Sometimes around June, I decided I was tired of looking so fat whenever I saw myself in the mirror and that I wanted to lose a little weight. I had a contest coming up in August that was a pretty light show, and figured this would be a good opportunity to shed a few pounds, get faster, be more athletic, and ultimately like how I looked again. I was at 202lbs, which was the same weight I was back in 2012 when I dropped to 187 to compete as a 181er in a powerlifting meet, and figured I’d just do the same things I did back then…
The following is a list of lessons I learned when I realized how wrong I was about the whole thing, and these are the things I needed to realize to eventually cut down to 8.4% bodyfat at 190lbs.
1: YOU CAN EAT GOOD AND STILL EAT TOO MUCH
Too much of a good thing
Too much of a good thing
So, in 2012, one of the biggest things I did to lose fat was cut junk food out of my diet. I was actually very strategic about this, as I was eating a fair amount of junk everyday, and since I was only aiming to lose about 1-2lbs a week, I figured I would just cut out a little bit of junk at a time until I stopped losing weight, and then eliminate more until this quit working. I cut out my 0900 peanut butter cups at first, and then my after lunch candy bar, and eventually got rid of my post dinner dessert. Around the time I had eliminated all of my junk food, I was down 7lbs and already looking pretty lean.
In 2015, I started this same process, and cut out my 0900 candy snack…and lost zero pounds. I moved on to my post lunch snack…and lost zero pounds. I finally went and cut out my pre-workout poptarts and lost 2lbs…and then stalled hard. For a month, I was hanging around at 200lbs, the scale wasn’t moving at all, and I was eating nothing but meat, veggies, fruits, protein shakes, and natural peanut butter.
No, not even any of this bullshit
I had to face the facts: I was just plain eating too much FOOD. I was eating very well, and I felt great healthwise, but I wasn’t seeing the results on the scale that I wanted. I had to start reducing portion sizes, switching around nutrient timing, and being realistic about what I “needed” to eat. And this brings me to my next point.
2: YOU CAN EAT TOO MUCH MEAT
In 2012, meat and veggies were considered “free foods”. I could eat as much of them as I wanted, because it was the stuff I needed to keep training. Hey, I was losing weight, and if I wanted to prevent muscle loss, I had to really jack up my protein, right?
Hey, of all the pics of Kai Greene with food, this was the least horrifying
In 2015, I learned that there was such a thing as “too much”, and it turned out I was eating it at lunch and dinner. I was gorging myself on meat, and in many cases lean cuts of it (93% lean ground beef), and consequently the scale simply wasn’t moving. Again, I felt great, my training was going fine, but I wasn’t losing the fat I wanted to lose.
There may be some truth to the whole “you can only absorb X amount of protein per meal”, because I found that I needed to eat less meat at each sitting, and in turn added 1 more serving of meat to my day early in the morning on top of a Romaine salad. Basically, instead of gorging myself at 2 meals, I had 3 meals of meat where, each time, I walked away feeling satiated by not full. I still lost weight, got stronger, and didn’t lose an appreciable amount of muscle with this strategy.
Some of you might be saying “wait…MORNING salad?”, and that brings me to my next point.
3: DO YOUR HEALTHY STUFF EARLY
Because God only knows what you're going to get involved in by the evening
When I started on the fat loss journey, I noted that my eating habits had become pretty poor. Prior to this moment, I had done a contest where I competed up a weight class, and was eating like a man on death row. Once the show was over, these habits became pretty hard to break. The two biggest issues were that I wasn’t drinking enough (or really ANY) water and barely ate any veggies.
I swore to myself that, as soon as I got home from work everyday, I’d start pounding water and eating a ton of veggies at dinner. I also noticed that, as soon as I got home from work everyday, the only vegetable I was interested in was the one I was turning myself into sitting on the couch. I was just fried from the day, and the last thing I wanted to do was something that, in my mind, had become a chore.
I decided to flip the script on this, and just knock out the “healthy stuff” early in my day. I bought a gallon of water on my way to work everyday and drank it like it was my job as soon as I showed up. I got to the point that I could drink it in about an hour, and in retrospect most likely gave myself slight water intoxication due to the fact that I would walk around my office buzzed out of my skull for about an hour afterwards. BUT, I at least had consumed a gallon of water for the day, and that was the rule before I drank anything else. After that, I allowed myself any sort of zero calorie beverage.
The original cleanser
The same applied with my morning salad: I’d make it the night before, consisting of Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and whatever meat was leftover from dinner. I’d show up to work and just pound the salad right away alongside my water, so that I had started the day off with a big serving of a variety of veggies. If I was feeling really froggy, I’d have another salad with/as lunch, but I knew that, all other things said and done, I at least got my veggies and water knocked out and was ready to start my day.
4: DON’T CHEAT OFTEN, BUT DO CHEAT BIG
I appreciate the many levels that this image works on
When I first started my fat loss approach, I’d allow myself a small cheat at lunch about 2-3 times a week. For me, it was a slice of pizza at our cafeteria. They were dirt cheap, and I figured that one slice of pizza couldn’t do a whole lot of harm. …and of course, I was wrong. The whole time I had these little minicheats, I wasn’t losing any weight.
I went super strict on my diet after I realized what my problem was, and 6 days a week ate pretty much the same thing, where the only time I consumed a direct carb source was around my workouts (which, given that I trained first thing in the morning, was a very limited window). On Saturdays, my deadlift day, I would allow myself one cheat MEAL. Not a cheat DAY, as some trainees engage in, but simply one meal.
But boy was it a meal. The only limitations here were about what I could stomach, as my tolerance for fried food and sweets was pretty much gone at this point. I ate less “bad” and more simply “lot”, with direct carb sources, fatty meats, and anything else that was tasty and dense.
I noticed a few positive things about this approach. The big thing of course was that I was losing fat, which was the primary goal. However, psychologically this was a really beneficial move. I would spend the whole week fantasizing about what I was going to eat for my cheat meal, planning out the details getting psyched up for it, etc etc. However, once the meal was said and done, I felt terrible (along with satisfied) and my cravings for junk food were gone. I had satisfied the craving, and now I could focus more on the diet. And sure, I dreamed and planned what my next cheat meal was going to be, but I never felt the need to indulge in any of that food through out the week. I knew my day would come, and when it did, I ate enough to keep the cravings at bay for another week.
A bunch of small cheats is called “eating poorly”. A bad diet is really just a diet of a bunch of small cheats strung together. One big cheat won’t wreck a diet, but it will keep you going, and probably help reset your metabolism.