I lost 15 pounds in 8 weeks. This is how I did it and here is what I learned.
Remember the old days when we could eat whatever we wanted and not gain a pound? I remember my all time favorite meal as a teenager was a Big Mac, fries, Coke, and an apple pie. I also had (and still have) an addiction to pretty much anything with sugar. But then as time passed by, my weight started increasing. I weighed around 170 pounds in high school and then jumped up to 195 pounds as a freshman in college. My weight increase was partially due to the "freshman 15" and recovering from an ACL reconstruction surgery on my left knee. I dropped back down to around 185 pounds after college and stayed there until my late 20's. Then 30 happened, and the weight started to slowly increase again. I remember the day in March of this year that I looked in the mirror and to be completely honest, felt disgusted by what I saw. Most people would think I am crazy and believe that I was in great shape. But I don't care about the opinion of people. I am the one who has to use this body and look at it every day. I then commit to myself to take action and do something about it. Over the next eight weeks, my weight went from 195 to 180 pounds. This is how I did it and here is what I learned.
Ever since I can remember, I have always had an interest in getting "ripped" like Bruce Lee. What high school boy doesn't want a six pack? But no matter how many crunches I did, I could never get my body fat percentage to a point where I was satisfied. I would work out for a couple of weeks, hit a plateau, and then give up. I even convinced myself that my body was just not able to get down to a low enough body fat percentage to have a six pack. But then at the age of 34, I decided to stop making excuses and get some answers.
After browsing the internet, I came across a forum that said a "calorie deficit" was the only way a person can lose weight. This concept was nothing new to me but I never actually gave it a fair chance. I tried it before, but I gave up solely because I felt like it was impossible to track all of my calories every day and felt like too much work for me. As a martial arts instructor, I have always had a passion for helping people find healthier, improved versions of themselves. I decided to try the calorie deficit approach as an experiment on myself so that I could share my experience with my students. Here we go.
Since I am a techie kind of guy, the first thing I did was a search for calorie tracking apps on my phone. After searching through reviews, it came down to two apps: Lose It! and MyFitnessPal. I decided on Lose It! because the interface looked cleaner. After opening the app, I entered in my gender, height, weight, and the amount of weight I wanted to lose. My daily goal came to a net, 1630 calories per day. The daily goal comprises the total calories consumed after activity at the end of the day.
Since this was all new to me, the first couple days of inputting all of my food into the app was annoying. One of the best features of the app is most foods are already in the system. You just have to make sure you input the quantities correctly. I always made it a habit to put too much than too little just in case I was wrong. It took me about a week before it become a habit that I didn't mind anymore.
The first week was the worst. I have always had a pretty balanced diet with an emphasis on organic and fresh foods. But I soon discovered that my healthy breakfast, what I call a "smoothie bowl,” was over 1200 calories which were almost my entire daily allowance. I cut it half and ate half of my calories at breakfast which was tough in the beginning, but I quickly got used it. Lunch was usually around 300 calories, an afternoon snack less than 200, and dinner around 300 calories. Surprisingly, I kept this up every day for eight weeks. I did, however, give myself a "cheat night" on Saturdays where I ate around 600 calories. Eating those extra calories did not affect my weight loss. I did a martial arts workout two days per week, light weight training 1-2 days per week, and walked the majority of the time I golfed.
Just to keep this blog short and sweet, here are the things I learned from this experience.
- Its a lot easier if you have an incredible wife who cooks the food for you. I would recommend planning out your meals every week if you do not have a spouse to cook for you everyday.
- I quickly learned what foods had the most calories and what didn't. Not all "healthy" foods are created equal.
- Sugar, fats, dairy, and bread have considerably more calories compared to other foods.
- Proteins keep you full without a lot of calories.
- You don't have to give up alcohol. Just figure out the calories and adjust the quantity.
- After about four weeks, the 1630 calorie diet became a habit that didn't require as much will power as before.
It was very tough for me to eat more than 1700 calories per day after the 8-week challenge because of how deep the habit formed.
- Once I got through the first two weeks, it became considerably easier.
- My mind and focus actually became sharper and clearer.
In conclusion, the calorie deficit works. At least for me. Some people may say that I have a higher metabolism and "good" genetics. While this may be true, I still believe that most people can get great results from the simple concept of calories in, calories out. You just have to make the commitment and stick to it no matter what. The biggest thing that kept me motivated was I didn't want to let myself down. I didn't want to see that positive calorie number on my phone at the end of the day. As I am writing this article, I float around 182 to 185 pounds. If I didn't stop the challenge, I would have kept losing weight, and my wife would have divorced me. I can honestly say the experience completely changed the way I look at eating. I am more mindful and put more thought into the portions as well as the food choice. I feel more agile in martial arts and overall better about myself as a whole. If you are like me and want to discover a new version of yourself inside and out, then commit and do not give up no matter what. Now get to work and see you on the other side.
(Please consult a physician if you feel your current condition may not be able to handle the diet challenge)