The following nine men transformed their bodies—and their lives. Read their stories and get inspired.
Then share your own transformation stories with Men’s Health.
1/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF KARL KAY
It was a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in November 2011 that prompted Karl Kay to make a change.
At the time, Kay, a print and design manager in Lincoln, England, was nearing his 50th birthday. His weight hovered around 240 pounds.
Not thrilled about facing a life of insulin injections and an elevated risk for heart attack, stroke, and other health problems, Kay took action.
He had read about a study that found that people could reverse their diabetes by going on a low calorie, low-carb diet, and he decided to do the same. That study has been backed up with newer research. For the full story on how losing weight can reverse diabetes, read How to Cure Diabetes.
Kay started his ultra-low-carb diet in December, and dropped 30 pounds by late January. Over the next year, he lost another 20 and started strength training.
By February 2012, his blood sugar levels were normal—and have stayed that way ever since.
Now 52, Kay is fitter than ever, back to playing sports competitively, and has reclaimed the beach body he had at 25.
2/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JOSEPH SMITH
Joseph Smith, 46, was a member of his local gym in Charlottetown, Canada for more than 20 years.
Despite making the time to train, however, Smith constantly found himself bored or distracted during workouts. As a result, his body never changed.
Then Smith found THE 21-DAY METASHRED, an at-home fitness plan from Men’s Health Fitness Director B.J. Gaddour that he could do in the morning before work and getting his son ready for school. The 30-minute workouts helped him lose an inch from his waist and gain an inch of muscle in his chest. He also saw definition in his abs.
And Smith wasn’t the only one who noticed his physical transformation. The players on his rec hockey team told him he looked great and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Guys typically don’t compliment each other,” he says. “So to get a compliment about how they noticed a change was a great motivator.”
Another great motivator: Gaddour. Smith needed a coach to push him harder than he could ever push himself at the gym alone. “There was just something about [Gaddour’s] energy,” Smith said. “His delivery of the exercises and his subtle humor throughout that kept me going.”
3/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NOAH GALLOWAY
In 2005, U.S. Army Sergeant Noah Galloway was in the middle of his second deployment in Iraq when he was severely injured in an IED attack. He lost his left arm, left leg, and the will to stay in shape after the explosion. “I had a gut on me,” he says.
But one day in 2010, Galloway finally realized that he was so consumed with what he had lost that he couldn’t see what he was doing to the remainder of his life.
So he decided to make a change, starting with his body. He joined a 24-hour gym and visited early in the morning, when nobody would watch the handicapped guy struggling with exercises. He ran Tough Mudders and Spartan Races, and shared his unique at-home workouts—like pistol squats on a bed—with his social media followers.
“Little surprises kept me going,” Galloway says. “A little better this day, a little stronger the next. Suddenly it was six months. I was like, ‘Man, this is pretty good.’”
In time, Galloway built the incredible body you see above.
Galloway’s powerful transformation led him to appearing on the cover of Men’s Health in 2014 as the inaugural Ultimate Guy. He has since competed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and the current FOX series American Grit.
(Follow the 2016 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy competition, which has been narrowed down to the top three. One of those men will land on the cover of the magazine just like Galloway!)
4/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MIKE BRISCOE
In the summer of 2013, Mike Briscoe was posing for shirtless photos on a beach in Jamaica when his mom noticed his belly bulging over his swim trunks—and a supple set of breasts hanging from his chest.
“Yo,” she told her son, “you have man boobs!”
It was cold, but true. “I didn’t realize I had gotten that big,” says Briscoe, who tipped the scales at 250 pounds.
Now that he was staring down 40 and facing a family history of diabetes, his mom’s blunt remark rang loud and clear. “I knew in my head I had to make a change,” Briscoe says.
At first, Briscoe didn’t have a fitness plan—nor did he want one. “I just needed to begin on my own, and get a feel for the gym again.”
He started with simple treadmill sessions to get his heart pumping, mixed in strength training, and then re-joined a recreational basketball league. Before Briscoe knew it, he was down 70 pounds to a lean 180.
Now he works out six times a week, passing on advice to his fellow screening officers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport who are hoping to kick-start their own fitness revolutions.
(Briscoe is a contestant in the 2016 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy search. Follow the competition, which has been narrowed down to the top three.)
5/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANGEL RODRIGUEZ
When Angel Rodriguez knocked on his mother’s back door, she quickly retreated from the entrance and walked into the main part of the house. She thought the well-muscled man at the door was an intruder—not her big-bellied son of 48 years.
Rodriguez hadn’t visited his mother, who was living in Miami, in 7 months. In that time, he had lost a whopping 121 pounds of fat, taken 20 inches off his waist, and put on 20.5 pounds of solid muscle.
“I hesitated for a few seconds,” says Rodriguez, “then I knocked louder and yelled, ‘Mom, mom!’ . . . and grinned at her in my special way.”
Then it clicked and she responded in her Cuban accent, “Angel, me parece mentira. [I can’t believe it.] What have you done to yourself?”
Rodriguez used Rodale’s The Body Fat Breakthrough, a rapid weight-loss system developed by fitness researcher Ellington Darden, Ph.D., to lower his body fat percentage from nearly 50 percent to just 11 percent in 30 weeks.
Rodriguez also credits his wife Gigi with helping him make the change from processed foods and snacks to whole foods, lean proteins, and lots of fruits and vegetables. She cleaned the house of all temptation: the chocolate chip cookies, the ice cream, and other junk food.
It’s a huge help to have people who support you, says Rodriguez. “Give them the authority to get in your face and push you.”
6/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF BEN WHALEN
Ben Whalen had just finished up a routine physical in March 2015 when his doctor handed him a piece of paper that would change his life.
It was a pamphlet for bariatric surgery. At 390 pounds, Whalen was obese, and his doctor suggested the surgery as a potential weight-loss option. Whalen knew it wasn’t for him—“I had seen too many people do it and not have success,” he says—but seeing the pamphlet was precisely the kick in the ass he needed to start his transformation.
So he pledged to drop pounds the old-fashioned way. He hooked up with a personal trainer and mixed weights with cardio 7 days a week.
“It just about killed me,” Whalen says of his initial routine. “I actually fell down the stairs because my legs were so shot from all the work—but every time I did it again I would feel better. And after 2 weeks, I loved the burn.”
Whalen also phased out diet staples like pizza and mac and cheese in favor of healthier fare like eggs and spinach salad. By January 2016, he had shed 185 pounds, down to 205.
“I have pushed my body harder than I ever thought imaginable,” Whalen says of his amazing weight loss. “And it wants more!”
(Whalen is a contestant in the 2016 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy search. Follow the competition, which has been narrowed down to the top three.)
7/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF KENNETH FRIERSON
A good workout buddy won’t just push you to work harder in the gym—he’ll repeatedly pester you to show up when you feel like sleeping in and slacking off.
Kenneth Frierson—who in December 2014 was 28 years old, 335 pounds, and eager to uncover the lean, muscular body he once had in high school—needed a partner to keep him honest.
So he recruited his friend and coworker, Catarina Torres.
“It was very difficult to wake up and get out of my comfortable bed and work out at 4:30 a.m.,” Frierson says. “There were multiple times I would try backing out, but his response was, ‘Man, get your butt up—I’m already on the way!’”
The badgering worked. Frierson became a bona-fide gym rat, often showing up to his local fitness center twice a day to progress from short treadmill walks to all-out sprints. “I continued to push myself each time until I went further and further,” he says.
Frierson’s original goal was to drop down to 280 pounds. But once he cleared 280, he set his next manageable mark: 270. From there it became 260, then 250, until he worked all the way down to his current weight of 235 pounds.
Frierson’s 100-pound weight loss didn’t just drastically change his appearance—it transformed his mentality, too.
“It’s been able to boost me to an entirely new level,” Frierson says. “I now walk around with my head held high and proud of what I’ve accomplished on my own.”
(Frierson is a contestant in the 2016 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy search. Follow the competition, which has been narrowed down to the top three.)
8/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF COLLIN CLARKE
In May 2015, Collin Clarke weighed 201 pounds, with 37% body fat.
It was around that same time that the 22-year-old walked by the multipurpose studio at Bob’s Gym in Evansville, Indiana where he worked behind the front desk. He peeked inside the room, and spotted personal trainer Glenn Ubelhor practicing his bodybuilding posing routine in the mirror.
That was the moment Clarke’s life changed forever.
Six months later, he stepped on stage at Kentucky Muscle, a bodybuilding competition in Louisville, wearing only a pair of posing trunks.
He weighed 137 pounds, with 7.2% body fat.
Clarke’s dramatic transformation is both physical and emotional. Training gave him confidence, independence, and a focus of purpose that flooded into other aspects of his life, says his mother Jodie Clarke. Watch Clarke’s Amazing Transformation on video, and get ready to feel inspired.
Now, when he walks through the doors at Bob’s Gym, “I feel happy,” says Clarke. “It puts a smile on my face.” His new go-to slogan: “Never give up.”
9/9 PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JONATHAN MONTGOMERY
Almost two years ago, Jonathan Montgomery, a 38-year-old firefighter with the Hillsborough County Florida Fire Rescue, was overworked, overweight, and sluggish. “I was strong, but slow and fat,” he said.
Today, and Montgomery is a physical specimen. He lost 30 pounds, now weighing in at 201, and is more muscular, stronger, and faster than he’s ever been in his life.
How’d Montgomery do it? He hired Alex Viada, a mutant of fitness hailing from North Carolina. He deadlifts 700 pounds, runs ultra marathons, and has coached over 400 athletes, from special forces soldiers to Ironman triathletes.
“I like to have people work on everything concurrently,” Viada explains. “That allows the average guy to improve across the board—in strength, power, and endurance—without interruption.”
Viada also had Montgomery perform long, slow cardio, and eat 5 meals a day at 600 to 700 calories a pop.
For the more details on Viada’s training plan for Montgomery, check out This Guy Lost 30 Pounds and Got Absolutely Shredded.