“Why am I not losing weight when I am working hard and eating right?”
As a professional trainer, I hear this question all the time.
Many people want the quick fix to weight and body fat loss. They have this crazy desire to lose a ton of weight and/or body fat in a short time. They put in all this hard work and do not see any results. For some, this is enough to drive them mad.
You step on the scale and it stays the same, sometimes, it even goes up. What do you do when this happens? Some would want to throw the scale through the window and grab the biggest cookie they can find and chow down.
I know how that feels. I have the same struggles too.
People do not believe me when I say it took me four years of commitment and dedication to get to where I am today. I’ve asked myself a million times why the heck I’m doing this but I never gave up.
On December 1, 2012, I started my internship at COR. At this point of my life, I was just a big boy weighing 265 lbs. with 28% body fat. At the time, I just lifted heavy and did not really take my nutrition seriously. I knew something had to change; I was fat and out of shape and that needed to end.
My goal was to be at 3% body fat and I did not care what my weight was so long as my body fat was at 3%.
First 18 Months
Let’s just say that I love food. I am not one of those people who can eat just a handful of food. Candy, ice cream, cookies and my meals were just daily habits. Growing up, my family would call me the human disposal! I can finish any leftovers from dinner in one sitting.
Portion control was my biggest weakness and the most challenging bad habit I had to change.
I needed to start over.
My solution was to eat only carbs in the morning and only small amounts of food. This was not one of my smartest moments. I went from having 2400 calories a day to 1100. On top of the ridiculously low calories, I was lifting weights and doing an hour of stairs five days a week.
During those 18 months, I lost 65 lbs. and was down to 18% body fat.
You are probably thinking that is awesome and that you should try for your weight and body fat loss goals. Well, don’t make hasty decisions like I did.
Yes, I lost a ton of weight but everything else suffered.
I still, to this day, have never been as tired as I was during those 18 months. If you knew me then, I was going to Starbucks four times a day and getting my Trenta black ice coffee. On top of that, I was getting maybe four hours of sleep at night.
What do you think happened when I had no energy at the gym? My muscles dramatically decreased and my strength was at its lowest! At this point, I did not care about my muscles. I just wanted to lose the weight.
The worst part of the process is that I love carbs and giving that up made me very grumpy. I would literally only eat carbs on Sundays because those are family days and we like to eat lots of fun foods.
At 200 lbs., I began to plateau with my weight and body fat loss and I needed to find another strategy to get to 3% body fat.
18 months to 36 months
In the beginning of this process, I wanted to become more educated with nutrition. I also wanted to figure out a healthy way to lose weight and not neglect or miss food as much.
I became an ISSA Fitness Nutritionist Specialist and learned many new and exciting strategies to shed fat.
I read about this fad called intermittent fasting. I saw how much weight and body fat loss people could have and I wanted to try it. If you do not know anything about intermittent fasting, it involves 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
I saw that you can pretty much eat as much healthy food as you want for 8 hours and fast for 16. This worked perfectly with my schedule because the 16 hours were during my sleep and while I was working.
First Try at Intermittent Fasting
My problem was that I did not read fully about what I need to do to successfully accomplish this plan. I just glanced at it and did what I wanted.
During the first 18 months, I got used to low food intake. However, I needed to consume 2000-2200 calories a day during those 8 hours. Instead, I was eating 1300 calories a day.
On Day 1 of the intermittent fasting, I was at 200 lbs. and 18% body fat. 6 months later, I was at 185 lbs. and 7% body fat. Most people would be so happy about that but not me.
At 185 lbs. (I was 16 the last time I weighed 185 lbs. and I was 26 at the time), I have well defined muscles but I was extremely skinny. I did this for another 2-3 months and I was finally at 3% body fat and have a whopping weight of 175 lbs.
I was so determined to get to 3% body fat that I did not care what I looked like. Some people look good skinny but I looked like a prisoner of war! So, I got to my goal but it wasn’t quite the look I was hoping for. It was probably one of the unhealthiest ways to get to a goal. In my eyes, I had failed.
If you knew me during this time, it was an up and down emotional battle. Psychologically, I was a mess. I was hungry, tired, and on a short fuse.
I will be the first to admit that I had what we call muscle dysformia. Essentially, this is a disorder where you obsess with how your body looks. Even if you look good to others, in your eyes, you are the opposite. You never accept how you look and it just controls you. It is honestly a scary thing. It is so common because a lot of people do not realize that they look great to others.
Second Try at Intermittent Fasting
Now I had to go back to the drawing board and actually read every detail on intermittent fasting if I wanted to achieve my weight and body fat loss goals.
I found out that I needed to double what I was eating during those 8 hours. During the 16 hours that I am fasting, I need to take BCAA’s and creatine.
What I found out about not eating enough is that once your body uses all the food that you have eaten, it will then eat the muscle for nutrition. The reason you must take supplements is that during those 16 hours, your body will be eating your body fat and the supplements will feed the muscle and build them while providing energy.
After figuring out and planning what I wanted to do, I eventually had fun with it. When someone tells you that you can eat more food and lose body weight and fat, sign me up!
After a couple of months, I put on 10 lbs. of muscle and my body fat was still low. Do not get me wrong; there were ups and downs during this process but at the end of the 36 months, I was almost at my goal!
36 months to Present
After trying these different methods for weight and body fat loss, it was time to start the process of building muscle and mass while keeping the body fat down.
If you want to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn and for weight loss, burn more calories than you take in.
It takes a well-developed plan consisting of the proper proteins, carbs, and fat to gain muscle and lose body fat. This well-developed plan is not something that comes easy. It can take some trial and error. You try certain things and they may or may not work. This process for me was an uphill battle.
When you are used to eating certain foods and amounts, changing those habits can be tricky. The biggest thing for me was telling myself that my body was going to change.
Once you reach a goal, it is hard to let yourself change. I was used to being skinny and gaining weight was tough. I would see that I was gaining weight and then I would get worried and go back to my fasting techniques.
I am going to be honest: after 2+ years of being 95% strict with my diet, let’s say I lived it up with my fun foods. I am not a big dessert person but I do love my high calorie meals such as burgers, pastas, pizza and, of course, Mexican food.
As a person who can gain or lose weight easily, I can put on weight pretty easily through food intake. There were periods when I would maybe give 65% effort into my diet and I would be 10 lbs. heavier in two weeks.
For instance, I was recovering from my hernia surgery and was not lifting weights for three weeks. However, I was doing an hour of low intensity cardio. I put on 15 lbs. during that period.
My diet was still at about 75% healthy and the other 25% was mostly snacking too much on nuts, popcorn and oatmeal. My calories were at about 2400 compared with my strict 1750 calorie diet before surgery.
You may be thinking these foods are not bad but how am I still gaining weight? I love to eat! I can throw down a ton of food in one sitting. The problem was that I was not even close to burning as many calories as I was before.
Besides walking around working and my low intensity cardio, I was not doing much to get my heart rate up enough to burn calories. For some or even most, that is how easy a slip up can hurt you.
There were moments where I would just tell myself: why are you doing all of this? It definitely brings you down.
After a couple of months of getting all my fatty moments out of the way during the holidays, I developed a nutrition plan built for building muscle and burning fat.
I love to eat meat and depending on the carb or fat (I gain weight easily on carbs and fats), I created a plan that was designed just for me. My plan consisted of 285 g of protein, 150 g of carbs, and 75 g of fat. Now, this was a lot more protein than I was used to. I was eating 185 g, so I started out slowly by test driving certain foods.
I started just trying to get in 50 g more per day for a couple weeks. After about three weeks, you’ll see your muscles start to shape up and your body starts to look tighter. Before you know it, however, it’s going the other direction a week later.
My weight and body fat were slowly going up and I did not know why. My protein intake was solid but I needed to make changes to my carbs and fats.
I recently started eating asparagus almost every meal per week except one meal where I have broccoli. I switched pastas, fruits, and oatmeal for two slices of Ezekiel bread in the morning, half an apple, and a cup of brown rice. By changing some tiny things, I changed my physical appearance and increased my energy level.
Your body will get used to eating the same things over and over. By mixing it up, your body gets a kick start and go back on track to finally reaching your weight and body fat loss goals.
These days I am not as crazy as I once was. I figured out that having a nutrition plan based on your body and what it needs to thrive is the best way to do it.
Right now, I am about 210 lbs. and hovering around 7-9% body fat. I do not always stick to the nutrition plan but when I do, I can see a difference pretty fast. After reflecting on where I messed up and how it was affecting me, I did not want to go down that road again. Nothing that I did came easy; I was young and dumb.
Figuring out the healthiest way to lose weight is the key to having a long and healthy life. It took me four years (if I knew what I know now it should have taken just two years) to figure out what works.
You do not have to be crazy disciplined; just giving about 90% effort in what you put into your body will give you great results!