But in just one year, Ingraham found himself in an unrecognizable place. His family grew by one as he and his wife welcomed a baby girl. He took on a new job as the executive chef for the Cleveland Indians—a dream gig for a former college baseball player, especially when the Indians found themselves in the World Series that year. Between the demanding hours of his job and caring for a baby at home, his fitness routine took a backseat.
“That whole season, I didn’t take any time for myself. I don’t think I worked out once,” says Ingraham. “Everything from there just spiraled out of control. I wasn’t getting sleep and I was so busy that I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating. I’d just grab whatever was convenient.”
He could feel the pounds creeping on. But then, he received an email inviting him to take part in a 90-day fitness challenge. The workouts and nutritional advice were included, and a cash prize was up for grabs. Ingraham felt he could easily win with his athletic background, so he snapped his “before” picture, which you can see on the left in the composite above. Tipping the scale at 100 kgs, he had a lot more work ahead of him than he originally considered.
“I didn’t realize what I had become until after I took that picture,” Ingraham says. “I was devastated. That was not the guy I ever envisioned myself being.”
Making time for exercise with his hectic schedule was complicated—but that excuse was put to rest and he started setting his alarm for 5 a.m. every day. Ingraham knew if he slept in, he just wouldn’t get a workout in, and one skipped workout could easily snowball into a week without movement.
For 90 days, he went hard, following the program religiously. He focused on strength training coupled with 3-mile runs five times a week. After three months, Ingraham 5 kilos, but didn't win the challenge. He was both shocked and frustrated when he saw the guy who had won, confused as to why he personally hadn't had better results. So he signed up for another 90-day challenge, this time determined to figure out what he did wrong.
Now, Ingraham's “dad bod” is a thing of the past—and he believes anyone can carve rock hard abs if they dedicate themselves to the following lifestyle changes.
1. Commit To a Workout Schedule
After researching the ins and outs of weight loss, Ingraham discovered he was making a lot of mistakes. “I wore myself out and wasn’t getting enough out of my workouts because I wasn’t giving myself a break,” he explains. “The second 90 days, I took Wednesdays and Saturdays off. It helped. The day off even made me hungrier the next day, I looked forward to my workouts more.”
In addition to his rest days, he traded his long runs for bouts of high intensity interval training (HIIT). Every morning, Ingraham would start off with exercises in his garage, ranging from barbell and dumbbell lifts to bodyweight exercises like dips and pullups. Instead of performing a certain number of reps and sets, he worked to failure for each exercise, until he could only do three to five reps of a single move. “I don’t count until it starts hurting,” he explains.
Then he’d head over to his local park, set up two cones about 10 metres apart, and do 10 to 20 minutes of HIIT about three times a week in addition to his lifting. “I will do something like sprint back and forth to the cones, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 10 minutes,” says Ingraham. “I’ll also mix up the exercises, too, like do jumping instead of sprinting, but it’s never longer than 20 minutes.”
As a father of two with a demanding job, he's realized the importance of a set schedule. “For me, the only time I can work out is early in the morning. I lose an hour of sleep, but that’s the way it is. I have to be completely done by 8:00, every day. That’s when my daughter wakes up. I can’t just tell her to go back to bed until I get my workout in.”
2. Limit Your Booze Intake
While he had settled into a new gym routine, his diet wasn't an immediate priority, so Ingraham started paying more attention to what was on his plate. “I realized I wasn’t eating simple enough. I cut out processed starches and simple carbohydrates. I cut out dairy,” he says.
He also gave up booze: “I always loved alcohol. There was a point in my life that I even got really into wine, and considered becoming a sommelier,” he says, “but I realized that it was something that I needed to cut if I wanted to see the results I was hoping for.”
While it's tough, “it’s empty calories. You might sacrifice a social event or two, but if a big change is what you want, you have to commit 100 percent,” he explains.
After that, the small diet changes kept coming. “I realized I could just have a taste of something instead of having an entire portion,” he says.
3. Cook At Home
Even coming from a pro chef, Ingraham believes that preparing your own meals makes you more aware of what you’re putting in your body. Plus, it takes away a lot of the temptation lurking on restaurant menus. (Check out some of his meals on his Instagram.)
Science backs him up: In one study, U.K. researchers analyzed survey data from more than 11,000 men and women and found that people who downed more than five home-cooked meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have be overweight and 24 percent less likely to have excess body fat than people who ate less than three home-cooked meals per week.
Ingraham knew he was onto something when he started seeing abs that he never knew existed and feeling better than he ever had in his life.
It’s been more than 200 days since Ingraham started exercising again. Now he weighs in at 87kgs, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. “In a way, I still feel like I have more work to do, so I don’t want to let up now,” he says.