Not all transformations are linear, inspired, or start off with the power of a warrior yell. For Pat Magno, breaking free from a cycle of stress, fast-food lunches, a foggy mindset, and subsequent weight gain didn’t happen overnight. "I wish I could say that one day I was really inspired and suddenly made the decision to transform my body," he says. "But, as I'm sure most would agree, transforming your body is much easier said than done. There were countless times I wished I could lose the weight, but I felt so sluggish and unmotivated. I would start a diet and show up to the gym a few times. Then life would get in the way, and I would fall flat on my face...again."
For Patrick, things got worse before they got better. "I was working as a protective service worker, and I was finding myself always physically and mentally drained," he recalls. "I’m usually a very positive person, but I was in a very dark place. I would go home after work each day carrying the guilt that some innocent child has to deal with undeserving pain and suffering." It wasn’t until Patrick reevaluated his path and questioned what he really wanted out of life that he was finally able to make a change.
This is Patrick's story.
You were active back in college, until work stress drew your activity to a halt. Tell me more about that.
My everyday job consisted of having to remove children from broken homes, abusive parents, and harmful situations. I've always loved children and had a strong desire to help others, so I thought this would be a great career choice for me, but work life took a toll. It became a catch-22. There was a lot going on in my life at the time, and I didn't know if I had gained so much weight because of it or if I was living a miserable life because of the weight I'd gained.
Being mentally exhausted each day led me to stop caring as much about what I was eating or how I was exercising. I tried to escape reality through food and drink. I abandoned the gym altogether. I remember looking in the mirror and not even recognizing myself. I was embarrassed, disgusted, and ashamed that I'd let myself get to that point.
What made you decide to transform?
I'd just returned from one of my worst days on the job. My wife—girlfriend at the time—and I were talking about our day, and she could tell I was burnt out and unhappy. I hadn't been myself for a while because of how miserable I was; I'd been bottling it all in and finally broke down. I'd invested so much into making this my lifelong career, but I questioned how I could ever live like this when my goal was to have a happy, fulfilled life. After a long talk, we both decided it best I leave my job.
How did things progress from there?
I've always been passionate about fitness and sports, although you'd never be able to tell by looking at me back then. I knew about the Bodybuilding.com Transformation Challenge and debated if I should sign up. I didn't want anyone to see my "before" photos because of how much weight I'd gained and knew that the chances of actually winning were slim to none. But, it was hard to let the $250K contest prize slip by without even trying. I knew I wanted to transform, and I knew what type of financial situation I was in after leaving my job. I decided to take a chance and give this challenge everything—and I mean everything—I had.
How did you accomplish your goals?
After signing up for the challenge, I started going to the gym a lot and trying to eat healthier. The first couple of weeks were the hardest. I didn’t realize how out of shape I'd gotten. I can't even count how many times I thought of quitting within those first two weeks. My body was sore all the time, I was tired, and I felt weak. I remember running (more like out-of-breath jogging) on the treadmill and thinking to myself, "Who am I kidding to think I actually have a shot at this? I have never had a real six-pack in my life, and there is no way I’m going to get one in 12 short weeks. I should be out searching for a new job and not wasting my time in the gym."
I had so many doubts about whether I'd be able to finish the challenge. It was a mental battle, trying to overcome all the temptations and excuses.
How did you motivate yourself to keep going?
It would have been easier to just quit and settle for “good enough”. There were days I would hit my snooze button 20 times before rolling out of bed before the sun was up to finish my fasted cardio. There were days I wanted to go out for a cheeseburger or pizza instead of eating the chicken and spinach I had cooked the night before. The beginning of the challenge was a struggle, but I successfully transformed because of this challenge! It lit the fire inside of me and gave me the ultimate motivation to really follow through without quitting.
Was there anyone specific you drew inspiration from?
I found so much inspiration from the prior winners of Bodybuilding.com’s challenges, and I can’t thank them enough for sharing their stories. Two of the winners that I really look up to are Chandler Camden and Matt Manning. Reading through their stories and seeing their workouts helped me so much. I had to take it day by day, because one of the most challenging things for me was believing that it would all be worth it in the end.
It was hard for me to picture myself with abs or defined muscles, because I had never looked like that before. I didn’t know if it would even be possible, no matter how much work I put in. On days where it was hard to believe I could really transform my body in such a short amount of time, I would look at their before and after photos and immediately find extra motivation to hit the gym even harder. I stopped feeling sorry for myself or making excuses and instead made my dreams a reality.
When did you start to notice changes?
About six weeks into the challenge, people started making comments about how much weight I had lost and asked if I was working with a personal trainer. I would tell them about Bodybuilding.com and all of the free tools and resources you had to offer. The more weight I lost, the more confidence I gained, and the more I realized I didn’t have to be embarrassed by my low points or hide my insecurities from the world.
How has your life changed since completing the challenge?
After winning the Bodybuilding.com $250K Transformation Challenge, I officially became a first-time homeowner! I decided to use the prize money as a deposit for a house in San Diego, which still feels unreal to say. I had been saving for a while, and being able to buy a house with the love of my life has always been a long-term goal. I was lost and in a very dark place, and right now, I am the happiest I have ever been.
What was the most difficult part of your transformation?
Diet was definitely hard to overcome. It's tempting to run out and grab a burrito or In-n-Out from time to time. I had to learn how to control my cravings and the urge to pig out whenever I wanted. Having to say no to something I really wanted in that moment was extremely difficult for me, especially in the beginning.
The biggest thing that I needed to change was my mindset. I used to think that if I put in the hours in the gym working my butt off, I could eat anything I wanted. Wow, was I wrong. I quickly learned that by doing that, I was ruining all of my hard work! I changed my mindset and told myself that my end results would come from 90 percent diet and 10 percent training. By doing this, I saw more results than I ever had.
What tools did you use to perfect your diet?
In order to overcome my challenge of inconsistent dieting, I had to find new ways to eliminate distractions in my life, and I had to find a system that worked for me. I made sure to always have my meals prepped and with me. I would cook all my meals for the week on Sundays (and Wednesdays if needed) so that they were ready to go each and every day. Again, this is easier said than done.
On Sundays, I really enjoy going to church, relaxing, going to the beach, and watching sports. I had to make sacrifices during the challenge and find time for what was most important. I would spend about 3-4 hours in the kitchen prepping and then go work out.
What supplements do you take?
What are your future fitness plans?
This challenge taught me so much about myself. I debated whether I should enter a competition, but came to the decision that it wasn’t for me. I’ve never been one to like the spotlight. I have a lot of respect for bodybuilders who train hard and compete, but I want my efforts to result in more than just a trophy or sword at the end of the day. There are a lot of people dealing with deeper issues like I was, and I would like to help them on a more personal level.
I've started training a few people and guiding them through their nutrition plans to keep them on track. I'll be the first to admit that I am nowhere near a fitness expert, but I do know that I have learned so much through this process and have done my fair share of researching and learning from the fitness pros. I want to help others experience the newfound self-worth that I felt when I accomplished my goals.