- Radio presenter Sonny Jay challenged himself to get in shape for his 30th birthday.
- In six months, he lost 24 pounds and built muscle by weight training and eating a high-protein diet.
- Jay didn’t cut out alcohol or meals with friends because he enjoys them, he told Insider.
Six months before his 30th birthday, on New Year’s Eve 2022, Sonny Jay decided enough was enough.
The radio presenter from the UK was done with yoyo-dieting and feeling bad in his body, and decided it was time to make a change.
Jay set himself the target of losing weight and getting fit for his 30th birthday on June 30, and knew he had to do something different if he wanted it to be sustainable this time.
He hired a personal trainer and didn’t over-restrict his diet, still going out for drinks and food with friends at weekends. He lost 24 pounds over six months — which is considered safe — dropping from 187 pounds to 163 pounds, and reducing his body fat percentage by 6% and increased his muscle mass by 6% too.
Jay has fallen in love with working out and how it makes him feel, he told Insider, and now plans to move into a maintenance phase diet-wise.
Getting better sleep was a game-changer
Jay saw the perfect opportunity to change his lifestyle when he went from getting up at 4 a.m. to work on the UK’s Capital Radio breakfast show — which he’d done for six years — to working 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on a new show.
After those early mornings, Jay was so tired he “had no motivation” to work out.
“Now I get up at a good time and make use of the day, then go to work in the evening,” Jay said. “I’ve just found that I’ve got so much more energy. Getting proper sleep has been the most important thing in all of this.”
Fitness coach Joe Wicks previously told Insider that sleeping longer is the best change people can make to lose fat, and research supports this — a 2018 study found that people craved junk food more when tired, and a 2022 study found that people who improved their sleep habits ate 270 fewer calories on average, without making any other changes.
The changes needed to be sustainable
Like many people, Jay had an indulgent December, so by January he was motivated to make some healthy habits.
“I decided I wanted to be fit for 30 because I’d never done it in the past,” Jay said. Having booked a trip to the Spanish island of Ibiza, which is famous for its beaches and nightlife, he wanted to celebrate his birthday feeling confident and fit.
Jay’s previous attempts to lose weight were always “half-assed” or unsustainable because he was too restrictive, he said. He would go to the gym once a month and search for quick weight loss fixes and ways to get a six-pack fast online, turning to fad diets and supplements that were supposed to boost fat loss — but nothing led to any real change or lasting results.
Over the past six months, Jay maintained a fitness regime for the first time ever — going to the gym multiple times a week and eating healthily — and has learned a lot about how to lose fat and build muscle sustainably, with habits he plans to carry into his 30s.
Jay didn’t give up alcohol or eating out to lose weight
Jay knew that for any weight loss to be sustainable, he would have to still enjoy his life — and that included going out for drinks with friends without feeling guilty.
“Since January, I have been drinking, because I do drink,” Jay said. “I love going out, I love socializing, I love going out for dinner.”
So he tried to stay on track by making healthy choices and working out hard the rest of the time.
“It’s just about the balance of it,” Jay said. “Knowing that I’ve had a good week, so I’m going to enjoy my weekend.” And then he would get straight back to it afterwards rather than throwing the towel in.
Jay downloaded the food tracking app, My Fitness Pal, and counted his calories and macros (which was entirely knew to him) to stay in a calorie deficit. He also ate enough protein, which aids weight loss because it helps you lose fat not muscle, keeps you feeling full, and also helps your muscles recover from workouts.
Jay made small calorie-saving tweaks like cutting out sugar from coffee, but on days when he just felt really hungry or lethargic, he would simply eat a bit more to boost his energy and fuel his body.
“Some days I might just need more carbs than others, and that’s fine,” Jay said.
Lifting weights up to 4 times a week aided body recomposition
Because he no longer had to get up so early, Jay felt he had no excuse not to exercise every day, and he knew that if he just sat still for most of the day it wouldn’t do his mental health any good, either.
To keep himself accountable when it came to training, Jay teamed up with a personal trainer friend and they worked out at the gym together three to four times most weeks.
Jay did weight training under the instruction of his PT, splitting workouts into body parts (eg. shoulders and back, biceps and chest, legs), potentially with a full body session at the end of the week too. Learning about the benefits of training a different body part each day, and thus allowing those muscles time to recover, was entirely knew to Jay, he said.
Outside of the gym on his own, Jay walked and used an exercise bike at home, he said.
“It’s a lot but I’m really enjoying it,” Jay said. “I’ve never been this person.”
Seeing his strength increase was motivating
There were, of course, days when Jay didn’t want to train or his body hurt. It was hard, particularly in January when it was cold and wet, he said.
Once he started seeing results though — both in terms of his appearance changing and his weights increasing in the gym — he felt extra motivated to keep going.
“When I could do even just one more rep of an exercise than I had done the week before, that was the cool part, knowing I’d got physically stronger,” Jay said.
“You don’t progress every week, it might be every two weeks, but that one session that you have that progression, it’s the most beneficial because it motivates you to then do another great week of workouts,” Jay said. “It’s just finding what you like doing and sticking to it.”
Jay has amazed himself
Jay never believed he would achieve what he has.
“If someone showed me a picture of how I look now in January, I would’ve bitten their hands off to look how I do,” Jay said.
But he has also been surprised by how much better he feels, he said.
“The ‘before and after’ picture looks great, but it’s feeling how I do now, getting up and having the energy to share with my loved ones, that’s priceless,” Jay said. “I just don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing.”