updated 10/23/2011 7:14:02 PM ET 2011-10-23T23:14:02

A once-buff Utah personal trainer has deliberately stopped exercising and watching his diet in an effort to empathize with overweight clients.

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Drew Manning, 30, of Eagle Mountain, began letting his body go to waste on May 7 after he heard from clients that he really couldn't understand what they were going through, the Deseret News reported.

Now, Manning is preparing to embark on a second six-month period dedicated to losing the 70 pounds he has gained and restoring his present 265-pound body to what it was.

"To me it's worth the risk I've put my body through, being overweight, putting my body at risk in a lot of medical ways. if a few people get inspired to live healthier," he said.

He said he'll start his fitness regime Nov. 5 by eating healthier, which he thinks makes a bigger difference than anything else. Since May, he has eaten what he describes as "a diet of typical American foods," including fast food, sodas, white breads, pasta and high-sugar cereal.

"What you put in your body helps your body so much more than exercise alone," Manning said. "Now I understand a little bit more of how hard and how real addictions are to foods."

Manning, a longtime fitness enthusiast who has two children, said the weight gain has taken both a physical and mental toll on him.

"I don't have the energy I used to," he told the Deseret News. "My wife feels like I've become lazier. I don't help out as much. I'm lethargic. I'm more self-conscious, nothing feels like it fits right. I'm uncomfortable in my own skin."

But what he calls his Fit2Fat2Fit program has given him empathy for overweight people, he said. He now struggles to climb the stairs in his home and resents seeing joggers outside.

"I've always been in shape," he said. "I've never had to struggle with being in shape, I've never had to struggle with being overweight, so, for the first time in my life. I figured why not better understand what some of my clients go through."

Manning is conducting a fundraiser for the rest of his program in which donors can pledge a certain amount of money for every pound he loses. The proceeds will go to The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which targets childhood obesity.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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