Today marks the four-year anniversary of when I decided to do something about my poor health and get the help that I needed. It took me around 10 months of working with a personal trainer to lose 70 pounds. I weaned myself off of the personal trainer and managed to maintain my weight loss ever since, for the past 3 1/2 years or so.
I don't mean to get too proud of my accomplishment, but I do like to celebrate success, and for me, maintenance is success. My hope is that my own journey can inspire others who might be struggling. Especially those who are telling themselves that it's too late or they are too old. I started my journey at the age of 49 and in one month I will celebrate my 53rd birthday. Today I am leaner and stronger than I was 30 years ago.
I won't repeat my weight loss story here, if you are interested, you can read it in my About page.
I currently work out five times a week (Mon - Fri) at 5:30am and give myself a break on the weekends, although I'm typically a bit more active on the weekends (I have a desk job). Why 5:30am? Well, I never have any interruptions, it always happens because I can get up and go directly to the gym. If I did it later in the day, it may or may not happen depending on how the day goes.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do strength training. My favorite kind of workout is full body, rather than body part splits. Hitting pretty much every major muscle group three times a week ensures that I maintain my strength. The ideal is to progress in strength over time. I do plan and log every workout in the Fitocracy app on my iPhone so I can track the current maximum weight I am at for every exercise. And no, it isn't possible to progress indefinitely. When I find it difficult to lift heavy, I try to swallow my pride, drop the weight down a bit and focus better on form. Progression happens best when my form is good and I gradually increase weight over time.
If you look at my Workouts page, you'll see some of the full body workouts I use. I tend to like compound exercises, ones that actually exercise multiple muscles at once. For example, a barbell squat exercises calves, quads, hamstrings, the core and the back all at once. A very powerful exercise. Similarly, barbell bench presses exercise the chest, biceps, triceps and shoulders.
I do enjoy listening to music during my workouts. I subscribe to Spotify Premium - I can put together a playlist every few months of any music I want.
I also take a pre-workout. I feel like it provides a little extra energy while still allowing me to exercise in a fasted state. Why fasted? Theoretically, if you exercise in a fasted state (i.e. first thing in the morning without having eaten food), then your body will turn towards its fat stores for energy after depleting short-term glycogen stores. And burning fat is a good thing. More on that below.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attend a spin class. Spinning is basically a class at the gym where you're on a stationary bike where an instructor has planned a workout to music including varying speeds, resistance, sitting and standing. It's my cardio comfort zone. Mainly because I personally dislike jogging and walking isn't very high intensity. I'm looking for ways to give my muscles time to recover between strength training workouts, but still burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time to help with weight/fat loss maintenance.
If you are just beginning your journey towards better health, I am not advocating that you adopt my current workout regimen. Obviously I've been at this a few years now, know my way around the gym and am trying to optimize my workouts to get as much done in as little time as possible. When beginning, ANY form of exercise is great - walking, jogging, elliptical, weight machines, dumb bells...I have a variety of workouts for different fitness levels on my Workouts page.
Eating and intermittent fasting
Eating is still the biggest challenge for me. Not that I eat unhealthy or binge, it's just that I'm still looking for ways for me to eat at a caloric deficit (to continue to lose weight) without having to count calories. Calorie counting is an excellent practice - it helps you know exactly how much you're eating, and it helps you be more mindful about what you're eating. But I find it tedious to keep up in my normal everyday routine.
Lately I've experimented a bit with intermittent fasting. Basically, I've been restricting my eating to an 8 hour window (between noon and 8pm, six days a week). That boils down to skipping breakfast. Before you run screaming from that concept, there has been a LOT of research collected over the past few years that basically debunks the whole notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is required in order to be able to function properly in the morning. On the contrary, if you don't eat until noon, your body's insulin level remains low and you're able to continue to burn more of your fat stores in the morning hours. But the biggest benefit to me is that when I was eating 6 small meals per day (3 meals, 3 snacks), I was always eating but never really felt full or satisfied. By only eating lunch and dinner, I'm able to eat a LARGE lunch (~800 calories), a small snack (~300 calories) and a LARGE dinner (~800 calories). I feel really satisfied. And to be honest, although I feel slightly hungry at 7am when I normally ate breakfast, but it goes away and I don't feel very hungry again until lunch.
I'm not saying this is for everyone, but check out the research on the benefits of fasting. I enjoy trying different things over time. I may or may not permanently adopt this, but I was able to lose 5 pounds over a couple of months using this technique.
Motivation vs. routine
My entire philosophy is around making health and fitness a part of my normal, everyday routine and not something I have to think about. Motivation to eat well or exercise will come and go, but if you've structured your life around a healthy routine that includes eating well and exercising, it makes it hard not to live a healthy life. The more you have to think about it, the less likely you'll stick to it. So while you're motivated, sit down and decide when you will exercise, what you will do and structure your daily schedule around it. Also decide now what your goals for eating are and create a daily plan to support it. If you think you'll make wise decisions at the spur of the moment, you're wrong. When you're hungry without a plan is exactly when things will go badly. When you're tired and need to exercise is exactly when you won't.
Then and now
Weight: Before (295), Now (235)
Body Fat: Before (36%), Now (18%)
Pants Size: Before (46), Now (36)
Health Conditions: Before (High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Sleep Apnea, Heartburn), Now (A single blood pressure medication)
I'm still enjoying my journey, creating new goals and achieving new results. And I plan to keep it up as long as I am able.