According to Wikipedia, “A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food, and who eats food not only out of hunger but also as a hobby.”
The first time I met Steve Mansir, I was working on a busy Saturday morning at Life Time North Dallas. As I walked past the row of leg equipment, a guy I had never seen before flagged me down, extended his hand, and introduced himself as Steve Mansir. The name seemed familiar, and then it clicked that one of my very best clients had mentioned how he had been promoting me to one of his good friends. That friend was Steve, and he and his wife Mari had just joined our gym along with their precious little boys, Stephen and Parker.
We spoke only for a moment as I was with a client; however, Steve expressed interest in meeting to discuss how I might help him and his wife get into better shape. And that was the humble beginning of a relationship that has spanned ten months. Steve and Mari have made significant progress in that time, and I’m so proud of them for the sweat equity they’ve poured into their health and fitness journey. They walked into the gym from day one, training harder than most, and now they clearly stand out as two of the hardest training members at North Dallas.
Steve was a wrestler in high school and hit his peak condition at a competition weight of 174 lbs. After school, with his wrestling days behind him, Steve’s weight would slowly creep up over the years to the mid-240s. Fitness was not a part of his life as he poured energy into his career in the wine industry. And while he achieved high levels of success financially and personally, deep down, he was not happy with his appearance or physical health.
The short answer is that Steve allowed life to get in the way; unfortunately, his health was not a priority. While lucrative, his career didn’t do him any favors as he is regularly tasked with entertaining clients at 5-star restaurants. Frequent travel, including some international, further compounds his challenge in eating healthy and exercising regularly.
When we first met on August 16, 2021, Steve weighed 205 lbs at 22.6% body fat. He carried 91 lbs of muscle mass and desired to add more while cutting his body fat in half with the ultimate goal to see his “abs.” From his peak weight in the 240s, he had lost a good bit on his own; however, he felt stuck and sought help to take his fitness journey to the next level. Ten months later, on June 18, 2022, Steve weighed 188 lbs at 12-13% body fat. He also managed to put on a good bit of quality muscle and gain considerable strength, which is quite the accomplishment considering the body fat he dropped.
I knew Steve was a worker when we sat down to talk that first night. He has a strong Type A personality which means he’s highly driven, task-oriented, and extremely competitive. He just needed someone to tell him what to do and then stand back. My initial assessment was most accurate, and Steve didn’t disappoint. With his wife Mari by his side, they tackled their first training program with a vengeance, and I promise that it was no “cakewalk.”
I don’t give my clients diet plans. In fact, the word diet is seldom used in my vocabulary. Instead, I teach my clients how to eat a healthy balance of proteins, veggies & fruits, smart carbs, and healthy fats. I also don’t do cookie-cutter programs. Each of my clients has a custom plan tailored to their individual needs, goals, and lifestyles.
Steve is a busy executive whose work and family schedule dictates that he trains in the late afternoon after work, and the following is his primary nutrition plan:
Meal 1 – Early morning breakfast shake
Meal 2 – Mid-morning consisting of, for example, a homemade egg, chicken, and cheese taquito
Meal 3 – Lunch consisting of protein, veggies, smart carbs, and healthy fats
Meal 4 – Afternoon snack consisting of a protein shake or protein bars
Meal 5 – Dinner consisting of protein, veggies, smart carbs, and healthy fats
From our first meeting, Steve and Mari asked me how often they could enjoy a “cheat” meal. One of my favorite posts ever, “No Cheat Meal Required,” is based on wisdom I gained from now-retired nutritionist Keith Klein from Houston, TX. The essence of what Keith taught me over thirty years ago and that I now pass on to my clients today is that you don’t have to eat perfectly to make dramatic changes in your body. However, I prefer to use the term “treat” versus cheat.
To me, the word cheat has a negative connotation. The word treat is positive, and I believe it’s much more appropriate when referring to a reward you earn because of your hard work. Regarding compliance, I told Steve and Mari to shoot for ninety percent, leaving ten percent for treat meals. When you’re eating five meals a day like Steve, this equates to several meals a week that can be off-plan, yet you can still make significant progress.
Given the nature of Steve’s job and their very social lifestyle, this was very positive news. Since we’ve worked together, Steve’s travels have included trips to Napa Valley in Northern California and overseas to Portugal and Barcelona. And it is a testament to his discipline and character that he’s conducted himself appropriately with clients, vendors, and coworkers while not shooting himself in the foot with his health and fitness goals.
Back home, they routinely go to some excellent restaurants with friends. And yet, given Steve’s adherence to my 90/10 rule, he has crushed his goals and has dramatically changed his body. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a weekly ritual for him to share his treat meals, whether for work or play, and yet his body composition has continued to improve. Further, he has told some great stories about the jaw-dropping reaction he gets from family, friends, coworkers, and clients who haven’t seen him until recently. Their reaction is generally a mix of shock, disbelief, and a little envy.
Steve and Mari lift on average four days per week, with a fifth devoted to the core, cardio, and metabolic conditioning work. I change their workouts every six weeks and strategically and incrementally increase the overall challenge with each new program. In contrast, while I push them hard in the gym, I’m equally adamant in encouraging them to chase full and proper recovery.
When I say chase, I mean to make recovery a priority. In today’s modern society, most people don’t get enough sleep, consistently and effectively manage stress, or fully recover from life’s heavy demands. I constantly ask my clients about sleep and stress management. It’s easy to take for granted, yet a lack of full recovery will leave you sluggish at best in pursuing your life’s significant priorities. You will also be more likely to end up with a compromised immune system which leaves your body more vulnerable to breaking down and getting sick.
Steve is a “Foodie” in every sense of the definition provided at the beginning of this post. He and Mari love great food and alcohol and frequent some of the best restaurants in the world. They have been married for 6.5 years and live a life full of family activities centered around their boys and frequent evenings out with friends.
As a result of having a load of responsibilities between work and family that sometimes spills over their respective plates, Steve and Mari don’t always get enough sleep. Whether simply due to a late-night with work or friends or the inevitable interruptions from two young boys, their sleep quality is not always the best. I tell them as I share with all my clients to do their best with their current circumstances. In essence, control the controllables, and leave the rest to God.
From the first night we met to the present, Steve and Mari’s mindset has changed completely. While they still enjoy their culinary indulgences, their total nutrition is much cleaner today than in our early months of working together. In fact, one of Steve’s associates just recently offered to bring him kolaches from The Little Czech Bakery in West, Texas. West is considered the kolache capital of Texas, and Steve LOVES kolaches. He said in the past, he would have asked for a dozen or more, which he would “graze” on for days. On this occasion, he politely said, “No, thank you. I’m good.”
I often share with my clients that good nutrition drives hard work in the gym, and hard work drives good nutrition. For some, one may be a more decisive influence than the other; however, bottom line, there’s clearly a positive cycle between training hard, eating well, and then getting the proper rest. Steve continuously validates this concept as he has said many times over the past ten months how good he feels physically and emotionally.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
You don’t have to be perfect to win. This is the best summation of Steve’s story. If his success in completely transforming his body from couch potato to athlete was tied to always eating perfectly, always getting enough sleep, and always managing stress, he would have failed miserably.
However, that’s not the case. Steve and Mari have lived the ordinary, everyday life of two hard-working parents who chose to be the exception and to make their health a priority. It’s not been perfect, but it’s been enough, and I believe the sky is the limit for them. I have been blessed to have them as my clients, and I think the best is yet to come.