Yesterday I hit my goal weight – 185lbs (actually 184.4lbs). That’s a hair under 20lbs lost since March 23rd, putting me at a size 31 in pants (smallest size since high school).
Here’s the thing.. If Amber didn’t hear Evan and I talking about it, she wouldn have even realized I was trying to lose weight.
I never really suffered at any point. By most people’s standards, my workouts were easy. Rarely would I ever be at an intensity level where I couldn’t carry on a conversation as soon as I finished an exercise. There was no puking. No 2+ hour training sessions. No soreness that prevented me from walking the next day. In fact, I’d rate 95% of the time I spent exercising as enjoyable.
It was no different with my “diet.” I never starved myself. Sure, I’d get hungry once or maybe twice a day, but it usually was within an hour of an upcoming planned meal. Although I removed a lot of the junk I was eating, I still enjoyed the occasional pizza, trip to DQ, and sour straws. At no point did I ever say to myself – there is no way I can sustain this.
Below you’ll find a list of 10 things we credit to our success. Our hope is that just one or two of these “tips” will save you a few headaches and dollars while moving the scale in the direction you want.
This is where it starts – the food log. You honestly don’t know how much food you’re eating until you see it written down in front of you. By simply just bringing awareness to how much you’re eating, I’ve seen people lose 5-10lbs without even attempting to diet. So many people overlook this because it seems so simple that they can’t possibly believe it works. It does. Ask any dietician. Also, ask any financial planner. What’s the first step to getting out of debt? Keeping an accurate record of every single one of your expenses, even the $2 latte. Losing weight is no different.
The app My Fitness Pal makes this so, so, so easy. It literally takes me less than 60 seconds per day to do it. As you can see in the graphs below, I haven’t missed a day in almost 12 weeks.
Pro tip: Log your food as soon as you eat it. Don’t wait until the end of the day or the next morning because you’ll forget at least 300 calories worth of food you ate. Plus, doing it right after you finish eating further strengthens the “awareness muscle.”
The fewer decisions you have to make, the fewer mistakes you’ll make. If you can see and plan for every obstacle in your path, your path becomes a lot easier.
My workouts were planned a month in advance. At any point in time, I could tell you what my workout was yesterday, what my workout is for today, and what my workout will be tomorrow. Once my monthly calendar was done, I spent zero energy on workout decisions. It was simply show up, do it, and record it. Or, as Dan John says, “Plan the hunt. Hunt the hunt. Discuss the hunt.”
With my food, I wasn’t as specific with my planning, but I still had a planned routine. My mealtimes were pretty much set in stone, and I’d rotate through a few different options for each meal. My total calories were also set and adjusted accordingly depending on my weekly body weight average. Of course, the days I really overate were on the weekends when I was off my routine and had no plan. On Mondays, I’d review my food diary from the weekend, and it just reinforced the importance of planning. As the journey continued, I got better and better with my weekend binges.
Protip: Use Google sheets for your workouts. You can load it on your computer and on your phone at the gym. You can also share it with others with a single click.
I’m just going to be blunt. If the scale isn’t dropping, you’re eating too much. Boom. Knowledge bomb dropped.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Your daily total caloric intake should be your only focus. Ignore everything else. Forget about your macros. Don’t worry about how many times you should be eating each day. Don’t even think about carb cycling. And please, please for the love of Garfield, don’t stress about how many glasses of water you should be drinking each day.
My entire focus for the first 10 weeks was on hitting my daily caloric goal. I experimented with different foods, shakes, and tactics until I was consistently hitting 2,000 -2,200 calories and the scale was dropping 1-2 pounds each week. The beauty in the simplicity of this advice – Not only does it make dieting way, way easier, but it also makes it way, way more effective.
And guess how you can confirm you’re eating too much? Your food log. Boom. Two knowledge bombs dropped in a row.
Pro tip: Start at 12 calories per pound of bodyweight for your initial caloric intake and adjust every 2 weeks as needed. The goal is 1-2lbs lost per week. DON’T include your exercise in your calculation. That’s just an added bonus.
Get a partner, or better yet, create a chain:
Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable. I don’t care how motivated you think you are. Eventually, you will hit a bump in the road, and you’ll need someone to pick you up. Plus, cardio workouts can be boooorrrrinnnnggggg without someone running right alongside you.
One of the reasons I not just showed up, but more importantly, looked forward to my workouts was because Evan (and sometimes Nick, Amber, and Stinnett) also showed up. We would discuss just about anything during our workouts. He’d blow off steam about school, I’d blow off steam about work, we’d talk about ideas, training, nutrition, and anything else that came up. It was definitely a “social” exercise, but that’s why we were able to sustain it. Over the last 12 weeks, I don’t think we missed more than 2 or 3 workouts together. And, as I’ve said 1000x, that’s been the secret of our success – consistency.
Protip: Choose your partner wisely. You want someone that’s going to motivate you as much as you motivate them. The last thing you want is to expend all of your energy on motivating someone to show up when you should be focusing that energy on your workouts and nutrition. And once you find a good partner, have that partner help someone else and continue that process until you have 4 or 5 links in your “chain.” Results are contagious.
When it comes to exercising for fat loss, the name of the game is burning calories CONSISTENTLY. Although you’ll read article after article preaching how inefficient steady-state aerobic training (running, biking, etc.) is for weight loss, don’t be fooled. It works. It’s also convenient, requires very little equipment, everyone has the necessary skill to do it, and can be easily progressed and tracked. In fact, in almost every single weight loss success story we’ve had over the last 10 years at the gym, the member started with some form of steady-state aerobic exercise like running, the elliptical, or spin. I firmly believe that steady-state aerobic cardio is the best springboard for initial fat loss success. I chose running.
Whereas you’ve probably read a lot about Crossift/HIIT-style workouts, and I have used them in the past, I find they’re too advanced for most people when it comes to fat loss (myself included). Plus, because of their intensity, recovery takes too long, which doesn’t allow you to do them consistently enough and they tend to interfere with your strength training. And yes, I know about EPOC, but please remember the golden rule of fat loss – consistency trumps intensity.
Protip: If you hate cardio, purchase a MyZone heart rate monitor. It makes it so much more entertaining. It shows your heart rate, intensity zone, and calories burned in real-time on your phone or on our TV’s in the gym. Myzone also runs monthly challenges and has different tiers based on MEPS earned. Wearing one definitely gives you that extra push you’ll need toward the end of your workout. No one likes stopping at 564 calories. Give me 600, baby!
I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong. And…. I was wrong about strength training. When we first opened the gym, I felt everyone should start their fitness journey, no matter their goal, with strength training. Seriously, who doesn’t love lifting heavy things?
However, my bias blinded me to the fact that strength training does very little for weight loss – directly. However, indirectly…… IF you want to look good at the beach, you have to do it. It’s not optional. You need muscle. That’s what gives you that ripped look. Without strength training, cardio and dieting won’t get you that look, and you’ll just end looking like a smaller version of your current self, flabby arms and all.
Protip: Two to three 30 minute sessions three days per week is all you need. Hit the big movements and focus on adding weight to the bar each week. That’s it. EP and I lifted no more than 3 days per week, which was great because it broke up the monotony of running. One more thing to note – If you have a MyZone belt, don’t wear it during your lifting sessions. If you do, you’ll be more concerned with your calories than the weight on the bar, keeping you from focusing on why you’re really in the weight room – to lift heavy things.
It’s a marathon:
This tip should have been number two or three because that’s how important having the right mindset/perspective is when it comes to reaching a goal. And when it comes to losing fat, the battle is more mental than physical.
If you take drastic measures to lose weight, you may lose a lot really quickly, but you’ll never keep it off. I promise you that it will return with a vengeance. And, most importantly, you’ll be miserable the entire time.
Be a tortoise like me. I set a goal for 1-2lbs at most each week. I didn’t try anything that I didn’t think I could sustain (exercise or diet). My focus was always on better options, not the best/healthiest option (hence why you still don’t see kale shakes or strawberry salads in my food log) – the Kaizen principle. And because I planned everything out, I knew it’d take me anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks to accomplish my goal so I never got worried if the scale stopped moving for a week. Slow and steady, my friend. Slow and steady.
Protip: Remove the psychological BS. There are no bad foods so don’t beat yourself up if you have a cupcake or two. Don’t worry if you have a pizza on the weekend or get a little too drunk one night. As soon as you fall off the horse, wipe yourself off and get back on it. Don’t throw in the towel just because you had 1 or 2 “bad” days out of 30. That’s silly… but we’ve all done it. Your success will not be a straight line. Two steps forward. One step backwards. Think of it as a game. You win some. You lose some. But, most importantly, you keep playing.
If you’re trying to squeeze out a few extra pounds of fat loss and have been consistently hitting your daily caloric intake for at least 2 months, take a look at your protein intake. It’s the most fat-friendly macronutrient. As you’ll see in my graph, over the last 2 weeks I started focusing on increasing my daily protein because I had hit a plateau and didn’t want to drop my calories any further nor add any additional exercise. Even as my daily calories went up slightly due to the extra protein, the scale started moving down again.
Protip: The only supplement I recommend is a good, quality protein powder. It makes adding an additional 20-50g of protein to your daily intake easy peasy. Aim for 0.75-1 gram per pound of bodyweight while in a caloric deficit.
A training goal:
Initially, you won’t need a training goal. You’ll be so focused on the scale that every time you step foot in the gym all you’ll be thinking about is burning calories and watching your MyZone tile. Plus, 90% of your energy should be on your food log. However, as things progress, the training may become stale so I usually recommend having a secondary training goal. It could be setting a new lifting PR, running a certain distance without stopping, performing a workout in a certain amount of time, or running a race like a 5k. After about week 6, I decided I was going to start gearing my cardio training to running a 5k under 22 minutes. That seemed to reignite my motivation for running and indirectly help me continue to lose weight.
Protip: Make it hard yet achievable. It should make you a little bit uncomfortable. Remember though, just like with your fat loss, create a plan to achieve it.
The journey is almost always the same. It starts with a feeling. You’ll notice more energy, less stress and/or just a general satisfaction with life. Then the scale will start dropping. That reinforces those good feelings you’ve been having, adding a little objectivity to your results. And then, after some time, you’ll start noticing it in the mirror and your clothes. If you took pictures at regular intervals during your journey, you’ll be able to look back and really notice a difference. In fact, you’ll be shocked at the difference between your before and after photos, as the difference will be much more striking than what you see in the mirror every morning. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where it’s not a diet or exercise program, but instead, a lifestyle. Your lifestyle. When you get to that point, you’ll never understand how you didn’t always live like this.
Protip: Track as much as you can. Put your workouts in a spreadsheet. Log your food in My Fitness Pal. Weigh yourself daily and track the weekly average. Take pictures every 4-6 weeks. I know it sounds like a lot, but all of that only takes me about 15 minutes each WEEK. The more data you have, the less mystery surrounds what the scale says and the more control and confidence you’ll have over your body. And that my friend is the key… control.