around much longer.

The second motivating factor were friends and family who I had watched overcome adversity in their own lives. A lot of these people are who I label the FMI “family”. I’ll answer what FMI is later. The key point here is, if are around overachievers long enough, their characteristics begin to rub off on you as well. Their character begins to become part of yours.

Overall, I lost 115 lbs in 26 months. I went from 300 lbs to 185 lbs.

What challenges did you experience that got you to your heaviest and what ultimately made you realize you wanted a change?

The shortest explanation as to what got me to my heaviest is simply, “life”. What I mean here, is I didn’t handle the trials and tribulations of life in my mid to late 20’s very well. Bad business investments and bad personal relationships put me in a depression. Once I was there, I became very cynical and stopped caring about pretty much everything. When I say everything, that includes exercise and what I ate. I began to consume a very unhealthy amount of stimulants as well. Over-the-counter fat burners, energy drinks, and later, “shooters” became a 3-4 time a day occurrence. This very unhealthy habit would be a key component of my flares later down the timeline.

In terms of my epiphany for a need to change, ultimately, it was the combination of the emergency room trips in 2009 and being around overachievers. To this day, I still cannot describe the intensity of the pain those flares created. It is as if your nervous system goes haywire and starts sending pain signals everywhere in your body with the most painful coming from your lower left gut. In one instant you have trouble breathing, in another you feel you may be having a heart attack, and in the next, your gut feels like it’s going to rip open. My nervous system was all over the place…or at least if felt that way. After feeling that amount of pain and understanding if I didn’t change, there would be dire consequences, it became a no-brainer to change. I found out right then how bad I really wanted to live….not exist…but LIVE life to it’s fullest.

Give us a brief overview of how you lost the weight, your exercise and diet routine, etc.

For the first 3-6 months, I couldn’t do much physically but I had a massive overhaul of my nutrition. At first I was on a liquid diet, then soft foods, and eventually progressed to a sensible, realistic diet. I completely dropped fried foods, table salt, caffeine, and processed sweets. You’d be amazed how fast you can drop those things if they are pain contributors.

After the 6 months, I started walking on treadmill and at times, used the weight machines between 2-3 times a week. After the first year, my gut had almost completely healed and I decided to step up my exercise regimen. I began to jog around February 2010 and increased intensity on the weight machines. Also at this time, I started adding minor core exercises. That was scary at first.

In May 2010, that is when something “clicked”. It’s hard to describe but that was the time I decided it was time for a complete overhaul and recapture the life I neglected for over a decade. May 16, 2010 is when I filmed the first ever “Sweat Is Free” video on YouTube, . SIF is a video log of me tracking my fitness progress. I was either going to be a laughing stock or I was going to achieve results. No middle ground.

As part of that declaration, I began to tweak my diet further . I began consuming mostly organic foods. I also started high intensity interval training or (HITT) workouts. I did this type of workout from May to December 2010 for 5-6 days a week. The workouts lasted between 20-40 minutes per session.

During this timeframe, I guess this is when I started to become known for running stadiums. I tried it for the first time in 13 years back at my alma matre, the University of Oklahoma. It took me a month to recover from the first run. However, I didn’t quit. Making a long story short, I got better at it and the stadium run remains one of weekly workouts. was also a key contributor to some of my most challenging workouts. I am a big fan of the “Black Friday” and “Plyometic Pukey” workouts. I have a love/hate relationship with them. So when one gets to the point of being able to handle high intensity exercise, this is a great source for ideas if you’re having trouble with workouts.

In reference to progress, I started 2010 at 252lbs. In May, I my waist and other areas were measured for the first time in years. My waist measured at 39″. By the end the year I weighed in at 198 lbs and had 32.5″ waist.

I weighed 199 lbs, meaning I lost 101 lbs in the middle of December 2010. I did this on purpose. I live primarily in the Southern part of the country most of the year. I wanted to show the South/Midwestern area of the country you CAN stay on track during the holidays regardless of the potential food temptations associated in this region. Accomplishing my goal in the South was very important to me. It is now a testament to others, especially in this region of the country, that it can be done.

How did you stay motivated throughout the process and what is one pearl you can give to those who want to do as you have done?

The current condition of my health at the time happened to put me in a very motivating position. I remember thinking that I did not want to go through life wearing a colostomy bag or worse, die. It is amazing how motivated you become when your health is taken away from you. I took it for granted and it almost cost me my life, literally.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this again is where being around a great group of people who hustle and achieve great accomplishments influenced me. The attendees at our FMI Conference, in addition to my local friends and family’s achievements, helped me keep the faith and stay the course to succeed.

Finally, the Sweat Is Free video log (vlog) was a consistent motivator when physical changes were really starting to be noticed by others. When you have to step in front of the camera every week or two, it helps you stay motivated to stay the course.

In terms of a pearl, I would say, know what your body is capable of doing physically in it’s current condition, have a plan consisting of small realistic goals (fitness and nutrition wise), and have a support group. No one succeeds all by themselves. When you focus on the small goals, you end arriving to your ultimate goal faster than you realize.

You run the successful FMI Events Conference for fitness models with your business partner and model Clark Bartram, how has being in the fitness industry affected your personal fitness?

As I referenced in an earlier question, it has been very motivating. You cannot be around this many people who have drive and not have it affect you in a positive way. Our attendees, which we call, “alumni” after attending an event, ended up becoming a huge support system while I was striving to achieve my goals. Their enthusiasm was a galvanizing factor to continue staying focused.

With Clark, I can’t even begin to explain how he influenced me. He stuck with me when I wasn’t open to hearing what he had to say. I’m glad he did. Let’s say he is more of a big brother to me, than a business partner. He is a perfect example of the saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Without his support and efforts, especially when I was at my lowest point in 2009, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Speaking of FMI, what is it and who is it for?

FMI is a career development production for Fitness and/or Sports Professionals looking to possibly enter into entrepreneurship within entertainment.  We achieve three goals in the production.  First, we convey if you’re in entertainment, you are a independent contract. Therefore you are a business and the first task is covering a few business basics. Second, we give a general overview of what the industry known as entertainment is. Finally, we coach some of the skill set basics such as modeling, hosting, auditioning practice, etc.  In order to make money in the business, you must understand the business first.  People who attend find out very quickly if their aspirations are career oriented or more of a weekend hobby.  That is what FMI does.  We have become a portal to entertainment for the athletic.

How successful has FMI been? What’s up next for the company?

It has been more successful than we could have ever imagined. Clark and I are blown away by how quick the production and demand for it has grown. We’ve grown from a group of 18-20 attendees our first year to nearly 80 models in a year’s time. Some of those 2010 attendees came as far as Australia, Canada, and Europe. In 2011, we already have attendees registered from Australia and Canada again. Our Spring Conference for 2011 sold out in 25 days.

In the 2.5 years it has been fully operational, we’ve seen the careers of participants, Basheerah Ahmad, Bobby Ashhurst, Chady Dunmore, Rachel Elizabeth, Danielle Pascente, Obi Obadike, Rob Riches, and Emily Zaler start to blossom and thrive. Between these “alums” alone, they’ve achieved multiple writer and model publication, endorsement deals, AFTRA/SAG qualification, television appearances, and an album deal. There are more alums but these are probably the most recognized alums (that we’ve directly helped) by the public at this time.

As far as the future of FMI, we are continuing to live up to our tag line as “THE Entertainment Training Resource for Fitness and Sports Professionals”. We plan on doing that by becoming more interactive via technology. Additionally, we’ll be expanding our conference format and adding new elements to it. Our 2011 Fall Conference in Redondo Beach, California will feature our first exhibit. As our reputation grows, more career opportunities will be available at FMI. The production is starting to do what it was designed to do. That is exciting.

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