I’ve had a bunch of people ask so I figured I’d write out my opinion on things. My story isn’t novel and my ideas aren’t original but I think most things I’ve experience are typical and worth noting. I’ll try to categorize this so you can just zoom to the part you want to read about.
You have to genuinely want it. “Well yea I want to lose a few pounds” isn’t good enough. My final breaking point was when I looked in the mirror and I wholeheartedly hated what I saw. I wasn’t just unhappy. I HATED myself. Until you get to the point where you want the change, I don’t think anything less will stick.
2) Drastic changes are bad. Small changes are good
Sudden 180 degree pivots in lifestyles like diet and exercise are a setup for failure. What worked for me was making smaller changes that added up to larger changes with my habits. I had a strong will so my first step was simply working out 30 minutes before work on a recumbent bike every weekday.
I did this for 3 months and lost about 20lbs without majorly changing my diet. It was a habit for me to get up at the same time and my morning felt off if I didn’t do it. The most important part was that in the beginning, if I didn’t feel like doing it, I still went and told myself I’d do 10 minutes then stop. Sometimes I did the full 30 and sometimes I stopped at 10 minutes. The important factor is that I simply got up and went to where I worked out. More often than not, because I was there, I’d do something. And that something added up.
Eventually I added in lifting and running instead of the recumbent bike. 6 months in, I started lifting. 3 months after that, I started running. 10 minutes at first, now I do 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. It took me months to progress into larger things. But only after 3 months of my 30 minutes of half ass pedaling, I had already lost significant amounts of weight.
My diet was the same way. I started eating generally less. Eventually I went through a month where I didn’t change how I ate but instead just tracked what I ate using the MyFitnessPal app. Then I slowly lowered my amount of calories. Now I count macro nutrients within a variance of 5 grams.
I want to keep this short. Do what works for you. I don’t like any diet that isn’t life long sustainable. Cleanses, ketogenic, and other diets aren’t sustainable. I was a fan of “intermittent fasting” as it allowed me to eat larger meals. But really, I just call that “Skipping breakfast”.
From a weight loss point of view, I do think “a calorie is a calorie”. I mean that strictly to mean that if you eat less, you will lose weight. That doesn’t mean you’ll be healthy or feel good. You can nit pick about processed and non processed foods all you want. If you truly eat less and don’t lose weight, let me know (as long as you have proof).
From a feeling good and being healthy perspective, I 100% do not think a calorie is a calorie. I managed to lose weight simply by calorie counting and exercising. But I was pretty constantly hungry. I found that I could eat what I want and lose weight if I just ate less of it. The problem was, I would be hungry pretty soon after or I would be lethargic the rest of the day. When I started counting macro nutrients, I started to generally feel more energetic all around and was rarely hungry. (I would like to point out that I felt tons more energetic when I ate like crap and starved while working out than before I started doing any of this. I simply felt that much more energetic after eating better and counting macros.)
The closest I get to a legitimate diet is something called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Macros are the three things that make up all calories – Fat/Protein/Carbohydrates. For a few weeks when I got the myfitnesspal app, I simply tracked what I ate and was pretty shocked at how much fat and how many carbs I actually consumed. It was something like 10-15% protein, 50-60% carbs, and up to 50% fat. Protein/carbs are 4 calories per gram while fat is 8 calories per gram (roughly). I think the reason I was hungry was because to hit my calorie goal with that much fat, I couldn’t eat that much volume. But also, with so many carbohydrates (and simple carbs), I would burn through my energy too quickly.
There doesn’t seem to be super specific guidelines for macro ratios. The protein macro for lifters is around 1g for every pound of lean mass. Of course you don’t necessarily know your lean mass so I went close to body weight to be safe. Carbs I see around 40%. I’m not sure about fat.
That’s really it. I can eat ice cream if I want. I can eat pizza if I want. But I have to get within my goal gram ratios for the day. As a result, I naturally eat more veggies and tons of chicken.
Do what works for you. There’s a pattern somewhere in all this. Anyway, exercise and diet are necessary to lose weight. You can do one or the other but you won’t make the same progress. Plus, I want to be healthy, not just thin. My suggestion is to find some kind of physical activity that gets your heart rate up and stick with it. Try everything. None of them will be fun in the beginning and maybe none will ever be fun. But you need to find what works for you.
For low impact, swimming or a recumbent bike works. Running outside or on a treadmill are good for those who can zone out and are ok for long periods. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a new craze where you do vigorous exercise for a short period of time in sets while resting in between. I’ve been told it burns more calories than regular running but I’ve found no proof. For cardio, I believe getting your body into an athletic zone allows for your body to burn more calories when you’re bumming around. IE it’ll raise your basal metabolic rate.
Lifting is my main choice for exercise (I do do HIIT and running though). Allegedly 1lb of muscle burns 50 calories a day. So if I gain 20lbs of muscle, I can eat 1000 more calories a day! I really don’t think that but it makes sense that more muscle burns more calories. I also find lifting to be much more fun than running and the aesthetic pluses are very worth it. Regardless, try everything for 1-3 months (3 months preferred) and see if it works for you.
5) Helpful tips on what helped me
- MyFitnessPal. I can eat out anywhere and know what’s in it. I can count macros from my phone easily. It even has a bar code scanner
- Combat eating out by meal prepping your lunches for the week. I’m much less likely to eat out or be bad if I brought food with me.
- I have mental catch phrases for moments I’m weak. Like “How bad do you want it?” or “Don’t you want those abs?”
- Use a food scale whenever possible. Calories expended isn’t reliably able to be calculated, but the food you put in most certainly is.
6) Things I noticed through my journey
- Until I started to lose weight, I never noticed how tired and lethargic I always felt. Getting up to take the trash out took so much effort. I wouldn’t say I’m full of energy now a days, but I always have enough energy for a regular day.
- I couldn’t pick where I lost fat. I still have love handles and tons of fat on my stomach that I don’t want. BUT my face is starting to get sunken in and there’s a big vein that pops out on my forehead.
- I size up other guys and judge people based on what they eat. I’m not proud of this. It’s just something I noticed.
- One of the reasons I did this was for more self confidence. I still don’t have much self confidence.
- I almost never get sick (knocks on wood). I’ve had maybe 3 colds in the last 3 years. Each were over quicker and less severe than they used to be.
- I don’t crave most of the bad food anymore. And when I have them, they don’t taste as good as I thought they did. This did take 2 years to get to. Your mileage may vary.