You know that popular insanity quote by Einstein? It goes like this “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
Recently on Facebook, I asked if anyone was interested in losing some fat. And you’ll see in the comments that I raised my hand. I think it’s time for me to break my insanity cycle and hopefully help a few others in the process. I want you to join me for the ride over the next 90 days. Let’s help each other lose a few pants sizes.
For the last 3 years, my New Year’s resolution has been to reveal my abs. And I’ve failed each year. I have mounds of excuses from surgeries, injuries, binge eating, laziness and a large dose of stress.
But while all those are true-life events, the fact remains I haven’t snapped my vanity “Abs” picture. And that’s the goal in 2013.
So, let’s look at some reasons why I’ve failed over the past few years:
- Not a strong enough why
- Lack of a good plan
- Over reliance on a silver bullet
- Bad tracking
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of reward
- Lifestyle problems
Each year I’ve failed in at least one area, if not many. And that’s all it takes to derail a fat loss effort. Losing fat is hard work. Just like people who’ve never been sick don’t understand, those who’ve never been fat don’t really get it. Some might ask, “But Steve, have you been fat?” You be the judge…
I’d call that fat by my standards… that’s college graduation in December 2007. My weight was about 240lbs. I had low energy most days and was struggling with alternating constipation and diarrhea.
I cut down from that weight to about 220lbs in the first year. Then, late in 2009, using the combo of intermittent fasting, Adonis workouts and low carbohydrate diets I dropped down to about 180 with a 34 inch waist by early 2010. At this point, I was eating a low-carb version of Specific Carbohydrate Diet (between 75-150grams a day) but I never really lost any more weight. Even though I was shoving tons of supplements and aggressive strength training into my body each week, it seemed like my body had hit its “set point” and was comfortable there.
I’ve been more or less at that same waist size (33.5-36 inches) and weight for the last 3 years. While lots of other areas of my health like energy, digestion and skin have gotten much better, for various reasons listed above, I just haven’t broken through my plateau. And so now I’m changing things so they don’t put me in a straight jacket!
Here’s some more recent pics taken on Jan 2nd, when I weighed in at 189.4 with a 35.5 inch waist (this is maximum accountability).
Here’s why I’m qualified to teach you a few things about fat loss:
- The first being I’ve lost 60 pounds in the past.
- The second being I’m trained in the Kalish method of functional medicine in which we spent time learning the clinical reasons why some people have a very hard time losing weight despite diet and exercise changes.
- Third, I’m grateful to have access to some of the top health experts in the world to ask questions.
- And fourth, I’ve been weightlifting, using bodybuilding diets and all kinds of supplements for over 12 years now.
You name the diet, lifting routine and I’ve likely tried it or one very close to it. My goal here is to lose 4 inches on my waist and help you avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past.
7 Steps to Fast & Holistic Fat Loss
I don’t care if you are 200 pounds overweight or 20 pounds overweight, you will need to follow these seven steps if you expect to fully reach your goals like fitting into those skinny jeans and having pride at the beach when you take your shirt off.
Step 1. Get Crystal Clear on Your WHY
Put plainly, if you don’t get crystal clear on ‘WHY’ you want to lose fat, it’s highly unlikely that you will actually achieve your goal. You’ll notice goals are not part of these seven steps. It’s not that a concrete and achievable goal isn’t important, just that the ‘WHY’ behind it is much more important.
Do you want to be skinnier because of known health problems that are complicated by being overweight? Is it because you want to set the best example for your kids? How about trying to be the change you want in this world, like healthier and trimmer for a loved one? It’s wise to think about this with lots of effort. In fact, you may decide that you have many ‘WHYs’ like me. The more ‘WHYs’ you can stack up the better.
In that case, follow my lead and create a list of 100 reasons why getting skinnier will improve your life (thanks to Sean Croxton). Seem like a daunting task? Fine, create 10 a day for the next 10 days. And then refer back to this list often. This is one the deepest wells of power to draw from. Don’t skip it.
Step 2. Follow a Proven Fat Loss Plan
Seems simple right? Well, it would be if there wasn’t such a crazy industry dedicated to over-promising and underserving those of us looking to lose some fat. Couple that with the fact that each individual is facing different and specific challenges and it’s easy to see why most aren’t losing weight. I don’t have the time or energy to explain why every magazine and new article is wrong about how to lose fat. All I can do is present a couple plans that I know will work for you if you apply them. If you choose something else, well then you’ll just suffer as you create your own trail.
Okay, you need 2 components for your plan. A meal plan and a workout plan. Am I saying you need to work out to lose fat? No, I’m saying if you want to be healthier, lose fat faster, and look sexier, then working out properly is what you should be doing.
These are the best strategies I know of that are also capable of fitting into your current whole foods / SCD food situation. For the exercise plan you choose forget running and think walking. Forget small weights and think lift heavy things. Again, disagree, that’s fine and if you do make your fat loss goal it might be in spite of your plan not with the help of your meal and workout plans.
- Dan’s Plan Ideal Weight – Stephan Guyenet and Dan Pardi have created a remarkable program that weaves food, workouts, activity levels and sleep into a fat loss program. I like that the eating plan is a whole foods approach and could be easily adapted to anyone’s diet needs. I took the plunge and got a fitbit to help me track my activity levels and sleep levels. I like that this program stacks several small but meaningful changes together creating a massive tidal wave of fat loss.
- Adonis / Venus Index and Eat Stop Eat – I used the Adonis program very effectively and I’ve seen it work for several people since. I like that they have specific tracking standards and that the programs are tailored to what almost everyone really wants (looking good naked). Having separate plans for men and women is also a large bonus. The Eat Stop Eat method of cutting calories is extremely easy to implement and can be used with any custom diet.
- Leangains – Martin Berkhan has been getting clients ripped for a long time. His biggest contribution has been utilizing an eating window. This allows you to get the benefits of intermittent fasting while still eating and living a somewhat normal life. He’s also a big fan of lifting heavy things.
- Nutritional Ketosis – Popularized recently by Jimmy Moore, this is basically a very high fat, low protein and even lower carbohydrate way of eating. Some people like Jimmy see amazing changes on a program like this. If you choose to go this route make sure you buy this book.
So, how to choose one? Well, the most researched plan is Dan’s Plan. With a diet based on decades of research, fitness competition and experimentation, it’s my choice. The exercise guide is simple and prudent. Adonis/Venus workouts are the best for a complete physical transformation. Eat Stop Eat method of eating is great for those who like convenience. Leangains is best for those who are strength junkies, experienced lifters and don’t suffer from blood sugar issues. Nutritional Ketosis is good for those with blood sugar problems, fructose malabsorption issues and those who do not have a dairy issue (follow Dan’s plan workout or Adonis/Venus Index workout programs).
I’ll be eating Dan’s Plan meals, following their walking recommendations, and doing a workout program very close to theirs.
Step 3. Forget About Silver Bullets and Focus on the Task
Silver bullets are shiny things like supplement bottles and the latest craze workout program (P90X anyone). These silver bullets are ubiquitous in our mainstream media, internet and radio. And I’ve wasted money on many of them.
The task at hand is to enjoy hunger, to enjoy simple repeatable meals, to hit the workout harder than ever, to get one more rep, to say no to the treats, to say no to booze, to take the time to plan my week, to read my reasons why over and over.
Think that sounds crazy? It’s actually called a reframe. The goal is to take all the things about ‘dieting’ that you dread and spin them into the positive reason why they are actually helping you. For instance, hunger is a common complaint. Well, what if hunger was just a reminder that you’re losing fat. What if every time you got hungry you smiled a sly smile and laughed as you realized you just got a few more steps closer to your goal? Sounds weird till you actually decide to do it. It’s a perspective shift.
Same goes with eating the same foods over and over. Every time I eat the same meal for the 5th time of the week, I’m going to flex my abs, celebrate in my head and get even more jacked ’cause I know I’m working the plan. And those abs will be coming out to party in no time.
Losing fat will be hard work, it will be inconvenient at times and it will be challenging at times. If these types of thoughts are what derails you this year, then you didn’t do Step 1. And you forgot to reframe the negative perceptions that are clouding your mind and stealing your goals.
Step 4. Put Repeatable Tracking Systems in Place That Work
Okay repeat it with me now… The scale weight is not a repeatable tracking system. Scale weight is not fat mass. It is a measure of gravity on the body. Your body is made up primarily of water, muscle, organs, fat, undigested food and waste products. To consider the scale weight an accurate and repeatable measurement, you’d have to keep all these variables constant week in and week out. Therefore, it is the worst marker to track your progress. Don’t use the scale only or you will FAIL.
The best repeatable tracking system I’ve found is pictures. They are extremely motivating and show all kinds of changes that a scale never could. It’s best to do them weekly, stand in the same place, with the camera in the same location, clothes the same, same time of the day, and roughly same amount of time since you last ate. For me, that makes the morning before food the best time to take pictures. While you can do this with any old camera, I’ve found a great 99 cent APP. It will be worth the money. Trust me. It does auto comparisons which is what you really need. Check this out…
The next best choice is a tape measure. For men, measure around the belly/waist at its largest point (usually a few inches below the belly button). For women, measure around the hips/buttocks. Or better yet, follow the Adonis/Venius Index recommendations on measurements. These systems are broken down step-by-step and are the best I’ve seen at using tape measures to monitor improvements.
And that’s about all you should be thinking about doing. Unless of course, you plan to do DEXA scans at which point you probably skipped this section anyways. Remember the scale sucks. It’s the 3rd worst marker of progress. No guy ever thought a woman was sexy because she was 130 pounds and no woman has ever thought a man was hot because he was 180 pounds. It’s what makes up those pounds that we are attracted to.
Step 5. Throw Your Shoe Over The Fence (Get Accountable)
Quick story. Early on when I switched to SCD I was having awful cravings and cheating issues. This persisted for the first 6 months. I finally got fed up and was determined to do 100 days on SCD without cheating. What did I do? I wrote Jordan a $1,000 dollar personal check. And I made him promise that if I screwed up he’d spend it on something.
Guess what? I didn’t cheat… I made it the whole 100 days.
The point here is that even while I was unknowingly suffering from Candida, parasites and brain neurotransmitter imbalances, I found a way to achieve my goal when I made myself accountable.
Don’t you see the selfish aspect of this post?
I’m making myself publicly accountable to each and every one of you. Not only that but I posted my fat before pictures. Is it painful? Yes. Kind of scary? Yes.
And that’s how it should feel.
When you design your accountability strategy, it should feel like you have no options other than to get your goal. Here’s some other ideas I’ve heard in the past you might like:
- Make a pact to do something very public and embarrassing if you fail
- Post a public challenge
- Write a check to a friend and instruct them to give it to someone you don’t like
- Find a partner and agree on a goal like going to the gym each day. Each day you bet $1, $5, $10 and if one of you doesn’t come through you owe up
- Hire a coach, personal trainer, etc. who will not let up on you
- Enter in a public bodybuilding or fitness contest
- Pay up front for a “photo shoot” to show off your new look
Honestly your imagination is the limit, but whatever you choose it should make you uncomfortable and very nervous to fail. See, there are two kinds of motivation: towards and away from motivation. Most of us are motivated by both kinds but give preference towards away from motivation. In other words, we’d rather avoid pain than get pleasure.
As you read this, you might disagree but studies have routinely shown that pain is a much better motivator. So, pick something painful and scary and then achieve your goal so you don’t have to do it.
My accountability is this post right here. And a $50 dollar bet with a friend. (The $50 bucks is really a friendly bet it doesn’t scare me.)
Step 6. Set Up a Reward For All Your Efforts
Why not use both? I think the best idea is to recognize that, as humans, we need as much stimulation as possible towards our goals. So, now that we’ve discussed the painful kind let’s talk about the pleasure.
This one is much more fun to think and talk about. And that is precisely why it is less motivating. But some days when you aren’t running from a friend you will want to be dreaming about the great reward you’ll be getting in a few short weeks.
It’s best to tie the rewards into the goal. So, in this case my goal is to look better naked. Here’s some ideas for rewards:
- Put a down payment on a beach vacation
- Go shopping for a new outfit in your new “size” and buy it
- If you’re dropping several sizes, set aside some money to spend on new clothes
- Save money to spend on spa day
- Or commit that if you reach your goal you’ll do that one thing you’ve been putting off
Whatever you choose, the idea is to start to commit to the pleasure. See the reward, smell it, maybe you even buy it ahead of time. But in the case of clothes, you won’t be able to use them until you fit in them. In the case of travel or activities, put a down payment on it and every day spend a little bit of time imagining your future skinnier version of you doing it.
My reward for getting to my abs will be a photo shoot and some new clothes. And I’ll be posting the pictures on the blog.
Step 7. Check for the Hidden Problems That Will Affect Fat Loss
In the past, I really didn’t take this part seriously. And of course I failed. Hopefully that is a lesson for you. Hidden problems are things like cortisol issues, inflammation, stress, negativity and lack of nourishment.
For instance, I hardly ever took stress management seriously. And two years ago I burned myself out into stage 3 adrenal fatigue. It’s pretty much impossible to lose weight when your hormones are messed up. I’ve also worked hard over the years to do everything possible to lower my inflammation. If you don’t know whether or not you have problems, the answer is to get tested especially if you are someone who hasn’t lost fat like you thought you should.
It’s hard for your body to think about building muscle and burning fat if it’s always fighting a chronic infection or inflammation. When losing weight, we want our body firing on all cylinders and if you have any micronutrient deficiencies, that’s not going to happen. Taking measures to protect against this is important like proper supplements, organ meats and bone broths.
The takeaways from this section are:
- Eat a low inflammation, high nutrient diet
- Supplement prudently for micronutrients
- Do a daily stress management routine
- If you’re someone who’s tried to lose fat and it just never happened, get your adrenals, hormones, and digestive tract tested for problems
Failing any of the 4 above just might be the single reason why you don’t meet your fat loss goals. I’ve been tested over and over. I know exactly where my adrenals, sex hormones, and nutrient status fall. This is a much better use of your money than “miracle fat burners” (that don’t work) and other “silver bullet supplements.”
Lastly, it’s worth noting that while you might want to lose some fat, the point of this section is to show you that you might not be healthy enough yet. If you are still struggling with daily diarrhea, for example, then you need to fix that first.
Here’s the Challenge…
As you can see I’ve got a bit of a head start on you. I did this to show you I mean business, to show you what I’m doing and that it’s already working. But I’m not going to take it easy on myself.
Today is Jan 17th. I believe that 90 days is a very realistic time frame for me to lose the fat I want and build some muscle. And I think it’s a reasonable time frame for me to hold you accountable. So, the challenge ends on April 16th. 90 days to a new version of you.
How it works: I’m going to be posting updates on the blog with pictures to keep myself accountable to you. And I expect you to post updates on how you are doing as well. If you want me to help you stay committed, feel free to send me money 🙂 and I will also do things like post anyone’s pictures publicly on this blog if they choose (email me with the headline: fat loss challenge).
I’m not putting anything up for grabs. Because as I covered above, it’s about what’s emotionally important for you and what scares you. How are you addressing the 7 keys and what is your goal? Tell me in the comments below and let’s all look a little bit skinner in 2013!