It has been FAR too long since I last posted. I make no excuses; I prioritized other things. The semester went into full swing, and between work, training, dieting, and a personal life, I decided to put this on the back-burner. There’s only so much time that I want to spend staring at a computer screen!
Back in March, I decided (okay, I was convinced after some prodding) to enter a powerlifting competition. At the time, I weighed about 143-146 pounds depending on the day, and sat around 28% body fat. Powerlifting is a weight class sport in which your strength:weight ratio determines your success, so I decided to reduce my body fat (which was, and still is, at a healthy level) to read the 63kg (138 lbs) weight class. Around that same time, I gained access to the Renaissance Periodization materials and loved their approach to dieting. I planned my diet according to their recommendations and I was off to the races! That was March 18th, and I weighed 143.2 pounds. This morning I weighed in at 132.2–down 11 lbs in just over 10 weeks!
Sure, there were a few tough days and some crummy workouts, but for the most part, this has been a breeze. I even went on a three-day vacation to Savannah and Tybee Island a couple of weeks ago! In two weeks, on June 9th, I’ll finish this 12-week cut and maintain until my meet on July 9th (which is the 5 Bar Showdown in Norcross, GA if you’re interested!)
I realize that dieting isn’t easy, and I have the luxuries of a flexible schedule, a very supportive and active partner, and no family to care for. So, I can pack a lot of exercise into each day–but I rarely lifted for more than 90 minutes or four days a week, and I broke up with my stairmill after just a couple of weeks! So, yes, weight loss can be a total slog, but it doesn’t need to be, at least not all the time. Not to mention: the fact that something feels like a lot of effort does not necessarily mean it’s actually effective (cue sad trombone).
This brings me to the point of my writing this evening: I want to share ten things that helped me immensely over the past ten weeks. I hope they help you just as much!
- Spent more time ‘putzing.’ You can only spend so much time in the gym. What are you doing with the other 22 hours of the day? Hopefully you’re sleeping for eight of them! 🙂 Spend more time on your feet and don’t discount the incredible benefits of walking. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) can burn a TON of extra calories without damaging your progress in the gym or taxing your nervous system. Plus, you’ll keep a very clean house! I walked for at least an hour every day. I even DIY-ed a treadmill desk for about $40 using some shelving, eye hooks, and bungee cords!
- Track your workouts to keep an eye on your performance. You can expect some reduction as you cut calories, but if you see significant strength losses and failure to recover during workouts, you may be in too great of a deficit. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury or illness in a race to a specific bodyweight. That will just delay you! I used the Progression app which is currently only available for Android, but it’s AMAZING. It calculates 1-rep maxes based on your lifts so you can keep an eye on your strength, and counts reps and sets so you can track your volume.
- More isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more…and then you’re more tired, and more hungry, and more miserable. This hit me a few weeks in when I was seriously overtraining with high-volume workouts and intense sessions on the stairmill. I was so anxious about weaning myself off of this workload because I thought my progress would slow. In actuality, I made more consistent progress once I adjusted my workload and increased my NEAT.
- Collect data! The more information you have, the better. Scale weight is a very small part of the picture, and it can fluctuate for a multitude of reasons. I used FitLegit to track my weight and caloric intake, but I also started an Excel spreadsheet where I collected my daily weight, weekly average weight, and caloric intake per pound of body weight to come up with very informative graphs. Using this information, I could estimate my daily energy expenditure and the best caloric intake for consistent weight loss. Just like Goldilocks, if I ate too much or too little, my weight loss was slower. Now I know that 11.5 calories per pound is the ‘just right porridge’ that leads to an average of 1 lbs lost per week. I recover between workouts and experience minimal hunger with plenty of energy to putz all day! I don’t fret over daily scale weight fluctuations, and instead focus on the weekly averages; if I see results there, I know I don’t have to change anything.
- Keep track of what you’re eating. The most important calories are the ones you don’t eat. I mean it like this: High carb, high fat, IIFYM, vegan, etc…they can all be equally effective if you’re in a caloric deficit. Many people use MyFitnessPal, and I did for about a decade, but I much prefer the more thorough Cronometer. That being said, you don’t have to count macros and calories. You can seek out coaching or resources that recommend specific amounts at each meal. Either way, you’ll see much greater success from actually weighing and measuring your food. People are notoriously bad at eyeballing serving sizes and falling prey to the health halo effect. Sorry, but peanut butter cups made with dark chocolate and organic cane sugar are STILL candy! 😉
- Invest in quality equipment. This means different things to different people. Physical activity trackers aren’t very accurate, but if you find them motivational, then reward your progress with one that will be a worthy investment (that might even mean best resale value!). I invested in quality shoes and insoles, hiking gear, lifting gear, and information (books, apps, etc.). You don’t need to spend a lot of money on the latest trendy name-brand items, but invest time before you invest your money. Look into customer reviews, ask friends, find people who’ve gotten results. At the very least, get a great pair of shoes for all of the putzing, and buy a digital food scale. 6B. Don’t invest exorbitant amounts of money in a bunch of supplements, unnecessary meal-replacement products, organic, non-GMO, etc.
There are very few supplements whose effectiveness has been consistently illustrated, and they aren’t the ‘kitchen sink’ pre-workout formulas. I have blogged about my blend in the past; I buy everything in bulk so I only get what I need, and I get it at doses supported by literature. Shakes and bars are fun and convenient, but they’re also expensive and usually less filling than a full meal. Conventionally-grown foods don’t differ nutritionally from those labeled ‘organic’ and both methods use pesticides, but the latter is far more expensive. Likewise, there is plenty of evidence that GMO crops are safe for consumption, and manufacturers are sticking the ‘non-GMO project certified’ label on plenty of products for which there isn’t even a GMO version! They know what’s trendy, and consumers are willing to pay more for that label. Don’t fall for it! Keep your grocery bill reasonable.
- On the topic of saving money…COUPON! It is SO worth the effort. I was recently turned on to the iBotta app, which is sort of a reverse-coupon program. You buy an item, you get money back. Refer friends, get even more! I started in April and I’ve already made almost $70. It links to PayPal, and once you reach $20 you can send it right to your account! (If you want to get in on the action, use my referral code BVCYDQC!) Grocery bills can get a little ridiculous even when you adhere to my item #7, so couponing and apps like this go a long way. I also got into the habit of going to the grocery store very early in the morning when the produce had been put into the sale bin; you may have seen these red bags of fruit and veggies at Kroger from time to time. I go through produce so fast, it doesn’t have time to spoil!
- On the topic of produce…EAT IT! Mostly the fibrous vegetable kind. If you’re like me and you have a giant appetite, volumetrics can make a diet much more tolerable. I drink a few liters of water a day and eat 3-6 (85-160g) of fibrous veggies with every meal. I even make oats with riced cauliflower! My meals were all very nutrient dense and filling, so it was rare that I experienced unpleasant levels of hunger.
- Meal prep! You don’t have to prep individual meals. Those pictures are fun to look at on Instagram, but my food is all cooked in bulk and tossed into giant containers that I eat out of for a few days. Yes, that means my meals are mostly eaten cold. They’re still tasty! It’s all in the seasoning. I have quite a few blogs on recipes for other people who hate recipes. Check them out for the easiest meal prep guide you might ever see!
- Finally…be consistent! Sometimes dieting really sucks. Sometimes I still got hungry, or I was too tired for much putzing, or my progress stalled, or I doubted my programming. But I was patient, and I made minor changes when I could confirm that they were necessary. I didn’t do anything extreme–no butter in my coffee, no fasting, no pills, no wacky ‘functional training’ with a bosu ball. When I was hungry but knew I’d eaten enough for the day, I drank water and had an extra serving of cauliflower. When I craved a serving of Halo Top or a Lenny and Larry’s cookie, I planned them into my day, enjoyed them, and moved on. When I went to the beach, I meal prepped and froze everything so it would thaw in the hotel mini-fridge.
If I had gone off the rails for a meal, I wouldn’t have steered my way off the tracks for the rest of the day. I call that ‘throwing out the whole carton’. If you drop one egg, you don’t throw out the rest! If you eat one meal not according to plan, don’t spend the rest of the day eating all of the things! 🙂 Just get back to business as usual, and keep in mind that dieting is NOT forever. It should be just a short period of time in the grand scheme of a lifestyle that incorporates maintenance and muscle-building as well.
There you have it, folks! It’s not glamorous or ground-breaking. No pro-tips here. Be consistent, patient, prepared, and putzy. 🙂