Just over a year ago I discovered something awful. I was obese. I know I’ve been referring to my former self as “almost obese” or “borderline obese,” but this I just ran my old numbers through the BMI calculator, and while not terribly so, I was still obese. It took stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office and hearing the hateful thing yell, “One at a time, bitches!” for me to get my head out of my butt.
In roughly ten month’s time I managed to drop fifty pounds and get below my initial goal weight. How did I do it? I’ll certainly tell you, provided you don’t argue with me. (You know, people will actually do that…) Let me apologize in advance if this post leans toward rage-y, but after the past couple of months I finally feel the need to get it off my chest and in one place.
What I did worked for me. I didn’t deprive myself; I still had wine, chocolate, pasta, gooey mac and cheese and all the other yummy stuff I have loved all my life. I also got off my lazy tail. I lifted weights and even threw in some cardio by way of a few 5K runs, which you may have read about.
I set a calorie limit (which was ridiculously low, initially), counted what I ate, and ate back exercise calories. I discovered the TDEE method, in that I used a calculator that took the number of hours I exercised weekly into consideration and gave me my total number of calories burned less 20% and I shot for that total number of calories weekly; sometimes eating under, sometimes eating over, but keeping that 20% deficit. I stalled hard at one point and started using a Fitbit, which gave me a better idea of my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), and I learned that I was actually eating too much, and finally! Fifty pounds gone. It took some time, patience, and experimentation, but it worked. Not one way of keeping track worked 100% of the time, probably because my math was off. Granted, it all boils down to calories in versus calories out.
During this time I learned some pretty important lessons, which I will share with you. Remember, though, your mileage may vary…
- You do not have to starve yourself stupid in order to lose weight.
- There are no “bad” foods; I simply consumed smaller portions of my favorite stuff. There is a word for this; M-O-D-E-R-A-T-I-O-N.
- You do not have to chain yourself to a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike for hours at a time. Cardio is great! It has it’s place; you will never hear me bash anything that is good for heart health.
- Resistance training is important. It’s great for bone density. You can do this without big ol’ heavy weights. Resistance bands and body weight exercises are awesome when you can’t (or choose not to) get to a bar and plates. For body weight workouts, do a web search for “convict conditioning” or “convict workouts.” Nia Shanks and Bret Contreras also come to mind when I think of good body weight workouts.
- You do not need to work out Every. Single. Day. Really. In my experience, doing strength training 3-4 days weekly with a sprinkle of cardio thrown in was sufficient. Your body needs time to rest. If you are resistance training, you do not need to work the same muscle group every day. Muscles need time to mend between workouts.
- The scale can be a liar. New additions and changes to workouts may cause some water retention, which is reflected on the scale. This is not fat gain. The scale doesn’t measure the amount of fat in your body. It tells you how much you weigh. Monthly hormone fluctuations, sodium intake, constipation, and the addition of creatine to your diet can cause an increase in scale numbers. The way your clothes fit and the measuring tape are more accurate ways of seeing progress than the scale can be.
- Except for “noobie gains” during the first weeks of weight lifting, to build muscle one needs to eat a surplus of calories over TDEE. That isn’t to say lifting in a deficit is a waste of time. I experienced really good strength gains during my first months of lifting, burned a lot of calories, and lost a lot of weight.
That said, I get a little put out when people tell me that I can’t/shouldn’t have < insert tasty food here >, because I’m “on a diet.” No, I’m not on a diet. I eat what I want in moderation. I’m just not eating half a pizza, two cheeseburgers, or more than one Krispy Kreme doughnut. :) Currently, I’m eating at a surplus, so I’m not actually “dieting.” I want to have some really nice muscle showing after my next cut. You know…just in time for bikini season.
It also makes me a little bit bonkers when I see people get crazy about doing these 30 day challenges that are all the rage right now and bust on me for not doing them. The ones that comes to mind are the ab and squat challenges. The participant is doing the same exercises three days on, one day off, increasing reps every day. WTF? Why would you work the same muscle group every day, three days running, all month long? That sounds like a whole lot of work for a little bit of reward, if any. The first thing I learned when I started lifting is that muscles need 48 hours to recover, so these 30 day challenges don’t make any sense to me, but to each their own. The first program I did with weights was StrongLifts 5×5, which had me doing five sets of five squats three times per week…Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Notice there are 48 hours between lifting days. That said? Stop looking at me sideways because I choose not to participate with you. And I say that with love, because I am really proud of you for what you are doing for yourself, but adding this to my current routine is just asking for trouble.
Another “strategy” that drives me nuts is the “let’s not eat a certain type of food for a month” concept. I simply do not get cutting out entire food groups for any extended period of time. I rarely speak up in forums or groups anymore because I get tired of being told how cutting out every “junk food” known to man is good for me, and that I won’t lose as much weight if I don’t cut said food type out of my diet. Eh. Maybe, maybe not, but I’m not going to be the one going face first into a a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s because I deprived myself for 30 days and felt the need to binge. No. JUST NO!
Detox cleanses? Don’t even get me started. My liver and kidneys work just fine, thank you, so I’ll pass. Yeah, you probably will lose weight, but my money says when you start eating solid food again? You’re going to see that weight come right back at ya. That’s assuming that your loved ones haven’t killed you by then because you became so hateful and hangry while you were drinking all your meals over xx number of days.
Maybe what worked for me won’t work for you, but honestly! Don’t ask me how I did it and then argue with me or tell me that couldn’t have possibly been how it happened because I didn’t do any of the aforementioned “tricks” to drop my weight overnight. See? That’s the thing. I didn’t drop it overnight. It took me ten months of watching how much I ate and working hard 3-4 times a week and sticking to it.
It’s pretty simple. Calories in versus calories out (I know…redundant, but I can’t stress this enough). Slow and steady wins the race. Sustainable is just that. Find a way of life that you can LIVE WITH, and do it. Move more, eat less. Hell, don’t move at all, but eat less or eat the same and move more. It’s up to you. Think NIKE – Just Do It! ;)
Coming soon, a question and answer session with personal trainer Lisa Dutchak of Strength in Balance Fitness.
Until next time…