I’ve lost 40 lbs and am at 10–12% body fat. I’ve never been the athletic type, and I never considered my body as being strong.
I wanted to let you know that you can reach your fitness goals with a few tips from this article.
If you’re trying to lose a lot of weight, the big number may sound scary. But, if you break your current lifestyle down, you’ll start to notice what’s impeding your goals. And no, it’s not like I starved myself to death — I know that my basal metabolic rate (calories needed to just function) is 1688 calories, and my body requires between 2000 and 3000 calories on average to stay strong and not lose muscle.
Health is the cross-section of exercise, nutrition, and recovery. Where do you score in each of the areas on a 10-point scale? What points can be improved? Why do you want to be healthy in the first place?
Focus on your process/system rather than your goals
It’s essential to have concrete numbers when you set your goals. My fitness goal has been to drop my body fat percentage to 10–12% so that I have a strong base and body for climbing. That also meant losing a lot of weight.
I started out with tracking my weight daily, and setting goals like “Lose 10 lbs by the end of the week.”
It didn’t work. I didn’t know why it didn’t work until I started asking questions. Do I need to cut more calories? Do I need to run longer on the treadmill?
I then realized that although I was good about restricting my calories and exercising, I had at least three boba drinks a week. I always upgraded to the largest size, and even though I cut the sweetness to 50%, I was still ordering the drinks that contained tapioca, flan, and coffee jellies.
You might think, “no shit you didn’t lose weight!” And, you’re right! Easy access to sugar is our worst enemy when it comes to health and fitness. Sugar is so delicious and comforting that you lose yourself when you’re addicted to the taste.
After my epiphany, I set a process in place.
“No boba on weekdays.”
That then became “Two boba drinks a month.” And now, I only drink boba if it’s on a super special occasion with friends.
What’s the moral of the story? Set quantifiable goals, but focus on processes and guidelines that move you toward that goal. Don’t be concerned with the small shifts in numbers, but the big steps that amplify your success.
This is probably the most challenging part of any endeavor. Consistency is the key to any progress or growth, but it’s also the most difficult quality to obtain.
For me, what’s helped was to remind myself of my whys. Why am I trying to drop down to 10–12% body fat? Why am I trying to cut down on sugar?
One reason was to get closer to the strong climbers that I aspired to. Having 10–12% body fat doesn’t automatically make you a good climber, but I knew it was a result of diligence and hard work, and I wanted to be a person that embodied those qualities.
Another reason why I started to eliminate sugary foods and ultimately stuck to a veggie-heavy diet is that my blood tests always showed that my liver was struggling. Last year the numbers got so out of range. I had to have blood drawn multiple times a month and visit the hospital for a few ultrasounds.
My motivation transformed to not just being a strong climber, but a strong and healthy person overall.
Plan for your detours
When you hang out with certain friends or visit certain areas of your city, you know that you’re going to have a higher chance of a detour. You might be hanging out with a friend that loves to bake. Or, you might be visiting a city known for its coconut cream pie.
Plan for your detours.
You can’t plan for all situations, but if you have an outing set on your calendar, then plan ahead of time and schedule a boxing class beforehand or go for a run. If you can’t fit anything before the event, do something afterward. Take a stroll to catch up with your friends.
If you are into intermittent fasting, then you can extend your fasting period if you know that you might be eating more carbs than usual for dinner. You can have a more extended fasting period the next day, too, to fully reset your body.
You’ll have to say “no” more if you’re serious about your health goals. Not just to your friends asking you to have a bottomless-mimosa with them but to yourself. To the temptations that hook its claws in you.
To me, that’s the Studio City Farmer’s market. My local farmer’s market opens early in the morning. My wife and I go around 9 am, but the problem is that I usually fast until noon-2pm. I used to say yes to all the samples and even buy myself a “healthy” açaí bowl every weekend with extra gluten-free granola and seasonal fruits. I soon realized that the weekend splurge wasn’t serving me well. I’d crash once I got home even though I got a good night’s sleep and it was only 10:30 am. I’d get in a bad mood. My body fat percentage would increase.
I started saying no at the farmer’s market. It first started with the samples. I politely said, “no, thank you,” smiled, and walked away from the fruit vendors after our purchase. I’d crave the sweetness of the pluots, but I told myself that I can have some after dinner, as a little treat. The last thing to go was the açaí bowl.
My resolve still waivers when I see people walking around digging into their colorful açaí bowls. But, I still say no. Fasting until noon-2pm is part of my process, and I must be relentless.
As you’ll see below in the Resources section, I’ve gone through many different lifestyle changes.
I first started with just exercising more frequently. I did at-home workouts and did HIIT following video programs. I then realized that you can’t only exercise your way to health.
Health is the cross-section of exercise, nutrition, and recovery.
My next focus became nutrition, and I experimented with fasting. I first started with intermittent fasting, and then combined that with The Fast Diet where you limit your caloric intake for two days out of the week. I was on the fast diet for a few years until I decided I’d try the ketogenic diet.
The Keto diet has many health benefits and is worth exploring. I soon realized that I need to increase my carb consumption to support the amount of training I do for climbing. That led me to read Tim Ferriss’s The 4 Hour Body and then Dave Asprey’s The Bulletproof Diet.
My last item to tackle was recovery, and what helped me most with my sleep was Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. I also learned about optimizing recovery after workouts and learned additional concepts about training from Body by Science by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little.
This doesn’t only apply to health and fitness, but iteration and experimentation is the key to finding what’s best for you. If you feel like you’re getting mediocre results from a particular diet or lifestyle, then keep searching for better methods.
Here are some books that inspired me on my journey:
- The Fast Diet- “ You just limit your calorie intake for two nonconsecutive days each week — 500 calories for women, 600 for men. You’ll lose weight quickly and effortlessly with The FastDiet.” Note: The most recent studies suggest upping the limit to 700–800 calories.
- Simply Keto — “The ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-fat way of eating, is remarkably effective at transforming people’s lives, helping them shed pounds and find relief from common health conditions.”
- The 4 Hour Body — “The 4-Hour Body is the result of an obsessive quest, spanning more than a decade, to hack the human body.” Note: Use this as a reference and read bit-by-bit from chapters that interest you. This book is dense!
- The Bulletproof Diet — “The Bulletproof Diet will challenge — and change — the way you think about weight loss and wellness. You will skip breakfast, stop counting calories, eat high levels of healthy saturated fat, work out and sleep less, and add smart supplements.”
- Body by Science — This book will completely revolutionize how you approach strength training. It’s worked for me so far!
- Sleep Smarter — “In Sleep Smarter, Stevenson shares easy tips and tricks to discover the best sleep and best health of your life.”
Lastly, it’s okay to have a cheat day or meal. As long as you’re consistent 99% of the time, a weekend of ramen or cakes is not going to kill your efforts.
I still feel uneasy about loosening up a bit on vacations. I went all-out on my most recent trip to Seattle and stuffed myself with Dahlia Bakery’s Triple Coconut Cream Pie. I even had at least a dozen of chocolate chip cookies that my friend baked. I thought to myself that I must’ve gained at least 5 lbs. When I got home, my scale was telling me that I actually lost weight during my trip.
I realized that as long as you’re diligent with your lifestyle choices for the majority of the times, then a little detour won’t make a dent.
For some reason, being good to our body is difficult. It’s easier to give in to the sugary foods and passive lifestyle.
However, one small step snowballs into other more meaningful actions. You will notice a change in your body. You will have more energy. You will default to saying “no thank you” when someone offers you a sugar bomb.
I can write all I want about what worked for me, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay consistent in exploring ways that work for you. For example, some people can stick to a strict Keto diet, but it didn’t work for my lifestyle.