I love lists. I was pondering some advice I’ve given to others over the last few years and perhaps this might be able to help. As of this moment, I’m weighing in at 201 pounds and have lost 171 pounds on the scale. I hope to take off another 29 pounds for the long term to make it an even 200 pounds!
- Know the difference between WEIGHT LOSS and FAT LOSS. Often, people obsess on the scale, I was one of them. But do not sacrifice lean body mass for temporary loss on the scale. What happens is people do a lot of fun calorie math and from a combination of too little calories and too much exercise – you start losing lean body mass. Ultimately, this will hurt your long term goals by reducing your metabolism. Muscle burns a lot more calories than fat does, so we want to keep our gains and focus on fat loss. Resolution – Hit your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and do reasonable exercise. For example, the first week on your weight loss journey should not have hours of cardio. Use resistance training and SOME cardio to boost calorie burn, but do not rely on hours of cardio to drop FAT.
- Your diet is 80% of the journey. I used to make the mistake of….hitting the McDonald’s drive thru then later that night running 2 miles. As the saying goes, you cannot outrun a bad diet. Find an eating plan you think you can sustain long term. Try it out for a month. Customize it to you. Your plan should obviously be sustainable, for you, but also have some form of caloric restriction and moderation of sugars. Every diet plan has its caveats. For example, Weight Watchers gives no points to fruit – but it’s packed with sugar and if I eat tons of this, I’m going to gain weight. Keto assigns 0 carbs to chicken, but it doesn’t mean you can eat 50 chicken wings per night. These plans, in some way, shape, or form, affect you in different ways for caloric restriction. For me, keto helped with appetite control. My appetite was no longer driving me to the drive thru on autopilot. I gained control back of ME. Just know here that the gym is NOT the answer, it is only a PART of the answer.
- The gym is 15% of the solution. So you’re going to start a diet on Monday. You’re going to promise to go to the gym 6 days a week and you designed this bro split out. While the gym is important, it’s only really important for weight loss to sustain your lean body mass and maybe get a little more. This only requires exercising a muscle group 1-2 times a week. So typically, I hit the gym for full body workouts 1-2 times a week. The lean body mass helps with metabolism, but the gym is also helping with body re-comp. I have tried to join the miracle gym 10 times, only to fall into the trap of 4-8 weeks later I fail because I can’t make it there 6 days a week. Once a week is enough, if you have the right kind of workout.
- Supplements are 3-5% of the solution. People think they have to run out and get RIPPED FUEL or some thing like that and suddenly their six pack comes out. The truth is supplements can help, but are very far down on the list. For example – pre-workout can give you some pep to help you perform better in the gym, but that itself is not lifting the weights for you. Whey protein powder can help you hit your protein goals, but so can a proper diet. Sometimes with my one meal a day (OMAD) it’s hard for me to hit my protein goals, so I may supplement to try and get there. Maybe you use some supplements like fish oil because you need omega 3s but can’t stand salmon. Point is, don’t rely on mixes, cans, pouches, or plans to do the work for you. These things are meant to assist people who are training and require just a little more for higher performance.
- You need to clear out the garbage. You know the shit foods you eat. You know if it’s highly processed, it’s probably bad for you. The problem is, you just had no clue how bad it has been for you. None. Any diet plan should reduce and remove a lot of the crap. Start off by shooting for 70-80% “clean” meals. If you eat 21 meals per week (3 per day), maybe 4-5 of the meals are your drive thru breakfast burrito, a cheeseburger, etc. You do not have to be perfect. I can tell you that I got to the bad place because 80% of my meals were garbage with 20% clean. You need to flip that. You do not have to be perfect. Eventually, maybe you reduce the number of meals per week or decrease the garbage meals. Perhaps treat your “garbage” as a treat every Saturday night. Eventually, you may end up cutting that out weekly and maybe having it once a month or once every 3 months. What happens is your body starts healing – and when you have the garbage, you notice it the next morning. You start to treat garbage food like a bender once every 6 months – it might be fine going down, but you pay for it for days afterwards. Until you clean up your diet, you have ZERO clue what the garbage has been doing to you.
- Exercise in moderation. OK – diet starts Monday, I’m going to run an hour a day. I talk about weight training above, but one issue you have with cardio is doing too much!! While you CAN do it, doesn’t mean it’s GOOD FOR YOU. I was 360 pounds and running 3 miles a day. The will to lose weight was there. But I ended up hurting my foot. I was eating 1200 calories a day and running all the time. My body was not able to heal up from the pounding. I then ended up limping, and switched to walking 4-5 miles a day with a limp. I then got taken down like a rhino being poached and getting hit with a tranq dart. It was back spasms. 2 weeks I could barely move, weight came flying back on. Maybe start with a couch to 5k. Take 3 weeks of doing some cardio 2-3 times a week and then take a rest week to let things heal up. Week to week, do not increase more than 10%. The problem appears to be that your cardio system is well capable of sustaining long running, but your body physiology takes time to build you up. I can now run once a week as much as 90 minutes without any issue. But I do long runs around 60 minutes, and may have 2 30-40 minute runs. 80% of my runs are “zone 2”, which is an easy pace you can have conversations at – this builds your cardio system out. 15% is a zone 4 or high zone 3 meant to build out some speed. A small percent is zone 5 meant to get you a little more strength with your speed. I will do some hills at times, fartleks (intervals), etc. I mix up my training to keep my body making different adaptations.
- Add lots of greens. I didn’t eat a lot of greens my whole life. Couldn’t really stomach them. Well, I have now grown to not only love them, but crave them. I have these giant salads for dinner with 12oz of meat. This volume helps a ton with satiety, and they are low calorie. This is one tip I got from Jonathan Bailor in “The Calorie Myth”. When you eat these giant salads, you don’t really have to worry too much about counting calories. In fact, I’d have to add EVOO and avocado-based salad dressings to my salads in order to get the calories up for the day. Lots of greens will also get you a ton of potassium. Most people are hard pressed to get potassium and magnesium in their diets, and this is a crime. When you feed your body the right things, it becomes rocket fuel. Suddenly you have energy to do things. Most of my weight loss over the years was based on sheer will power. Over months of exhaustion, I’d collapse and regain. This time around, I’ve been well fed, and have tons of energy. I credit my reliance on a lot of veggies.
- Your diet needs to be a lifestyle. “Going on a diet” assumes you will at some point “go off a diet”. I’ve used keto as a weight loss tool (keto is VERY low carb), but I’ve embraced low carb as a lifestyle, and will remain in this space the rest of my life. At times, I will restrict my carbs very low. For most of the rest of the time, I’m now at 75-125g of carbs per day. Bare in mind, this is now when I’m doing 1+ hours of fitness per day. If you do choose low carb, you will find early on that your strength is gone but your cardio capabilities increase significantly. Over time, your strength comes back. My “lifestyle” provides me obscene amounts of energy. Back in the day, if I just cut my carbs to 75 from 400 a day, I’d be depleted of energy. I re-wired how my body works and I found a lifestyle that I love. I eat one meal a day M-Th, which takes out any kind of worry about breakfast or lunch during the week. I get a little hungry around 4PM now and have giant salads every night. I don’t eat most Fridays. Sat/Sun I kind of eat whatever I want as long as my carbs aren’t over 125-150, as I might be doing 2-3 hour bike rides and 60-90 minute runs. Some days on the weekends I’ve burned 4500-5000 calories and reviewed what I ate and saw 3000-3300. So I was not even close to deprived on food and still created a decent deficit.
- Immerse yourself. When I started, I read everything I could and found every vlog on youtube I could. Live the life. You want to think about longevity here. Do you want to be 6’0″ and 280 pounds of solid muscle? OK – but look around at all of the 90 year olds. They don’t look like that. Most very old folks had runner’s physiques. They were always trim. Always worked in the garden. Perhaps walked a lot. They were active. They probably didn’t smoke or drink a lot. My end goal is to perhaps do half ironmans. At heart, I was always an athlete, but trapped in layers of fat. Maybe your goal is far different than mine, but find people who look like you want to look and listen to them. Maybe you want 10% and six pack abs at 160 pounds. Find those guys. Listen. There may be 5 ways to get there – find a way that works for you. Maybe you just no longer want to be morbidly obese. Find people like me who have done it.
- Surround yourself with positive influences. You need to have people around you cheering you on and telling you what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do or what you FAILED at. This is about building a strong framework in body and mind. And, for this, you need your team to be in your corner, not your opponent’s corner. That doesn’t mean they should blindly tell you that “yes, next week you can do an ultra 100!” – it means they help you get to your baby steps. They help you keep REALISTIC goals, and they promote your mental well-being. Those influences that take away from that need to be carved out. Maybe you cannot run 5 miles today, but maybe your positive influencers want to go on a long walk or hike with you. Maybe they know what kind of bike to get or where to swim. Find people who you feel want to live a better life and join in with them.
Exercise for me has been a form of meditation. I put on music for hours and when I do my running/biking/swimming/hiking – time seems to stop. The first few months of exercise was not like this. Each step may have hurt. You were looking at the clock counting the seconds down. But it gets easier, to a point where you feel better to do it than to not do it. It does become addicting, to a degree. But I can tell you that with my cleaned up diet and my focus on training – my mental health is also cleaned up, by a lot. Anxiety and worries seem to drop off. Stress is wicked off of me. Things I used to worry about and keep me up is replaced by dreams of runs in the beautiful rockies by a lake on a cool, crisp autumn day. I feel, for the first time, that I’m living the life I’m supposed to live. Until you can minimize the crap in your diet and train effectively, you may have some mental health hygiene to do yourself. It’s hard to explain how my brain worked 3 years ago compared to now other than to use the word “serenity”. I have found my peace in life, finally. I write these things to help my friends and family out who might be dealing with some weight or anxiety issues – and everyone wants to seek a pill or a shortcut. The answer is solving the root cause issue over time. And you will find your peace.