I used to tell myself I would never have a body I felt sexy in. I was wrong. 4 years ago I weighed 40 lbs heavier than I do today. Never give up on yourself! You can transform your body to its natural shape.
Often times when someone takes on the challenge of getting healthy and fit they go from one extreme to the other. They go from zero exercise and horrible eating habits and food addictions to trying to work out 5-7 days a week and doing extreme calorie and food restrictions. People then get discouraged because they bite off more than they can chew, pun intended. So instead of even giving a 50% effort into getting healthy and fit they give up and give a 0% effort. A 50% increase in effort above what you are currently doing will yield results. Even a 30% effort is an improvement and a great starting point. You don’t have to do everything completely perfect 7 days a week to optimize your health and transform your body. One thing gyms won’t tell you is losing weight is 90% diet, 10% exercise. Exercise has it’s own benefits when it comes to longevity and toning, but for pure fat loss what you are fueling your body with is the secret to slimming down.
Things to Remind yourself of:
- Celebrate the small victories.
- Do not undervalue your progress.
- The best workout is the one you will do.
- Do not let one mistake be the beginning of several bad decisions.
- Your weight is only one measurement of your progress. Also keep track of your body fat percentage.
- The quality of calories you are ingesting matter more than the quantity of calories you are ingesting.
- Your body naturally fluctuates 4-6 pounds throughout the day. You weigh the lightest in the morning before eating.
The below outlines are for those starting or struggling on their journey towards health. Keep in mind that someone’s 30%, 50%, and 80% efforts are going to vary person to person depending on your starting point (You may need to alter your routine according to your current physical capabilities). If you are already at an 80% effort or higher, congratulations! Any tips, edits, feedback, or suggestions are welcome in the comments!
Workout Outline for Transforming your Figure:
30% Effort: Do one of the following
- Go on a 20 minute walks a week a minimum of three times a week
- Do 75 weightless squats a minimum three times a week
- Go on a 30 minute walks a week a minimum of three times a week
- Do 100 weightless squats a minimum of three times a week
- Stretch a minimum of 10 minutes prior to workouts
- Stretch a minimum of 20 minutes daily
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) training 2 times a week
- Example: 10-13 Uphill sprints
- Weighted Lifting 3 times a week
- Example: Weighted squats, rows, curls, and extensions, etc.
- Go on a 20 minute walks a minimum of three times a week (can be used as a cool down or warm up)
*Your 80% effort is going to change as you get stronger. Adjust your workouts accordingly: Increase reps, weight, etc.
Eating Outline for Optimizing Health:
- Stay hydrated – lots of water and 100% pure coconut water
- Cut out 1-2 problem foods or areas
- Example: If you eat out a lot, instead of ordering a burger and fries order a salad and fries.
- Stay hydrated – lots of water and 100% pure coconut water
- Limit soda intake to 1-2 days a week.
- If you generally eat a lot of processed food try to eat more raw food (veggies and fruit) during the day and wait until after 4pm to eat processed food.
- Stay hydrated – lots of water and 100% pure coconut water
- Vegetarian or Vegan: I’d highly recommend cutting out animal products such as meat, eggs, and limiting dairy (or cutting it out completely). There is various research and studies support a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle for optimal health and longevity.
- Eat raw until 4pm. After 4pm you can incorporate in whole wheat pastas, lentils, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Avoid processed foods
My Personal Journey to Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle: what worked, what didn’t, and how I’ve kept the weight off.
The road started off bumpy with lots of failure, discouragement, yoyoing weight loss and weight gain, and dehydration. I desperately tried the “quick fixes” of horribly unhealthy diets ranging from HCG which made me lose half my hair and the weight came back at an alarmingly fast rate once I was done with the cycle to excessive food restrictions that inevitably led to binge eating at 2am because I was so hungry. I did not have the proper knowledge of what being healthy truly meant. I was so concerned and obsessed about how I looked that I neglected how I felt. This approach to losing weight led to me damaging my physical, mental, and emotional well being and I had nothing to show for it except discouragement. I was miserable. I was miserable while I was losing weight because I was starving for more calories and I was miserable when I fell of the bandwagon because I was gaining the weight back.
One of the most valuable lessons to learn on the road to health: Do not let one bad mistake be the beginning of several bad decisions. One of my biggest hurdles to get over was the slippery slope of not letting one bad food choice lead to several bad food choices. For example, I would do so well for 5 days of eating healthy foods and then the intense sugar cravings would ensue. Instead of properly managing the cravings I’d tell myself, “I’ll just eat one.” but by the end of the night I consumed half my pantry and it would take me weeks sometimes to get back to eating healthy. One thing I learned from this is not to have unhealthy food available in my house. As the saying goes, if you are on a diet don’t stand by the dessert table. I’m not saying I never treat myself, but when I do I only buy a single serving or meal worth. Instead of buying a whole box of cookies go to a bakery and buy one delicious cookie. Do not skimp on the quality of your cheat food. For example, for my most recent cheat meal instead of buying a boxed vegan pizza from the grocery store, I went out to a local vegan restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed two slices of gourmet fire roasted vegan pizza. It was exquisite!
The Problem with Rapid Weight Loss Diets: There are two main problems with short term diets that promise rapid results. Firstly, these types of diets do not teach you to change your lifestyle. Your bad habits and food addictions are still just around the corner waiting for you to have a moment of weakness. When you go on diets promising you that you’ll shed 30 pounds in 30 days what they aren’t advertising is that you will most likely gain the weight back after the 30 days because people inevitable go back to their old lifestyle that led to excess weight in the first place. Having a healthy lifestyle is a long term investment. You need to retrain your mental relationship with food and you need to retrain your taste buds to enjoy healthy food. Secondly, when you are dropping weight at a rapid rate it isn’t primarily fat you are losing. You are primarily losing muscle and water weight. Unfortunately, when gaining the weight back it is primarily fat and water weight. This is why people who struggle with yoyoing body weight often feel and look bigger when they put the weight back. For example, using arbitrary numbers, say your starting weight is 190 lbs at 35% body fat and then you drop down to 170 lbs at 30% body fat after doing a rapid weight loss diet with extreme calorie and food restrictions. After you finish the diet you go back to your old eating regime and you gain the 20 lbs you lost back. However, now instead of being 190 lbs at 35% body fat you are 190 lbs and 39% body fat.
If I had to recommend a rapid weight loss diet for meat eaters it would be The Carb Nite Solution. I did this diet for roughly 6 months after I had already lost 30 lbs to shed off the last 15 pounds and maintain my target range of weight. I do not recommend doing this diet for more than three months due to the amount of animal products you consume on it. For me, even though I was finally down to the size I wanted, I physically did not feel good and had very low energy levels along with intense and constant headaches. I personally would not do this diet again because it is not focused on a healthy lifestyle and longevity.
The Road to Success: Everything for me changed when I got an accountability partner that already had a vast knowledge of health and fitness. This needs to be someone invested and concerned in your health and that sincerely cares about your success. This is someone to be there to celebrate your small victories with you, to counsel you when make mistakes, and to help answer questions as they arise. Whether that person be a friend, spouse, partner, personal life coach, etc, choose your accountability partner wisely. It needs to be someone that already has knowledge of health and fitness so you can use them as a reference through your journey. If it is an option, I recommend it being someone you live with. Warning: There are going to be times where contention arises. There are going to be times when you feel offended. They are going to point out when you are slipping or make a mistake and it is going to make you mad and defensive. Remember, they are not the enemy, your bad habits are. Once you have developed new healthy habits you may no longer need to have an accountability partner. You’ll eventually have the knowledge, discipline, and dedication to be your own accountability partner. But in the beginning, for me, it was helpful to have someone to keep me honest with myself and provide me with the knowledge and tools I needed to be successful.
Reminder to the accountability partner: Give credit where credit is due. Give constant reassurance and support. It is a minimum of a 3-1 ratio: Compliment and encourage three times the amount of times you critique. Remember that this person is battling with their self worth and trying their best. Even if their best is currently only a fraction of your best, it is still their best.
When I started losing and keeping the weight off: I started with a 30%-40% effort. I cut back on the amount of bread, dairy, and dessert I was consuming in addition to walking a minimum of 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes. I lost 15 lbs pounds in 3 months and more importantly never gained the weight back. This took me from being 170lbs to 155lbs. Only being 5’3″ losing 15 pounds made a huge physical difference in appearance that was noticed not only by myself but by others. Even my face looked different.
Next came the stage of finding the lifestyle I could maintain indefinitely. During this period I was keeping the weight off I previous lost and continued to slim down while I tried new things. I bounced around from one concept of healthy living to the next. First I tried intermittent fasting and tracking my caloric intake with the Renegade Diet while doing my short lived trial with CrossFit. Next I moved on to the Carb Nite Solution and cutting out alcohol while doing very low amounts of cardio, only 1-2 times a week due to my low amount of energy. Next I moved to vegetarianism and going on 3-5 mile walks a minimum of three times a week. On October 30, 2015, I made the decision to go vegan. I have never felt so healthy or been so aware of my body. I am still working on completely cutting dairy out of my diet. Most days I am 100% vegan but I still occasionally have days where I’m only at 90% vegan. I’m excited to achieve 100% veganism 365 days a year. With being vegan I do not count calories and I try to eat raw, focusing on fruits and vegetables, until 4pm and then for dinner I will eat things like whole wheat pastas, lentils, brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. One thing I’ve realized with going vegan is my taste buds have adapted to my new lifestyle. Here is a short list of some of the foods I used to detest that I now love and eat copious amounts: kale, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, dates, quinoa, water, and coconut water.
Supplements I Take:
The Mental and Emotional Journey of Health: Having a healthy lifestyle is not limited to the body. A truly healthy person also works on their inner beauty of having a healthy mind and life force. My 5 suggestions for your inner journey:
- Meditation – I have been meditating since 2008 and journaling my thoughts afterwards. This has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of personal growth, discovery, and achievement. Meditation helps with heightening focus, lessening anxiety, cultivating creativity, increasing compassion, improving memory, eliminating stress, and reducing the decline of our cognitive functions. One of the coolest things about mediation is it has been linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the brain which can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life.* To further the benefit of meditation, I recommend doing it outside when possible.
- Stretching and Yoga- Not only does stretching help with longevity, increasing energy levels, improving posture, flexibility, improving your full range of motion, increasing blood flow to the muscles, and preventing injury; but, it also helps with becoming aware of your body, relaxation, and stress management.
- Compliment Yourself – I recently started looking at myself in the mirror and saying an out loud mantra of “I am beautiful. I am intelligent. I am worth it.” The first time I did this I was unable to maintain eye contact with myself and I started bawling before I even got through “I am beautiful.” It brought a lot of personal body dysmorphia and negative self imprints of self hate into light that I wasn’t consciously aware I was dealing with. Because of this I have been able to begin working through my negative thought patterns regarding myself, finding the root of them, and removing the thoughts, things, and people in my life that do not recognize or respect my value as a person.
- Reading – Whether it be fiction, non-fiction, or a bit of both, reading helps strengthen your brain. Recent research shows that the brain is like a muscle. It gets stronger with mental exercise. Scientists have been able to show that has you learn and develop thoughts that the brain actually changes and grows. For my walks, I like to listen to an audiobook if I’m going alone. This gives me something to think about and process and typically makes me want to go for longer walks.
- Being Outside in Nature (Ecotherapy) – There are various benefits to being outside: The sun is the best resource for vitamin D, promotes eye health (artificial light provokes nearsightedness), improves sleep (being in the sun keeps our circadian rhythm balanced), there is fresher air (according to the California Air Resources Board “indoor air-pollutants are 25-62% greater than outside levels and this difference poses a serious risk to health.”), grounding and energizing our body, and nature is beautiful. If that isn’t enough reasons to encourage you to go outside, spending time in nature has been linked to improved long and short term attention spans, boosts in serotonin, and shows increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love. Urban environments on the other had are linked to an increase in fear and anxiety.*