This TikTok Sensation Lost 26 Pounds in 3 Months with Zero

Max Freidin, best known by his social media handle @DeepDarkDreams, is a self-proclaimed grandpa on TikTok. He has 1.8 million followers, many of whom recently followed along as he embarked on a 3-month health transformation with Zero. In the following conversation, he shares his journey to losing 26 pounds in 3 months, why he chose Zero, and the significance of his sexy leather jacket.

Q&A

Zero: What was your motivation for losing weight?

Max: Weight gain is gradual, you know? You don’t really notice the changes, but at some point the changes were just extremely obvious.

I’ve worked with famous YouTubers for many years. Then, when I blew up on TikTok, I also started consulting with brands. We’d have these insane, intense shooting days that are fun and crazy and exciting, but over time they really wore me out. Like, after 12 hours of shooting, you could scrape me off the sidewalk with a spoon. That was the first sign I needed to lose weight.

Also, my clothes didn’t fit anymore. On my first date with my now wife, I bought this cool leather jacket. A few months ago, I wanted to use that jacket for a video. I couldn’t put it on. Even if I pushed out all my air and held my breath, I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I was gonna rip the back.

Speaking of my wife, she’d wake me up in the middle of the night because I was snoring like crazy and she couldn’t sleep. I had to sleep on two pillows, almost sitting up, and I would wake up with a horrible pain in my neck. It was ridiculous. Plus, I had crazy back pain and developed sciatica. There’s this whole ordeal where I couldn’t get up from the floor.

But the biggest wake-up call was when I went to do blood tests. I knew I wanted to lose weight, so I asked my doctor for blood tests to get a baseline. Usually, you have to go back for the doctor to analyze your tests, but this time he called me, which has never happened before. My cholesterol was out of control. I had insane triglycerides. There was something wrong with my liver. So I went to see a liver specialist, and he said, “Listen, you’re fat. You’ve got a fatty liver; everything is off the charts. I’m gonna prescribe pills for you to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides.” And I said, okay, so when my levels go down do I stop the pills? And he told me no, you’re on pills for the rest of your life. That’s when I decided for certain that I was going to lose a bunch of weight and straighten up.

Zero: How did you wind up joining Zero?

Max: I’m a science buff. I don’t follow gurus; I follow the science. And when I did some digging, I found that intermittent fasting is probably the most scientifically sound eating style out there. It might reduce cancer, it stabilizes insulin, and it affects your mental acuity. 

Also, I didn’t want to feel like I was on a diet. I didn’t want to have to eat 15 times a day, and I didn’t want to get hungry. I was afraid of feeling hungry, because when you’re hungry, you’re not living, you’re just thinking about food all the time. What I was reading said that diets make you hungry, but fasting wouldn’t make me hungry.

I also very much believe in technology. I was looking for an app to help me with intermittent fasting, and one of the highest-rated ones was Zero. So I decided that’s what I would use.

Zero: What did your first few weeks of fasting look like?

Max: I decided my eating window was going to be 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. The first few days were fine because I was excited. I was starting my journey! I was gonna improve myself! After a few days, the excitement wore off, and it was a bit of a struggle. I work from home a lot, and for people who work from home, you know that you get up and visit the fridge every 15 minutes just to say hello. Then you lower your standards and open the fridge again to see if anything changed in there while you were away. In those early days, I would take my usual trips to the fridge and be like wait, wait, I can’t.

The thing that really motivated me during those first two weeks was Zero. The app is like a contract between yourself and yourself. When I press that big “Start Fast” Timer button, I’m accountable to myself. So even if I would think, I’m gonna have a tiny piece of chocolate, I knew I’d have to press the button to stop fasting. And because I physically didn’t want to push the button to feel that failure and see I’d only fasted for an hour or whatever, I wouldn’t eat the chocolate. It was incredibly motivational to get me through the first couple of weeks.

But here’s something amazing: After about a week or two, I kind of lost my hunger. And that was a big thing for me because I’m constantly hungry. After the first two weeks, my body got used to eating at noon, and I couldn’t have breakfast anymore. Eventually 12 p.m. would roll around, and I would forget to eat, which for me is like forgetting to breathe. I really stopped being afraid of hunger.

Zero: Did you make any other changes to your routine besides when you ate?
Max: I knew I needed to start exercising again, but I don’t have time for gyms. I’m a grown, busy person! You need half an hour to get there, an hour to work out, half an hour to get back and shower and eat — you wasted three hours. Who has three hours?

Also, I knew that if I tried to work out for an hour every day, it would hurt my motivation because I’d dread it. So I decided I’d do 20 minutes of exercise, plus four or five minutes of stretching. I built a tiny gym at home with simple weights, a mat, and a pull-up bar. That’s all I need. And the funny thing is, 20 minutes really is all you need — and everybody can find 20 minutes in their day.

This was something Zero helped me with, too. You can log activity minutes, and any time I didn’t log activity minutes, it felt like I was failing myself. There are beautiful graphs in the app that show your progression, and the last thing you want is for this graph to start going the wrong way.

Zero: Speaking of graphs, how much weight did you lose when you made these changes in your routine?

Max: I actually lost more weight than I expected. When I first downloaded Zero, I weighed 208 pounds. I was only aiming to lose 20 pounds, but in three months, according to my log in the Zero app, I lost 26.

Zero: Did you see any other impacts on your health?

Max: Well, importantly, I fit back into my sexy leather jacket, which I seduced my girlfriend with. But that was later.

The very first thing I noticed was that my morning mental fog disappeared. Normally, I’d have such a big breakfast that I would just melt into my chair afterwards. But the very first day I skipped breakfast, I felt amazing. It was the first time I concentrated for hours without segues running to the fridge or getting another coffee. I felt super focused.

The second thing that made it very apparent that this was working was that within two weeks, I stopped snoring. I finally started sleeping on a normal pillow, and my neck stopped hurting. My wife was beside herself, she was so happy, because she used to always need to make sure to fall asleep before me — otherwise she would be in trouble because of the snoring.

My actual sleep got better, too. I used to sleep, like, six hours and it felt like three. I wear a Garmin watch that analyzes my sleep quality, and I would score something like 50 out of 100 most nights. In the last 3 months, I’ve seen my sleep quality rise to where I’m hitting 85 or 90. I sleep about seven hours a night, and it’s really good, refreshing sleep.

Also, my backache went away, which meant I could make my workouts more intense. I actually jump rope, which you’re not supposed to do with a bad back, and I don’t have any negative effects. It’s wild. In fact, I’m in better shape now than I was in my early twenties. I did 15 pull-ups the other day, which I haven’t done since I was a teenager. I was shocked that I could do that!

I also got follow-up labs to check on the internal stuff. Four months prior, I was about four or five times the norm with triglycerides and cholesterol and with my liver function — completely in the red. Now, it’s all either in the green or almost in the green, right at the edge of normal. Totally insane. But that’s what’s great about science: You can actually see your progress, not just imagine it.

Zero: How did Zero help you be successful?

Max: Here’s the thing: If you decide you’re gonna change your body and you go to the gym today, you’re not going to see any difference tomorrow. Looking in the mirror, you probably won’t even see a difference in a week. But with the monitoring functions of Zero, I can see tiny incremental changes. 

Like, I lost a pound and a half after 3 days. I couldn’t see it on my body, but I logged it, and I could see the graph going in the right direction. Likewise, I logged 20 minutes a day of activity. After two weeks, I could see I’d worked out for two-and-a-half hours already! So even if you don’t see the changes in yourself, you see the incremental changes in the app — they’re clear, and they’re in your face. That’s motivating.

Zero: Did you experience any setbacks? 

Max: You know how any time in life you do something good, you feel good about yourself, and then you allow yourself to fall down a little bit? And then you fall down a lot. And then you fall down all the way. That’s usually how it goes.

Well, I ended up losing like 21 pounds in two months. I felt really good about myself, and I said, I’m a professional weight-remover now, so I can do whatever I want. It was my 40th birthday, and I got a huge chocolate birthday cake and ate some. Then, the cake was at home, so I kept eating it. It was my birthday, right? And I had a few snacks at night with my wife. And then we’d have friends visit, and we’d eat pizza and drink beer, and we’d go out to a restaurant late, at like 9 o’clock. But I’d justify it: I’m so thin right now, it’s fine. My birthday cheat day became a week, then a week and a half, then two weeks. Finally I weighed myself, and I realized my weight had gone up instead of down, and I’m like, what happened? Then I saw my activity minutes had gone down, too, and I realized I was falling off the wagon. 

Zero helped me realize what was happening much faster than if I hadn’t been using the app. Just like you can see incremental improvements, you can see when the graphs start trending the wrong way, long before you ever notice anything with your body or your health. Instead of falling all the way down, I just picked up the app. The return was very easy: Within 2 or 3 days, I was back on track, and within a week I lost, like, four pounds. It’s incredible that you can get back on track so easily when before, you had to gain all the weight and experience all the pain to do anything about it. Now you just press a button, you sign a contract with yourself, and you’re on your way.

Zero: Do you see fasting as a long-term commitment?Max: I am completely sold on intermittent fasting, and 16 hours is the sweet spot for me. It is so easy to incorporate into your life! When I’m working away from home, I’ll have lunch with people around 12 or 1 p.m., and then I come home at 5 or 6 p.m. and I’ll have dinner with my wife at 7. I definitely see myself doing this for the rest of my life. Honestly, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I could have been Superman for the past 20 years instead of the last 3 months, you know?

Posted in Q+A's

A weekly digest with the latest science and motivation.