I figured early on I’d give you “the big picture” before I lost you along the way. I created an “outline” and decided to figure it out along the way. I don’t recommend “analysis paralysis” where you go for months planning something and never take action. You can start, tomorrow, and figure shit out as you go.
Define end goal
My “big plan” was to lose 186 pounds over a 3 year span. Period. Start with a “big picture” plan. I then sat down and created some calorie math so I could get going:
3500 calories per pound * 186 pounds = 651,000 extra calories.
651,000 / (3*365) = 651,000/1,095 (calories per day) =
594 calories per day to create that deficit.
Let’s look at scale progress:
186 pounds/(52*3) = 1.19 pounds per week
What I’m doing now is taking a cruise liner out of port towards a general direction over the horizon. Can I get there? Why 3 years? Why not 6 months? To be honest, my entire life was about crash diets. Cutting calories down to 800-1200 sometimes. Running and running and running. Joining the gyms. Low fat.
Everything I’ve done my whole life has continued to increase the weight.
What I did 6 months prior to all of this was quit smoking, again. I had smoked off and on for about 22 years at this point, and my father had died of lung cancer in 2005. You have to understand, addiction is paralyzing. You rationalize every damn cigarette. You buy a pack or two at a time rather than a carton because you know you’re going to quit tomorrow. Or the next day. Quitting put on just over 20 pounds on me, but my risk for death was highest with smokes.
After 6 months of not smoking, I was pretty good to now move forward. It’s August 2016.
Just before I started in September 2016, I looked into “meal prepping” for 3 weeks. My wife had been watching a lot of YouTube, so I decided to give it a shot. I found so many people doing meal prep!! So many ideas!!!
Early on, I decided to hit 1200 calories a day. In a few paragraphs, I’ll show how wrong this was, but I had a starting point. I figured I’d take off a LOT of weight first, then the last year will take awhile to take off the rest. I chose wrongly.
The first month I dropped about 22 pounds. But this was short lived. I was running 3 miles a day, maybe 4-5 times a week and eating 1200 calories a day. This is exactly what I had done 25 times before and failed, but I figured my will power and determination would carry me along.
About 4 weeks in, my foot was hurting me…badly. I decided I was going to play through the pain. I had a broken right foot from wrestling in high school, this felt very similar, in my left foot. So – I decided to then walk 4-5 miles a day, and I was limping all over the place for 2 weeks. Must….keep….moving….
Then one day in early November 2016, my back locked up, and I went down for the count. I’ll spare you this story for now, but long story was that my back had spasms and I had to go to the Urgent Care near me. They put me on steroids and anti-inflammatories.
The doctors told me I needed to lose weight.
No fucking kidding, this is why we’re here, dope. I hurt myself again.
So I had to sit around for another 2-3 weeks, and I started eating 2000 or so calories. I figured I had probably done a lot to deplete my muscles and injured myself that way.
My wife begged me to go to a trainer. I had never been to a trainer, so what the hell, let’s give it a shot.
On November 18th, 2016, I stepped into a trainer’s office for the first time. Weighed in at 347. So I was 25 pounds less in 2 months. Great! And, this was after gaining weight back at a huge clip due to the steroids the last 2-3 weeks.
This was my first of several adjustments I did along the way.
She told me to eat 2850 calories and stop the goddamn running – I needed to lift weights.
Oh – and I needed to do 40/30/30 with my macros.
My jaw was on the floor. But, I had just been flopping around my kitchen floor like a seal a few weeks before, I was desperate. If I had to prove to her, for the sake of science, that I cannot eat 2850 calories per day and lose weight, so be it.
I lost 10 pounds the first month. What?????
The above is what helped me get the first 70 pounds off. While I’m a keto and low carb zealot – I felt had I done this for another 3 years, perhaps it would have worked. There are some flaws I had with this plan, but it WILL work for you.
What I did when I started was to start with 2-3 cheat meals per week. Back then, I was eating 21-28 meals a week, so 2-3 of them might have been something that you would feel isn’t “perfect”. Later on, with the 40/30/30, I was doing the 2-3 cheat meals per week with fitting within my macros. So maybe on a Saturday I skipped breakfast, had a salad for lunch, then would have 2 slices of pizza and fries for dinner.
Going from the gluttony that I was on to 100% no cheats had also been a recipe for failure. I had tried that many times before as well.
Over time, you start to feel a lot better. You start to feel how your body feels after a cheat meal, and it doesn’t feel great. Eventually, I went to 2 cheats per week, then 1 cheat per week – and just recently I had a cheat meal after 4 months. You start to crave your new foods, like you are completely re-wiring your tastes!!
This is what it looks like, big picture:
I can tell you, about 90% of my new body has been built in the kitchen, not the gym. So many times I failed my diets by exercising myself to the point of exhaustion. I’d be starving all the time.
Big picture, I’d recommend the below exercises to start off:
- Walking – this will get you the biggest bang for your buck. Get a good pair of headphones and just walk, every day. 10 minutes, 20 minutes – maybe later you can walk for an hour or two if you want.
- Biking – start slow on this. Don’t try and push it 20 miles per hour. Get a cheap bike and buy one of those big ass seats. Find flat, gravel paths near you. I have one a few miles from my house that is mostly flat and goes for 40 miles. As a heavy person, FLAT land is your friend to start.
- Swimming – I started this near the beginning. I learned how to do “effortless swimming”. This doesn’t use your legs to kick. Because of your ability to easily float, you can learn to do effortless swimming and burn a few calories.
- Weight training – the BIG mistake I always made with this was…”what are my splits” and I would then have to think I had to go to the gym 4-6 times a week. I don’t have this kind of time, and you probably don’t either. You only probably need 1-2 hours a week of weight training to help weight loss. What I do with my trainer is a form of “muscle confusion” for a full body workout. I might do this on Saturday morning and sometime on Wednesday. Note, this will not get you ripped and 210 pounds of muscle, but this is needed initially to help your body composition.
I strongly suggest NOT running anytime soon. I love to run. But do not mistake running for a weight loss plan. It is great for cardiovascular health, but not great for weight loss.
Eventually, add some hills with walking. Go hike. Get outdoors.
My mistake over so many years of dieting have been focusing solely on calories and running. This led me to eating 1200-1800 calories a day of high carb meals. And – lots of running.
This combination I chose is poor. It only took me 40+ years to figure this out. What I would do with this strategy was take off weight immediately, and a LOT of it. But the weight loss would slow after a month. I’d be tired and hungry all the time. Eventually, I’d get hurt and couldn’t exercise anymore. This must have happened to me 20 times.
I want you to look up “loose skin pictures”. This is what happens to people like that. If you are able to be tired and hungry ALL the time, and not get hurt, this is essentially what happens to those people. At least that’s my theory. If you lose 100 pounds in 6 months, that might be a price to pay.
I decided I was going to lose weight more slowly. I wanted to try and avoid loose skin. How do you do that?
- Ensure you eat plenty of protein. Try for .6-1.2g of protein per pound of LEAN body mass. For my lean body mass of about 160 pounds, this would have me somewhere between 100-200g of carbs per day. I know this is a wide range, but – way too low on protein and your body might cannibalize its muscle store on really long runs, and way too high of protein could strain your kidneys and much more. If you try and PRESERVE your muscle, you are giving something to exist under your skin than bones. Proteins are essential to survival.
- Ensure your carbs are not way out of control. Keep them at 40% of your diet or less. Have more complex carbs. If you really look at those high carb people, they have a “soft” appearance, and you’d have to “diet down” with low carbs for photo shoots. No carbs are required for survival, but when you start your healthy journey, track every carb you eat. I was probably 60-70% for most of my life.
- Embrace healthy fats. Fats are essential to human life.
Fats and proteins are GREAT for satiety. Fats have little insulin impact and protein has some. Carbs have a HUGE impact on your insulin. More on that later. The point is – if you start with a 40/30/30, you can:
- Have enough protein to keep your existing muscle. Protein provides satiety to keep you from getting hangry.
- Have enough carbs to keep the lights on, but low enough so your body can actually start to tap some of the fat stores on your body.
- Have enough fat to meet your needs and the fat will also help dull the insulin spike from the carbs while providing a LOT of satiety.
Eventually, you will never need to count calories again. We aren’t there – yet. Start off with a starting point, possibly talking with a trainer for an initial consultation. What you want to look at is your BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the amount of calories your body burns just breathing, sleeping, and blinking. This is different than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which tracks everything like the jog you did, cleaning, walking around the neighborhood, raking leaves.
Your BMR can wildly vary based on your body composition, but generally speaking, it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 10 times your body weight. If you have a lot of muscle on you, that number might even be up to 20 times. If you have a lot of fat on you, maybe this number is 7 or 8 times your weight.
A trainer should be able to weigh you in and get you your BMR. As my trainer told me – “hit your BMR, we will create the deficit in the gym”.
When I first went to the trainer, she had me eat 2850 per day, which was my BMR. My TDEE with all of my exercise and daily movements was somewhere around 3500-4000. So – if I just hit my BMR, I would be able to feed all of the needs of my body.
My mistake has been, for many years, cutting calories WAY TOO MUCH.
There were some problems here.
- I was told most people should have 1800-2000 calories a day, and I’d have to create a deficit from THIS number.
- I’d hit 1200 to maybe 1500 calories a day of mostly carbs. Given I wasn’t hitting my BMR and had low protein, I was burning muscle to get the rest of the glucose I needed to function.
- Most of us doing the above, over 2 months, may lose initial weight – this could be fat, water, and muscle – but we do NOT want to lose muscle
Big picture – calories matter, to an extent. When you’re 100+ pounds overweight, you need to eat sufficient calories to hit your BMR. You need proper protein. You need to cut the shit out of your food intake.