Paul Faulder suffered from lower back pain for 30 years, until he slimmed down and completely transformed his body. He tells Men’s Health how he did it.
For 30 years, I’ve had a lower back problem that’s led to chronic discomfort and episodes of severe pain. Since I was 16, I’ve managed the issues with a combination of painkillers and chiropractic treatment. I’d spend my days holding onto walls and furniture just to move around; I couldn’t get dressed without holding onto a door and when I showered I’d panic that I was going to slip. Daily life had become an anxiety-ridden obstacle course of avoiding the most innocuous tasks that might trigger a spasm.
My lowest point was being given gas and air at 3 a.m. in my bedroom by paramedics just to be able to get me out of bed. I spent two weeks recovering, only to have it happen again—this time I was out for the better part of a month. Having been someone that was previously in shape it was embarrassing to me, and people began to comment that I was always making excuses for not socializing, when in reality I just didn’t want to be around people looking and feeling the way I did. I was in pain daily and this was severely affecting my mental health.
I decided enough was enough. I talked to my healthcare providers about how I could lead a more normal life. I had an MRI, then a referral to a neurosurgeon, who advised me to lose 2.5 stone (35 pounds) to bring my BMI into a healthy range and take the pressure off my lumbar region. However, this challenge came with the caveat that I needed to be “very careful, with no repetitive spinal compression” (e.g., no running), and taking great care with any weightlifting.
I decided to enroll in a transformation program at Ultimate Performance’s Cheshire gym. As a too-skinny teenager, I’d been inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger to get into weight training, and my dad and I even built our own home gym. He’d always said to me, “Whatever life throws at you, and it will, always do what you can to be fit and healthy—no one can take that off you!” I took that ethos into the training with me every day.
We started with a pretty aggressive caloric reduction, cutting my daily weight-maintenance calories by more than half. I knew that was extreme, but figured I could do it for 14 weeks, and planned to maintain my lean body mass while stripping fat as quickly as possible. During that time, I kept to a strict breakdown of macros: protein, carbs, and fat.
I had a habit of eating my first meal at 1 p.m., which fit with an intermittent fasting routine that had worked well for me before. We stuck with that so I could train fasted in the morning, and I found it easier to manage my hunger. That meant I had less energy for my morning workouts, but it was a manageable trade-off.
We started with three hours a week of upper, lower, and full body workouts, with a step count of 8,000 per day. We saw some good results, and started targeting specific muscles. To keep losing weight, we introduced spinning classes and upped the daily step count to 10,000. It gets tougher the more weight you lose as your body wants to hold onto every reserve it can; our strategic shifts aimed to counter that.
Over 14 weeks, I lost 45 pounds, dropping my body fat percentage from an overweight 29.4% to a healthy 24%. My back pain has decreased by about 90%. I am more focused, calmer, and have a much more positive outlook on life. I’ve been approached by friends and family asking how I managed to make such drastic improvements. It’s a great pleasure to inspire them and support anyone going through the process. After all, they had supported me, knowing that this was an important change I needed to make for my health and well-being.
It was a big transformation, and, honestly, it happened quickly. That’s great, but I’m very aware that it could possibly reverse just as quickly. That’s not an option for me: I refuse to return to my previous self with all the negative consequences that come with it.
So my next step is working on a phase of strength and muscle building. I happened to be watching Alan Richson in Reacher, who’s about my height (6’4”) but is obviously stacked with Hollywood levels of muscle. He and Chris Hemsworth are now my physique inspirations. I’ll keep you updated on my progress!
For anyone getting started, I think firstly it’s important to choose carefully where you get your advice. There’s a lot of information out there, but not all of it is correct, and some can even be damaging. Think about your reasons for changing, and focus on them throughout. Engage with the process, and trust that it’ll lead you in the right direction. Track and monitor your progress. And finally, be accountable to someone who’s influential to you.
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