I never thought my weight was something I’d need to worry about.
“You’re lucky, you have a fast metabolism,” people would say.
When I was younger, it seemed like I couldn’t gain weight to save my life. I remember awkward conversations with the family doctor over my suspected anorexia, supplemented by my mother insisting I guzzle a daily Ensure shake.
When I started becoming interested in fitness, I began to realize how the body’s weight gaining system worked. It’s a simple equation: consume more calories than you burn, and you gain weight. I spent hours pouring over forums, blogs, and magazines, desperate to build strength the right way. I was tired of being the skinny kid, and I was going to do whatever it took to reach my goal.
Fast forward three years.
I’m standing in the mirror of my grown-up kid apartment, looking back at a reflection that would be unrecognizable to 16-year-old me. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I can finally fill out the arm holes in medium-sized tees, and belts have graduated from necessities to accessories.
But despite all my progress, what’s reflecting back at me in the mirror isn’t the physique I’d always dreamt of. My newfound strength had come packaged in a soft-shell wrapper.
Gaining fat is a natural part of building up your weight, but I wasn’t going to quit at 50 percent. It was time to switch gears and uncover whatever was hiding underneath.
So I made my decision. Diet, or die trying.
20 Pounds Later
Every good diet starts with motivation. Sure, we all want to have a six-pack or thigh-gap, but wishing to look a certain way isn’t concrete enough. A more practical reason works better. For me, it was my upcoming music festival trip. Shirts weren’t something I wanted to have to pack.
So, on March 1, 2017, I made the commitment to lose whatever it took to get my body how I wanted it. Instead of focusing on a certain scale number, I’d let the mirror be the judge.
Over the course of four months, I went from 180 lbs to 157 lbs. While it wasn’t easy, I couldn’t have been happier with the results.
How I Lost the Weight
The secret to losing weight was already within me. It’s the same formula I had learned three years earlier, only this time in reverse.
To drop the fat, I knew I needed to eat less than I burned. But it wasn’t as simple as skipping a few weekly meals. I had worked hard to build up solid strength and muscle mass, and if I didn’t give my body the proper nutrients, it would all waste away.
I used three tools to shed the pounds in time for my quickly-approaching festival deadline.
If you’ve dabbled in fitness and dieting, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of this popular iPhone app. It takes the work out of calculating calories and macros. Just set your goal (mine was to lose 1 lb per week), log your food and exercise, and treat the calorie limit like your bank account. If you spend more than you’ve got, you’ll have to pay the price!
A Food Scale
Don’t make food tracking harder than it’s got to be. Sure, you can eyeball 1/3 cup of cheese, but it’s a lot more accurate with a food scale. These small appliances are generally $20 or less and take the guesswork out of how much you’re actually consuming. And that’s important when you’re dieting, because an extra 150 misjudged calories can be enough to keep the pounds sticking.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Also known as HIIT. By alternating between periods of max effort and slower-speed active recovery, you can burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time.
My favorite HIIT routine was on the rowing machine. I’d go as hard as I could for 60 seconds, then back off and row slowly for 30 seconds, then repeat. The movement was constant, and the effects were noticeable.
Although I added HITT, my normal workout routine didn’t change much. To keep from losing strength and lean size, it was important to keep the intensity and frequency just as high.
Fighting Cravings & Staying On Track
Even with a planned-out system, these four months didn’t come without setbacks.
One of the hardest parts was seeing that calorie number nearly maxed out when I had barely finished my first meal of the day. I learned pretty quickly that the only way to stay on goal and not faint from hunger was to adjust my diet toward high protein, low-calorie foods.
I’ll never forget the times spent eating plain salad shrimp for dinner, running up and down my apartment stairs to repent for an earlier indulgence, or bringing cut cucumbers to wine night so I wouldn’t be tempted with chips and cheese.
I think the biggest challenge of all was getting past the “middle area.” Anyone who’s done a big cut down knows what I’m talking about. It’s that phase where you’re no longer big and puffy, but you still don’t have abs, and you just look overwhelmingly average. It can be easy to give up here, but if you can just push yourself to keep trucking, you’ll finally see those last couple of pounds melt up and harvest the sugar-free fruits of your labor.
Anyone who’s done a big cut down knows what I’m talking about. It’s the phase where you can tell you’ve shrunken, but you still don’t see any real definition, and definitely no six pack. You just look overwhelmingly average. It can be easy to give up here, but if you can just push through, you’ll finally see those last couple of pounds melt off and harvest the fruits of your sugar-free labor.
Anyone Can Do It
Losing the weight and achieving a certain look was the original goal, but what I discovered after this four-month journey is that the real reward comes from the struggle. Putting myself up to a test like that, exercising more self-control than I’d ever had to, it taught me that if I can do this with a diet, I can do it with anything in life.
If you have a bodyweight goal, I encourage you to get started today. There is so much free, incredibly accessible information right here on the web. But even without that, you already have the formula. Calculate your calories, track it, and don’t quit till it’s done. If you can stick with that, you’ll prove to yourself that nothing is beyond your reach.
If you can stick with that, you’ll prove to yourself that nothing is beyond your reach.