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In this podcast, I interview Tara, who read Thinner Leaner Stronger and used what she learned to lose a total of 80 pounds, going from “morbidly obese” to super fit. She didn’t just lose a ton of fat, either. Tara gained quite a bit of muscle and got super strong in the process.

Before finding TLS, Tara was 204 pounds at 5’5”, and her doctor told her she needed to lose some weight. Like many people, Tara wanted to get in shape, but didn’t know how to do it correctly. 

She didn’t know what to eat or what to do in the gym, and like many women, started to do hours of cardio every day. She successfully lost over 60 pounds, but she was skinny fat and even more unhappy with her body than before.

Fortunately, she found my work through a conversation she overheard at the gym, and she read TLS. She learned all about macros and lifting weights, and started to train. The weight continued to fall off, and now Tara’s body composition was improving. She was getting stronger and gaining muscle, and her loose skin started to fill out. 

Now she’s about 127 pounds and in the best shape of her life. She’s followed the Year One Challenge For Women for 3 years and she went from being unable to lift the bar off her chest to barbell bench pressing triple digits.  

In this interview, Tara and I chat about her story, and the obstacles she navigated along the way, including how she changed her diet and training and overcame intimidation and fears of getting bulky, how her mindset has transformed, how her strength has progressed, what she’s working toward now, and more.

So if you’re looking for a jolt of inspiration and like motivational stories, definitely listen to this episode.

Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps! 


5:42 – Where was your health and fitness at before and after finding my work?

10:36 – How did you get back into fitness after getting burned out?    

19:32 – How did you get over the fear of getting bulky from lifting weights?

30:13 – How has your strength progressed on the program?

48:21 – What are your plans from here? Future goals?

Mentioned on the Show:

Books by Mike Matthews

Thinner Leaner Stronger

The Shredded Chef

The Year One Challenge For Women

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Mike: Hello, and welcome to a new episode of Muscle For Life. I am your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if you like my podcast, take a moment and subscribe to it in whatever app you are listening to, because one, it’ll. Make sure you don’t miss any new episodes. They will be queued up for you.

And two, it’ll help me because it will boost the ranking of the show on the various charts, and that will help other people find me in my work. So in this episode, I interview. Tara, who read my book, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, and used what she learned to dramatically transform her body, her physique, to gain a bunch of strength, to gain a bunch of lean muscle.

And her journey is an interesting one because. Some time ago, she was very overweight. She’s five five. She weighed 204 pounds. Her doctor told her she was morbidly obese, and that struck a chord with her and she decided to lose weight because that sounded really bad. And she had a problem though because she didn’t know what to do.

Her doctor didn’t. Good weight loss advice for her. So she just decided to do what most women do when they want to lose weight, and that is a lot of cardio, like a couple of hours of cardio every day and not a lot of food. And of course that works if all you want to do is lose weight. That approach did help her lose 60 pounds, but it didn’t give her the body she wanted.

As she explains in this episode, in some ways she preferred being much bigger because, for example, her clothes fit better when she was bigger, but now that she was smaller, Skinny fat to use her term for it. Her clothing didn’t fit right. Her body didn’t look right, and she had no idea what to do. She had put in all this work and lost a lot of weight like her doctor said, but she was not happy with her body then though she found my work through a conversation she overheard at the gym, which I.

And she found thinner, leaner, stronger. She read it. She learned about macros. She learned about energy balance. She learned about strength training, and she started to train. According to the book, she started to follow the thinner, leaner, stronger program, and she continued to lose weight and now lose fat because now she was also gaining muscle, so she was transforming her body composition.

Now getting strong. And the loose skin that she had from all of the weight loss was starting to fill out. And now fast forward to today, Tara is about 127 pounds. She is in the best shape of her life. She has done thin, leaner, stronger training for three years now. She’s followed the year one challenge for women three times, which you can absolutely do so long as you are still progress.

And she went from being unable to lift the bar off of her chest in the beginning of her strength training now to barbell bench pressing triple digits, which is pretty impressive. And so in this interview, I interviewed Tara. We talk about her story, we talk about some of the obstacles she had to navigate around along the way, including how she had to change her diet and her training, and how she overcame gym intimidation, particularly in the beginning and her thoughts on.

Fears of getting bulky and more. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, Stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef.

Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their. Body ever. And you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100% free when you sign up for an.

Audible account. And this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audio books for free, just go to Legion, that’s b y and sign up for your account.

So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn time proven. And evidence based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger for Men, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipes.

Hey, Terets, nice to meet you and welcome to my podcast. Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate. I appreciate being on 

Tara: the 

Mike: show. Yeah. These episodes are really just about people who have found me in my work and found it helpful and give them a chance to share their story.

A lot of people find them inspiring and they pick up little. Tips and tricks that can help them in their journeys. And so why don’t we start with a little bit about you and where you were at in your health and fitness before finding me and my work, and then where you at now, and then from there.

So we just have a before and after snapshot basically. And then let’s rewind and let’s hear the story of how you went from there to. 

Tara: Okay, so I am 31 right now, going to be 32 this fall, and I’ve been in the fitness space, what I would call for about eight years. Prior to finding you? I’m five five just for an image, and I was about 204 pounds at my heaviest, and that was eight years ago.

My doctor at the time told me that I was morbidly obese that I needed to lose some weight, and that was a trigger for me. I’d never really been referenced in that term before and it was something hard for me to hear, so I took that. And I ran with it. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what to eat or how to eat, and I had never had a gym membership in my life.

So what I did was went home. I threw away everything that was in a box because at the time, that’s just what people said. You don’t eat processed foods. And I got a gym membership and because I didn’t know what I was doing, I literally just started doing cardio. Two or three, sometimes three hours a day seven days a week.

And of course, as you can imagine, cutting out foods. And I also cut out alcohol. I lost a lot of weight really fast, and I ended up losing about 64 pounds in total j in just under seven and a half months. Wow. At that time, I had started to really enjoy fitness. I was watching what people were doing in the gym, trying to pick up on some things but still would never get in the region of dumbbells or bell barbells.

So I was using, any type of weighted bands or I was in like the side room where people couldn’t see you. That’s really how I started. Fast forward, probably three and a half or four years, people started talking to me and asking me for help when they would hear my story. And so I became more interested in learning and I just started reading online articles and that’s how I got into more.

Involvement in the fitness world in regards to not just showing up for myself. I fell in love with it. And over time really tried to just focus on becoming educated enough to change my career field. And then in the summer of 2015, my dad passed away and that was my next step in, in making a change.

After his death, I put on, I would say, what would be about 30 to 35 pounds over the course of a couple of years. It wasn’t fast. I was still eating clean, I was still going to the gym, but I had also made a career change. So I went from working behind a desk to managing for Snap Fitness facilities in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Got into the fitness space. I spent all my time around it. I started trading clients. I got certified as a personal trainer and a yoga instructor, and then, I ended up getting super burnt out from that. So over the time the course of my dad passing away and then also managing gyms, I got out of the interest of working out because it’s all that I did.

And in the summer of 2018, I quit my job managing fitness facilities and that’s when I actually found you. And I actually overheard somebody who now is a big part of my life. He was talking about bigger, leaner, stronger in the gym that I was working out at, in. And I picked up on it and I Googled you, and that’s when I found thinner, leaner, stronger.

So it’s been about three, just over three years since I found 

Mike: you. I love it. So many. Gym. Locker talk over hearing somebody mentioning I’ve just heard that many times. And of course I understand being in gyms for a long time the, there’s a big social component, but it’s always just nice to hear that my work gets word of mouth, cuz that’s ultimately for me, I think the biggest compliment is that somebody liked something I did enough to.

Others about it, that really is the goal, right? Of producing any sort of content whatsoever. And so then how did you get back into. Your own personal fitness and I can understand the experience you went through. I’ve gone through it to some degree in my own way in that before this is all I did.

It was something I did for myself and it was something that I did with with friends. That’s how I got into weightlifting and I really enjoyed it. And now it’s, All I do really is mostly all I do is work and I spend some time with my family and all my work of course, is focused on fitness and I wouldn’t say that I’ve, I don’t think I’ve even come close to burnout, but I will say that it has lost a little bit of its luster.

It’s not as, fitness is not as fun as it was when that’s all I’m doing, 50 to 70 hours per week. So I do totally understand that. 

Tara: Totally understandable. So when I say burnt out, what it was for me was because I went into the whole fitness from, honestly very uneducated. I lost all of that weight so fast without literally ever touching a dumbbell or a barbell.

So I honestly hated the way I looked, 64 pounds lighter than I did 64 pounds heavier, because while I was bigger, I was more filled out, if that makes sense. That term, skinny fat that you talk about, that is a real thing and especially as a young woman, having loose skin does not make you feel any better than just being overweight.

Frankly, it’s even harder because you fit into stuff really weird and it’s this whole new level of self consciousness. And I was frustrated because I ate Queen and I meal prepped every Sunday, and I ate the same thing five days a. all week, and then what would happen is I would either eat the same things on the weekend or I would binge super, super hard because I hadn’t had anything else.

 And. When I decided to quit my job and get back into fitness it, my plan was literally just to find someone else who had a plan and follow that because obviously what I was doing wasn’t working to get me that physique that I would see in images that I desired so badly. And TLS was that 100% opposite thing that I thought that I would be finding.

But when I ordered your. And I read it, Not only did it make it simple, but it made it confident. There was, it was easy to read, it was easy to follow along, and it literally answered all my whys. Like, Why am I not losing weight? Why is my skin so loose? Why don’t I look better, even though I’ve lost all this weight?

And it just solidified what I had done and where I had gotten, but also what I needed to do to progress forward. I was super intimidated when I started training with TLS because I’d never touched a barbell in my life and Jeremy, the guy from the gym, he had done bigger, leaner, stronger, so he actually kind became my gym buddy.

He coached me a little bit when I’d asked him questions. He was super knowledgeable on it. He had been using bigger lean or stronger for just a few more months than me, But it’s like you say, when you. Telling people that and you hear that other people know what it is. It’s like this group and they just get together.

And then I got onto the Facebook group for Thin, early, or stronger and would read people’s feedback on there. And then when I got really comfortable, I started giving feedback on there. But it gave me a ton of freedom. Obviously it’s losing weight and just my personality type. I like weight lifting because it’s always a challenge with yourself.

It gives you something to look forward to at the gym. It’s a way to focus on yourself and also challenge yourself. Every time you go in there and you’re programming made it super easy to always know what I was doing, and I had a goal when I’d walk in the door, so every time I left, even maybe if I only got a couple more reps that day, I was always.

Like I had made some success in my journey and that I really wanted to just learn. I wanted to take it slow. And so that’s what I did. And honestly, I’ve gone through your one year transformation three times now. I’ve lost a total of just over 39 and a half pounds. So in my fitness journey as a whole, I’ve lost about 80 pounds, and I am fitter now than I’ve literally ever been in my whole life.

And I’m just on the tail end. Getting ready to start my first lean bulk, and that’s my next step. And it’s a little terrifying coming from where I am, but I still have just a little bit of loose skin that I know isn’t gonna go anywhere unless I make a next step in progress. 

Mike: Yeah. And just to point up something that you said about showing up to the, to, to your workouts in a little bit of a friendly competition with yourself.

And I totally agree with that. And that’s one of the great things about training versus exercise. And exercise is great. I don’t wanna knock exercise, but exercise is more just. Moving your body for the sake of moving your body. And that could be moving your limbs Yeah. With resistance training exercises, or it could just be going for a walk.

Whereas training is a more systematic, methodological way of approaching your exercise, and it’s particularly important to have that. Training system as opposed to just an exercise system when you are in the process of transforming your physique. Because when you are training, like you just said, you know that if you beat your previous performance by just a couple of reps that you can, that’s a w you can pat yourself on the back, but if you’re just exercising.

Nothing, of course immediately changes in your body. You just, you got in there, you did something for 30, 45, 60 minutes, you sweat and then you just have to wonder like what was that any good? Did that matter? Did I get any better? I don’t know. And so that mentality is particularly. Helpful, and you’re probably experiencing that even more now when you’re an intermediate and an advanced weightlifter, because progress is slower.

And by being very familiar with training, it allows you to continue staying motivated because otherwise you may have developed strong enough habits to just keep going to the. But it’s certainly more fun when you have good programming and you can see slow but steady progress.

Tara: Absolutely, and I can say for certain, it’s definitely a W because there’s been a lot of things outside my own personal desire just. To look and feel good. The grief of my dad going to the gym and being able to show up and have a plan. So I didn’t have to think about anything, but just honestly, take out my grief sometime on the weight.

That was a big deal for me. And when you talk about. Actually training versus just moving. Truly the first couple of years that I lost weight, that’s all I was doing. I had no way to track progress besides the fact that I was losing weight. But it was in such an aggressive form that you obviously you plateau and then there’s only either you eat less or you move more, or maybe both.

And then it’s not enjoyable. And even now I will say the first year in tls, I had a really hard time breaking my. Honestly, addiction to cardio. And there were times I’d run and run, or I’d show up extra early and I just couldn’t get out of that habit. And then it was one of those things where, of course moving equals hunger in most times when you’re, especially when you’re in a deficit.

So there were times I had to remind myself like, I wouldn’t be this hungry if I would just get off of the treadmill or you. That was the hardest transition for me was getting out of that cardio state of mind, because that’s what’s pushed so hard in the fitness industry, especially for women.

I feel that’s where they’re comfortable. They don’t wanna get big and bulky and they’re afraid of picking up the barbell. I certainly was. So now when I go in there, it’s actually one of the biggest motivators for me is. You always, I almost always notice that women look at other women when they’re lifting weight and I feel like it’s a great opportunity to break the ice and talk to people about it and get them to maybe shift their mindset a little 

Mike: bit.

Yeah. And it’s almost inviting them to, to come try it, especially if they look you, if they look you and they’re like, Wow, she’s pretty fit. She doesn’t look big and bulky and she’s there squatting and deadlifting and doing all these things that the guys do. How was that when you initially started?

That’s something I wanted to ask about because of course that is something I hear from many women that they have to push themselves to, to trust. If they’re coming from thinly or stronger or some other work of mine where I’ve tried to be as persuasive as I can to. Just say, Hey, just give this like a month or two.

I understand if you’re concerned about being bulky, and let me walk you through why it’s not that simple, and just give me give me a month or two and I think you’re gonna be happy with what you see just in that short period of time. But you gotta make a little leap of faith. And if I’m wrong and it doesn’t work for you, fortunately you can just stop doing.

and whatever bulkiness you might have gained, you’ll quickly lose. So it’s really a, a win-win proposition. Let’s give it a go . Yeah, 

Tara: for sure. I will say, When I first started calculating my macros was the hardest thing for me because I went from prepping all my food and feeling like there’s no way I could be overeating.

When I quickly realized that I was undereating pretty severely on top of all of the workouts that I was doing. So I was as intimidated by the nutrition part as I was by actually going into the gym. And when I. Figured out what I was supposed to be eating and I got my scale and I followed through with what you ask in the book and what you suggest.

It was one of those things for me, but exactly what you said, hold tight for a few months because initially I did gain a couple of pounds when I actually started eating a true amount of calories and it. Like a light switch because the first two or three weeks I was really hesitant. The scale was going up and it was persistent after that for probably 13 weeks that I was losing weight.

So it’s a mindset shift. You really have to be open to just holding on. And then in the same question about the gym. It was intimidating. You always feel, of course, as a woman, like everybody is staring at you, and so I always saw myself like, Okay, if I’m gonna deadlift, I’m gonna bring the barbell in the back corner where hopefully less people will see me back there and then squatting.

Thankfully, the rack at my gym at that time was also in the back corner, so I did hide off a little bit for the first month or two until I got confident in my form and then it just turned into this thing. It felt so good to go in there and know what I was doing and not have to ask or wonder if this was gonna do what I wanted it to do, cuz I was just trusting the process and it was working.

Mike: And I think that’s a great tip for people who are intimidated, who are probably early on or are maybe about to start their fitness journey and who are intimidated men or women. It, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing exactly what you did. If you’re more comfortable picking the rack in the back, just go pick the rack in the back.

If you’re more comfortable taking the barbell somewhere where you’re not the center of attention, then do it. I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with. For 

Tara: sure. That’s, it was a good way to start for me. And now of course, 

Mike: I don’t think people should shame themselves like, Oh, I’m just a coward, or I’m no not at all.

No, I say I think that makes perfect sense. And if somebody feels like they, they don’t need to do that, and they’re okay with the level of discomfort they feel just grabbing whatever rack is. Then that’s fine too. 

Tara: Yep. And it’s different for everybody. And I think that even as an advanced weightlifter, there are times where, you walk into the gym and there’s a bunch of people and you’re like I wish there’s less people here.

Cause everyone just has that vibe sometimes. But there’s nothing wrong with. Starting in a place that maybe takes away less of the discomfort if it gets you to a place where you’re confident and at least being there. And that’s what I had to do for myself. So I would certainly suggest that for, men or women, everyone has their own level of comfort to begin.

Mike: And, I still, today I’m not uncomfortable in the gym, but I don’t care to get any attention. I like an empty or gym because then I’m not waiting for equipment. And although I’d say the gym that I go to the, all of the people I’ve spoken with are pretty, have been pretty cool there.

At least when I go there aren’t any over the top kind of weirdos or just obnoxious people? , but I prefer an ETI or gym because I’m there to do my workout and get back to doing my work. And, I don’t care to try to get any attention. I’m not I’m not all that strong anyway, but , I, yeah I can relate to that.

Even having done this now for 20 years. 

Tara: Yeah. So I am always curious, do you work out in a smaller gym setting or are you at a larger gym setting? What works generally best for, Do you hop around? 

Mike: No. There’s a Golds Gym that is eight minutes down the road from where I live. So I live in Ocala, Florida and there’s a great gold gym there.

I guess the story is I met the owner. Of it the other day. Super nice guy. I heard the story from somebody else. So this guy has a lot of money and he lives in this area and he wanted a good gym to go to for himself and for his buddies. So he bought a shopping center that had a supermarket. It was like a win Dixies or something, and he.

Then went around the country looking at different Golds gyms to see what he liked, different layouts, different equipment. And he just made notes out like this, Okay, I want to have turf. I want to have the, this type of body building section of the gym, which is pretty cool. Where they have a belt squat, which you don’t normally see, and they have a safety bar, deadlift platform, trap bar, a lot of hammer strength stuff.

And so after he had done his due diligence, I guess you could say, he then opened his own Gold’s franchise here in Ocala and just put a bunch of money into it. Bought a ton of equipment and multiples of almost everything. And I don’t use the pool, but it’s nice and it’s just a, it’s just. An impressively nice golds, and so I really like working out there.

And I go in the middle of the day, like I, I go around 12 or 1230 usually, and there aren’t many people, and anybody who goes to the gym around the same time every day knows that. You have your crowd then, right? So it’s usually the same people who are generally going. I, I’ve met a few of the regulars, couple professional bodybuilders, couple physique guys, and a couple other just random people, mostly guys.

The, not that I’m like trying to go up to talk to girls, but the guys tend to be more friendly. For whatever reason that seems fairly typical. . Yeah. Yeah, maybe. And couple of the women there are like, are fitness, a couple of them are competitors, and so they probably just don’t want to be bothered.

Again, it’s not like I’m walking around bothering people, but I do like to socialize a little bit. If I’m going to the gym every day and seeing the same people. I think it’s a little bit weird when I’ve been seeing the same people for three months, five days a week, and I haven’t even said hi. It’s.

I almost see it’s it’s I see it as, it’s just a bit, it’s not my personality and it also, it may be taken the wrong way where, not that anybody knows that I do fitness stuff and fitness or whatever, but I just think it’s nice to be friendly with people when you see them every single day.

But just like casual interaction. Yeah. Yeah. No know their names. Sure. And usually. The discussions revolve just around training or whatever, but that’s fine. It’s Yep. I think it’s certain feet get your workout done. Yeah. And I think it adds a little bit to the experience as well so yeah, so I really like that gym.

That’s actually one of my favorite gyms that I’ve trained in a long time. Just for the fa just be for the reasons I just gave and I’ll be staying there. Ba more. I don’t, I have no, I don’t even know if there’s another gym in the area because there’s no way it’s better than that.

So I haven’t even looked and I may no need to then. Yeah. I may end up putting, it would probably be in a separate building on my property. So I’m gonna be building a house and a barn. So we have a couple of horses and I may be putting. , another building on the property where I’ll put a home gym and a couple of other things like a golf simulator and stuff.

Kind of a man cave I guess. And so if I, All right, if I end up doing that, then I’ll train there, but. I will probably miss gold a little bit. I like the convenience, but then again, it’s only like an eight minute drive. I’m actually, I’m on the fence whether I even care to do it because I wasn’t expecting to like the gym as much as I do, 

Tara: yes, for sure. My gym isn’t far from me, which makes the commitment to that. I also, I’ve always chosen the five day split. I dropped down to four days, my second year in to thinner, leaner, stronger, just because. With my job and my business, it was easier for me to manage four days, but it lasted only for an eight week phase because I can’t go three days during the week without a lift.

, Yeah, I’m back to five days. I prefer five days. The gym that I lift at is an time franchise. and it’s about nine minutes from my health. So it’s easy to get too convenient and like you, The times that I’m there, I’m, I know the people that are there, so it’s just like casual conversation, but I know I can get in and out without a lot of in between chatting.

So I like to say I’m on a timeframe pretty much if I can, and then get to work. So 

Mike: same. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world. Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner.

Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded. Tell me about strength and how that has progressed for you and what that has been like to go from let’s just say you were not strong when you started. To strong, it’s 

Tara: honestly it’s a big deal for me, I feel in my life.

At 31, you look at accomplishments that you’re super proud of. And while there are definitely days in the gym, I get super frustrated. I look at where I started and just the intimidation level of literally laying on a bench with a barbell over me for a chest press and not being able to get it off of my chest to.

Now I just hit 1 0 5. I will say my chest press as a female, that is my least favorite exercise. The one I that’s strong, dislike and struggle with the most. 

Mike: That’s strong. That’s strong though. If a woman is bench pressing 1 35 to 1 55, that is like elite. That’s okay. Maybe not elite in the sense of.

An elite strength competitor. But as far as everyday gym going folk, people like us, maybe lifestyle bodybuilders if you will, that is elite level strength. That’s very, so anything over, once you’re in triple digits on the bench press you are strong. I 

Tara: appreciate that. That makes me feel a little bit pat on the back for my rough upper body today I, that I worked out.

My goal is to get to one 20. That’s just been something that’s been in my mind, I recognize that going into a lean ball for the first time, that will be more achievable for me. Yep. But I am at the point with, The cutting and I take diet breaks. I also take a deload every eight weeks. I am at the point where until I start eating some more calories, it is, I’ve noticed that I’ve plateaued.

It’s getting harder for me to push more weight. And that’s becoming When you start getting stuck and you’re not progressing as much, it gets harder over time, but I’m at this place where I’m super confident in my form. I’m confident I know when something doesn’t feel right. So maybe to back off the weight a little bit.

And then the other thing I’ve learned through TLS is just to, to pay attention. And I know that sounds so odd, but when you really are present in your lifts and you feel your body and you’re paying attention to what you’re lifting, it’s easy to know if you can push harder or if maybe you should be stepping back.

So when I first started tls, it was, you hit your top set at 10, you add 10 more pounds, while as my weight has declined and my strength. Increased. It was one of those things where my squat was the first thing I recognized. Like when I would get over that 165 pounds and I’d add 10 pounds to the barbell, it would really affect my performance.

And honestly, that’s the first time I really tweaked my back. So I, right now I got up to 180 5 with my squat for eight, and then was working with that and it was just my back. It always didn’t approve of that. So I tapered back a little bit and now I actually decided until I hit my lean ball to stay at 1 65 and just work in with that weight until I increas my calories.

I just wanna protect myself, be able to continue to lift but just knowing what you’re capable of when you put in the time it’s. It’s really like anything. That’s why people go to school. That’s why people do research. The more time and effort you give something, the better the outcome generally will be.

And my strength is surefire an example of that. And it’s great. I get, my girlfriends always laugh because I have a little bicep that sticks out when my arm lays flat. . And that’s like a strength, that’s like a strength image to me. So I. Super little things like that to be some of the greatest outcomes of lifting weights, , 

Mike: And that’s just a perfect example of, again, how hard it is to actually get bulky as a woman.

So you’re by objective standards, a very strong woman, and how you characterize a little. That show, it’s not what many women think coming into weightlifting for the first time. Where again they just have this picture of, Arnold’s biceps implanted onto their arms.

And, I know I can’t do biceps curls. Less to that happen. 

Tara: And that’s honestly a prime example. And I will say the bulkiness that women are fearful of, it’s not that. Not possible, but it’s not in the way that most of us, and even like myself thought to cause to be frank, had I kept my diet and my nutrition habits the same and started your program.

Yep. I would look bulkier. Yep. Because I was over 200 pounds and this whole thing started. But when you, your nutrition is in line. , you’re actually carrying a healthy weight. That type of lean muscle doesn’t do that. It op, it’s obviously it’s the opposite. My frame has shifted so much that I’m, I was just telling my boyfriend even in the last year that my shirts that I bought that I loved so much last year, in the past year, I haven’t lost a whole ton of weight, but my body has leaned out so much.

That stuff just doesn’t fit the same Idea of bulking up and getting bigger is it’s so far in view between, if nutrition wise you’re also committed to what your goals are. It’s almost impossible for that to happen in my eyes, and I’ve been doing this for three years. So I would definitely say to any woman that is intimidated by that or thinks that way.

It’s just almost impossible, I 

Mike: think. . Yeah. And what you are alluding to right, is body composition. And that’s just a big part of my message, particularly to women. With guys. They have other obstacles, right? But they want to look quote unquote bulky. But with women it’s really making sure that women understand body composition and why we’re looking at both lean muscle.

And body fat. And when you get the right mixture of both, that’s the look that most women are going after. And the, and that often does require more muscle gain than most women think. I’m sure in the beginning, I don’t know if you were already thinking with that you were going to have to quote unquote, gain a certain amount of weight to look the way you wanna look, but I know speaking with many women over the years that.

That was a surprise to them later. And if they were thinking with that early on, that was also something that they were suspicious of. Wait, Mike, you’re telling me that you want me to gain 15 to 20 pounds of don’t care what it is of anything and I’m gonna, I’m gonna look better like the, You want this 

Tara: scale to go up?

Yeah. For me to 

Mike: look better. Yeah. Yeah. This is oil and water, and you’re telling me. Things are going to mix perfectly. I don’t get it. But again, it’s just the, fortunately many women understand the theory enough to give it a go and then experience it firsthand, and that’s, I think what is really key is that they just need to see it working in their body firsthand.

Because reading about it and even agreeing with what I have to say is great for a frame of reference and great for intellectualizing something, but it’s very different to have the experience that now nobody can tell you. That you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re doing.

Nobody could tell you that, Oh, actually Mike is wrong about energy balance. That’s a, that’s an ancient relic that’s debunked. It’s all just about hormones. Because you have experienced it firsthand, you now know what works. You know what does not work. And you, you are inoculated now against all of the bullshit.

Tara: Yeah, and that is, that’s certain, because obviously at where I started it was one of those things where you hop online and you look how to lose weight and you’ll get anything from. Eat 1200 calories a day or less to do four hours of cardio a day and everything in between, and the keto diet and this and that.

So it’s one of those things for me that I honestly just needed something that was going to be cut and dry and TLS made that super direct for me. And on top of. I use all of your supplements. I take the multivitamin, pulse, and recharge are my best friends. , because early morning workouts still never get easier for some reason, or I just don’t get more awake.

One of the two. Yep. . Yep. 

Mike: I understand that. 

Tara: But the other thing too is I’d like to just talk about your book, The Shredded Chef, because. When you come from a place where you’re super restricted and people tell you that dieting is hard and it’s boring and it’s flame and you can’t eat what you want, and you have to make all these sacrifices, I remember talking to Jeremy when he, I learned about bigger, leaner, stronger when I discovered tls and when he, when people tell me what they were eating on that program, I was like, There is no way I’m eating chicken and rice.

Yeah. And broccoli. 

Mike: Even though I really try to tell people in the book, you can do that if you want, but I really wanna encourage you to Yeah. For. You know what, in a funny sorry. To, to just, I don’t wanna hijack the conversation, but just a quick, funny comment about that is, many people who previously they would’ve said, Oh I could never do that.

I could never eat one of those boring, bland, bodybuilder diets. I’ve heard from many people who they’ve learned about energy balance, and macronutrient mounts and all the fundamentals basically of flexible dieting. And so now they really understand how their metabolism works. Now they understand that.

Are no restrictions outside of what works well and does not work well given your energy expenditure and your goals. There are smart ways of going about it and not so smart ways going about it. And so then they may initially. Even take it as far as like an if, if it fits your macros, where they are not eating very many nutritious foods and they are losing weight, eating a lot of junk food, and that’s cool.

Then they get over that phase and then it’s something a bit more reasonable and then they find themselves later. In the boring body builder, bland diet, simply because, yeah, , because they’re no longer restricted, They no longer feel compelled to really eat anything else. Food has just taken it’s just not as important to them.

And variety in their diet is just not as important to them as it once was because they. Now know that they can have any and all of that stuff if they want to, but if they don’t feel like putting time into making elaborate meals, they can also just eat the tilapia and asparagus and rice too.


Tara: and you hit the nail on the head because I have been through all of those phases, like how hard can I push this if it fits your macros and still lose weight? And then you get over that and it was. Okay. I just seriously want a chicken breast tonight and I don’t want anything else. And now, like last night, I made your Parmesan and crushed pork chops from the shredded chefs.

Yeah, those are good. But that cookbook was my lifesaver when I was trying to get over the anxiety of macros and how to break it down and how to have stuff that wasn’t boring, but that was easy enough to make and didn’t need 48 ingredients. That book was the greatest thing ever for me. And I have a lot of go-tos out of that, but, It makes a big difference.

And a lot of the people that I refer over or that I train on a regular basis, I’ve either lent them mine or bought them one or sent them the Amazon link because it seriously, it just makes that much of a difference. And sometimes just having somebody, and it was like your program, having somebody else lay it out for you, takes.

Over half of the stress of doing actually producing the work. So I love that book. And I just thought I would say that cuz it’s great . 

Mike: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. And I totally agree that’s been my goal since the beginning with bigger, leaner, stronger, thinner, leaner, stronger, the shredded chef beyond bigger, lean, stronger, my more prescriptive how to books is to make them.

As paint by numbers as possible, and I’ve gone through several iterations of each of those books Next and new additions, and I’m actually wrapping up a new fourth edition of Bigger Leaders, Stronger and Thin Lean Stronger. Both of those fourth editions will be out later this year. B BLS is basically done, and then I have to go through and apply a lot of those changes to tls and.

There’s some stuff that is going to be unique just to tls and, similar to how the book is right now, where the fundamentals are the fundamentals, but I’m trying to make it as specific to women as I possibly can. Every example. Perfect. Some, some of the myths, some of the diet and training myths are more relevant to women than men and so forth.

And, but it’s from the beginning, it’s always been with. That goal that you just said is, I just want people to have something that lays it all out for them, where they understand why. I don’t want, I don’t want it to be a black box. I don’t want people to just say, Oh, I don’t really understand the underlying principles, but I’m just gonna follow what Mike says because he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

I really want people to understand why and follow the. Pinning of how all of this works, but then just give as much clear and workable prescriptive information as possible. Again, paint by numbers is the the analogy I like to keep in mind because when we’re talking about all this stuff we’ve been talking about on this podcast, that really is all that is needed.

You do need to understand the fundamental principles, and then a lot of it is, Here, do exactly this, and you will get to your goal. Now, if you are taking somebody who, let’s say it’s actually somebody like you, and certainly within the next year or two, what you’re gonna find is you have gained most of the muscle and strength that is available to you.

And if you were to tell me. Okay, Mike, I want to, I wanna, I want, I really wanna stretch for that final 20% of muscularity, or let’s just say muscle definition to use a term that resonates more with women. That’s still accurate and performance. Then that’s where a book, like Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, which I do plan on feminizing and creating a version of that book for women, which of course would be beyond thinly or stronger with the program updated specifically for women and everything I.

Really, make specific to women. I will do that. And so that would be then the next level of, okay, here are a few more things that you need to understand. And fortunately, it’s actually just doubling and tripling and quadrupling down on the fundamentals. But there are some new principles that you should understand and there’s some additional information you should understand in.

The context of the fundamentals, and then there is the application of it. So that’s a book beyond bigger Leaders, Stronger that I would recommend you check out. And of course it’s written toward men, but it’s not exclusively for men. The principles do apply just as much to you as men. And then with the program, I would guess that it has more upper body work than you.

You would probably want to shift some of. Upper body to lower body and that, that is pretty easily done. You, my guess is you would be able to do it just with what you’ve learned in the book. But if you need help, you could always email me. And I think you would find that a fun new challenge because given your numbers and given everything you’ve told me, I think you’re in a perfect place to increase the, it increases the difficulty a little bit, but it also increases the results like you’re at a good place to, to be able to do.

So do 

Tara: you think that would be a great next step as far as my first lean bulk and then maybe stepping into Reprograming? Yeah. Reprogramming that? Yeah. 

Mike: Yeah, I think that would be great. Perfect. And again, you can always email me if you have any questions. And I’m happy to help. And one other thing just you had mentioned with your back I don’t know if you’ve already done this, but you can switch from a barbell back squat, for example, if that’s what’s bothering your back a little bit to a front squat.

If that’s that’s a more back friendly squat maybe for. 4, 6, 8 weeks. Totally fine. Even longer if you need to, or Okay. If your gym has a safety bar, that’s also a very back friendly, It performs like a front squat. If you don’t know what a safety bar is, if you just search it, you’ll see.

And that’s another option that is very back friendly. And then the belt squat is another option. That’s a machine, so it’s not exactly the same, of course, as a free weight exercise. It is, it’s a great, it’s a great machine for a squat movement that puts no pressure on your back whatsoever. So I thought I’d also just share that cuz because it may be helpful.

All right. Perfect. Yeah. Tara, this was a great discussion. I really appreciate it and normally I wrap up with asking where do you want to go from here? And I guess you’ve answered that with Lean Bulking, but are there any other. Let’s say in the next year, two, three years, any other milestones that you’re working toward, whether they be performance related or physique related or some other aspect of your life that is impacted by your fitness?

Tara: Yeah, I guess truly the lean bulk comes with wanting to put on really to just get to that max potential. As a female in my lean muscle mass, I know. The loose skin that I have that’s left, which mainly is actually on my abdomen. A little bit on my arms, but that’s, that just comes from all of the weight that I lost and also how abruptly I lost it at first.

So I’m hoping by stepping into a lean bulk and being diligent and then coming back into a cut over time. I’ll have just a nice tone physique and not have that little bit of extra skin that’s hanging out. And that’s my next step for myself. Still working to get to that one 20 on my bench press

Yep. And other than that, just to keep progressing honestly I find so much joy in going to the gym and. Personal relief too. It’s a good stress relief for me and my daily life and I just love going, 

Mike: so That’s great. That’s great. I love it. I love to hear it. Again, thanks for taking the time to do this and definitely stay in touch.

Let me know how it goes with your lean bulk if you end up reading Beyond Belina Stronger. If you have any questions, let me know. But again, I think you’re in a perfect place. I think that’d be the perfect program actually for your lean bulk, because what you’ll find is going forward, you’ll find it probably harder and harder to keep progressing with tls, primarily because of the volume.

So with that program, you’re looking at nine to 12 hard sets per major muscle group. Per week. Maybe a little bit more for a couple, but that’s generally where it’s at. And that’s intentional because that is plenty for people who are new to this and it allows for a lot of progress. But eventually that is not enough volume to keep progressing.

And that’s one of the primary changes. There are a couple of other changes in the programming of the beyond approach, but the primary, I would say the most meaningful change is an increase in volume. So what you’ll start doing is something around. 14 to 16 hard sets per major muscle group per week.

But you’ll also do it, you’ll do that in a way where you’re gonna be deloading more often. You’re gonna be periodizing your rep ranges. So that may sound like it’s gonna be too much and it’s gonna be too hard, but it’s not. I can say it’s not. I’ve done, I’ve been running this program now for a couple of years, but I’ve heard from many people Have read BBLs and they’re doing great on the program.

And I had a group of people doing it with me initially when I was working on it. And so I would say it’s you’ll find it challenging, probably similar to, you’re probably gonna feel similar to somewhere in your first six to eight months of tls where, okay, you’re now comfortable. You’re comfortable, but you’re challenged.

It’s not easy. You’re working hard and. Anyway so I would love to, I always like to hear from women in particular who tweak that program because that is a book that I plan on writing. And so the more feedback I have from women who have done this, the better when I get to it, 

Tara: perfect. I will keep you posted. I think that’s a great place for me to start and glad I got to ask the producer of everything that question, cuz that’s pretty exciting for me and I’m super excited for that next step in my fitness journey. So I will definitely keep you posted. 

Mike: Okay. Awesome.

Great. Thanks again for doing this. Yeah, thanks 

Tara: for having me, Mike. It was nice to talk to you. Yeah, 

Mike: you. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for, muscle f or and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

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