I’m not fat anymore!
It took me awhile to realize this.
I grew up as a chunky kid throughout elementary and junior high school and always looked at myself as being out of shape. Even after completing this challenge, I could barely see my changes until I looked at the before-and-after pictures. It’s amazing how our minds can trick us.
After college, I had gained an extra 20 pounds of beer and burger fat and finally decided to commit myself to the 12-week Body-for-Life challenge that I had wanted to do since I was 17. I made a promise to myself that this time nothing was holding me back. No parties. No alcohol. The 12 weeks would be one of my greatest challenges to date but one worth completing. I would hit the gym 6 mornings a week and eat 6 healthy meals every day except for my one “off” day, which happened to be on Sundays.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I would spend about 45 minutes lifting weights, alternating the days between upper and lower body. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I would run intervals on the treadmill for 20 minutes while alternating speeds from low intensity to high intensity. Most importantly, I ate 6 balanced meals every day combining portions of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. I never counted calories, I gave up alcohol almost entirely for the 12 weeks, and I drank lots of water.
It’s funny because after 12 weeks, I could tell I was healthier and stronger but it was hard to see the difference in the mirror. My mind still looked at me as someone out of shape. My girlfriend told me I looked way different but the shock didn’t truly hit me until I saw my before-and-after pictures and had my body fat percentage tested.
The trainer who took my measurements was amazed. I had gained over 7 pounds of muscle, dropped 21 pounds of fat, and cut my body fat percentage in half from 22% to 10%. He was amazed that I had done this in just 12 weeks and so was I.
I felt incredible.
Once I had my pictures developed, I felt absolutely amazing! I could finally see the changes I had made by committing to a program and following through.
When you commit to a program for a long period of time that is both challenging and difficult, the feeling you have at the end when you’ve accomplished such a great achievement is hard to beat. There were times during the 12 weeks that I wanted to throw in the towel. I remember walking to the gym at 6 in the morning when it was -35 C outside (arctic weather) and pitch black. I really wanted to stay in bed those mornings but I forced myself up, threw on multiple layers of clothes and headed for the gym. Nothing was stopping me. Some nights I would get horrible sleeps of just 1-2 hours but I still dragged my ass to the gym.
It has been more than 3 years since I completed this program and I haven’t gained back any weight. Most of the habits I formed during those 12 weeks have stayed with me. I haven’t gone to the gym as much and I don’t eat as frequently but I do make sure to stay active and eat healthy most of the time.
Still, it’s time for another fitness challenge, as I’d like to gain some mass and get leaner than ever. I’m considering doing Tim Ferriss’ 4-week fitness routine and then another Body-for-Life. I’ll keep you posted but until then, if you’re looking for a solid program that completely changes your physique, follow these simple tips:
- Workout 6 days a week, preferably at the same times. If you’re trying to lose fat, workout in the mornings before you eat breakfast. Wake up, drink 2 glasses of water and start the workout.
- 3 days per week are for weight lifting. One day for upper body, one day for lower, and continue in that pattern for the entire program. The other 3 days in between are for cardio. I prefer the treadmill but the choice is yours. Interval training for 20 minutes works best. Start off on a slow pace for 2 minutes and then increase it for the next minute and continue until your almost at maximum intensity and drop back in speed again. Your second last minute is the highest intensity (full out sprint) followed by a low-intensity minute to cool off. Example: I start off at a pace of 5km/hr for 2 minutes. I then increase that to 6km for 1 minute, 7km for the next minute, 8km for the following minute, 9km for the minute after that, and then back down to 6km and repeat. On the second last minute, before I finished the cardio session, I go one step further at 10km/hr (full intensity) for 1 minute before ending with a rest of 5km again for 1 minute. It’s tough, quick, and gets the job done!
- Eat 6 balanced meals every day about 2.5-3 hours apart. Have a handful of protein like a chicken breast, a handful of quality carbohydrates like quinoa, and as many veggies as you like. Drink lots of water. Occasional coffee or tea with no sweetener is fine.
- One day a week (I chose Sundays) you can eat whatever you want and rest. I usually had waffles with maple syrup, ice cream, pizza, and so forth. This helps to make your body realize it’s not starving and also encourages you to eat healthy for the remaining 6 days. Of course, after awhile you will notice most cravings for bad food disappear once you start eating the good stuff.
For more info, check out Body-for-Life which is the plan I followed for 12 weeks. I have been thinking of putting together an easy recipe book for these 6 meals if anyone is interested. Just let me know via email and if it’s wanted, I’ll make one.
The best advice is to stick with it! If it’s your first time doing a routine, almost any program will work for you. You just need to stick with it. Don’t weigh yourself every day. Do it once a month or every 2 weeks. When you weigh yourself every day, it’s almost impossible to really know what’s going on. You might just have more water in you one day and be heavier. Maybe you lost 3 pounds of fat but gained 4 pounds of muscle. The true test will be with the body fat measurement which I highly recommend doing before and after a fitness program. I also recommend taking photos. My only regret is not having professional photos taken at the end, which would have highlighted my gains much more. I’m terrible at taking notes but it’s strongly encouraged since it mentally keeps you on track.