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Where I share my weight loss “tips”

by John on May 16th, 2014

I posted a link to this article, detailing how adding butter to your coffee can aid in weight loss to my Facebook page, and I’ve been fielding a fair number of questions since then. Along with that, though, came a request for other tricks that I’ve employed . . . and, you know me, writing about fitness is the thing I do. So here goes.

But first, a warning, Be wary of what works for others. Just because something worked for your friend/sister/brother/mother/cousin’s best-friend’s florist doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it might fly in the face of conventional thinking (butter, to your coffee, to make yourself lose fat?). I list what’s below as “what worked for me,” but I know, full well, that these things won’t work for everyone.

But, with that, know that I’ve tried a bit of everything . . . I’ve been vegetarian. I’ve been pescatarian. Vegan. I’ve done raw food diets. I’ve tried “juice cleanses.” I’m also well versed in the seafood diet. What lies below has worked, and continues to work, for me.

Do Whatever You Can to Make Yourself Stronger
If there was one piece of advice that I wish the “current” me could have given to the me of 18 months ago, it would be this. At the start of 2013, I started: strictly logging my diet, limiting my calories, did a shitton of cardio. I lost weight, so I really shouldn’t complain. But the thing about cardio is that, when you’re done, you’re done. Your body burns calories, which is a happy thing, but once your heart rate returns to normal, you’re, essentially, where you were before your workout. When you “lift heavy” (I’m talking low reps/high weight, not countless repetitions of low weight), you finish, but your body continues burning calories rebuilding the muscles you just taxed. If you push yourself to your limits, trying to make yourself stronger, you’ll find benefits that last throughout the day. I still enjoy my running (after all, I am Daddy Runs a Lot), but I enjoy it more for the fact that running clears my mind than running making me more fit. “Getting in shape,” I believe, is mostly about eating right — but, you can cure a lot of diet issues and/or give yourself a huge advantage by making yourself stronger.
Log Everything You Eat
There has to be some form of self-accountability. I know some people find this step tedious . . . but, well, if I don’t stop to say “this is what I’m eating,” I allow myself to eat ungodly-sized portions. Before I eat it, I log it.
Don’t Snack
I know there are people out there who will tell you to eat 18 specially proportioned meals a day to optimize metabolism or some shit like that1. If I eat 18 small meals a day, I’ll be disappointed 18 times (my BMR is about 2700 calories, so, in theory, I could eat 18, 100 calorie meals through a day and call it a 1000 calorie deficit, which is what most people would target for a two-pound-a-week weight loss). I’m someone who, when he snacks, isn’t any less hungry than he was beforehand. So I’ll snack at 2pm and eat the same dinner as if I didn’t snack. This kind of defeats the purpose of the snack. Some people will say “I’ll only snack on fresh fruit.” If you’re one of them? Good for you . . . give me a half dozen peaches and an entire bunch of grapes, with an apple and several dozen kiwi . . . I’ll eat that all, and still eat a pound of steak with a side salad and an entire bunch of broccoli for dinner (and wouldn’t say no to ice cream afterward). I can’t snack. Nothing good comes of it when I do.
Read Your Labels
Simply, if you don’t understand what’s in it, seriously consider whether or not you should eat it. Words like “refined,” “enriched,” and especially “partially-hydrogenated” need to be carefully considered (and, if possible, avoided). I’m hardly a Paleo-Diet supporter (where you only eat foods that a caveman may have eaten . . . beans and lentils will always be staples of my diet), but I do think that the more food is processed, the less good it can be for you. I’ve actually started making my own yogurt, because I love it — but the sugar & preservative levels (and expense!) in store bought versions scared me.
Know that eating fats doesn’t make you Fat
For the longest time, I would avoid most anything with fat in it. I didn’t want to be fat, so everything I ate was fat free. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. The body needs fats (heck, even the oft-maligned saturated fat shouldn’t be avoided — though I’d argue that anything in excess is a bad thing). Now? I try to avoid anything with lots of sugars, and always look to maximize the amount of protein I may be eating. I’m not a macronutrient nut (there are those who eat a very strict diet, ensuring that they have their optimal balance of fats to protein to carbohydrate . . . but, trying to eat like that drives me batty), but since My Fitness Pal analyzes my diet for me, I do look at the nice little pie chart . . . on most days, I see 40% of my calories coming from fat, 25% of my calories coming from protein, and 35% coming from carbohydrate sources. When it reads 90% carbohydrate? I do find that I question, well, did I make the best choices for food, for me, for the day?
Eat your fiber. Eat Your Fiber Hard
Make your workout a habit
Just like I’ve been aided by turning eating into a “look at the food, log the food, put the food in my mouth” habit, my workouts have become a habit. Maybe I’m risking future promotions at work by always going off on my own, but I try my damndest to keep 11:30 – 12:30 free on my schedule. That’s “my time,” and I use that to go to the gym. It’s habit. After a few months of doing this, on the days that I don’t go to the gym, I feel sluggish. My body wants it.
If you weigh yourself daily, don’t sweat day-to-day variances
Yesterday was an especially active day for me. I woke to walk the dogs, kicked my ass over my lunchtime workout, got home and spread fertilizer over the yard, and then spent an hour removing some brush from my property. I was a sweaty, sweaty mess. On top of all of that, I kept my calories in check through the day. You’d think that combination would have me losing weight — but no, I stepped on the scale Wednesday morning for a weight of 201.4 pounds. Today, it read 203.2. But that’s no biggie, and I’m not about to change anything up today to “make up” for that weight gain. Dinner, last night, was sodium heavy — especially sodium heavy . . . I’d put good money on the fact that I simply had more water in my system this morning.

1 I challenge anyone who believes this to actually supply the science behind their research. Jillian Michael’s blog may not be a scientific paper, but she scares the piss out of me, so I’ll link to her first. The US National Institute of Health found no difference between meal size/frequency and fat loss, and that is a scientific study. It’s all about how much you eat, each and every day.
  1. You’re doing something right. A lot of things right.

    And I know from your Facebook page that you FEEL better – which is the most important thing, I suppose.

    When I look at your list, there is very little that I do already. If I added one thing to my routine, it should probably be the weight-lifting thing. Not because I need to lose weight but for the bone density.

    My mom has osteoporosis and I’m at risk (based on all the factors you read about).

    Butter in my coffee, I think, would be the easiest change.
    Good for you, John and it’s generous of you to share what works for you!

    • I can go on & on about the importance of resistance training for women — though the idea seems to be taboo in some circles (there’s a regular at the gym who is there for two hours every time I’m there, but she ONLY does cardio — I’d lose my mind).

      Butter in the coffee is a tremendously yummy change 🙂

  2. Awesome

    I broke down two weeks ago and joined a Crossfit place. I’m enjoying it and eating better but no immediate results except soreness, yet.

    Congratulations on your success

    • Check back with any progress – I’ve been tempted by crossfit, and do a LOT of crossfit type exercises (albeit all of them bodyweight these days). My issue is that I’m…concerned (not sure if that’s the right word) enough about my weight that I don’t want to increase my calories, so I know I’m limiting my gains — but I am getting stronger, if evidenced by increased reps and more advanced exercises.

  3. I owe my constant reading of labels to Skye, who the entire time I’ve known her (you know, since mid-high school) always reads the labels on everything she buys. (It’s one of the reasons grocery shopping with her takes 5 hours.) But it gradually grew on me and now I find it weird when I’m with people who are like, ooh, new thing, and just buy it. WHAT’S INSIDE? You don’t know! (p.s. In case this makes me sound healthy, I eat terrible, I just know what it is I’m eating.)

    • I don’t know when I actually started label reading, but I do think it’s a very healthy, if time-consuming habit you picked up (though, to be honest, if something has more than 3-4 ingredients when I buy it, I try to put it back and think “I’ll just make the damn thing at home,” and then not make the damn thing at home because laziness rules). I do remember, during my bachelor days, getting all confused reading a label of something that broke out the Saturated, Polyunsaturated, and Monounsaturated fats that I ended up buying a competing product based, solely, on the simplicity of the label.

  4. Laura permalink

    Resistance training is the best! You’re right, every woman should do it. My triceps are so sore today from yesterday’s workout–I love it when that happens. I rocked yesterday!

    • Love those workouts where you feel them for hours/days afterward! Every now & then, I have to motivate myself to lift my arms to put soap on my head after a good upper-body workout . . . I just leave myself with nothing that the simple act of putting soap on my scalp is more effort than I want to exert.

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