I have had a number of people asking me details about "my diet" over the last year.
Here is the basic plan I have taken to loose ~90 pounds (40 kilos) over the course of 12 months - and I am still loosing weight each month.
(ps: for the record: the guy in the photograph is NOT me. I was never that fat. I started off about where the slimmest of the 4 photos are and worked down from there)
It has been an entire years worth of progress from one method to another to yet another.
I have learned along the way that I just could not stick to a single 'plan' and hope to get anywhere. Not saying that does not work for others, but it did not work for me.
First I started with massively cutting back the amount of food I eat. This was, physiologically, probably the hardest part. Not only because I was just starting but because you have to train yourself, train your brain, that "I really do not NEED that other half of the 4 pound burrito in-front of me." I did not allow myself to change "what I ate" during this process. I continued to eat everything I had been. Burritos, tacos, lasagna, spaghetti, fast food buggers, etc. I would say this took me about three months. During this initial period I only lost about 10 pounds. But again, this was about training the brain/body that "all that food" was not actually necessary (something vital for the step I am at now, a year later).
Phase two for me was a change in food. This period lasted perhaps two months of very hard discipline. Without a doubt, this was probably the hardest phase for me. You see, I LOVE burritos and I use to love my weekly fast-food burger stop for a triple burger with large fries and a large chocolate shake (ie: probably 8000 calories). So this was all about getting the "worst of the worst" food that I was eating out of my mind and out of my body. This was where I really started to learn just how long it took to get 'stuff' out of your body. Weeks and weeks of time has to go by (at least for me it did) for my body to rid itself of all of the 'whatever' that it/I has been consuming for years. Now, this also meant I had to make a choice... "do I make a switch at this point to different food - healthier food - or, just keep eat the same amount of the food I am already eating but not the food I have decided to stop eating". I decided I would continue to eat the same kind of food I was eating, but remove the worst of the food I was eating. Things like burritos, lasagna, burgers went bye-bye. But I also had to start eating more food (not at one sitting, but throughout the week) of food I was going to allow myself to keep eating (tacos, fried chicken, pork, massive sandwiches, etc) This phase allowed me, once I got settled into things, to loose about 20 or so pounds.
Phase three for me was another change in food. This was a massive change away from pretty much all 'heavy' food. That being anything that "sits in the tummy". This does not mean I turned into some kind of vegetarian who would only eat unprocessed food though - I still ate tacos (and still do, as they are very light food that is easily process). This was a fairly short phase for me. It was just long enough to get "the heavy stuff out of the system". I doubt I lost much weight at in this phase, it was just a purification phase.
Phase four for me was about "calorie-counting" big time. For me this was where it really turned to something complex. It was at this point that I knew my body was fairly purged of all the crap from the last 10 years of eating unhealthy. This was the phase where I started to actually analyze what it was I was eating on a numbers-level. The way I approached it was "calorie counting" and "calories expended". Looking at it in other terminology, I would say I would call it "calories consumed based on calories expended". Basically, if I sat around on my butt all day I probably only expended 900-1200 calories - thus I would only allow myself to consume around that many calories. If I went out on a hike or worked out, I would try to determine how many calories I expended (fairly easy) and would allow myself to consume that many calories. So, think "expended calories -> replaced calories". Now I should say that this was probably the most dangerous phase of everything. I can honestly say that I got very very close to loosing myself in this phase. There were times when I would get so weak from not in-taking enough calories that I could feel I was starting to push my body beyond what was not just healthy, but beyond what was very much unhealthy. Eventually I had to force myself to start consuming additional calories even if I had not expended as many on a given day. I have had friends tell me that they were starting to get worried about me. I had lost all drive and motivation. To add to all of that, when I was getting out and burning calories (by hiking) I was pushing myself hard. I would easily burn 5000-9000 calories in a matter of 5-8 hours. I really had to stay on top of myself when I was doing that. However, all of this said, this is where I really started to burn body fat. Perhaps 'burn' is the wrong term... more like I was at this point forcing my body to consume it's own fat because it was not getting sufficient calories/fat from consuming of food. Warning: What I did was stupid and dangerous.
Phase five was another change in food. This was when it really started to get fun. By this point I had already lost well over 60 pounds (the vast majority of it in phase 4). This was about me learning about how to eat differently. This was about me discovering new types of food (new to me) that were both healthy and flavorful. After all, eating food that does not have flavor and taste good... well, that just sucks and thus there is no motivation to keep eating it. By this point I had realized that I could no longer sustain the "expended calories -> replaced calories" phase (does not indicate it should not have been done, but rather I had moved past that phase.) So I started buying food that packed major calories without a massive amount of consuming of food. This phase saw slow progress in loosing weight but I think it was vital to the phase I am at now. Basically this was a phase of me learning about how to "eat healthy food" - which meant learning about all types of new food. This required a lot of help from friends who knew how to eat healthy food (and I am not just talking about 'healthy food' like you might think healthy food might be (see phase three above) but rather really examining how each type of food is processed by the body (what kind of wheat is processed and which passes right through without any value to you) I learned which types of rice were best, I learned which types of lunch meats where best, I learned which types of grain worked with each other to really make them viable. In this phase I started to loose pounds slowly, but it was the setup for where I am at now. In fact, there were times when I would go five pounds in both directions. Frustrated me, but I learned to just keep pushing ahead.
Phase six is where I am at now. This phase has been all about maintaining a constant diet. Very little of the "expended calories -> replaced calories" takes place now. Now it is all about making sure I consume constant meals of substance. Even if I eat a bit more than I should, I make sure that whatever it is I am eating is "body friendly". I now consume a good deal of food such as Muesli for breakfast and lunch. Lots of different types of fruit throughout the day (have never been much of a fruit fan throughout my life) and for dinner I will try to have something of value and substance. Perhaps a bole of chili or soup, perhaps 3 or 4 tacos, perhaps some Muesli with all kinds of crazy stuff in it, so on and so forth. Basically, something that will keep my body performing yet be 100% healthy food and not 'heavy food'. I also might put down a big sandwich for lunch or dinner. By "big" I mean something with three or four slices of cheese, a couple slabs of ham, 4 or 5 slices of pepperoni, and some salami. Also, I only use the "thin sliced" pieces of bread that is becoming more popular these days. So, while this is a pretty seriously large sandwich, it is something that is relatively small amount of food (as I only will eat the sandwich and nothing else) and contains a wide range of food types.
Now, throughout ALL of these phases was one thing: walking. I had told myself from the get-go that I would not go to a gym. If I could not loose weight from changing my eating habits and expending calories in my own way, than it was just not going to happen. I had no desire to go to a gym and run on treadmills, lift weights, use stair climbers and all that stuff. Not saying those are not things people should do, just not the direction I wanted to go. Where I live I have access to miles and miles of trails in the middle of forests. I knew I could start hitting trails and start to walk and hike and get close to the same workout. So that is what I did. I started off walking 2 miles. I then pushed myself to 4 miles. I than started wearing a backpack to add some weight. After a few months I increased the weight of pack and eventually increased the mileage to 6 miles. I would be out on a trial at least twice a week, sometimes three or four times a week. Once you get into it you can easily hike 6 miles (three miles in each direction) in under two hours. So, I just allot myself three hours of my day to go hike 6 miles. If a person cannot find three hours of their day, a couple times a week, than their priorities in life are not to a point where they really want to loose weight. It's as blunt and straight forward as that. So much of all of this is about how much you are serious about wanting to loose those pounds. If you are serious, you are going to find time to hit a gym or hit a trail or whatever method you choose to expend calories. At this point I am now out walking three days a week and typically hike either 4 miles or 6 miles, with a backpack that weights between 15 and 25 pounds.
My "next phase" will be (I think) something that goes like this: (a) change of what I drink (less coffee, more tea, water, and supplemental drinks). I have already gone from drinking 5-8 cups of coffee a day to one cup of coffee, and sometimes only one cup every two or three days. (2) learning more about different varieties of Muesli style food and how it can be varied to meet different meals throughout the day and provide different levels of calorie requirements (3) eating one steak a week. I got away from eating steaks in phase three. But I am now at a point where the vast majority of my food is of such a type that I feel the need to re-introduce a small amount of the good'ole red-meat (well cooked though) to provide all those good things that meat provides. I am by no means a vegetarian and have no intent of becoming one. I have continued to eat meat sandwiches throughout all phases over the last year. I just feel that putting down a steak once or twice a month will be a good thing. (3) I am also trying to start liking nuts. I have pretty much always hated nuts. Especially those nasty dry walnuts. Loath those things. But, things like Cashew nuts are now on my desk and in my backpack at all times. I am also going to try to find a way to increase my iron intake. Previously I did this by drinking jello liquid (ie: buy a box of jello, put hot water in it, and let it cool off, but not form, and drink it - one of the very best ways to get a high dose of iron... and drink something super-yummie -grin) but I do not want to intake that much sugar and other stuff that jello has. So, going to hunt down healthy food types with iron. I am pretty sure that a lot of the food I eat now is very low in iron. (4) I am probably going to start the dreaded "working out". That is, jumping jacks, sit ups, using a Ab wheel, jump rope, and so forth. All of those things that I can do now that I don't have 80 pounds of blubber hanging off my front side. Basically, my goal for the next 4-6 months is to loose an additional 20 pounds AND build the rest of my body at the same time. The last year has been about tearing down my body pound-by-pound. I think I am now at a stage where I can actually loose weight and build my body at the same time. Maybe.
Again, I would just like to say that this is what has worked for me. It was not some doctor prescribed process. I darn near destroyed my body and pushed myself to a point of loosing control of being ble to control my body a number of times. I pushed myself to the ragged edge and beyond a few times. There are 'phases' that I went down that I have not mentioned - because they were very very dangerous and when I realized it, I had to stop them and find a different method. I was just talking with a walking buddy about this the other day. He made the comment that "yeah, that one phase you went on, I thought you were going to end up in the hospital" a couple of times. Not because I had turned into skin-and-bones (because I am far from it, I still have a bit of blubber on the tummy) but because I allowed myself to eat so very little that I became so weak I could not do anything. Scary stuff looking back on it. So please folks, full disclaimer here... what I did was something that I did on my own. Some of it has been a good idea and some of it was seriously dangerous. For me, loosing weight was my #1 primary goal for 2010. Nothing else really mattered to me. I was going to loose weight and that is all there was too it. Regardless of work, regardless of friendships, regardless of all that stuff. My goal was to loose weight. I had no idea how to do it when I started. I still do not. I just know what I did that worked and what did not work. My best advice would be to not do what I have done unless you have amazing self-disciple. If you don't, than go to a gym and sit down with a weight coach and let them help you. As for me, I knew I could do it on my own - even if it almost put me down.
I started 2010 at 289 pounds. I ended at 199.6 in December 28th 2010. That was 90 pounds in 12 months.
My goal is to be at 180 by April of 2011. At that point I will decide if I want to push to 175 or maintain myself at the 180 range. Only I will be able to make that decision. Most doctors will tell me that with my height and body build that 190 is where I should be. I know that is bogus if I maintain a healthy diet and continue to burn calories by any means necessary. I also know I need to keep care of my body at this point. What I did to myself in phases three and four (especially four) I just cannot allow myself to do. Again, it is all about self-disciple. None of this could have happened if I was not 100% committed to loosing weight at whatever the cost. First I had to give up my favorite food. Next I had to forceably teach my body that it did not need so much food to survive (a lesson most first-world nations have long since forgotten). Next I had to clean my body on the inside of all the bad stuff it had built up over 10 years of poor eating and lack of exercise. Next I had to teach myself about healthy eating and healthy foods. And, through it all, was a discipline that I simply could not skip... exercise. Trust me on this last one. I tried for all of 2008 and change what I eat and loose weight. I failed miserably, and thus spend 2009 eating all that bad food again. Without exercise, it does not matter what diet I went on, it was just not going to work.
Anyway, that is my story! Hopefully by the middle of 2011 I will be able to look in the mirror and see myself at 17 again - not!!
Anyway, this goes out to all of you who have been asking and asking about my diet over the last year that helped me go from 285/290 down to 200 over the course of 12 months.
John B. Abela
Congratulations! I know from personal experience it is a lifestyle change. At one time I lost 87 pounds actually. Sigh... a lot has happened since then. Due to my illnesses a lot of muscle mass was lost as well. I am working on that.
What I do know is this...
The body is like a furnace. In order to "burn" fat, you have to stoke the fire, so to speak. Deprivation actually is the worst thing. Your body kicks into red alert or what I think of as "starvation mode" because it thinks it is going to, well... starve. It tries to conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism. You will actually lose weight slower and because your body is crying out for nutrients, it will go muscles and such rather than fat. Sigh...
You're actually sabotaging your own efforts.
On the other hand... if you add fuel to the fire... you will actually lose weight. The key is... making sure you add the right fuel to the fire. When I've been successful in losing and keeping off weight, I actually consume MORE food over the day not less, only it is the right food in the right quantities paced reasonably throughout the day. That prevents me from getting "too hungry".
BTW, I have lost 20 pounds since the end of October.
Blessings and Congratulations!