It took me 20 years to learn how to lose fat, and I won’t go back again.
A few years ago I wrote about being the heaviest I’d ever been and how I have struggled with fat my whole life. A DXA scan revealed that 28% of my body weight was pure fat. Technically I was obese according to National Institute of Health standards . (Based on body fat measurement, not BMI. More on that in another post…)
This might not be a popular opinion, but I’ll state in any way: I believe we as a society are too fat, and I think we’re comfortable with the idea of being fat as a counter-balance to unrealistic beauty standards set for both women and men. I hope my logic tracks. To clarify, IMHO, our collective acceptance of “extra weight” is a response to the overly skinny (and unhealthy) female models and un-sustainably muscular/impossibly lean male models we see in advertising and entertainment.
We’re angered by impossible standards, so we position our own standards an equally impractical distance from normal, but in the other direction. The “fat” direction. It’s like a pendulum: they pull us toward skinny, and we push back toward “fat.”
We’re normalizing “fat”
The standards of beauty–set by industries trying to sell us things–are ridiculous and, ultimately, dishonest. (Again, I’ll save that for another post…) But in response to that ridiculousness, we’re telling ourselves (and our kids) that it’s okay to carry excess fat because we need to “love ourselves” in lieu of accepting those impossible standards. YES, love yourself! Only a doctor (and our NIH?) has the right to tell you that you’re unhealthy…
But you know how you feel. And you know if the food you are eating is good food. And you know, in your heart, if you’re eating food because you are addicted to it instead of eating food because it’s fueling your amazing, creative, energetic, vibrant existence on this planet.
I’ve fought those demons since I was a kid, and I’m saying this to myself as much as I am saying it to anyone who reads this. For all the people who keep asking me how I lost this weight:
There is only ONE way to lose fat
When I was entering high school, my pediatrician told me that I’d “struggle with my weight for the rest of my life.” I hear him repeating those words in my brain constantly. For most of my adult life I was on the weight-loss roller coaster. Whenever I got motivated and decided to “diet,” I spent all my time exercising, working-out obsessively in an effort to game the system so I could enjoy cheat meals (or cheat days… or cheat weeks). I’d increase my cardio sessions to a number beyond what any normal person has time for in their schedule, and then I’d eat garbage foods because I thought I’d “burn it off” with more cardio…
Inevitably, the hours I’d invest every week on the treadmill or elliptical would become untenable when life got busy with other things. I’d stop exercising but continue to eat those “cheat” foods, and then I’d put all the weight back on PLUS SOME until I decided to “do something” about it again. I repeated this cycle for decades.
I’ve tried so many things to lose weight:
- I was a pescatarian for 12 years
- I gave up dairy
- I tried Atkins
- I ran 40 miles a week
- I tried cross-fit
Between ages 21 and 35 I tried everything you can imagine. I bought the Ab roller in college. I bought the boots that let me hang upside-down. I bought countless pairs of running shoes, running watches, heart rate straps, and a very expensive bicycle that I rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the AIDS Life/Cycle. I tried everything. None of it worked.
By 2014, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. I made some changes, tried cross-fit, I lost some of the weight — I blogged about it — and then I carried on with my cycle of eating well/not eating well, etc. I lost ten pounds or so, but I didn’t reach my goals. I still felt fat. Most importantly, my energy didn’t improve. I wasn’t obese anymore, but I knew I was carrying too much fat, or at least more fat than I wanted to be carrying.
If you take an honest look at this picture (whoa, super embarrassing), I think it’s hard to deny that I was fat. But, this goes beyond the way I looked in the mirror… it’s about how I felt, both physically and emotionally. I was tired all the time, and I was stuck in a cycle of exhaustion -> eating sugary foods -> crashing into exhaustion again -> eating MORE sugary foods… over and over again every day. Bags of potato chips. Pints of dairy-free ice cream. Every damn kind of protein bar you can imagine. The farts were outrageous. I hated the way I felt more than anything else.
I’m going to tell you what I did, and I hope it inspires you to chase your own goals.
I know many of you have tried lots of tactics, too. Maybe some worked for a while, or maybe you have some advice to share with me and others. Or maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to bring it back to good.
I’m writing these words, feeling super self-conscious about sounding like a “fitness guru” who’s trying to sell you something. I’ve read SO MANY BLOGS like this SO MANY TIMES, and now I’m the one writing it down. But it’s important.
So here it is. This is me today. I am down to 10% body fat. I’ve lost 31 lbs of fat in the past couple of years, and I’ve added almost 10 pounds of muscle. Not bad for a guy in his late 30s. People keep asking me how I’ve done it, so I decided to write a few blogs about it. I’ve written a series of posts detailing my process—mental and physical—and I am going to put them here regularly. I’ll also use the hashtag #fitnrd (for fitness nerd, get it?) on Instagram, etc. for “fitness-related” pics and, tbh, shirtless selfies.
I’m going to get this stuff off my chest. Literally and figuratively.
I wish someone had given me this info 20 years ago. So, I’m going to write this stuff down for you and as a reminder to myself. If you have questions, please message me on social media. I’m not going to worry about this writing being funny or well-written or “on-brand.” I’m not selling anything. I’m not trying to be a fitness guru. This is my experience and not intended as medical advice.
I’ll cover how I eat, why I eat that way, how I strength-train and when/why. I’ll review the tools I use to track my goals—both IRL and in the digital space. Most importantly, I’ll share my mental process and the state of mind I maintain to accomplish my goals. That’s the secret.
If you’re interested in how I did it and want to make a change for yourself, follow this blog or follow me on Instagram or Twitter and please ask me anything you’re curious about. I finally know what actually works, and I’m going to put it right here for everyone to read.
Here we go…