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Inside Influence: One On One With Drew Manning

I spoke to Drew Manning, best known for his Fit2Fat2Fit experiment that went viral, about his path to becoming an influencer and his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to go behind the brand. First things first, though, what is something about you that the many people who follow you don’t know?

Drew: I grew up in a family of 11 brothers and sisters and I served an LDS mission in Brazil and speak Portuguese. I’m also part Hawaiian on my Dad’s side (hence the tattoos :))

Adam: How did you become an “influencer”? What is the inside story?

Drew: I grew up my entire life in shape since I played football and wrestled from a very young age. I never struggled with my weight, since I was always active. In 2011 I was a personal trainer and was having a difficult time connecting with my clients – particularly my brother in law at the time. He told me, “Drew you’ve been fit your whole life, you don’t understand how hard it is.” I would get frustrated with him and other clients when they couldn’t just follow the meal plans and do the workouts. He was right though – I didn’t understand. I had never been overweight and out of shape.

So I was thinking of how I could be a better trainer and better relate to my clients and I had one of those “lightning bolt” moments, where this crazy idea popped up in my head. What if I got fat on purpose and documented it? I felt instantly that I was being called to do this crazy idea. I even sat down at my computer and seriously tried Googling if anyone had done something like this before on purpose and I couldn’t find anything. So I asked my wife at the time what she thought about me gaining weight on purpose and documenting the entire journey. She was pregnant at the time with our second daughter and she said, “You mean we’ll have junk food in the house? Yes! Do it!” Haha, so that’s where it all started.

I decided to spend 6 months gaining weight, no exercise, no healthy food, and eat the standard American diet. I started a website and a YouTube channel, I did weekly weigh ins, I did food challenges that people following could vote on every week, posted videos weekly of the whole journey and it took off. When I did my final weigh in, I had gained 76 lbs in 6 months. It went viral! It ended up on the front page of Yahoo and MSN and my website ended up crashing that day. I was getting so many emails and news outlets were contacting me, it was crazy. I ended up going on Good Morning America, Dr. Oz and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During this I was contacted about writing a book about the journey and it was released at the end of the Fat2Fit journey. Then the book got turned into a TV show, where there are now two seasons of Fit To Fat To Fit where I coach other trainers through this process so that they can learn what I did: empathy, respect and a better understanding.

And yes, I did lose the weight in those following six months, just in case you were all wondering. Haha. But yeah, honestly, becoming an influencer kind of fell into my lap. I’m very blessed that Fit2Fat2Fit became what it is. Because before, during my Fit2Fat journey, I was working in the medical field, it was after everything took off that I took a leap of faith and quit my job to pursue this.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in working with influencers? How do you decide who to work with?

Drew: For me, when approached with business opportunities or affiliate relationships, I have to believe in what it is that is being offered. Whether it’s a product or partnership opportunity I need to have similar beliefs with the companies and believe that the product really works or has health benefits. It has to go along with my brand and what I stand for.

Adam: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming influencers?

Drew: It’s tough to find your niche, but I promise you that even in a saturated market like health and fitness there’s plenty of room for new up and comers with a new vision and a message that people need to hear! Also, be authentic, vulnerable and open with your audience. It’s easy to lose yourself and do whatever you are told when opportunities start presenting themselves just because it seems like a good business move. It’s also easy to get sucked into the hustle and grind that you lose sight of your personal life and relationships. Always take time out for some self care, whether that’s exercise, meditation, going to the movies or binge watching your favorite show. Take time out for YOU every now and then.

Adam: What is the biggest misconception about the influencer world and life as an influencer?

Drew: The biggest misconception is that life is how it looks on your social media – that everything is so happy and blissful, and there’s no heartache, or drama, or negative/sad days. We always portray the best version of ourselves on social media. Also, I would say that we always have all the answers. Sometimes as an influencer, we are insecure because we know we don’t have it all together, but we have to act like we do for our followers. It almost forces us to put on this mask of perfection all the time, when we are human just like everyone else.

Adam: What has being an influencer taught you about branding and marketing?

Drew: It’s taught me a lot about branding yourself and marketing yourself. It’s different when you’re marketing yourself as a product vs. marketing just a product. It’s taught me a lot about how that leads to conversions in this space. People aren’t just buying your products, they’re buying you in a sense. So you truly have to know and have an understanding of your demographic. If you don’t know, then you won’t be very successful long term.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Drew: My hobbies include hiking, beaches, spending time with my girls and travel! These have shaped me in so many ways. Hiking helps me to be in the moment, stay grounded and be grateful. Beaches help me meditate and bring me lots of pleasure and joy. Being with my girls reminds me of my WHY and what my real purpose is in life, and traveling gets me out of my comfort zone, which helps me to grow as a person.

Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and how do you pay it forward?

Drew: The biggest influences in my life have been via books, honestly. I’ve had life coaches and mentors that have helped me tremendously as well, but some of the most influential books in my life have been Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, The Four Agreements, Ego is the Enemy, Obstacle is the Way, Loving What is, The Art of Living, You’re a BadAss and probably a few more, but this will do for now probably. I pay it forward by sharing with others what I’ve learned over the years. I pay it forward by doing my best to be an example to others of the lessons I’ve learned from life in the 37 years I’ve been here so far. I pay it forward by being the best Dad I can be to my two daughters and teaching them what I know.

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