A year ago today, I weighed 265 pounds. I was wearing size 40 pants. My ankles were starting to give me problems from the strain of the extra weight. This is what I looked like at the time:
Then I made a Decision. The capitalization is significant. I’ve heard many successful people talk about how it all started with a Decision. I’d made the decision to lose weight many, many times before, but I ultimately ended up falling off the wagon after a few months (at best). But on this day last year, I knew that I was starting something that I would see through to the end. I felt a very palpable shift in my attitude and outlook on life that hadn’t been there when I’d made the decision previously. I knew that this was a real Decision.
So, on the one year anniversary of that Decision, I thought I should share my results. I know that many others have struggled with reaching their ideal body composition, so I hope that by sharing I can offer encouragement to others.
As of today, I weigh 205 pounds. My pants are size 31. This is me today:
The most common question I get when people notice how much I’ve changed is “How’d you do it?” I did it through a number of different things (which I believe is necessary for any major body composition change) which I’ll lump into diet and exercise.Diet
I’d been eating a lot of crap, as typical for an American: lots of high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods. I knew I had to change that.
A year previously, I’d tried the South Beach Diet, which worked pretty well for about a month, until I quit due to “getting to busy to cook the meals”. Although I now think that most low-carb diets are too extreme, I did learn some useful things from South Beach that I applied. I also started to educate myself online, both on diet and exercise. (As an aside, I think this was key in not only helping me lose the fat, but in developing lifestyle changes that will help me keep it off forever. I’ve probably spent several hundred hours in the past year reading up.)
My diet immediately started looking better, and I’ve continued to refine it. Rather than go through the evolution, I’ll just describe what my meals look like now.a
I eat 6-7 meals per day. That’s not 3 normal meals and a 3-4 snacks, that’s 6-7 regular meals.
Every meal includes a source of protein as its main component. This is usually chicken, lean beef, turkey, fish, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, or cheese. I also usually have a couple of protein shakes a day, and will add protein powder to some of my other food (like oatmeal).
Each meal also includes several servings of fruits and/or vegetables.
I don’t really eat much bread anymore. I’ll have maybe a couple slices of whole grain bread once or twice a week. I use low calorie tortillas a bit more often than that. I usually have one diet soda a day, though I’m trying to phase that out. Other than the occasional glass of milk, I don’t drink any calorie containing beverages. I drink a lot of ice cold water instead.
I take fish oil and flax seed every day to ensure that I’m getting enough healthy fat.Exercise
Initially, I focused on cardio, with some weight training mixed in. My cardio sessions were 45-60 minutes long, and consisted of treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, and rowing.
I gradually moved more toward weight training, and I try to stick to short, high intensity cardio activities on my off days. Right now, I’m weight training four times per week, training my full body each day. On my off days, I’ll spend 15-20 minutes doing hill sprints, uphill treadmill walking, HIIT, Tabata protocol (either running or front squats), jumping rope, etc. The only high-duration cardio type activity I do now is cycling (on a real bike).
Besides scheduled exercise, I’ve formed habits to make myself more active in general. I always take the stairs, I avoid parking in the stalls closest to the building, I stand instead of sit whenever it’s practical to do so, etc. I even bought an old-style push reel lawnmower so that I’d have to work harder when mowing the lawn.What’s Next?
I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished in the past year, but I’m still not where I want to be yet. I still have a layer of fat around my waist that I’d like to get rid of. The problem is that after a year of being mostly hypocaloric, my metabolism is in the tank. I can eat as little as 1500 calories a day (way below what someone my size needs) and not lose weight.
So I think that until at least the end of the year, I’m going to forget about losing fat for a while, and instead focus on building muscle and getting my metabolism back up. I’ll slowly start increasing my caloric intake each week, and monitor my body composition to make sure I’m not gaining the fat back. Hopefully, I can gain 10-20 pounds of muscle and get my metabolism back high enough to lose the rest of the fat at the beginning of next year.