Hey guys! In this post I’m going to talk about my recent experience with weight loss, the basic weight loss principles that have helped me, and also tricks that I’ve been using to shed the pounds. First, I want to let you guys know that I’m not a weight loss expert. But I want to share some things with you guys that have helped me lose weight. This subject is something that I’m really interested in right now because for the last couple years I haven’t been really paying attention to what I was eating and how often I was exercising. I was focused on other areas of life and during this time, I gained some unwanted weight. I would say that I’ve been a fairly slender person most of my life. However, over the last couple years I’ve gotten a little pudgy, I would have considered myself skinny-fat. What I mean by skinny-fat is that I’ve never been someone who put on a lot of muscle mass. I’ve always been good at cardio type exercises and endurance training because it’s just the body type that I’ve had. Having this body type has helped me to “hide” body fat pretty easily because I haven’t really been a big bulky type of person. When I gain fat it’s usually around my mid-section. Recently, I noticed that I had gained more weight than I would like to admit. My wife who is a personal trainer and who has studied nutrition, measured my body fat percentage by the pinching method. This can be a pretty uncomfortable way to calculate your bodyfat percentage but in my opinion getting pinched can be one of the most accurate ways to measure body fat. I knew that I was the fattest that I’ve ever been and sure enough the fat pinch measurement proved it. I was over 21% body fat, which is very high for me. Just two years ago I was around 16%. Seeing that my body fat percentage was so high was an eye opener. It really woke me up and gave me the sense that I needed to do something about it.
Just last month, in January, the company that I work for put on a biggest loser challenge that started, from the time of this recording, about 6 and a half weeks ago. Knowing that I was the fattest that I have ever been I thought it would be a good idea to enter the challenge as a motivator to help me lose weight. So far, in the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve been able to lose about 15 pounds. I know that’s not a lot of weight to some people, but I’ve been able to really tell that I’ve lost weight, and it has felt like a significant amount to me. I hope to lose even more before the challenge ends in about 5 weeks from now. At the end of the challenge I’ll have my wife do another body fat percentage measurement to see how much overall bodyfat that I lost.
So, lets jump into the things that I’ve learned over the last couple months that have helped me burn off the pounds. The biggest key to fat loss is regularly having a calorie deficit. What this means is that you burn more calories during the day than you consume. One way of thinking about it is calories out versus calories in. The latest fad diet doesn’t really matter. The only way any weight loss/fat loss diet is going to work is if you have a calorie deficit. If you have more calories come in from consuming food than went out your body from expending energy, then it’s simple, your body is going to store those extra calories as fat. On the other hand, if your body burns more calories than you consumed, then your body will need to burn fat in order to make up for the lack of consumed calories.
Let’s consider for a moment the burning calories part of that equation for a second. Your body burns calories just being alive. There’s a fancy term for this called resting metabolic rate. Each person is going to burn a different number of calories per day depending on a whole bunch of factors like muscle mass, age, sex, and many other factors. Not only is each person going to burn a different number of calories, but the rate at which a person’s body burns calories can change over time. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds on this, because my goal is to keep things simple. For me, I’m guessing that I burn somewhere around 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day just being alive, not including any type of exercise. Just to make the numbers easy let’s say that I burn 2,000 calories a day.
Ok, now let’s look at the other part of the calorie deficit equation, the amount of calories in. Calories in refers to how many calories a person consumes during the day. In other words, how much they ate. If you eat a lot of high calorie food, then obviously you’re taking on a lot of calories. If you only eat a few low-calorie items during the day, then your calorie intake is going to be very low.
Now let’s combine the two calorie deficit pieces to look at the equation together. To go back to my previous example that my natural rate of calories that I burn each day is around 2,000. This means that if I only consume around 1,800 calories then I’m going to have a deficit of 200 calories, which means that I will burn a little bit of body fat at the end of the day. If my body burns 2000 calories and I consume 2,200 calories, then I’m going to add to my body fat. Now I know some of you out there who have studied nutrition and exercising extensively are probably saying to yourself right now that “it’s not that simple.” But for me, it is. I know that if I consume less calories than I burn, then I’m going to lose weight I might know all the science behind it, but the fact remains. The greater the calorie deficit you have on a daily basis the more you’re going to burn.
Here are the tricks that I’ve used to help me lower my calorie intake.
- The first trick is that I eliminated about 90% of the junk food that was eating. While I was at work, I would often eat cookies, candy, donuts, and any other goodies that I could get my hands on. I also has several bad eating habits that I had to kick. One was eating a bunch of junk food when I got home from work. I usually get home from work around 5:30pm and the first thing I would do is start digging in our snack cupboard and eat chips, cookies, granola bars or whatever else I could find. Then I would eat a good size dinner after an hour or so. Another eating habit that I had to kick was eating a full bag of buttery popcorn late at night. When I started dieting and trying to lose weight for the biggest loser competition, I looked to see how many calories were in a bag of popcorn and it was over 500! That’s a lot considering that’s about a quarter of what I need during the day. I was simply eating the popcorn as a snack and it was adding a lot of calories to my daily calorie count. Cleaning up my eating habits was the first thing I did because it was easy to do, I just say no. However, I did say that I illuminated 90% of my junk food eating, not 100%. Occasionally, I still eat something sweet or have a small bag of “healthy” popcorn. Eating clean has eliminated a lot of unnecessary calories that I was consuming.
- The second trick to lower calorie intake that I’ve been implementing is eating a lot of vegetables. Almost every week since starting the biggest loser challenge, I’ve been cutting up different veggies like celery, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, and other veggies and putting them in a large Tupperware bowl. That way I can eat them throughout the week as a snack. When I get hungry around that 10am time or that 3pm time I eat a few veggies to kill my appetite. One of the hardest times for me to control my food cravings is just before dinner time. Some nights I feel like I can eat just about any quantity of food. Dinner time is definitely the time of day that I feel the hungriest. To keep myself from eating too many calories I’ll start dinner off with a large salad or eat a bunch of plain celery and cucumber. I don’t put any dressing on the celery or cucumber because I’m basically just eating it to be a filler. After I fill up on veggie appetizers, then I’ll eat my main course for dinner, and after eating all the veggies I don’t feel as hungry and therefore don’t eat as much of the main course, which helps me to minimize my calorie intake. So, overall, more veggies and less other stuff is likely going to help you lower your daily calorie intake.
- The final trick that I’ve learned during my dieting is being comfortable feeling hungry. For me, I almost always feel hungry. And through this process recently I’ve had to come to the reality that it’s ok to feel hungry. I feel like I could eat all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I need to eat all the time. If I ate as much as I felt like it, I would weigh twice as much as I do and my body fat percentage would be through the roof. While I’ve been on my diet feeling hungry has become a common occurrence. I think this is just because my brain knows that I’m trying to diet and that I’m losing body fat. It’s funny, the times that it seems like I want something sweet is just after I tell myself I’m going to start eating healthier. It’s like my brain is trying to override me dieting. Just because you are craving food or sugar doesn’t mean that you need to eat it. Like I said, if I ate every time something sounds good, I would be eating all the time, and eating all the time isn’t healthy or sustainable.
Ok, we’ve looked at the tricks that I’ve used to lower my calorie intake. Now, lets look at how I increased calorie expenditure to use more energy and burn more fat throughout the week.
- The first thing that I did that was a big change for me is I started swimming 3 times a week for about and hour each time. This was just lap swimming at the local YMCA. Nothing special, just waking up early, hitting the pool, getting in some laps, and then starting my day just like usual. I’m guessing that during each swim I would burn about 400 to 500 calories. This basically increased my daily calorie burn from around 2000 to around 2400.
- The next thing that I did was started doing more cardio at the gym, way more cardio at the gym. For me, my goal is to lose as much weight as possible, because that’s what the biggest loser competition is based off of. Now, if it was based off losing body fat percentage and not body weight percentage, then I would be doing a lot more lifting with my work out, simply because by building more muscle your body can burn more calories and therefore burn more body fat. Currently, I’m doing about 3 1-hour workouts of cardio in the gym and 1 workout of weightlifting. Later in the year, I’m basically going to switch this around to doing 3 weightlifting workouts a week and 1 1-hour cardio workouts. Again, I’m doing much more cardio right now compared to weightlifting to lose body weight. Later in the year, when I want to put more muscle on, I’m going to start doing more weightlifting and a lot less cardio. Now, doing a lot of cardio at the gym can be pretty boring, so what I suggest doing is switching it up. I’m not one of those types of people that can just sit on the bike for and hour or do the elliptical for an hour. So, what I did when I first started focusing on doing a lot of cardio is, I started using the elliptical for 15 minutes, then I jumped on the stationary bike for 15 minutes, and I have slowly built up time on those pieces of equipment. I’ve also started using the rowing machine to switch things up even more. So, during the week, when I go to the gym to do a cardio workout, I’ll do a total of somewhere between 30 minutes to and hour and 15 minutes of a mix of elliptical, stationary bike, and/or rowing machine. Usually about 2 out of 3 nights per week that I do cardio at the gym, I’ll workout for about an hour. I’m going to try and start bumping that up as my respiratory system starts to get stronger, that way I can keep challenging myself. I’m guessing that during an hour-long workout of using elliptical and bike I’m burning somewhere around 500 to maybe 600 calories depending on the workout intensity.
So, lets put all of this together. The trick to losing weight is having a calorie deficit. It doesn’t matter which fad diet you’re doing – what matters is that you regularly have a calorie deficit. Which, as we’ve learned means burning more calories through energy expenditure than calories that we are consuming through eating. If you want to cut weight fast, do a lot of cardio, and clean up your eating habits along with eating more vegetables. If you’re focused on cutting body fat and not general weight, then implement more weightlifting into your workouts. If you want to cut bodyweight do more cardio and only a little weightlifting. The simple idea of doing more cardio to help me burn more calories, which will expedite my fat loss, makes sense to me. So, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and what has been working for me. I hope these weight loss tips have been helpful for you and that they help you to reach some of your health goals.