Hello. My name is James Wansley, co-founder of BODYHACKER Supplements. I have a weight loss resolution for 2017. I am going to start the year by losing 20 lbs. Do you have a weight loss resolution too? If so, I’d like you to invite you to go on this journey with me.
Why Follow Me?
Because I know how to get there. I trained and competed in jiu jitsu (submission wrestling) for several years. For dozens of competitions, many of which I placed in the top three or won, I cut from my normal 170ish down to my competition weight of 155 lbs within six weeks. I lost the weight in a way that allowed me to have the energy to train throughout the six weeks and compete at the end.
An important point here is that at 170 lbs, I am not out of shape. My weight loss from 170 lbs to 155 lbs is that sacred “last 15 lbs” with which many people struggle. If what I do works for losing the last 15 lbs, it will definitely work for the first or middle 15 lbs.
I am currently at 185 lbs, which isn’t new. I’ve done the 185 lbs to 165 lbs weight cut several times too. My Crossfit gym holds an annual “Biggest Loser” type challenge for members who cut the most proportional weight, keep a food journal and show improvement from a baseline workout. I won this the first year by gaining up to 185 lbs, cutting down to 165 lbs, keeping a detailed journal and focusing on improving on the movements in the baseline workout. I scored a free pair of Reebok Nanos! The second year, I came in a subjective second place, even though I kept a tight journal, lost the most proportional weight and improved in the baseline workout. After this I was asked to please exclude myself from the challenge. Turns out a fit guy gaining weight just to lose it doesn’t satisfy the spirit of the challenge.
Like everyone, I’m good at gaining weight. Unlike most, I am also good at losing weight in a healthy way. For me, the challenge of weight loss is easy because I know which plan to follow and how to ensure that I stick to the plan.
What I’m Working With
Many of you can find similarities here. I am average in just about every category but height, where I am a little short at 5’9”. At 41 years old, I’m even mid-life. I have an office job. I’m at my desk for 6-10 hours per day. I am married and have two active kids. By the end of the day, my willpower is close to 0. In a mad dash to get to band concerts, choir practice, etc, I am put in a position to make the easy choice and eat garbage, lose my momentum and say “I’ll start over next week” or “well, maybe next year”. Sound familiar?
I hear stories from other people who have failed to follow through. But I have never missed a weightloss goal. I have a goal, a plan and a set of established consequences. That’s all I need. And that’s all you’ll need. My plan is derived from the truths that have revealed themselves over the last 10 years of training and cutting weight.
Weight Loss Truths
Diet vs Exercise
Diet (caloric restriction in this case) results in fat loss. Exercise results in muscle gain and cardiovascular improvement. Details of my journey will include exercise logs, but healthy fat loss without exercise is possible. You only burn a few hundred calories in a typical exercise session. You can’t jump on a treadmill and outrun your mouth. Exercise is also great for mental health and to ensure quality sleep, but sticking to a calorie restriction is how you lose weight.
Caloric restriction insinuates hunger, and 8 weeks of hunger might sound pretty horrible. If so, you’ve probably only experienced hunger throughout a day of high glycemic index meals. Atkins and ketogenic diets provide a more comfortable calorie restricted state. Hunger is more tolerable in diets like these that are designed to prevent insulin spikes. On these diets hunger is not painful and doesn’t make you moody. It’s something you notice, like a distant sound or a breeze. You will also have more energy throughout the day and think more clearly. Let’s compare the two diets:
The Ketogenic diet is better in my opinion, but harder to maintain
Ketogenic Diet Pros
- Provides the least noticeable hunger
- Requires fewer meals
- Includes the most simple staples to build meals; i.e. fewer choices to make
Ketogenic Diet Cons
- Food options are limited and get old quick
- Creating a per-meal balance of 65% fat, 30% protein and 5% carbs requires a lot of planning. A single meal out of this balance can kick you out of ketosis.
- Checking your ketone levels requires a blood-glucose monitor and 1-2 daily blood samples; this is expensive and also gets old quick.
The Atkins diet has worked for me several times in the past, but it presents more options. More options sounds better, but it can be a problem when you are trying to stay disciplined.
Atkins Diet Pros
- Food options are varied; omitted foods are flour, corn, potatoes and sugar.
- Prepping meals is easy
- Many standard American diet meals can be altered to satisfy Atkins; i.e. remove or substitute the omitted foods
Atkins Diet Cons
- Easier to lose track of calories in a meal
- Easier to overeat due to yumminess
- Easier to experience temporary (1-day) weight gain due to factors like high sodium
Later in this post you’ll see the diet that I chose to go with.
Supplements Can Help
To increase energy levels and to get the most out of my time in the gym, I will take BODYHACKER Endurance Pre-workout v2.0 before each cardio workout or any workout that might last longer than 25 minutes. I will keep a protein shake close by that I will use in place of 1 meal per day, usually lunch or dinner. To keep my micro-nutrients on point, the protein shake will include a liquid multivitamin. To ensure I do not lose muscle while in caloric restriction, I will consume branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) at least once daily. My preferred protein shake contains a full spectrum of BCAAs, so this will be easy.
Managing Willpower is Key
Given all of the above, the main reason why people fail to reach a weight loss goal is simple; a lapse of willpower. It begins with that one meal or even a snack that causes a break in momentum. This is generally preceded by a lack of planning and then rationalization. The rationalization works because of a lack of adequate consequences. You find yourself in a position of eating something off the diet because there are no other options. There is always another option. Don’t eat right now. Drink something, or chew gum. When properly hydrated, it takes a healthy human 30-40 days to starve to death. You can make it through this banquet or high school football game (assuming they are out of sausage on a stick). When trying to rationalize cheating, your brain will show you images of starving fashion models or will bring up the “if you don’t eat, your next meal will go straight to fat” garbage. Don’t buy it. Record the temptation and chalk it up as a win when you are on the other side.
If you find sticking to the diet to be difficult, try this:
- Promise yourself that you will reconsider eating your cheat meal again after 20 minutes.
- Eat a low/no carbohydrate snack or drink a protein shake with at least 35 grams of protein.
- Start a 20-minute timer.
- When the timer goes off, uphold your promise and reconsider your cheat meal. You will find it much easier to resist after you have been satiated by the shake.
- Keep track of the number of times you chose not to cheat and how many calories you’ve saved. This creates some great positive momentum.
This hack is tied to how satiation works. When your stomach has a lot of work to do in the form of enough fat, protein and/or fiber to process, it will send a signal to your brain that you are not hungry. This process takes up to 20 minutes from the time food is consumed. Eat enough protein and/or fat and/or fiber and 20 minutes later you will be able to turn down the cheat without expending willpower.
Like I stated earlier, my goal is to go from my current weight of 185 lbs to 165 lbs within 8 weeks. To accomplish this, I’ll need to cap my calories at 1,500/day. I don’t want to lean on exercise to lose body fat. I will have 30 minute cardio exercises 2-5 times a week, but mainly to release stress and maintain sanity. I’ll not lean on the calories burned in exercise to lose weight, they will just be a bonus.
The paragraphs below contain the actionable items of the plan. You may want to revisit these sections throughout the eight weeks.
Follow Phase I of the Atkins Diet
The diet is THE plan. Eat foods that are high in protein and fat and contain low or no carbohydrates. These foods will keep you full longer and won’t result in an insulin spike. So when you are hungry, you want be “hangry”. To keep from overeating or eating out of boredom, avoid yummy foods. When possible, cook your meals in advance. For example, make a batch of breakfast eggs for the week. Prepare or at least plan your lunch and dinner the night before. Remember that you will be more likely to cheat at lunch and dinner. You wake up with 100% of our willpower. By lunch and certainly by dinner, you are sometimes tapped out. Beware the pre-bedtime snack. No one likes to go to bed on an empty stomach. I have a life-long habit of cereal before bed, but not while cutting weight. It’s weight loss death.
Atkins.com contains the rules and allowed foods for Phase 1 of the Atkins diet as well as some recipes.
For you visual learners, Karen Reed’s infographic Low Carbohydrate Diets: Everything You Need To Know on positivehealthwellness.com wraps low carb dieting up at a high level.
eMeals.com is also a great source for recipes. The eMeals low-carb dinner and lunch recipes are delicious, most have a total prep and cook time of less than 1 hour and most have large enough portions to allow for a leftover lunch. If lunch and dinner are covered, all that remains is breakfast, which requires the least amount of willpower. The eMeals app allows you to choose your meals for the week and compiles a shopping list for your specific grocery store. Some of the meals are a little too yummy, so be careful not to overeat.
Weigh and Photograph Yourself Daily
First thing in the morning after you use the bathroom, step on the scale. Record your weight using an app like MyFitnessPal or even in a notes app. Your weight may fluctuate at first; up, down, up down. But after a few days it will start consistently dropping. Watching weight fall every day builds some great momentum. Knowing you are going to step on the scale in the morning, helps hold yourself accountable. Also snap a selfie. The day-to-day changes will be subtle, but it will make for a fun flip-book at the end of the eight weeks.
Complete Two 30-Day Challenges on Darebee.com
Darebee.com is my goto source for at-home workouts, programs and challenges. And they are all free! Again, I am not leaning on exercise to burn calories, but it will be nice to see muscle when the fat starts to melt away. Each morning, I’ll be chipping away at the 3,000 Squats + 1,000 push-ups challenge.
Followed by the 10,000 crunches challenge.
Find a couple of challenges on Darebee.com that suit you. Body-weight movements are the best, because the movements become easier as you gain strength and lose weight. Start each day with a physical win and build some momentum.
It’s important to have some skin in the game; something to lose if you succumb to temptation. These consequences are your best defense to your rationalizations. It sounds counterintuitive, but the smarter you are, the more severe consequences you will need. There are several ways to create consequences for failure.
Declare Your Goal
The best form of consequences, in my experience, are social declarations. Tell everyone that you know that you are taking part in this challenge. Let them know that for the next eight weeks, you are excluding sugar, bread, corn and potatoes from your diet. You will not be accepting home-made confections. If you want to meet for lunch, the meeting will be “bring your own protein shake” and will be held at the local running/walking trail. You will be selfish in your choices because you are doing something that is strictly for your benefit and not for the benefit of others. What’s so selfish about that? 🙂
Create a Support Group
Encourage others to join this challenge with you. Shoot them a link to this page in a private message or email. Stay strong by encouraging one another. Share recipes, exercise together and hold each other accountable on a regular basis.
Create a Bounty
If you really want to get hardcore, ask others to hold you accountable. Buy a $100, $200 or $300 Amazon gift card and have a close friend hold onto it. If they witness you hit your target weight by week 8, you get the card. If not, they get to keep and spend it. To work best, the bounty needs to be high enough to mean something if you lose it. There can be no excuses for losing. Life changing events like breaking your legs or losing your job will make it harder, but not impossible.
You now have what you need to reach your weight loss goal; a plan and consequences for failing to stick to the plan. There will be several reasons to quit early or cheat. If you fail, raise your consequences and start over as soon as possible.
I will post my progress in weekly blog-format updates. These will include my food journal, my exercise journal and any notes or tricks that I learn or used throughout the week. I’ll also include answers to your common weigh-loss questions. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share your journey with me. Send me pictures of where you started and how your body is changing along the way. Your success is my only reward, so don’t let me down! You can email updates to email@example.com. Share updates with me on Instagram. Keep them classy. I don’t need to see ALL of your improvements 🙂
Plan well, stay strong and start 2017 with a big win!