Way back in January 2012, while I was stuck in a bit of a training rut, I decided to shake myself out of lethargy by changing it up with a rapid physique change challenge.
The purpose of this was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to give myself a kick up the ass by establish a new objective. Secondly, I wanted to demonstrate just how easy it is to get in great shape if you dedicate yourself 100%.
The body transformation and the diet (especially the diet) was extreme. The diet I followed was in no way sustainable long term or one I would give out to one of my clients. It was healthy in the fact I wasn’t eliminating a main food group or starving myself or reducing my protein intake. My focus instead was causing a big calorie deficit each day by creating a relatively low calorie (800 calories less than my normal consumption) high protein diet. To make things easier for me I ate the exact same thing every day for the whole month. As boring and tedious as that sounds, it did work for me. The results pretty much speak for themselves.
Since originally posting that blog in 2012 (click here to read it), I have received lots of feedback and questions from a number of people regarding their own weight loss ‘challenges’. The biggest point most people have mentioned was that what I did was too difficult to the point of impossibility for them to follow in their current lifestyles. I completely understand these reservations; it was a very hard diet and my lifestyle back then was probably better suited to follow it. I know that if I were to repeat this challenge, I would find it far more difficult. This started me thinking.
I have decided to undertake another ‘challenge’-only this time I plan on making this change of diet as such as easy as possible for me. This will make it an easy and sustainable approach for everyone to follow. I’m deliberately creating a diet which is a long term solution rather than a short term fix.
Now first of all I need to talk about Accountability!
If you ask me why I am not in better shape I can tell you without hesitation. I love my food! And in particular Pies and Milk. Currently I drink close to four pints of whole milk a day (maybe that’s the reason I am so pale), and on most weekends I eat a family sized pie to myself, with mash potato and veg. Most date nights with the girlfriend I will eat a large stuffed crust dominoes pizza with two extra sides and a good helping of coke. I also have a tendency to inhale a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream to myself also. I will stop talking about food now as most of you are probably salivating. The point I am getting at is that I am fully aware of why I am not in better shape.
First thing you need to do is the same! Hold yourself for account for what you put into your mouth and why you are where you are.
Secondly we need to have a look at ‘Cheat meals ’– or as most of you make them, ‘Cheat Days’.
I will make some assumptions here but I am pretty sure I am going to be right. The majority of you who are actively trying to lose weight are great Monday – Friday. You eat healthy high protein, low calorie meals. You train hard and are relatively active throughout the day through work. Then Saturday and Sunday you are a little ‘loose’ with your diet, but you give yourself a little slack because it’s only a little cheat here and there and besides you have done loads of hard work Monday to Friday that will easily balance out right? Sound familiar?
In theory it works great, but in practice, unfortunately, not so much.
These cheat meals tend to become cheat days by allowing yourself too much slack. How many of you have given in to temptation of a high calorie snack during the day despite knowing that you’re going to enjoy a high calorie cheat meal in the evening anyway? But you allow yourself the slack with the statement- “Well I am going to have a Chinese tonight anyway so this chocolate bar won’t hurt”. Sound familiar? Unfortunately this just adds yet more unnecessary calories to your day that, if you’re honest, you could have avoided quite easily.
The main focus on any weight loss diet is causing a calorie deficit or negative energy balance. The less geeky way of saying that is, if you eat less calories than your body burns throughout the day, you will lose weight.
Now let me put this into a real world scenario to further illustrate the point:
Joe Blogs is trying to lose weight, and has been for months. He eats healthily Monday to Friday causing a deficit of 100 calories a day. He has consumed 100 calories less each day than what his body has used. Great.
On Saturday he goes out for a beer or two, or seven with his friends, and has a takeaway meal. He finishes up 400 calories more than what his body has used that day. Not so great.
Sunday is spent mainly lounging around recovering and eating the odd indulgent snack, he finishes the day 100 calories over. Not horrendous but still not so good.
Unfortunately he finishes the week with a zero calorie deficit, which in turn means zero weight loss! Even though by Friday he was on track with a nice 500 calorie deficit, which would give him nice consistent fat loss, he undid this hard work with his weekend.
Monday: – 100 calories
Tuesday: – 100 calories
Wednesday: – 100 calories
Thursday: – 100 calories
Friday: – 100 calories
Saturday: +400 calories
Sunday: + 100 calories
Calories deficit at the end of the week: 0
Now I am not suggesting for one minute he gets rid of his normal weekend and stays in eating carrots and nuts all day!
He just needs to get the balance a bit better by exercising some self restraint. Instead of seven beers on Saturday, maybe he has just 5, and he doesn’t go too overboard with the takeaway and has just one dish instead of his usual three. His Saturday deficit is now +200 instead of +400. This would change his end weekly deficit from zero calories to a deficit of -200 calories.
Hopefully you can understand better that this deficit is quite easily achieved by making a few changes, you do not have to go to the extremes like I did in the original challenge in 2012. You just need to be more aware of calories in and calories out and follow a few simple rules. If you can’t make that effort or have accountability or self restraint to not go overboard on weekends then you are going to struggle big time, every time.
The important thing is finding the happy medium.
Thirdly I need to speak about Gluttony.
Gluttony for the sake of gluttony is applicable to all of us. For some reason it seems as though we are pre-programmed to go overboard whenever we go out for a meal or a takeaway. Instead of just satisfying our hunger cravings, we have a tendency to over consume and over eat just for the sake of it. For some reason, it almost feels like an achievement or a big accomplishment to us when we have devoured a ludicrously large and calorie dense meal. Evidence of this can be found on any social media site on any given weekend. There will be endless posts and tweets from your friends of plates laden with mountains of Chinese food or a huge dominoes feast accompanied with the words ‘smashed this’ or ‘annihilated this’ or ‘ I was ready for this’. This backs up the notion that you’re proud of your gluttony and looking for congratulations from your friends via likes and favourites. Now again I am not suggesting completely eradicate these meals from your diet, it’s about finding the happy medium again. Ask yourself do you really need that mountain of Chinese? Do you really need that large stuffed crust meat feast pizza all to yourself? Would a medium stuffed crust pizza not make do? Know the difference between Want and Need.
You Want that Large pizza, but do you Need it? You Want fat loss, so do you Need that large Pizza?
Find the happy medium.
To prove how easy, simple and sustainable it is I have done it.
Before we skip to the results which most have you have already probably scrolled down to. I want to give you a bit of background information so that you can get a better idea of my lifestyle, work life, diet, and overall health.
Here are a few stats to start with:
Bodyweight: 92.8 kg
Waist: 36 ¼ inch
Arms: 16 inch (tensed)
Average work hours: 50+ a week
Training: At the moment nothing due to injuries. My training was mainly Snatches and Squats. I have not benched or followed a normal ‘chest n guns’ program for years. (Lack of upper body mass will be noticeable). I don’t like to train upper body at all, and I cannot remember the last time I trained ‘Abs’.
Torn MCL (Left Knee) This Year
Dislocated Sternoclavicular Joint Last Year
Grade 3 AC Joint separation (Clearly visible in the ‘after’ photo) Last Year
Torn Pectoral Muscle (Visible in the after photo, miss-shaped pec) 3+ Years ago
Having an injury is not an excuse to get fat!!!
The time scale I set myself was two months (9 weeks exactly but near enough). During this time I had two holidays away (Tenerife for 7 days with the family / girlfriend and a weekend in London with the girlfriend) and I fell ill for a couple of days with a common cold (About 4 days to be exact). Every Sunday I enjoyed a big Sunday lunch, and at least once a week myself and my girlfriend had a date night which was mainly going out for meals or cinema, or both.
The main focus throughout this time frame was causing a calorie deficit, nothing extreme! The most I was looking for was -100 calories a day. Sometimes I went a little over this, sometimes I went as low as -12 calories. But a deficit is still a deficit and it will add up over time.
My starting calorie allowance was 2’700 calories. I followed this until my weight loss slowed. I re-adjusted the calories and dropped to 2’600 calories a day, and again followed this until my weight loss slowed. I repeated this constantly throughout until the nine weeks was up. Very simple and a sustainable idea for long term fat loss. I ended up consuming 2’100 calories a day, so over nine weeks a drop of 600 calories a day.
There were, however a few rules and guidelines I set out for myself.
Number 1: Protein
I made sure constantly throughout the diet that I was hitting my protein requirements each day. This was the only thing I was very aware of and was trying to keep constant. If you’re not sure of your protein requirements then this little chart will help you.
Credit to Matt Jones of MJ Nutrition for the chart (@MattJonesNC)
Number 2: Vegetables
When you see a few snapshots of some of my days it will become pretty clear I don’t eat a lot of vegetables. I never really have. Now obviously, if you’re looking for a healthy balanced diet then yes it should contain lots of vegetables. But I didn’t want to change my diet in any way from what it is now I just want to eat a little less of it every day and show you how simple it is too loose weight.
Number 3: Foods I excluded from my diet
I never stopped eating any of the foods I love on this diet. Instead I ate a little less of them instead. So instead of inhaling a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s, I had maybe 2-3 scoops. The same when it came to eating out. One time at pizza hut instead of my usual 2-3 salad bowls and a large stuffed crust pizza, I ate 1 salad bowl and a medium non stuffed crust pizza instead. Saving roughly 700 calories I normally would have over consumed. In essence, nothing was changed or forbidden from my diet. I didn’t go for supplements or diet shakes. I didn’t skip meals or starve myself. I didn’t find low calorie alternatives or gimmick snack bars. I just ate a little less of the foods I love. Ideal really!
Number 4: Tracking Calories
The app I used for help during the 9 weeks was MyFitnessPal (Free on iphone’s. Not 100% sure about android phones). The app is amazing. It is so simple to use, and has a huge database of foods and meals already programmed on it. All of the main food chains and restaurants have their menus on there so it makes logging and keeping track of your meals/calories very simple and very easy. It’s even got a barcode scanner on it so you can scan your foods packaging and it inputs and logs all of the macros and calories of that food. I really am surprised it is free. Of course if you don’t have a phone you can resort to the old fashioned pen and paper to keep a log. Either way this is a very important step, so make sure you keep a log of everything you eat.
Now I will stop waffling and get onto the results. Now I didn’t have an end weight in mind or a set fat percentage I wanted to lose. I just went with the flow for the 9 weeks and this is what happened.
Here is the Comparison
Remember I did not train at all through the nine weeks (only 12 rehab sessions which were very light. No weights sessions. No cardio.)
Bodyweight 92.8 kg
Waist 36 ¼ inch
Arms 16 inch (tensed)
Average work hours 47+ a week
Calorie allowance 2’700
Bodyweight 80.2kg 12.7kg lost
Waist 31 inch 5 inches lost
Arms 15 3/4 1/4 inch lost
Average Hours Work 52+ a week
Calorie allowance 2’100
It is that simple! There really are no excuses!
1) This is not the ‘Ultimate fat loss’ diet! This is a simple, sustainable way to lose weight!
2) This isn’t the healthiest diet in the world (there is barely any vegetables in it for starters) but it is my diet! I didn’t have to change and eat things I didn’t want to or eat bland tasteless food, I ate things I was already eating but in smaller amounts.
3) This was an easy way to sustainable weight loss.
4) I didn’t stop eating, or starve myself, or take shakes, or gimmicky protein bars.
5) Make sure you hit your protein requirements!
6) There was no high intensity training involved or heavy weight sessions or anything like that. In fact barely any, as mentioned below.
7) My diet is relatively okay, mainly lots of protein and decent carb choices with the odd ‘naughty’ snack or meal. If your diet is pure rubbish, this method won’t work as optimally. Address that issue first and then try this method. Remember you are what you eat. If you eat a lot of rubbish you’re going to look rubbish. If you start eating a little less rubbish, you will still look rubbish. Just a smaller bit of rubbish.
Some of you may be looking at the results and think I must have been training 24/7 and active as much as I could to lose weight. Unfortunately I wasn’t. Due to my torn MCL I was struggling on the rehab road and the first 3-5 weeks was mainly just small rehab work. In the 9 weeks I only completed 12 training sessions!
These 12 training sessions were not intense and definitely not full of volume. It mainly consisted of me doing 5 x 5 BB Split Squats with a few single leg glute bridges at the end, all with the aim of strengthening my quad and helping my knee.
I would be very surprised if I hit more than 200kcal or so burned per session.
A big part of this success is making smarter choices- basically not being gluttonous and overeating!!
Some of the changes I made are listed below:
Now one last cheesy bit. There is no excuse as to why YOU cannot do this! Stop making excuses!! You have a slow metabolism, you’re injured, you haven’t got time, It is simple! If all you’re after is weight loss! Just get on with it.
If I can do it anybody can!!!
……….Proof of which is written below.
I had no personal reason to do this. I chose to do this to help people understand weight loss is simple. I have written this in the most honest and applicable way I can so that you can understand and follow it. This is the most sustainable approach to fat loss you can do, it is YOUR diet just a little less.
Now that I have done this I am more than likely going to creep back up to 92-95kg. This may seem completely pointless to you, and many of you are probably wondering why.
I have never really cared for having a six pack (I am too pale to see it) or being the biggest guy in the gym or have 20+ inch arms. At this weight now I don’t really feel comfortable in my own skin, I look great but it doesn’t feel like ‘me’ if that makes sense. At 92kg a little soft, a little podgy (okay maybe a lot podgy but get over it) I was a lot happier in my skin.
And besides I like family sized Pies too much.