The latest topics have been quite intense in nature, we touched on therapy or relationships and the series around Choice training was not an easy one to write! For a while, I wanted to go back to Physical intelligence, in other words, our physical health. I’ve been procrastinating on that article, I was unsure what I want to talk about and how.
Health and having functional body isn’t goals I always achieved nor maintained. I had years of non-healthy lifestyle and years of healthy lifestyle and months, weeks and days mixed up between the two. Looking back of the last 15 years, I like to share what I have learned and make it simple and concrete. I want to share with you this gift and I am sure some of you will take it!
A little story!
My health is good and I never really had any problems, my physic is another topic. I’ve been growing up quite tall and heavy, not in a way that made me look fat. I have big legs, wide and large chest/back and I am not thin. I am the heavy type, as a teenager, people always liked to compare my body with rugby men.
My strong physical looks lasted until I was roughly 22 years old (I am 31). After repeated failures in trying to be an Alpine Ski Instructor, I gave up on exercising. I spent my hunger for competition in video games. I wasn’t knowledgeable about food and nutrition at that time. I was quite active all my childhood, living in the countryside, having the luxury to play in the garden, climb trees and biking regularly. After 18, I have been exercising a minimum of 7-8 hours per week in Secondary school, at least 3 training sessions a week, up to 5-6 sessions during the winter season. But when I stopped working out and even having an active lifestyle, I kept eating like I was still exercising and as I was a student, I couldn’t afford nice food (who said pasta every meal?).
How I changed my life?
It started quite randomly in a way, I was probably quite fed up of being overweight and the thought of having heart disease later wasn’t enjoyable. One of my friends started a diet, it is a very hard intense one based mostly on eating protein and greens. It has days/weeks where I was nearly only on proteins. No sugar, no carbohydrates (pasta, rice etc.).
I ordered the book, read about all the stages of the diet, what to do, what NOT to do and all that. Started to plan, thought about the food I would eat and I just went with it. The diet kick start with 10-15 days of only proteins (except breakfast), I had a fridge full of chicken breasts, smoked salmon, 0% fat yogurt and these kind of things. What was appealing is that I could eat as often and as much as I want with this diet, particularly when it is the days/weeks with vegetables.
4-5 weeks in, I started to track my weight at 117 kg and I lost roughly 1-1.5 kg per week with this diet. It was magical to me, I COULD LOSE weight. Let me repeat that, I COULD LOSE WEIGHT. When I was exercising like crazy between 18 to 22, I couldn’t lose the few years kilos I had or I was putting on during off season (summer). I went to a nutritionist but without much success. My logical conclusion is that I had bad metabolism and it was the way I am and the way I will be. No surprise a few years later I was 123 kilos…
This kind of diet is highly controversial and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but for it made me realize I could lose weight so I kept going. I followed the guidance from the book, tracked my progress using a wifi scale and the app provided with it. And here are the results (top curve = weight; bottom curve = fat %)!
From September 2011 to September 2012, I went from 123 kg to 84.6 kilos. To give you an idea, the last time I was 85 kilos, I was 16 or 17 I believe. I went from 32% (possibly higher I lost 6 kg when I started to record it) to 17% of body fat. In one year, with simple efforts: Systems. For most of it, I was not working out at all. I believe I may have started in July 2012 so at the end of the weight loss.
What do I mean by system?
Systems, Routines, Habits… For me, it is just organizing some aspects of our personal life is a systematic way. Let me explain mine at the time
- My diet consisted of one week of protein and one week of protein + vegetables. With something kind of pancake in the morning for fibers and a shit ton of water every day
- I was working 4 days and I had a 3 days week-end, so I did groceries twice: on my way home the first day of the work week and a delivery on the first day of my week-end
- On my way back from work, I would always go in the same shop, buy the same thing, for the same amount of meals (4 dinners and 4 breakfasts)
- My weekly delivery was always the same thing, shopping online on the grocery store website not to be tempted by impulsive purchases. Similar to the above, same things and same amount of meals (3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners and some back up snacks if needed)
- For my 4 lunches at work, I would had an healthy option for every restaurant I was going with my colleagues. I would decline to eat with them if there wasn’t an healthy option
Note: The above allowed me to NEVER have non healthy food in my fridge and cupboards. I had clean food at all times and I just had to be strong once a week, when doing groceries in the shop not to buy shitty food.
A week is composed of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners and eventually something to snack or smaller meals in between. My system of two times shopping and buying only clean food kept me out of trouble.
This diet was just the kick start of my healthier life but I nearly went back to where I was after it!
Which is why I wouldn’t recommend such a diet, as stabilizing the weight afterwards is extremely challenging and I failed miserably!
Top curve = Kilos; Bottom curve = Fat %
I went back to 110 kilos and 27% of body fat in the next 2 years and I was close to start from where I was. I cut the image to show you the next decline in weight and body fat and I will explain how the new system worked better while keeping the basis on the previous system.
How to turn a failure into a success?
In 2012 I started to workout again, in July I believe. It was first running with a friend, which was painful as hell the first few times and slowly moved to a gym membership. But while I was working out and thinking I was following the guidance to maintain the weight, I wasn’t successful at all. My two times cheat meals a week, turned out to be a double burgers from the local home made burger place. I allowed myself too much, too quickly and my body was happy to pile the fat on. At the beginning of 2015, I gained muscle due to working out but my weight gain was out of control.
At that point I clearly understood how poorly educated I was about nutrition but my journey still taught me a lot already!
So how the new system looked like? What was it made of?
- Started to follow a YouTube Channel: Six Pack ShortCuts about Fitness and Nutrition to inform myself of good practices
- Kept a simple and organized way of eating (similar to the above and on a low carb diet)
- Groceries twice a week, one online to reduce the risk of unwanted food purchases and eating mostly the same food I like
- Used MyFitnessPal app to understand where calories come from and trying to find a good balance around 2000 calories a day
- 3 time of weekly workout, always
- A lot of water! Always!
I made this system not to be on a diet anymore, I made this system to change the way I live. It isn’t about dieting for a bit, loosing weight and feeling better. It was about making a decision to change my life for the better, with the long term in mind.
This plan worked great and mostly brought me where I am today:
Top curve = Kilos; Bottom curve = Fat %
2016 have been a challenging year and I will cover that in another blog post a bit later. I started the year at 95 kg for 22% of body fat, went down to 89 kilos for a few weeks, around 17% of body fat to finish at 91.5 kilos for 20% of body fat. But it isn’t about the number really!
In all these years, I have been increasing my knowledge of what healthy food is, what to avoid and what to eat. I’ve built a system around me that it is keeping me healthy and in shape. My journey isn’t complete yet and will never be, I would love to be at 12-14% of body fat while keeping my little pleasure, like sharing a brownie with my wife when we go for a tea or going for a Mocha Latte at work with my friends.
As you can see, it isn’t an easy journey nor a quick one. It is a life long journey! It is a decision to make and to stick with it. Life will keep throwing challenges at us but nothing we can’t handle!
To Go Further…
I wish I knew this book when I started in 2011. I would have made different choices and may not have struggled so much at times. It is giving great advises with your food, what to change and how to change it step by step as well as giving latest and great information about working out. There is a lot of BAD information out there and this could put you on the right direction for a little cost and not much time!