Two men who changed their bodies and their lives – and can help you change yours, too.
By Alison Turner
Transforming your body takes commitment, motivation and dedication. Unfortunately, the most well-publicised transformation stories usually focus around Biggest Loser-style drastic weight-loss – morbidly obese people dropping mountains of kilos in a dangerously short amount of time. What we don’t see after the cameras stop rolling is that most of these people will gain back that weight again. Rapid weight loss through excessive exercise and rigid dieting is not only unsustainable in the long term; it does nothing to teach people about how to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity (that doesn’t involve a bloke called The Commando screaming at you to get you through it).
What we really want to see are inspiring transformation stories about people who have changed their bodies – and their lives – for the better in a way that is not only sustainable, it also provides a healthy and achievable example to others. To truly transform your body you need to do more than just drop weight on a scale. You need to build lean muscle mass. You need to learn how to fuel your body with the right things. And you need to enjoy doing it. Just like these guys.
From scrawn to brawn
At the age of 17, Daniel Pardo weighed only 49 kilograms.
“I was very skinny,” he says. “I was always the skinniest person I had ever seen. I always got comments like, ‘Are you sick?’ People thought there was something wrong with me. I just couldn’t put on weight.”
For Pardo, his skinny frame made him feel self-conscious and unable to fit in. Growing up in Campbelltown (western Sydney), he was tired of being so thin, but was lacking the confidence to do anything about it. His friends certainly didn’t help matters.
“I’d always wanted to have a good physique,” he says, “but every time I said anything about it people would poke fun at me. But I was really over being made to feel awkward. All I wanted to do was look normal and fit in because I was so sick of being that skinny kid, and that became my motivation to start training. And once I started training, I started getting more control of my life and started cutting all the negativity out and it gave me a sense of focus.”
After a solid year of training, Pardo found he had put on about seven kilograms of muscle.
“It sounds good, but considering how small I’d been and how often I’d trained and how many calories I’d consumed, it wasn’t that amazing,” he says. “But it was still pretty good!”
It wasn’t long before Pardo decided to make his new focus into more than just a lifestyle – he wanted to make it into a career.
“Once I started getting results myself people started picking my brain about how I did it,” he says. “Then one day when I was 19, I was unemployed and looking through the newspaper and I saw an ad for a Certificate 3-4 in Fitness. I was looking for jobs just to get by but when I saw this I thought, ‘I want to do that!’ It was one of those crystallising moments. I’ve actually kept the clipping and put it on my wall.”
As the pieces fell into place, Pardo realised that it wasn’t just his love of training that made him want to be a personal trainer – his innate ability to help others also made him the perfect candidate.
“I realised that even before I’d started training I’d always liked helping people, in any situation,” he says. “I was just that guy who people would come to for advice. So I really fell in love with the idea that I could help people – I fell in love with the idea of using the gym as a vehicle to help people’s lives get better. That’s when I realised this was what I wanted to do.”
Now 27, Pardo has come a long way from being “that skinny kid”. A super lean and majorly ripped 74 kilograms, he has reached his peak physique. And his drive to succeed has also seen him further his studies in training, health, nutrition and business management.
“I’d always hoped and dreamt that I would be where I am now, but I didn’t have the belief at the time that I would be able to achieve it,” he says. “When you grow up in a certain environment, surrounded by pessimistic people and always made to feel below others, it’s hard to find that belief. But once I got past that hurdle, I could do it, and now I can help others who are in a similar position to where I was.”
Pardo believes that to truly transform yourself, it takes a lot more than just hard training and smart nutrition.
“You’ve got to cover every base – how you view yourself, what environment you’re in, what relationships you have around you,” he says. “At the start, especially if you don’t have much self-belief, understand that the people around you are very important, and if they’re adding to that lack of belief and that negativity, you need to spend less time around them. Visualise it. Say this is what you want and you’re going to work towards it and you’re not going to let anyone hold you back.”
Back to body basics
Matt Fox was diagnosed with testicular cancer just after his 21st birthday. A sense that something “wasn’t quite right” made Fox visit his doctor, where the shock diagnosis was given. Not surprisingly, it threw the young man into a tailspin. But only at first.
“After that I was pretty positive throughout,” he says. “Of course I was upset at first, but everything happened so quickly. I had an operation a week after, then a round of chemotherapy, then check-ups for five years, and I have been clear ever since. They give you the five-year all-clear. It was always nerve-wracking going back for every scan, so I was extremely glad to get the all-clear.”
Fox had never been particularly unhealthy, but he wasn’t achieving anything in the gym either.
“I went to the gym, but I wasn’t really seeing any results,” he says. “I also wasn’t eating very well – I’d eat a bag of chips or lollies every night, I felt tired during the day and mentally I didn’t feel that great. I wasn’t happy.”
Eventually Fox grew tired of the gym and of not seeing any results, as he was simply doing the same thing every time.
“I was also tired of fighting the crowds for equipment, and having to make the effort to get there after work took up a lot of time,” he says. “Then my wife got pregnant with our son, and I realised that was going to take up even more time, so I thought I’d make a transition.”
Fox began using only his bodyweight to work out, which allowed him to train whenever and wherever he wanted. An added bonus was that he loved being outside, and the thought of training outdoors helped to inspire him to make a change.
“I knew the basic exercises, so then I just took it up a notch,” he says. “I did a bit of googling and looked at calisthenics-style training. That inspired me too, after seeing the great shape a lot of those guys were in.”
After starting his bodyweight workouts, Fox started to see results within a few short months.
“I had always wanted a six-pack and could never get one until I started this,” he says. “I also love the efficiency. I’ll work out for 40 minutes and at the end I’m absolutely wrecked and dripping in sweat, whereas you could be in the gym for an hour and half with maybe one muscle group a little bit sore. But with this? It’s cardio and muscle fatigue in the one workout.”
Fox also cleaned up his diet, giving up the nightly lollies in exchange for a weekend treat meal.
“But it wasn’t the diet that changed me, it was the training,” he says. “I’m 92 kilos now – back at the gym I was probably 87. That’s four or five kilos of muscle. And I’ve definitely dropped body fat – possibly even halved it.”
This remarkable physical transformation also led Fox to begin training others, and he is now in the process of qualifying as a personal trainer.
“I had a few friends come to me to ask me how I got to look the way I looked without going to the gym, and then it kind of spread from that through word of mouth,” he says. “Now I have a website, which came off the back of my Instagram, which is getting pretty popular.
“I want to make a career out of this – it’s what I’ve always loved. And I know how life-changing this type of training is.”
For Fox, transforming his body and his health has also meant that he can serve as a great example to his young son, now seven months.
“I want him to be outside being active instead of sitting in front of a computer or TV,” he says. “And I want to go full-time with my PT business. I want to keep on living the best life I can and inspire people and show people there is another way.”
Yes you can
Serving as an inspiring example to others is a goal that both Pardo and Fox share. So what advice can they offer to wannabe transformers?
“If you’re not happy with the lack of results you’re getting from your current exercise regime, you’re crazy not to try something different that offers you more flexibility and saves you time,” Fox says. “I was hesitant at first, too – it kind of gets ingrained in you about lifting weights and going to the gym, but I just trusted what I knew and what I was learning and went with it. And as I progressed, it was great to see quick results, which also helps to keep you motivated!”
You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to achieve great things. Fitness is accessible anywhere.
“A lot of people get intimidated by the gym, and then there are people with small children,” Fox says. “So I’m all about making it accessible to everyone and giving everyone the knowledge to change their lives.”
While Pardo is a fan of the gym, he also knows that it takes a lot more than a regular gym routine to see real change.
“You need a complete life of structure and balance to be able to excel in the gym,” he says. “But the main thing is to get started and to be consistent. Even if you’re feeling a bit flat, drag your arse down to the gym anyway because it will help you create that habit. I don’t even need a reason to go to the gym now; it’s just a habit for me.
“It’s only hard at the start, so just get started. And if you really want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.”