Starting All Over, Again


Starting All Over, Again

The first time I stepped into a gym was in April 2012, then 5’7 and 110lbs.

With me usually being the skinniest guy in any given room, I was excited at the idea of putting on muscle and gaining more weight.

One of my best friends introduced me to the almighty barbell and showed me how to properly perform the movements that would help me put on the mass I’ve always wanted.

I eventually started lifting a bar, stacked with plates, that weighed nearly double my own bodyweight. I was getting stronger, bigger, and more comfortable with my body.

Then I stopped.

I stopped going to the gym and lifting those enormous weights that helped my body get into the best shape of my entire life.

The next few years were a constant back and forth between resuming my lifting routine and pausing it, resuming then pausing.

It became a cycle that kept me in an extremely narrow range of progress. Any steps I did take forward would be erased when I stopped for yet another three, four, or even five months.

Sometimes I wonder what I would look like right now if I had kept up with weightlifting since day one. If I had continued to eat more to achieve what I wanted.

As skinny as I am, it’s pretty common to get teased for being so skeleton-like (though I’d imagine if I were overweight instead, weight would be a more sensitive subject for others).

Any time the conversation comes up that I’m trying to gain weight, you can actually see the mouths of everyone within earshot simultaneously opening to chime in on how “lucky” I am to have the opposite problem of the majority. Of course, there’s always someone who says “I wish I had to eat more” while I politely nod and smile. It’s funny because I actually dislike (maybe even hate) eating.

Not having someone there who empathized and understood the struggle of being too skinny made giving up easy.

But this time I’m more determined than ever. In just the last three weeks alone, I’ve put on 9lbs and am currently at the heaviest I’ve ever been. Already I’m seeing major improvements in the mirror.

The reason why I was constantly starting and stopping with the weight gain routine is because I lacked accountability. There wasn’t anyone there to make sure I was trying to hit my goals.

One of my buddies and I have a weekly call where we check up on each other to make sure we’re hitting our personal and professional goals. Two of my goals are eating more and going to the gym four times a week.

We have a spreadsheet that’s visible to the both of us, which we’re meant to update daily. Since we can see how the other person’s doing (our goals are right next to each other on the spreadsheet), it gives us more incentive to accomplish that task for the day so we can get that “Yes” into the box.

Accountability Spreadsheet

I also hired a personal trainer to put together a workout and diet plan for me, the latter consisting of six meals that I struggle to stomach. I meet with him once a week but we communicate semi-regularly when it comes to making adjustments to workouts and diet.

That’s not even the best part.

I’ve recently eliminated two things from my life that I absolutely dread: grocery shopping and cooking. That’s right. I hired a personal chef (via Craigslist) and it’s made eating the six meals a lot more tolerable.

It isn’t nearly as expensive as you’d think. For $140 per week, I have a chef batch cook an entire week’s worth of food for me (the right amount of portions and nutrients that follow my trainer’s diet plan). That cost covers the actual price of the groceries, her services, and delivery.

I’ve got a good feeling about this. I think I’m going to stick with my fitness goal this time around because I’ve put skin in the game and have multiple accountability systems put in place.

Some people might be shaking their head as they read this–really, personal chef? Who does this kid think he is?–but hey, whatever works works. There’s no other way I’d be able to shovel down the six meals per day my trainer prescribed for me.

I’m not starting over again and I know what I want. It’s time to make it happen.

Oh and of course, publishing this article puts me on the spot as well, so I don’t want to let you down either.

Photo Credit: Flickr – Sebastian Mary

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

Latest posts by Vincent Nguyen (see all)

29 responses to Starting All Over, Again

  1. Dude, I have the same problem as you. I’m skinny as hell. Getting in shape in terms of muscle is still not so bad though. I’ve been working out 2-4 times a week for a few years and while progress is slow, I can definitely see the results. Some people think that my abs are there the same way boobs are for a fat lady, but the truth is that I still had to train pretty damn hard for it. Now they’re clearly visible.

    On the other hand, I’ve always really struggled with gaining weight. About 2 weeks ago, I started adding on an extra meal, making that 3 times a day (I used to skip breakfast). I can’t imagine you’re having 6… Anyway, not sure if this is going to work, but we’ll see in a few more weeks’ time. Right now I’m only 49kg!!

    • Don’t put on so much weight that your fingers rub together. B| Your piano playing is remarkable. Enjoyed it greatly, thanks.

    • Hey Jeremy, below are the notes for my workouts and my diet plan (created by my trainer). Warning, it ain’t easy!


      Meal 1

      6 egg whites, 2 whole eggs
      3/4 cup oats
      1 banana
      5g creatine

      Meal 2

      whey protein(about 35 grams protein)
      1/2 cup oats
      1 piece fruit or yogurt
      2 tbs peanut butter

      Meal 3

      4oz lean meat(chicken, turkey, fish cooked)
      1.5 cup rice

      Meal 4

      4oz lean meat(chicken, turkey, fish)
      8oz yam

      Meal 5

      6oz lean steak(sirloin) or 96%ground beef
      8oz potato, yam or 1.5 cup rice

      Meal 6(rt before bed)

      protein whey or casein 35g
      60-70 grams carbs and 10-15g fat of your choice

      -2x bananas + peanut butter

      -Multivitamin(with breakfast)
      -BCAA drink (my fave is Optimum Pro BCAA) drink during workout
      -Glutamine 5-10g a day post workout
      -Creatine monohydrate(take 5g with breakfast 5g post workout

      Calories: 3.2K. Protein is set about 200g and carbs about 460g carbs and 66g fat per day approximately, this does not have to be precise but close.

      As far as cardio as we discussed earlier you want to keep at a minimum. Tennis and sprints are good to do and great for cardiovascular health but overdoing it can burn a lot of calories and cause you to not gain muscle. So keep it managable.


      -Drink plenty of water (approx 1 gallon a day)

      -seasonings are ok to use

      -salt is good to use(salt each meal) this is an essential nutrient you need it especially when training and sweating

      -diet soda, crystal light, tea, coffee is all good. Just make sure no calories in your drink(sweetener is ok in coffee/tea) Just added empty calories

      -prepare meals ahead of time to ensure success(bring cooler with you during day)

      -in this diet it is possible to switch out the foods I put in for others for variety each meal is approx 76g carbs, 31g protein, 11g fat just make sure these macronutrients are about the same


      Day 1 – Chest, Triceps (+Rotator Cuffs)

      Day 2 – Legs and Calves

      Day 3 – Rest

      Day 4 – Back and Biceps (+Rotator Cuffs)

      Day 5 – Shoulders and Abs (+Rotator Cuffs)

      Day 6 – Rest

      Day 7 – Rest

      Each exercise to be performed 4 sets with no more than 1 minute rest in between sets.

      Chest, Triceps – Home (+Rotator Cuffs)

      1. Flat Dumbell press 10 reps
      2. Incline bumbell press 10 reps
      3. Chest press Machine of choice 10 reps
      4. Triceps pressdowns 10 reps
      5. Skullcrushers 10 reps
      6. Triceps pressdown 10 reps
      7. Cable Internal Rotation (4×20)
      8. External Rotation (4×20)

      Leg and Calves – Gym

      1. Squats 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
      2. Hack Squats 12, 10, 8, 6
      3. Leg press 3 sets 20 reps
      4. Leg extension 15 reps
      5. Leg Curl 15 reps
      6. Standing Calf Raise 15 reps

      Back, Biceps – Home (+Rotator Cuffs)

      1. Lat Pulldown 15, 12, 10,8 reps
      2. Cable Row 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
      3. 1 Arm Dumbell Row 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
      4. Machine Row of choice 15, 12, 10, 8 reps
      5. Barbell Bicep Curl 10 reps 3 sets
      6.Dumbell curls 10 reps 3 sets
      7. Cable Internal Rotation (4×20)
      8. External Rotation (4×20)

      Shoulders, Abs – Gym (+Rotator Cuffs)

      1. Shoulder Press 10 reps
      2. Side laterals 12 reps
      3. Rear lateral machine 12 reps
      4. Shoulder shrugs 12 reps
      5. Ball crunches 20 reps
      6. Leg Raises 15 reps
      7. Knee Ups 15 reps
      7. Cable Internal Rotation (4×20)
      8. External Rotation (4×20)

      Note the internal and external rotations are for my rotator cuff since I’ve been playing a lot of tennis.

  2. Way to go Vincent! You’re on your way to the best health of your life. Don’t stop.

  3. You should never be concerned about letting me down, always here for any support you may need from me . What’s your goal weight you’re trying to maintain? I’ve tried going to eating 5-6 smaller meals a day also, but I find once I eat something for a snack it just makes my stomach crave more. One thought about hiring a chef for $140 a week which does sound like a good deal, but you might want to look at the annual cost and see if there might be a way to have the chef prepare meals for 4-5 days a week instead of 7

    • Hey Greg, no exact weight goal yet just because I haven’t ever been to it yet so I’m not sure what it looks like. I’ll have to play it by ear, to be honest, but 150lb sounds like a good goal for me.

      I’m not too concerned about the cost since I don’t look at it as $140/week. Here’s the breakdown on the math, followed by my logic on why I’m more than happy to pay the cost.

      Let’s say without the chef that I would’ve spent $10 per day on food (most likely it’d be more than that once you factor in eating out, but we’ll assume home-cooked only). If I’m paying her $140/week, I’m now spending $20 per day on food.

      So that’s an increase of $10 per day on food or $70 per week increase or $300 per month. Over a year, that’s $3,600.

      Okay, so I’m paying double for food now. What do I get out of that?

      I no longer have to spend one hour every four days grocery shopping. I eliminated dealing with prep, cooking, and cleaning which amounts to maybe two or three hours per day.

      So I’ve essentially bought myself back at least 15 hours per week of my time/life or 60 hours per month.

      By spending an additional $300/mo. (remember, I would’ve already been spending about $300 each month on food and groceries anyway without the chef), I now have an additional 60 hours freed up.

      The amount of revenue I can generate with those 60 hours more than make up for what I’m spending, so from a business perspective, I’m coming out way ahead with the added benefit of it being easier now to hit my personal goals.

      Huge win in my book! 🙂

  4. Great article as usual, I find it harder to gain weight as I get
    older, despite sometimes overeating, But I think your on a
    great regimen, enjoy the fall colors, and I really look forward
    to your great blogs.

    • Glad you look forward to them, Rick! Eating’s no joke! I wish I could enjoy it more. Even with absolutely delicious food I can only enjoy the first few bites before my body reminds me that it dislikes eating in general. 😛

  5. I enjoyed your reminds me that part of me is human having a human experience and that means mistakes along the way and to never completely give up. Which even though you might of started and stopped, you never completely gave up. Thank you!

  6. Way to go Vincent – more power to you! Thanks for sharing this so authentically – it has got me rooting for you.

  7. I really hope you achieve your goals!

  8. Good luck, Vincent!!
    That personal chef thing sounds funny but it’s a very good idea; if you can afford it and it works for you, stick to it by all means!
    I’m curious: if he prepares six meals a day for you, and also cleans, it’s like he is around your home most day? Or he cooks for several days and then you heat the food again?

    • She cooks one large batch for the week and delivers on Thursdays. I still have to clean the containers the food’s in when I finish the entire thing and the dishes when I finish eating. What I get to avoid cleaning is the prep and all the pans and whatnot involved in the cooking process. Those are the hardest!

  9. Hey man I’ve been through the exact same journey as you, I was always the skinniest in the room and one day had enough and decided to start going to the gym. That was 5 years ago and in that time I’ve stopped and started countless times, so I thought I might share with you some insights I’ve had.
    Perhaps the biggest one is this: its so easy to get down on yourself when you haven’t been for ages, you just think of all the wasted time and where you should be. You have to block all that out though, even lifting once a month is still good for your health, it takes a lot longer for you to lose any serious amount of strength than people realise, and you get back to where you were very quickly.

    We are blessed in a way being so skinny, because any muscle we put on is visible straight away, theres no fat to burn through which is hiding it all away.

    Now I’m at a place where I am happy with how I look I mainly just go to the gym for mental and phsyical fitness, and I don’t let myself hate myself if I miss a week or two here or there, as long as I keep moving forward.

    Also good job getting a chef, you are doing what you have to to achieve your goal. Not half assing it. I recently moved to china to learn the language. I was struggling to stay motivated and disciplined in australia, so 2 months ago I said fuck it and gave myself no choice but to learn by living here.

    All the best

  10. Loved the post!
    I’m an ectomorph so I understand the struggle of weight gain haha.
    You have a really cool blog.
    I also have a personal development blog and am very passionate about it.
    I’d love to chat with you.
    If you like, you can check out my blog
    I’m open to any criticism you have to offer.
    And again, great stuff!

    • Hey Stephen, sorry for the late reply! Didn’t see this for some reason.

      Yeah dude, feel free to hit me up anytime you’d like to chat. My email address is vincent [at] selfstairway [dot] com

  11. Dude, you are not alone! 😉 Usually I’m the skinny guy around.

    I have just started slowly with the gym, first step is to get into the routine, next step is getting more fixated on food, sleep and training 😉

  12. Hehe yeah, hopefully I will 😀

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