Fit & Fab: a couple tough it out in tandem
Sean Macfarlane, a magician, recently pulled off one of his greatest tricks yet: losing 12kg and 10cm off his waist in 90 days.
But it wasn't magic behind the 42-year-old's transformation; it was all sweat and a few tears through an online health and fitness programme called the Peak Condition Project (PCP). His girlfriend, Cecilia Aiello, who did the programme with him, lost 7kg.
The duo took on the challenge together after their romance - fostered through a mutual love of Din Tai Fung dumplings - caused them to gain weight.
Aiello, 30, a law firm office manager, was captivated by the astounding "before and after" photos on the website thepeakconditionproject.com "I was also hooked by the philosophy that I was missing the motivation needed to sustain such a lifestyle change," she says.
Macfarlane, on the other hand, was less enthused: "I didn't want to join," he admits. "I only did it to keep her happy."
But once signed up, he embraced the experience and its effects have astonished them. "I didn't know that Sean was such a slender guy underneath," says Aiello.
He was surprised that Aiello finished the programme at all. "I thought she was going to wimp out."
His doubts - which she herself had - were understandable given she had "zero fitness history, a lifetime of inactivity, and a deep love of sitting on my ass".
But 90 days later, through tenacious adherence to the regimen, she emerged lighter, more toned and with better posture. "I even feel taller walking down the street."
Even though they were on the programme together, they saw less of each other due to its daily mandates: blogging, one-hour-plus workouts, nightly food preparation and eight hours of sleep.
But they made up for it through emotional support and working out together in a playground in Macfarlane's building, where he would help Aiello with her form. "I'd push myself that little bit harder when I was training with him," says Aiello. "I would show off a little bit."
What's the training buddies' next project? "It's my dream to ride a bike through the rice paddies in Vietnam," says Aiello. Macfarlane agrees; he doesn't need convincing this time around.
What has been your training buddy's best improvement?
Sean: Cecilia's improved in so many areas: her posture is great and her skin is always glowing. Her commitment to exercise and eating well really took hold and now she rarely deviates from the PCP principles - it was very motivating for me and helped me finish strong.
Cecilia: Confidence. After proving to himself that he has the mental and physical strength to complete something as challenging as PCP, Sean is confident that he can achieve his other goals in life.
What's your favourite song to work out to?
Sean: I like the 1980s stuff. Van Halen's Jump got me revved up during my skipping training.
Cecilia:We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel. I would listen to it on repeat and sing the chorus out loud.
What's the one food you missed the most while on the PCP?
Sean: For a long while I was craving chocolate. However, I got my fix on my birthday when a friend gave me a huge box of chocolates - I demolished it in a day and a half. Ice cream comes in a close second.
Cecilia: I mostly missed processed sugar and desserts. I never thought I had a sweet tooth until I cut processed sugar out of my diet and realised just how much I craved it. I was totally oblivious to how habitual indulging in these treats had become.
What is one thing you've taken away from the programme?
Sean: Eating well is 80 per cent of the programme. I felt better instantly after taking control of how I fed myself. It makes a huge difference to how I feel physically and emotionally.
Cecilia: That I can be fit and healthy. I never thought it was possible for me to get there.
What would be the first "rule" of the programme that you would let go of?
Sean: Early morning skips. I am not a morning person and was barely able to implement it.
Cecilia: All the "rules" of PCP make so much sense in maintaining a fit and healthy body, like eating lots of fruit and veggies, using less oil, avoiding salt and getting plenty of rest. But avoiding desserts is hard when eating out, so I think I'd let that go.
What did it mean to you to have a training buddy?
Sean: It made it fun and more meaningful to give and receive support when it was needed.
Cecilia: He was my rock, my cheerleader and my fellow traveller on the PCP journey. It would have been lonely without him. And the shared experience has brought us so much closer together. I see the man he is when the going gets tough.