Before And After

As you can see from the above photo, there’s a fat guy on the left and a not-so-fat guy on the right.

Well, that’s me.

Yeah, big damn difference, isn’t it? Then again, 50 lbs is a whole lot of weight. By anyone’s measure, it’s good.

So let’s talk a little bit about what happened with all of this, shall we?

First, let’s understand a few things. Namely, my results are my results. They’re not spectacular, all things considered (more on that in a bit), but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results. You might get better results. You might get results that aren’t as good. Your body works in its own way.

Another thing is that the path I took is not the only path. I’m not doing keto, paleo, raw vegan, or any of that. Yet I know for a fact that you can lose weight with all of those frameworks.

I have opinions on various diet types, but this post isn’t the place to get into it. It’s possible to do well with any number of diet approaches. You don’t have to do things the exact way I have thus far.

So, with that out of the way, let’s go back in time a little bit.

My wife and I had just wrapped up a play at the local community theater. It was the first time we’d gotten to perform on stage together. It was a blast.

Yet, during that time, we were eating really badly. Fast food almost every night. When we didn’t eat fast food, it was still restaurant food, which is rarely healthy eating.

As we were approaching the end, I realized how huge I had gotten. I knew I had to change stuff. I’d lifted off and on since I wrote The Essence of Man, mostly because I wrote about the importance in that book and I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

But during the play, I recognized how far gone things were.

We wrapped up and that next week, I started gearing up to start this journey.

To start with, I focused on weights. I’d read Starting Strength before, of course, and I remembered that a lot of people would lose fat without losing weight, necessarily.

With that in mind, I didn’t change my diet. I just started lifting.

As I went about lifting, nothing changed, though. I mean, I got stronger, which was the goal, but the fat wasn’t going away. That was a problem. A big one.

You see, diabetes and heart disease run in my family. I couldn’t screw around with my body eventually catching up. Maybe.

I needed results.

And, to be honest, my wife was at a loss on how to cook healthy food. It’s something she never really did and wasn’t really familiar with, so we ended up still eating a lot of crap because it was what she knew.

Because of that, I ended up taking over the cooking duties. I got up and went to Walmart and picked up some healthy food, a cast iron grill pan and a cast iron skillet. When I got home, I got to work.

That was in May, after several weeks of working out and getting stronger, but not lighter.

I started with just eating better food, but I ordered a new food scale right away. As soon as it got here, I began weighing everything I ate. I recorded everything in MyFitnessPal and started looking at what I was doing.

And I kept working out through it all.

Over time, the weight trickled down. It trickled down despite every setback that got thrown my way. It kept trickling down when I didn’t eat “clean” because of birthdays or holidays.

It kept trickling down.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t trickling as fast as I wanted. More to the point, the weight loss started slowing down a couple of months ago. That meant I needed to make a change.

The obvious answer was to cut my calories.

However, my calories were already lower than I wanted them to be. So what was I to do?

I ended up with trying something that’s been discussed in dieting circles. The concept is what I call “caloric cycling” but was probably better known as “the cheat day.”

The idea is that you spike your calories up a day or two to spur the metabolism to burn fat at a higher rate. You increase your food intake on a day or two, then cut it low on the next few days or so.

Is this ideal? Damned if I know, though it does help keep my caloric intake at a level deemed safe by people who have studied this a lot more than I have. What I do know it’s seemed to kick the weight loss into much higher gear.

I’m careful about what I eat, but I also recognize cravings are a thing that needs to be addressed.

My sweet tooth is generally met thanks to Quest Nutrition. I eat their protein chocolate chip cookies on a regular basis. I also love some of their protein bars. They help keep some of my hunger in check as well as some of my other cravings. For example, I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, but I do have a craving for salty. Chips of various kind have been a weakness of mine, but the Quest Brownie Peanut Butter Smash has helped.

(No, I’m not sponsored by Quest. They pay nothing to me for singing their praises, but they’re awesome. Check them out.)

Another factor that helped was a weird thing with my own body. You see, I have some food sensitivities that can be a pain in the butt. It’s basically related to my irritable bowel syndrome. Certain foods cause certain problems for me. It’s part of why I look like I lost a whole lot more than 50 lbs in that before picture.

One of the things that I tend to avoid are gluten-containing foods. No, I’m not saying gluten makes you fat or anything. I’m saying that I, personally, need to avoid gluten-containing foods.

For me, gluten itself isn’t an issue, but there’s something else in these foods that causes problems, so I eat gluten free.

That also means I tend to avoid foods like pasta and bread, foods that can cause all kinds of problems with your weight if you’re not careful. These are also foods that I would eat the mess out of, especially pasta.

While there are pasta alternatives, it’s been a little easier to not eat pasta when I go out because of the FODMAP issue. It’s weird, I know, but it’s helped.

Now, let’s talk about exercise and weight loss.

I haven’t really worked out since very early December. There’s been a lot going on and I just got out of the habit, which I need to fix. But be that as it may, though, this has also been the time I’ve recorded my greatest weight loss.

Now, does that mean that not working out and lifting weights is the secret? Of course not.

But what it does mean is that exercise alone won’t make you lose weight and not exercising won’t keep you from losing weight. While both are important, they’re important for different reasons. They accomplish different things.

Training is important, but it is not what’s going to help you lose fat if that’s what you need. They say all of that is 80 percent diet, but I think they’re lowballing. I’d say it’s more like 98 percent based on my own experiences at this point.

Instead of trying to out-train your diet, you need to figure out how to work with what you have and who you are. That’s why I really recommend flexible dieting as an overall framework. Eat what you want, but make sure it fits within that framework you’ve built. Maybe you only have a serving of cookies instead of a whole bag. You’re still getting them, but you’re not allowing them to be the master of your life.

Some people have told me that they want to lose weight, but balk when I suggest tracking their calories. They tell me they don’t want to live like that.

I get that. I really do. This wasn’t exactly plan “A” for me either.

But I also recognized that I wasn’t really in a place where I could trust my intuition on food. My mind said “EAT!” and so I did. I ate a lot. I ballooned up from 135 lbs when I graduated high school to 252.4 lbs. I was freaking massive. That was, to my knowledge, the heaviest I’ve ever been.

And that happened because I’d developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I ate for any number of reasons, and now I’m someone who won’t trust my own judgement when it comes to eating. Over time, I hope to get that back a bit more, but I think most of us who get to this point need to take a break and use hard data instead of feelings on something like this.

Dr. Mike Israetal once commented on a video I watched that he still measures everything he eats. He’s not obese and, to the best of my knowledge, he never has been. He’s solid as hell. But he does the exact same thing I do when it comes to food.

Over time, maybe, I might reach a point where I can eat food and not go overboard, but to steal from Aragon, “It is not this day!”

And that’s fine.

After all, if you want to get somewhere, you have to know where you’re going, how to get there, and if you’re on the right path. If you take the interstate, you see all the signs telling you that you’re in I-75 or whatever. My food data is the exact same thing for me.

Look, I’m no one particularly special. I don’t have a powerful metabolism anymore. I don’t have the ability to remain naturally lean like I did in high school. I’m just some schmuck with a sedentary job who got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Now, I’m in a much better place.

The thing is, I’m not done. I’ve still got about 15 or 20 lbs left to go. By then, though, I’m afraid I’ll be not just lean, but thin. That’s not going to work for me. Not at all.

Then, it’ll be time to start putting weight back on.

This time, though, it’ll be about adding as much muscle as I can without completely undoing what I’ve done so far. I’m basically going to jump on that bodybuilding wagon of bulking and cutting for a bit, at least until I get where I want to get so far as muscle is concerned.

At the end of the day, though, all of this is to benefit me, to make me stronger and able to be here for my family. I have a job to do, to protect and provide for them as well as to teach them what it is to be a man. I can’t do that if I’m dead.

Today, I feel much better about that.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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