So yesterday I hit the scale and it was 76.6 pounds lost. Big day for me!!
I’ve been sharing a lot of tips/tricks on this page, and I encourage anyone to go to my main page and type in “update to healthy living” and you’ll now receive 41 blogs of information.
In this post, I want to focus on the “big picture” of working mechanisms. If you have 200 pounds to lose, great. If you have 10 pounds to lose, great. It’s the same mechanisms.
First, you have to de-program yourself from “the biggest loser” way of thinking. This is essentially what got most of us into this mess. Lots of different “diets” over the years. Wanting a magic pill. Crash dieting is a way most of us felt we could be the exception; that we are better than the people who failed. While we have this drive to succeed, it’s misplaced, and the energy expended on this venture more often than not results in massive weight loss followed by either injury, life events, or plateau – which is then followed by rapid weight gain. All of those months you took off weight, erased in 1 month of eating poorly.
Understand where you are. Some of you out there are fucking gorgeous people who feel they need to lose some weight due to the airbrushed images on magazines. This is also a fallacy. Watch the many youtube videos out there on how they make these models look “perfect”…by sometimes thinning arms, making necks longer, slimming thighs – all of this gives you an unrealistic picture of beauty.
Your goals in this stage:
- Get a plan for 1-1.5 pounds of weight loss per week
- Be the best version of you
- Understand why you want to lose weight, be honest with yourself, not others
The last item there, “why lose weight”? Over the years, perhaps it was a comment made to me. Perhaps I felt horrible. Perhaps a girl let me down. Perhaps I didn’t feel good enough. All of these items were some sort of emotional drive that would get me going, but were never enough to sustain the crazy diet I picked or the insane amount of exercising I committed to on paper. For me, I really kind of felt the cold breath of Death visiting me – and I’ll tell you, that’s a fucking motivator. You cannot rationalize your way out of that conversation.
Also – vices. This might be a touchy subject for many of you. You want to tell me that it’s “not a good time”, or “that’s not the issue”. Well, once again, I had some conversations with Death that told me the time was now. If you want to tell me it’s not a good time because you are stressed out, then you might as well click off of this page. Food/exercise will help heal that stress.
I’m going to try to not get into TOO much math here, but it has to be part of every conversation you have with someone at the onset of a program.
One pound is equal to 3500 calories. Each one of us burn a different amount of calories. Calories are burned/expended by just existing. Breathing, sleeping, thinking, eating – and your BASE amount of calories you burn just by existing is called your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR. Your current body composition determines what that number is. I have gone to my local gym who has a fancy scale and got this from them. My BMR at this moment is about 2550. When I started this, it was 2800. The skinny here is muscle burns a LOT more than fat, and it takes up a fraction of the space.
When you run, bike, etc, you will burn MORE calories than your BMR. If you’re a heavier person such as myself at 295 (currently), then you will expend more energy to run a mile than someone who is 180 pounds. By a lot. So, there are calculators out there that can help you understand how many calories certain exercises burn. Weight lifting does not really do a lot with burning calories – at the start, so over the years I shied away from this. However…it will burn calories while you’re asleep, and build muscle on your body which makes your BMR go up or remain steady while you’re losing weight.
So for me, I am targeting 300 calories UNDER my BMR in order to lose weight. Over the course of one week, if I do nothing but sit on the couch, eat 2250 and watch TV, I will create a deficit of 2100 calories. Meaning, I could lose over 1/2 pound per week doing NOTHING, as long as I hit my calories.
When you add the gym, running, biking, walking, etc, you then burn more calories in a day. I have a fitbit and it tracks a lot of this for me…some days I’ve burned over 5,000 calories!! These tools are not exact, and should be used for guidance, not for exact scientific calculation.
Energy is stored in your body in two places – your muscles as “glycogen” and your fat cells. Glycogen is ready, easily accessible energy which you expend when running, lifting, etc. When this gets depleted, it will tap into your fat cells to grab some energy. Or so it’s thought. Others who do “zone training” believe that your heart rate may determine where you’re pulling some of this from. For example, a slightly elevated heart rate may be called the “fat burning zone” where if you walk for an hour, you’re taking your energy directly from your fat cells and not from your glycogen stores (mostly). The fact that these things are up for debate is somewhat scary – given it’s a $70 billion industry and we don’t exactly know this answer yet.
One major fallacy I used to do was to cut to 800, 1200, or 1600 calories a day and do tremendous amounts of exercise. When you do not fuel your body enough…over time…bad things happen. Either you don’t get enough nutrients to repair the damage you did exercising and get injured, or you start to hit a plateau – forever – because your body goes back to caveman times and thinks you’re in starvation mode. You may stop burning fat and burn muscle. I believe this is called catabolism. This is what I have gone through more times in my life than I can count. This leads to exhaustion, cravings, and you pop one day, defeated.
So – create a deficit from your BMR by 200-300 calories. Exercise routinely, mix in some cardio and weight training.
Using this math, I’m eating a ridiculous amount of food and losing 5-7 pounds a month of fat, gaining muscle, and hydrating. Note: water is a BIG deal folks. I drank 4 diet pepsis and a coffee every day for 20 years. The amount of dehydration my body had was insane. When you are dehydrated, you are lethargic, your body doesn’t process food correctly, and you CRAVE foods with water in them (like pasta) because your body knows it can get hydrated with it. Then you binge on pasta. You can get some crazy hunger pangs when dehydrated. In the last year, I’ve been “starving” like maybe 7 times. I’m rarely, rarely super hungry – which is the MAIN difference this time around.
Food: what to eat?
Well, young padawans, this is where the shit hits the fan. Personal choices. It doesn’t matter what you do in the gym, if your dinner table is not correct. Let me first start by saying this: you can eat ANY food. This is not a “diet”. It’s figuring out the lifestyle you want to live the rest of your life.
First, I track everything, every day in MyFitnessPal. It’s now one year, and I haven’t missed a single day. MyFitnessPal will help guide you on what you should eat. Often, I try and program my food in the day before, so I know what I’m eating already. One problem I used to run into with my wife – for years, it would be 5:00, and the question is “what do you want for dinner”? For YEARS this was something that was nails down a chalkboard for me, and the struggle is real folks. I’d take something out of the freezer, 2 days before, and go to cook it, and “I don’t feel like that tonight”. Then, I’d suggest something else, and same response. Every night, I would have to go down a rolodex of options and it usually found common ground in fast food or pizza delivered.
When Death visited me for a tet-a-tet, I decided I needed to divorce my wife – from my food choices. It’s now been one year, and I’m 76 pounds less. I had to stop caring what she wanted for dinner and focus on MY health. I already know when I wake up in the morning what dinner is that night. Or, I may have 3 options frozen and ready to roll.
But, the question remains. What to eat? All food is essentially made up of one of three macronutrients (macros). Fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Micronutrients are just that, much smaller and are things that may help make your bones stronger, help your brain function better, retain water, balance your Ph in your blood, etc. But for the sake of “what to eat”, let’s look at macros.
Fats – for many years, doctors and everyone told us we need a low fat diet. Well, turns out it was a lot of junk science. This bread “low fat” options, which just jacked up the sugar in its place. Fats are essential to everything we do, and some fats are much better than other fats. For example, the “omega 3s” found in salmon are the gold standard of good fats. There are two types of omega 3s, the types found in wild-caught salmon and some free range eggs (and grass fed beef), and omega 3s found in avocado, nuts, etc. The salmon type is the gold standard with the avocado type a close second (the plant-based ones convert to the salmon types, but it’s not efficient and you’d have to eat a ton of avocado to make that equal). So – I now try to shove salmon down my throat once a week (it’s an acquired taste for me). The bad types are called omega 6s and many of the fats you find in fried foods like trans fats, margarine, etc. Believe it or not, butter is much better for you than the margarine that replaced it many years ago. Lard is also much better for you than margarine or the hydrogenated vegetable oils. Eggs got a bad rep for many years due to cholesterol, but it turns out that dietary cholesterol isn’t actually absorbed by the body. Huh. So get your egg on. Fats also help you feel fuller a satiate you.
Carbs – two varieties, mainly here. Simple and complex. Think of simple as a form of sugar and the complex like a pasta/bread. Simple carbs hit your bloodstream raring to go and complex carbs take energy to break down and are longer lasting. Carbs can spike your insulin, and I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole – but carbs are more instant type of energy. When you don’t use this energy, it gets stored. One problem humankind is facing is the extraordinary amounts of sugar we are ingesting. Our bodies aren’t built for this, and carbs are a main reason we have an overweight society and massive amounts of diabetes. While carbs themselves are not evil, the quality of carbs you put into your body should be extremely vetted. For instance, while a handful of raspberries has fructose, it may be a fraction of the amount of sugar in a handful of gummy bears. Raspberries also have fiber and a ton of micronutrients. Gummy bears…well. Not so much. One trick is to try and find carbs with rich fiber sources – just like proteins and fats, fiber helps keep you fuller, longer. If you currently do not have a lot of fiber in your diet…I encourage you to SLOWLY increase this over weeks. For instance, I love black beans now and use them in a burrito food prep I do. I’m used to 35-45g of fiber per day. You may not be. Caution if you’re a yoga fan.
Proteins – Build muscle and help with a ton of repair functions in the body. Wayyyy too much protein and you can damage your kidneys. Too little, and you may lose muscle mass, strength, and have nagging injuries. I also supplement with whey protein isolate, but more on that in another blog. This is where your chicken breast, beef, fish, pork, etc come into play. Like fats, proteins also make you feel fuller – longer.
Now – I have MyFitness Pal set for 40% carbs, 30% fats, and 30% protein. I find that if I’m too high on carbs, I tend to retain some water for durations. When I drop under 40% for a few days, I drop some water. Just an observation. Some of you who do a TON of cardio might be better with 50% carbs, 20% protein, 30% fats. Perhaps some of you power lifters who hate cardio might want 30% carbs, 40% protein, 30% fat, etc. It’s up to you.
What now happens is choice. And THIS is where you will fail or be successful.
I make up tons of food in food prep (which you can find in most of my other blogs here). Let me give you one example:
Each one of my chicken/rice/broccoli meals comes in at:
73g protein, 10.8g fat, 48.8g carbs.
So – this meal FILL ME UP. I eat this a lot. It’s lower on the fats, so perhaps an egg breakfast or dinner which has more fats and proteins may also work for the day with this.
The choice I’d have is – do I want to eat this complete meal, or replace it with one slice of pizza?
For years, maybe my lunch when going out at times might have been two slices of pizza, fries, and a coke. Maybe 1800 calories?? Yikes. That’s an entire day’s worth of eating for most people. And that would be ONE meal for me.
When you start to choose the chicken meal, and SEE the results, you then choose the chicken meal time and time again.
Does that mean I don’t eat pizza? Nope.
I’d also suggest finding a few “staple meals”. These can rotate over months, but for me, my lunches are usually a BIG soup serving of beef veg soup you see in the main picture and a banana. My breakfast is usually kashi with unsweetened almond milk. Sometimes I take a chicken/rice/broccoli for dinner. I make up 50 meatballs and sauce at a time, and I can heat up a portion when making zoodles or pasta. Eggs for dinner work for me. I make up a vat of burrito mix (essentially 1/3 black beans, 1/3 brown rice, 1/3 ground turkey mixed with peppers, garlic, onion) and have low cal wraps around to add fat free cheese, mix, and hot sauce. Filling!!! So – having 5-8 reliable meals as staples that you like can also help you nail most of your meals during the week.
The cheat meal:
I was always enamored by how other people ate and kept so trim. Well, as it turns out, they eat the chicken meal above (or something like it) most meals of the week. When I FIRST started this a year ago, I told myself I would have 1-2 cheat meals per week. This did not mean CHEAT DAYS. It meant cheat MEALS.
The trick then, was to also NOT GO OVER YOUR CALORIES FOR THE DAY.
For example, if 6 days in a row, you created a 500 calorie deficit by eating correctly and exercising, then on Saturday night ate most of a pizza, wings, and washed it down with a bottle of coke…not only did you negate your hard work during the week, perhaps you gain weight as a net result.
So..maybe that Saturday, you have a light breakfast and lunch and find yourself with 1600 or so calories left for dinner. If you go out to eat, and watch what you eat, maybe you eat 1800 calories at that cheat meal. You went over by 200 calories that day, but you were 3700 under the rest of the week. Congrats, you just created a deficit of 3500 calories in one week, or one pound!!
Meaning, you don’t have to “give up” anything. Last week, I took my wife out to dinner. We started with cheese fries with bacon on them. I knew this would be a little high, but yummy, so my main course was a chicken breast with rice and squash. AWESOME. I had a beer. I then split a piece of cheesecake with her. Went over my calories for the day by 500. Didn’t care. I crushed it all week and was creating deficits of 1,000 each day. I also realized it may have been 4 weeks since my previous cheat meal.
What happens at the onset is…
“I can’t wait until my cheat meal on Weds and Saturday!!!”
Over time….you lose weight, you’re crushing it, and without realizing it…you stop seeking out the pizza. You stop craving foods you craved your whole life. You value the chicken meal and home cooked foods over going out to eat. You want to control your diet and not go out and get killed with butter/cream etc in your food that you don’t know about.
This part I’ve now started exploring about a year in. I’ve found that I don’t need pasta 5 times a week like prior to starting this. Maybe once every 2-3 weeks I eat pasta now. I no longer miss pizza. And on, and on.
I called this, the “middle stages”.
To go from a full fat, full carb, full flavor diet to one of tons of substitutions feels like you’re giving up something. You then miss it. You then crave it. I’m so far gone from that, I don’t really think about it much anymore.
In my “middle stages”, I’ve now created something with my palate – I can substitute things and my body actually enjoys the substitutions. I feel like I’m cheating the system. How?
Zoodles. Per portion I’m eating, maybe 1/6th the calories of pasta, and a fraction of the carbs. I get tons of flavor and my pasta meal without getting the side effects of insulin spike, calories, etc. For example, compare 6 ounces of pasta at 600 calories with 3 zucchini at about 90.
Fat free cheese. I’ve seen some vloggers using this. My mom used to use this when I was much younger. The newer stuff today is MUCH better than old school. Tons of protein, little to no carbs or fat. This is great on my burritos, eggs, and pizza. Each ounce of cheese is half the calories, less fat, tons more protein.
Almond milk (unsweetened). Very recent. Apparently, guys need to worry about hormones in milk that skews balance of estrogen/testosterone and reducing/eliminating milk every day has been something big for me recently. I love my whey protein isolate as well, and this is great for mixing that as well as in my cereal. One cup of milk is like 120 calories, has fats and sugars (and protein). One cup unsweetened almond milk (Silk) is 30 calories. You lose the protein, however.
Ground turkey. Getting the 93% or higher can reduce your intake of red meats, but also give you some great meats for meatballs, tacos, burritos, etc. Much lower in fats and calories.
So – using those substitutions, I’m able to make up some of the below, and LOVE my foods. These aren’t cheat meals…with the substitutions, these are HEALTHY alternatives. I kind of count these as cheat meals, however (except the zoodles). Why? Because these are more of my treats to me.
- Nothing you do in the gym will be as important as what you do on the dinner table
- Track your foods.
- Setup your cheat meals, but try not to go over your calories for the day, when possible. It will happen from time to time.
- Don’t just do cardio. Develop a plan that has some cardio mixed with other activities like walking and strength training to ensure you have a higher BMR
- Over time, substitute where possible to reduce your calorie intake
- No foods are off limits. Over time, you just tend to make healthier choices when the scale moves. If you want a slice of pizza, have it. Just understand where that exists in your daily intake of calories.
- Try having foods richer in micronutrients. For example, try choosing the raspberries over the gummy bears if you feel like you need a sweet.
- Ensure you have plenty of water to ensure you are getting the proper hydration.
- Ensure you have plenty of fats, proteins, and fiber in your diet to always keep you satiated. A high carb diet with low protein/fats/fiber will leave you hungry a lot…spike your blood sugar…make you feel tired…and add mass around your mid-section.
- Try to hit your macros by using an app to track your foods. If your macros are way off, you will find 2200 calories is not created equal between two people.
- Rome was not built in a day. Create a plan that figures 1-1.5 pounds per week lost. More than that, and you start risking the problems you see from the “biggest loser”. Sure, you may drop 5-8 pounds your first 10 days, but much of that is water weight. Real fat loss is something that will take time, and you want to lose fat while also not losing muscle mass. Keeping the BMR high will be your friend if you like food. For me, it took 40 years of bad choices to get where I was, I decided I might need 2-3 years to undo a lot of it, not 4 months.
- Meal prep can save a lot of time and prevent the 5PM “what’s for dinner” question. Do it with your significant other for some bonding and cooking.
- Be reasonable. Work hard, take care to understand your body, your limits. If something hurts, back off. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat much. Make better choices, and you will see the results.