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Brian Casad was a typical young American in early 2011. Everything about his existence qualified as “normal” in today’s society, which is what makes it so scary.
He was out of college, 26 years old, and in the real world. He worked a 40-hour-a-week desk job as a real estate tax consultant in Kansas City, KS. Nearly every day he’d go out to lunch with his co-workers and eat whatever looked appetizing on the menu—a huge burrito at a Mexican spot, three or four slices of pizza at the Italian joint, a Reuben or patty melt with fries at the sandwich shop—you name it. When lunch was over, he’d go back to his desk feeling so lethargic his productivity went out the window.
“I couldn’t get work done at all in the afternoon because I felt so tired,” says Casad. “I found myself falling asleep at my desk. It wouldn’t matter how much sleep I’d gotten the night before.”
After leaving the office, Casad would hit the gym for his daily workout. A social guy, he’d chat with his buddies between sets, most of the time doing more talking than actual lifting.
“I’ve always been kind of religious about working out,” says Casad. “But back then it was more about trying to push heavy weight. My rest periods were pretty long, and a lot of times in my workout the most I’d get in were three or four different exercises. I wouldn’t get much done.” Following his workout, it was dinner at Chipotle or a couple of chicken burritos from Taco Bell or a bowl of pasta at Noodles & Company—meals he believed to be healthy. He’d go home and maybe snack a little bit before bed. For breakfast the next morning, he’d eat either leftovers from the night before or nothing, or maybe he’d grab something from the vending machine at work.
This was his lifestyle, and it showed in his physique. He was 6′ tall and 230 pounds, with a beer gut and a thick neck—a typical American look.
Does his story sound familiar? It should. You work with guys like this, you have friends or family members like this, or perhaps you are this guy. What makes the story so scary isn’t that so many people could be Brian Casad circa 2011—out of shape and on the path to obesity and chronic illness—but that so many people are.
Here’s the problem: All these Casad look-alikes think they’re doing healthy things: going to the gym three or four days a week, eating foods that seem nutritious because they’re “fat-free” or “whole wheat” or “natural.”
“That’s the thing people have wrong,” says Casad. “They really don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not healthy.”
In early 2011, Casad decided to make a change. He was tired of his daily routine, of going through the motions at the gym, and of being overweight.
“Where it all started for me was that I came to the realization that I hated my job,” says Casad. “I got along with my co-workers just fine, but I started looking at what we were doing at lunch, and it was just the same monotonous crap.
I decided, ‘Hey, I don’t have to go out to lunch with these guys all the time.’ I wanted to get in really good shape. I had all the time in the world.”
Casad started slowly, making one adjustment at a time instead of trying to fix everything right away with some crash diet that would be hard to stick to (“I hate diets,” he says). The first things he cut were the lunches. Rather than go out to eat, he’d go for a run, grab a light salad, then head back to work. “I’d bring gym clothes with me to work, and there was a running trail out by our office, so I’d go out and run a mile or a mile and a half here and there. And then I’d go get a quick lunch, but something lighter. That’s kind of where I started making adjustments.”
Next, he tweaked his training. He was introduced to Title Boxing Club, which specializes in group boxing and kickboxing classes. His first time on the heavy bag wore him out, but he was hooked. “It just kicked my ass,” Casad says. “I hit the bag for five minutes, and then I just gassed out. But I fell in love with it. I’d never done cardio like that before, so I signed up for a membership and started going to boxing classes three days a week. I was really starting to up my intensity.”
Not surprisingly, he started dropping weight fast. By May 2011, he weighed in at around 205 pounds, down from 230 four months earlier. That same month, he quit his job and began exploring franchising options as a future career. Ironically, Title Boxing had just begun offering such opportunities. Casad bought in that August, deciding to open a gym in Dallas, TX, where his brother lived.
“It was a complete fluke. I was one of the very first franchisees in the system,” he says. “The timing couldn’t have been better, with me just having quit my job.” Starting a new gym these days—particularly one that doesn’t have “CrossFit” in the name—isn’t easy. Casad needed his family’s help to finance the business initially. Then he sold virtually everything he owned—his bed, couch, TV, car—and dumped the money into the gym. There was nothing left over for living arrangements, so he slept on his brother’s couch for six months.
When Title Boxing Club Uptown in Dallas finally opened in March 2012, Casad was over budget and knew he’d have a hard time paying employees, so he worked 100 hours a week to pick up the slack. But at least he was off his brother’s couch—he slept every night in the gym for the next four months.
Title Boxing Dallas eventually took off in late 2012. As he was getting his gym out of the red, Casad was getting in better shape. His weight didn’t change—he’s still around 200 pounds, in fact—but his body composition did. When he first dropped the weight in early 2011, he was still carrying excess body fat; but as he continued to tweak his diet and ramp up the volume and intensity of his workouts, his physique got leaner and leaner.
“Figuring out how your body works with nutrition is the No. 1 thing,” he says. “What you put in your body is exactly how your body’s going to look.”
Around the same time, he got into fitness modeling, first landing a video gig for the company Beachbody (creators of P90X), then becoming a spokesmodel for Bodybuilding.com’s BodySpace. The cover of the May issue of Muscle & Fitness is yet another “after” photo to compare with his beer-gutted, thick-necked “before” shots circa 2011.
“The last couple years have been crazy,” says Casad, now 29. “It’s been a whirlwind from where I was back then in Kansas City.”
No. 1: Check Labels
“I always check the back label. There are three things I look at: fat, sugar, and sodium content because most things have either a ton of sodium or a ton of sugar. And I actually like a little more fat in my food. Fat’s good—it’s an energy source.”
No. 2: Eat In
“I don’t go to restaurants much anymore. I like to keep on a lean menu, but at the same time I’m not going to tell myself I can’t have something. I can have any food I want. It’s all about moderation. I allow myself to cheat, just with small portions.”
No. 3: Stick with Whole Foods
“I’ve never counted calories, but I can tell if I eat too much. I just know what healthy foods are and what unhealthy foods are. I eat a lot of chicken, whole eggs, lean steak, spinach, almond milk, avocados, and sweet potatoes.”
“I don’t eat the same things every day, like some people do. I eat different things all the time. I hate schedules. I don’t like getting up every single day and doing a nine-to-five job, and it’s the same thing with my diet. I like to mix in a variety of foods.”
Find What Works for You
“I don’t eat five times a day like I used to. I eat maybe two or three times. It works perfectly for me. All these people think they need to eat five or six times a day. If I do two meals, I can eat a lot at one of those meals.”