I watch fitness vlogs like it’s my insane passion now. Lots of information to take in. Sometimes, you get conflicting information. I’m not a scientist, nutritionist, etc – I write this for me, but I also write this for some folks out there who might need a push to get off the couch. As of this writing, I’m down 71 pounds from my high last September. A lot of the early weight came off from semi-starvation and ridiculous cardio, which ended up getting me hurt.
Sometimes, you just want to wake up the next day and have the weight gone. All of my life I had problems, sometimes far worse than others. Taking off weight from time to time wasn’t terribly hard. However, I’d get to a number, it wouldn’t move, then I start going backwards. Motivation then left me…and *poof* I gained the weight back and more.
For me, this time it’s different. There’s no gimmicks. No tricks. But there are things that I wish I knew when younger. Remember, when I was a kid, eggs were terrible for you. Then they were ok. Then terrible again – now, it turns out, the cholesterol in eggs, or most foods, doesn’t really affect the cholesterol in your body. So…science changes as you get better information.
If I could give my younger self some tips….some of the BEST tips? Here they are:
- Drink water. Lots of it. I used to drink a few diet cokes a day. I was chronically dehydrated for 2-3 decades. This sort of made a lot of difference. I have a killer water bottle (embrava). I have one of those fridges with the water dispenser, and I got endless water at the cooler at work. I am drinking 5 quarts a day. No joke. Water also helps with reducing hunger. In the last 11 months, I think I’ve been STARVING like 6 times. This level of hunger I used to reach daily by 11AM, then make shitty choices to hit the drive thru. I’m telling you, this is one huge key. Not diet coke. Not diet anything. Water.
- Get sleep. I mean real sleep. I’m up at 4:45 for work every day. I hit the bed by 8, and take a sleeping pill and a melatonin. Out by 9. I spent sooooo many years giving two shits about what’s on TV. I’ve unplugged all but 5 or 6 shows, and DVR everything. Sleep makes a massive….massive difference. And, when you exercise, your quality of sleep improves. I wake up sometimes at 4:40 jumping out of bed. Being severely dehydrated and getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night while you’re a smoker? Yeah, terrible sleep – you’re perpetually tired, and you are too tired to exercise or cook.
- TRACK EVERYTHING YOU EAT. Today, with MyFitnessPal, it’s easier than ever. It literally takes me 3-5 minutes a day to track everything. This helps you plan your meals in advance knowing what your calories and macros look like. Many times I’d just eyeball stuff. Yeah. When you eyeball stuff and just don’t know what the deal is, you could easily misjudge by 500-1,000 calories per day.
- Meal prep. Anyone who has seen this blog has seen me post tons of pictures. My new insanity? I made up 42 ground turkey meatballs in the oven, then I added them to pasta sauce to cook for another 25 minutes. I put 6 meatballs and 1 cup of my sauce into each container, for 400 calories each. I then make up (fresh) 2 medium zucchinis with my vegetti zoodle maker. When I make the zoodles, I’ll use a little olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. In 5-8 minutes, your zoodles are done. Nuke your frozen container of meatballs for 5 minutes, stir, uke for another minute. In 10 minutes, you have an AWESOME and filling dinner for about 600-700 calories. Anyway – meal prep has been amazing for me. It is, without a doubt, a difference maker. I believe anyone can do it.
Above, you see the meatballs in the sauce – then what it looks like re-heated and added to the zoodles. It’s quickly becoming a favorite meal of mine, all time. Last, I bought some fresh sweet corn on the way home one night, and while I cooked up the corn, I re-heated my chicken/limas/green beans. It is a VERY filling dinner for about 600 calories.
- EAT. I was so concerned with creating huge calorie deficits, I would eat 1200-1600 calories a day. For a man of my size, it’s just not enough. Then I’d exercise my face off, and 1-2 months in, I’d routine get hurt. I wonder why. My trainer has had me starting at 2800 calories, then down to 2400, now about a month ago, reduced to 2300. So – don’t try to “go big, or go home” if you’re someone who is massive. This may set you up for long-term failure. WORK THE PROGRAM. Each week, you WILL see the scale go down. Do not think of your 100 pound weight loss as something you can do in months, it will take you YEARS. If you want to do it in a short time – I can tell you, I feel you’re risking injury or even long term damage to your body. For me, it took me 41 years to build up my size, I wasn’t going to lose it in 3 months. Additionally, I’m petrified of the “loose skin” stuff. Well, if you take it off over 203 years, lift weights, have tons of omega 3s and other healthy fats, lots of water…you have a pretty decent chance of avoiding the worst of it. If you drop 100 pounds in 6 months, you’re just going to look like a dude with a giant skin coat on you. Not really going to help your self image out, but you will have taken off 100 pounds. So….consult a trainer, get your BMR, and eat!!
- All calories are not equal. This is something I heard 8,000 times before, but it never really registered until I tracked everything, all the time. Most of my meals are 500-600 calories. I’m usually pretty satisfied with them all. I try to get a balance of protein, carbs, and fats in every meal. What you start to learn is a really good cheeseburger and fries might clock in between 800-1,300 calories, depending where you go. Ketchup is not “free calories”. Shit starts adding up. Only after you have done this 200 times do you start to realize that this is something you are supposed to have once in a blue moon rather than once every 3-5 days. I just realized yesterday that it’s been 5 weeks since I’ve had a slice of pizza. You do NOT understand. I was probably ordering pizzas 1-2 times a week with my old self. Even when I started ‘healthy eating’, I’d still work pizza into my routine at least once a week with a “cheat meal”. I just don’t crave it anymore. Hard for me to come to grips with this, it was a staple of my life for 20 years. When you start to figure out the ridiculous volumes of food you can eat for 700-800 calories – you then don’t want to 200 calorie cookie or the 500 calorie slice of pizza.
- Have cheat meals, not cheat DAYS. What I mean by this is life happens. Maybe you and the wife are out shopping and you want to get a slice or two at the mall. OK. It happens. Count the calories. Maybe for dinner that night, you eat a salad and chicken breast. This means you can have your pizza…or ANYTHING YOU WANT…just make sure you don’t go over for the day. I would probably start with 3 cheat meals a week, then drop it to 2. Now, I don’t even think about a cheat meal. It used to be something I looked forward to on the weekends. Today, I was shopping for filet or salmon for dinner at the market this morning. Your ridiculous cravings will go away over time, trust me.
- Try new things – and go towards omega 3’s. When I was a kid, I would get an awful gag reflex to new food. I don’t know what it was, but if it was a food I did not know, I would get instantly nauseous and get a gag reflex. This kept me, most of my life, from trying new things. If you’re a guy in his 40s, or someone trying to lose a lot of weight, you’re going to want to really look into omega 3’s. There’s the plant-based type, which you get with your avocados, olive oil, etc – then there are the meat-based ones, which you can get in your free range eggs and salmon (and some other fish). One note of caution – omega 3 fatty acids = good for you, omega 6 fatty acids = not good for you. What you then find is that wild-caught salmon has like a 6:1 or 9:1 ratio of the good omega3’s to omega 6’s…and the farmed salmon has 1:1. So if you’re going to try salmon, you might as well get the good stuff. I made some up last week and was pleasantly surprised!! I’m not a “fish eater”, so I’m really happy I was able to eat it. So – apparently the omega 3’s in salmon are of a ridiculous quantity, and help with creating testosterone and fighting the dreaded visceral fat. The visceral fat is the hard-to-lose fat that is in the tummy area. So when someone is dropping 100 pounds, barely eating, and not drinking enough water – they get the “loose skin” which essentially contains visceral fat they didn’t lose. Eating properly and adding omega 3s into the diet will help you be “heart healthy” but also help you lose the visceral fat. Properly eating will also get you the nutrients you need for collagen and repairing your body.
- Back off on the cardio. I LOVE to run long distance. But, my body is still overweight, and while I love to do it…I’m putting a terrible pounding on my body with running. Biking is less stressful on the body. So is swimming. Exercise is important, but don’t overdo the cardio. I use strength training, and since November 18th, the fancy scale I step on at the gym had me gaining 20 pounds of muscle. Not only does this help the metabolism stay high as you lose weight (meaning you can EAT!), but it also helps you put a frame on your bones for when you lose all that weight. Part of my plan is to get to a 200-210 area with 20% bodyfat. Right now, today, my “fat free mass” is 170 pounds. If my math is correct, that puts me at 212.5 pounds with 20% bodyfat. I figure I’m a year or less out from this, but my point is when I hit that weight, if I want to lose more from there – I might up the cardio and slowly try to lose some of the muscle to take me down to 190 with 15% bodyfat. I’d love to maintain a 180-190 pound body and be able to run/bike/swim the rest of my life!! Anyhow – if you want cardio, take a look at HIIT in the gym which will most definitely get you your cardio, build muscle, and shed pounds from you. I feel I’m still too heavy for that, but when I’m at the 230 or so range, yeah…HIIT is coming my way!
- Immerse yourself. I’ve mostly cut off a lot of the bad influences in my life. The triggers that might used to have had me emotionally eat are gone. I’ve dealt with stress better. I’ve eaten cleaner foods which has completely stabilized my moods. I watch vlogs to get more info and absorb it. Daily, I try and do something – whether it’s walk the dog, take a bath, food prep, or hit the gym. I am laser focused, and after 11 months of doing this, people around me are starting to support me with it. I want to “talk shop” with people who are into fitness. I want to meet new friends who go biking on the weekend. I want to “go hiking”. I want to drop weight and kayak on a lake. The life I’ve wanted to live is coming my way – it just happened to take me nearly 42 years to live it.
- Music. I used to try and find good music for workout lists. I gave up. Fuck it. You know what? MY MUSIC is what I get. I don’t care about your workout shit. Maybe I just want to listen to a little Air Supply when on a jog. Maybe I’m mowing the grass to Fastball. Maybe I’m walking the dog to ZZ top. Maybe I’m swimming to Tom’s Diner. Fuck what people think. You do you with your music. Music was something that moved me – and I’m planning to get my Bach Stradivarius Bb trumpet. I used to have one in high school. It was pretty bad ass. I wasn’t. I was a nerd. But music? Wow, what it did to me. I think one of my favorite songs of all time is Nature Boy – as covered by John Hassel. Dear God. That’s the sound I used to have, so yeah, I could play that. I never heard it before about 10 years ago, just after I sold my last trumpet. Below – here’s a picture of me in 1993 playing taps at the Morgantown Memorial Day Parade. If you want to hear what I sounded like, my director recorded our last performance for 1994, the last of my HS career. Particularly in “whole new world” and “star trek medley”. I owe a lot to him – and this was able to preserve for my son what I sounded like! Anyway – as far as tips go, find music. Whether it’s MP3s, satellite radio, or learning to play an instrument. It just helps center me, and I wish I had never sold my trumpet!!