If any of you are sitting there at more than 100 pounds overweight reading this – how many times have you bargained with some sort of supreme being for weight loss? How many times have you gone to bed wishing you’d just wake up “normal”? Then, you also throw money at expensive weight loss plans because “weight loss is expensive” and you need to own that shit by spending your way thin.
I’m going to go over some life lessons here I’ve learned. I think there might be something in this for you if you are 25 pounds overweight, or 200 pounds overweight.
Yesterday, I just completed my second 5k race ever. I placed 36th out of 39th. Running is not a sport I’m going to be lighting up world records in, but it’s one I’ve GREATLY improved over the years. I’m still working through the art and science of training. Carbs as a fuel at times, tapers, and zone trainings – but I’ve cleared my fall schedule for running.
I don’t want to re-live everything I’ve ever done, but my background has been: baseball, football, basketball, weight training, karate, running, swimming, biking, golf, a cup of coffee playing college tennis, soccer, wrestling, and boxing. I have different degrees of skill and interest in each one of these sports, but suffice it to say, I’ve put in a significant time exercising in my life. This leads to screw up 1.
- You cannot outrun a bad diet. More on calories in a few items below, but I would spend every summer as a child outdoors all day and slim out, and all winter indoors fattening up. Over the years, my net gains were cumulatively more than my net losses, and it just kept piling up. I would have to say I used to see my cross country team feasting on food like piranhas feasting on fresh meat tossed to them. They were ravenous. Skinny. So obviously if you just exercise you will be thin. No. In my loss of nearly 170 pounds, I have found that my diet is probably 90% of what I’m doing. This is why it’s number 1.
- You eat too many carbs. On this blog, I most certainly do make carbs a boogey man. Let me clarify. If you are in shape and exercise a ton, and you want 150-200 carbs a day, and these carbs are fruits and vegetables, ok. The problem is when you are overweight. If you were looking at master controls of your body, if you are putting on too much weight or are carrying too much weight, you can manipulate your body composition by reducing carbs and upping the proteins and healthy fats. I’m NOT saying you have to go keto or low carb tomorrow. I lost 70 pounds on my weight loss journey using 40% carbs, 30% fats, and 30% proteins. What I had found was that most of my life, I had been eating 60+% carbs. When you have tons of carbs in your body, you secrete insulin to shuttle all of the sugars from your bloodstream. What I didn’t know, was that when insulin is flowing through you, it blocks the release of fats from your cells. Glucagon is needed to release the fats, and this only happens when your blood sugar dips. Your body tightly regulates your blood sugars for you. Too much sugar and insulin is released to STORE IT AWAY AS FAT, and too little, your body taps your glycogen stores and stored body fat to then convert it to energy to use. If you want to know how to fatten any farm animal before slaughter, give them corn and grain.
- You didn’t hire a personal trainer. Not all personal trainers are alike. I’m sure you have some really good ones and really bad ones. And I’m sure they feel like they have sucky clients and good clients. Here’s the thing. I had lifted since I was 13. I was really good at math, so I understood 3500 calories = 1 pound. I was active my whole life. It was only after failing for the 68th time did I go see a professional. I thought they just would help you with some proper form and you move on. I think in many situations, that is the case. The trainer will teach you how to fish for yourself and off you go. But a trainer can also be so many more things over time. A coach. Someone who keeps you accountable. Someone who helps guide you to realistic goals. They may not be a registered dietician, but can point you towards some things to try in your diet. They work with you to do movements at your size so you don’t hurt yourself. They can be psychologists and motivators. I learned a LOT with a trainer over the years.
- You eat like shit. A calorie is a calorie, right? That’s what they’d have you believe. However, your “physics” equations of 3500 calories = 1 pound is a physics answer to a biochemistry problem. Our bodies are machines, in a sense. But the problem is that different kinds of food has different nutrition values and affects on our bodies. For anyone reading this contemplating dieting, I would recommend first to significantly cut back on the processed junk food. This is severely affecting your hormones and biological systems. First, added sugars are indeed the devil. A can of coke is 37g of sugars while a banana is 27g of sugars. I don’t even go near bananas dues to their high content, but the point is the banana will also have fiber and tons of vitamins and minerals to feed your body. Basically here, I’d recommend an 80/20 or 90/10. This will allow you to have a donut once a week, but keep the vast majority of shit out of your diet. Over time, with training, you want that food less and less because you know how bad it will make you feel, believe it or not. In wrestling in HS, I used to eat fat free hot dogs and spaghetti Os for dinner and a half a bagel for breakfast. The calories were 800-1200 per day, but the QUALITY of my food was shit. Over time…this led to me not only breaking my foot, but having a semi-nervous breakdown in 11th grade. My coach could not understand why I was still 245-250.
- You are hungry all the damn time. I’ve written a few blogs about this. Losing fat is about mixing your carb/fat/protein ratios so you can meet your caloric demands while not being hungry. Fat and protein are great for satiety. Carbs are not. I just don’t give a damn what they tell you. Go to a Chinese buffet with all that rice and 2 hours later you are ravenously hungry but have no room to put it. That’s your insulin reaction from the carbs. If you do have carbs, look for fibrous fruits and veggies with a low glycemic index. I’ve said this so many times before – you cannot do sustained weight loss if you’re hungry all the damn time. I should know. I probably went half my life on diets hungry all the time, despite my waist increasing. It was never, EVER about exercise with me. I have logs on my training apps where I was 372 pounds and running 3 miles. It was the giant plates of pasta I was eating with the breads. I used to eat pasta 5 nights a week. I couldn’t get enough. Well, a few hours later you are damn hungry. And this eventually leads to massive caloric surpluses.
- You eat too many calories. One major problem I had was I wasn’t really good at knowing how many calories I was putting in my mouth. I didn’t have a food scale in my life until just a few years ago. When I first started this weight loss journey, I made sure I weighed out and measured every morsel of food. These days, not so much, at all, but early on, I found out I was grossly underestimating how many peanuts are in one ounce. How many Cheez Its were in one serving. It is SOOO easy to overeat some calorie rich foods. Here’s where your food scale comes in handy. To get to my high of 372 pounds, you have no idea of what that means for average caloric intake. There were a LOT of days where food became my emotional support. I’d be sad, and certain foods were my emotional crutch. Those days are long behind me, and instead I use running, biking, swimming, walking my dog, and working out as my emotional support releases. If I’m having a rough week due to some things going on in my life, I might play the trumpet. A little John Hassan with “Nature Boy” can really do wonders.
- You eat too little calories. So let me get this straight. 3500 calories = 1 pound of fat. If I am lower by 500 calories per day, that is 1 pound per week. So the math says if I’m 1000 under per day, that’s 2 pounds per week. or 1500 under, that’s 3 pounds per week. I know all of you in shape fitness trainers out there like to talk about energy balance and calories. Calories DO matter. But what I’d recommend is what my trainer first told me. Eat at your BMR. Create the deficit in the gym. When I first came to her, I was eating 1200 calories per day. She told me to eat my BMR of 2850 per month at the time. Lost like 13 pounds my first month. Couldn’t believe it. Some days with OMAD I struggle to hit 1400, other days on the weekend with long bike rides of 30-40 miles, I may eat 4,000 calories over 3 meals. I don’t do the calorie math anymore, but I do ensure I don’t dip too low, too often. My body needs these calories for repair. I WANT to hit my BMR. Just some days it doesn’t happen. Food used to be something that ran my life, due to my over-reliance on carbs. I can go very long durations now without eating, up to 72 hours.
- You don’t drink enough water. My wife used to get on me about drinking water. I used to drink 2 cups of coffee and 2-3 diet cokes a day, and that was it. No more. I read somewhere that if your body needs nutrients, it has ways of making you crave things to get it. For example, apparently women crave chocolate at their time of the month due to a dip in magnesium, and chocolate was a good source. For me, pasta was a great source of water in the spaghetti. Almost the first week I started drinking 5 quarts a day, I no longer craved pasta. It’s been 18 months since I’ve had spaghetti, and I don’t miss it. It used to be a top 5 food. I now use zoodles and zucchini lasagna. I love the sauce and the cheese, the pasta was just a means for my body to get the water. I now may have 3 quarts a day, but I still drink a good amount of water.
- You exercise too little. Winter months were terrible for me. I hated the cold. Those days are gone, as I now have space age material shit I can run and bike in. But for most of my life, 5 months of the year I wouldn’t do much, at all. Now, you have seen how much activity I did above. When you take that away for about half a year, but don’t change the caloric intake, you have excessive weight gain. Year in and year out my whole life I had been losing 20 and gaining 30. You need to move. Even if it’s just walking your dog or starting with a 10 minute walk outside after dinner. Movement in your life helps your body so much. We were not evolved to sit at a desk all day. Stress happens to all of us, and our bodies are meant to move – and my guess is, evolution had movement as the means of countering the effects of cortisol.
- You exercise too much. Again, you see all the sports I did? I’d be like, “I really like this girl, but she doesn’t pay attention to me. I’m 75 pounds overweight. If I just lost 5 pounds a week, in 4 months I might be good enough for her”. Variations of that would play in my head my whole life. I never felt good enough. Ever. I’d have to prove to people I had worth because I had no worth with my exterior. So while I hadn’t matured yet to realize certain things, other things I took excessively. OK. 75 pounds. 5 pounds per week. And…GO! So that would then mean something like 800 calories a day, maybe go play tennis for 4 hours, then maybe run 2 miles. Maybe hit the gym for 2 hours, then play basketball for 2. I was motivated. But the constant pounding of exercise combined with too little calories always led to the same end. Exhaustion, collapse, injury, fatigue. What I’m learning now is some stuff with sports science. The concepts of adding fitness and form, but balancing that with fatigue. Taking rest days. Tapering. I think I have the potential to be a STRONG age group candidate in a lot of things I do down the road just because I know that my brain and my heart is unstoppable. However, I never had that missing piece of how to train your body with the right fueling, stress, and rest. You’re looking at a guy who could run 3 miles at 372 pounds. Imagine what I can do at 175 with 2-3 years of a proper fitness plan, access to resources, and the right education on how to train and rest? Yeah. You can be the same. You just need to know when to dial it back (and you must at times) and when to push it.
YouTube these days are filled with vegan vs keto wars. Vegetarians. Meat-only eaters. Fitness gurus. Fitness fakes. Food preppers. You name it. You have to find what works for you. It may not be my first choice for you, but one of my friends lost 200 pounds with low fat. It is an amazing accomplishment, and his unique health situation dictated that, and that has worked for him. I feel that each of you can find a plan that suits your needs, but if you take a lot of the lessons from above, I feel you could be on your way to slimming out.
Another thing. Be careful of what you wish. I would urge anyone with a large amount of weight to lose to talk to their doctor, get tested, and speak with a trainer. Imagine if you actually did lose 100 pounds in 6 months? Take a look at the internet with “loose skin”. Some guys, like “obesetobeast” kinda have a large problem with that, and he was in his early 20s. Having started my weight loss at 40, but doing it gradually over 3 years, I’ve largely avoided that. I have about 15-20 pounds around my midsection yet, but I feel that with the sheer volume of training I have coming up combined with some tighter caloric restrictions, that loose skin will not be much of an issue for me. In fact, I feel a lot of the loose skin is from severe caloric restriction with high percentages of carbs in their diet. Those that have low carb diets with decent amounts of weight training and lose gradually will not really suffer the same fates. So…800 calories a day might be good for your short term goal, but is not sustainable and may eat away precious lean body mass you need to actually look good when you burn the fat away.
Weight loss is actually about “fat loss”, and not muscle loss. Going too low with your calories can have detrimental results. Eat your BMR or just under it. Train with weight training and have fun with your exercises of choice!