You may have heard of Paul ‘PJ’ James, the personal trainer who has been in the media spotlight for piling on 40kg to better understand his obese gym clients.
But did you know that he is Greek?
For those who are unfamiliar, the thirty two year old, who once strutted the catwalks in Milan and Tokyo as an underwear model embarked on a burger, chips and pizza heavy diet starting this year, with the goal to reach 120kg.
He plans to stay at that weight for three months, before proving to the world that it is possible to get from “couch potato” to “ripped” with the right exercise and diet.
PJ talks about his experience, whether he regrets his journey and what his family think of his stunt.
Publicity stunt or genuine compassion?
Absolutely genuine compassion.
I don’t think that anyone would go to this extent to get a bit of publicity.
I’m obviously putting my body on the line here and if I was only doing it for a few days or a month I could understand publicity criticisms, but I’m doing this for 6 months.
You are making a documentary. Is it the same as Super Size Me?
It’s very different. Super Size Me me set out to attack a corporation (McDonalds) and the guy only did it for a month.
I’m doing it specifically to show people that no matter how out of shape you are, with the right advice or training, you can get back into shape.
How has it helped you to understand obese/overweight people?
People don’t appreciate how difficult it is to live your life like this.
You become embarrassed, depressed, sluggish and avoid going out and socialising.
I know what it must feel like to continue down this road for years and years and feel hopeless.
Being a disciplied dieter prior to this, can you identify with the emotional eating issues that overweight people often have? Definitely.
One thing I noticed is that it doesn’t take a long period to become dependent on particular foods to elevate your moods.
No doubt you get an instant kick out of eating fatty food as a quick fix but as they tell you after a period of half an hour you slump to a lower level of being unsatisfied and unhappy.
After such a short period of time I’ve become addicted to food and it’s going to be very hard to come back even with all the knowledge I have.
Do you regret stacking on the weight?
No, I don’t regret it as I always set out to become overweight since I began the documentary on 1st of January.
It has had a lot of positive effects.
Gym clients are opening up to me more on an emotional level now, than when I was in good shape.
No-one’s giving the solutions to the obesity problem and by bringing to the forefront that people don’t have to choose to be overweight,and that everyone can do something about it with the right advice and diet, I am hoping to show people that hard work leads to results.
What is your current diet now compared to before?
Before I was eating low amounts of fats, carbs, and sugar, and a lot of grilled fish green vegetables, fruits and water.
This has been replaced by not only junk food but lots of pasta, fruit and vegetables, on top of the unhealthy foods.
How has it affected your health?
My blood cholesterol level has risen from high 3s to 6, and the enzymes in my kidney and liver have gone up.
Do you think you will be able to lose the weight?
It’s going to be a struggle. I’m looking at my stomach and hips as I’m talking and I have so much fat on me, but it is my personal goal to get “ripped”again.
What tactics will you employ?
The first thing I will do is try as hard as I can to change my diet, disassociate myself from fat – by stop feeling that I need fat to be happy.
Diet is the most important thing, but going to the gym will finish everything off.
How has your family reacted and how do you think you have been perceived by the Greek community?
My family has been really positive about it and are proud of what I’m doing. Greek people really enjoy their food and I think that the older generation wouldn’t think that I looked that bad. They’d probably say, ‘Good on him for eating!’
Goal for the future?
To get back into shape by the end of year, and to get some funding from the Government or Heart Foundation to support my documentary and release it next year. I want to share my story with people around the world to inspire them to get into shape and I think I’m on my way to achieving that.