Rockin’ the Dad Bod
I love to eat. It really doesn’t matter what kind of food. I’m not all that picky. And, if one plate of food is good, two is certainly better, oh and look, snacks!
Fair warning: I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, dietician, physical therapist, trainer, weight-loss coach, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night. I don’t even aspire to one of these professions. But, what I have done the last couple of months works. At least, it has for me.
There are so many diets and fads floating around out there it is dizzying. Whole 30, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, which all seem to me impossible, non-desirable, and most importantly, taste-free. Did I mention, I love to eat!? I also know a few people who had done some of these and experienced immediate results, but they didn’t seem to last.
Similarly, there is also a ton of advice floating around: eat more protein, you’re eating too much protein, eat more fat and more carbs, eat less…keep it simple, especially at first. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Some of the advice may be helpful but learn to walk before you try to run.
I have never been a huge gym guy. I went through spurts where I would work out for a few months. I’m a small-framed guy, so I never experienced great results. Really, this means, I didn’t get enormous muscles after a month of working out as I desired, so I would give up. I continually struggled with maintaining consistency in working out, so I would work out a couple of months a year. This, obviously, was not helpful by any measurement.
Beginning this summer, a few buddies from church started a “Summer Fitness Challenge” and pointed to the resource TheoFit. I did a few of the routines listed there. What became important, and maybe the most obvious though, was the focus on eating properly and calorie management. We’ll get to that more in a bit.
None of the apps, resources, or information I refer to are endorsement driven. They have simply been good resources for me so I would like to share them with you. For what it’s worth, I tend to be a bit hyper and distracted, so I bounced from resource and technique quite a bit. This actually may prove beneficial to constantly challenge your body with different approaches, resistance, and objectives instead of getting locked into the same routine. Really, I think the key is to do something and maybe even more important, do something consistently. Yes, your body needs to rest occasionally, but even on off days, some activity is helpful. Lifting every day doesn’t give your muscles time to recover. On off days, I usually try to still go on a long fast-paced walk or ride a stationary bike for a few miles.
I didn’t have a specific goal in mind when beginning this summer. That may have actually been helpful for me. I didn’t set myself up for failure. My main ‘goal’ was to lose my belly. This may or may not work for everyone. I know some people need a very specific target. And, of course, there is the idea that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. But, I was done being disappointed in myself for not reaching my unrealistic goals.
If you are going to set a specific goal, make it realistic and attainable. Otherwise, maybe a general goal or direction may be more beneficial.
In fact, at the end of the summer, I was asked how I did relative to my goal. I wildly exceeded my expectations! I still had a bit of a belly, but it was dramatically flatter. This was incredibly encouraging to me.
While I didn’t I have a specific target in mind, I did watch trends. We’ll talk a bit more about this when chatting about measuring.
To say I followed a traditional diet would be an understatement. Although I didn’t pay to close of attention to the details of really any diet out there, I may have accidentally bumped into a diet with my process. However, I’m sure I didn’t meet the exact specifics of a diet to the letter if I followed the idea of one.
If I followed a diet, it was the recommendation of TheoFit: Eat to Get Fit - The How-To Guide which again, I didn’t follow to the letter, but in spirit.
I did measure. I looked at calories and macros, which again, we will talk about in a bit.
I started cutting my calories by 20%(ish) daily. For me, this was unbelievably vague, at first. My normal meals probably exceeded 2,000 calories. Did I mention I like to eat!? I would have a decently-sized breakfast, a large lunch, snacks and a couple of plates for dinner and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like.
Dropping from likely 4,000-plus daily calorie intake to sub-2,000, actually closer to 1,600 was not likely to be successful. Small, iterative steps are helpful. I started having only one plate of food for dinner. Revolutionary, I know! Then I began to iteratively, but quickly, work my way down to ~1,600 calories a day. It took a couple of weeks. And, some weeks I’m pretty sure I said meh 2,500 calories won’t be that big of an issue. Give yourself room to fail small, or you will fail big.
It finally started making sense: calories in - calories out = weight loss/gain.
A gas tank is a great analogy for me. It helped everything make sense to me. I put 25 gallons of gas in my vehicle, which fills the tank. I have a certain number of miles I have to drive to burn off that fuel.
It is the same with food. There are other details that are beneficial, but overall this is the truth. You have to burn more calories than you take in if you want to lose weight. You have to run-out-of-gas.
I started simply. I didn’t focus a ton of the types of calories and details like macronutrients. I counted calories. And, as you may guess, this is what inspired the title of this post. Counted, to me, was a very ambiguous term. I’m sure, that handful of M&Ms is only 50 or so calories. Ok, maybe I wasn’t that obvious (most of the time) and that is the problem. Little lies are still lies and add up.
If one ‘serving’ of food is 6-ounces, 7 or 8-ounces probably isn’t that much of an impact. Except, it is, especially, when you add that kind of fuzzy math to each serving. If we did that financially, we would quickly be broke by over-paying for things by 30%.
Count all of the calories. I would think I was eating well by getting a salad at Chik-fil-A instead of my much-loved spicy chicken sandwiches and fries. But then I would drown it is creamy garlic ranch dressing that was almost 400 calories on its own. Talk about a bummer. Although to be fair, their salads are awesome, as well - especially, with garlic ranch.
The first couple weeks at my new 1,600-calorie-per-day sucked. It was hard. But, like any habit, it took me a few years to get to where I was, so it was going to take some time to get where I needed to be. After about two weeks, it really did get easier. I didn’t miss the extra couple thousand calories. Favorite meals are tough, and I would say (others may disagree) you have to cheat occasionally or you will end up cheating constantly.
Tips & Tricks that helped me
- Eat a small snack before eating. Eating something around 100 calories helps remove the starving feeling allowing you to eat smaller portions at meal time.
- Drink a glass of water before eating. 8-ounces is recommended. I don’t measure, just drink. This again helps your stomach feel full before eating.
- Eat slowly. This was really difficult for me and I still fail at it.
- Wait a few minutes before grabbing second helpings. This is another difficult process, but giving your food a couple of minutes to traverse to its destination can pay off big time. Even a small second helping can be hundreds of unnecessary calories.
- Realize you are going to eat again in a couple of hours. I’ve never gone hungry in my life, but I eat as if I’ve always lived in a third-world country not knowing when my next meal will come. Knowing even a small snack is not far away can help me feeling like I need to eat enough to last for an extended period of time.
- Be honest. As with most things, honesty is the best policy. It isn’t helpful if you cheat yourself and are not accurate in your calorie count. You actually don’t know where you are and the results will show either way. It’s a bit like a map, you have to know exactly where you are to get where you want to go.
- Consistent meals each day. Not comparing myself to Steve Jobs or others with this mindset, but decision fatigue is real and I didn’t have time to have custom meals all the time. So, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack are almost always consistent: peanut butter with honey on a toasted English Muffin (multi-grain) - although, after noticing the fat content of peanut butter, I’m switching to high-protein oatmeal, protein bar for snack, post-workout protein shake for lunch, peanuts or chili-flavored chick-peas for snack, variable on dinner, yogurt for dessert. See below for personal preferences on items.
- Have smart snacks available. I have a few different varieties of healthy snacks around - see above. Fruit is always a great low-calorie and healthy snack. I also have a couple of not-so-healthy snacks, but keeps my mind off food, like gum and Fireballs (cinnamon hard candy) they keep me busy and not thinking about eating. These may not be the best thing to eat, but they keep me from consuming hundreds of other calories. There is probably other healthier candy or other options out there, but this is what I started with and it stuck.
My workout routine(s)
I have been all over the place on this one. As mentioned, I get bored, distracted my new apps, techniques, etc. which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is good to mix-it-up sometimes. I may go a bit overboard on this one on mixing it up, but it works for me. Again, I think the key is consistency and doing something every day.
I have done, and love, Strong Lifts. It is a simple concept that helps lift more in reps and weight and they have a helpful app (see below). It is one of the only lifting workouts I have stuck with consistently.
When I started working out again at the beginning of summer, I started working-out-from-home. There are some very helpful apps that produce great results. I will list them below. I prefer this for quite a few reasons: it is easier not having to leave the house and I am more consistent, I actually see better results, it provides the gamification/don’t-break-the-string idea, it is quicker, I don’t feel like I have to ‘get-ready’ to go to the gym, and maybe a few others. The only negative for me is the, “I will work out later” feeling, then not feeling like it later.
I read an article a year or so ago, unfortunately, I do remember in which magazine or which Hollywood athlete/actor said it, but he said go to the gym. Every. Single. day. Even if it is to go there and read a magazine for about 30 minutes, it will keep you in the habit of going to the gym. It wasn’t bad advice, but it wasn’t very practical for me. What I did find that worked really well was silly gamification. It was kind of like Seinfeld’s productivity idea: don’t break the chain. That is, don’t miss a day. There were a few times when about 15 days into a routine, I didn’t feel like working out, but I didn’t want to break-the-chain that I had going. It is silly, but it worked for me.
Usually, I do a mixture of all of the above. Some days, I will be at the gym for an hour-and-a-half doing a full warm-up, lift, ride a stationary bike for 6-12 miles and come home completely wiped-out. Other days, I will work out at home using a couple of the workout-at-home apps and do the full routines in both apps, then go for a fast-paced 30-minute walk. And, some days, I will simply do the ab workout. More-often-than-not, I do the more full workout-from-home routine, but I make sure I do something every day. I have missed a couple of days, but probably less than 7 in 4 months.
While I didn’t have a specific goal in mind when I began, I knew measuring and knowing where I was and how I was trending was going to be important. It is hard to get anywhere when you don’t have a clue where you are or where you want to go, even if it is a general direction. I know if I want to get to Canada I have to go north, I can figure out the specifics (east or west) when I get there.
Again, starting simple and easy made this obtainable for me. I started measuring overall calories, not specifics like macronutrients. I weighed myself but didn’t bother much with other specifics like BMI, muscle percentage, etc. I kept increasing weight/exercises, but not meticulously.
Trending is important. We want to be a little bit better each day in every area. There will be days that you aren’t and that is ok, but the overall trend is what matters. Bad days are fine. Bad weeks or months are not. We are going for the marathon, not the sprint.
I will highlight several apps that helped me measure well and made this an easier and achievable process. I don’t have time to keep a huge paper-based journal and write everything down. I needed it to be quick and almost ‘invisible’ or it wouldn’t get done and not knowing is bad.
Finally! Apps that were helpful to me, personal preferences and other items
Again, I am not receiving compensation for any of this, nor did I come up with any of the ideas, techniques, products, or information. I am just compiling it to hopefully help you. I’m sure there will be some things you like and some you don’t. It isn’t a magic formula, well the calorie intake/burn kind of is, but the rest if up-for-grabs:
- TheoFit - I got quite a few good tips from this. The diet portion (link above) is very helpful. I found the Tony Horton’s (P90X guy) warm-up video here. He is hilarious. Started doing other P90X3 stuff. Really good.
- Strong Lifts - great workout routine and app for the gym. He also has good information on the website and had a very helpful daily email, but that is discontinued.
- Workout From Home Apps (Android): Home Workout - No Equipment Required, 30 Day Fitness Challenge and Arm Workout - Biceps Exercise are some of my favorites.
- Tony Horton P90X3 - intense but doable and he is hilarious, which makes working out somewhat less painful.
- Calorie counting - MyFitnessPal (Android). I ended up switching to Macros (Android) this app rocks and actually calculated the items that TheoFit: Eat to Get Fit - The How-To Guide recommended automatically and for free! It also helped me figure out macronutrients easily which ended up being huge when I plateaued. Like dropping peanut butter because of the high day content. I quickly broke through the plateau after that.
- Orgain Protein - my favorite protein powder. I use unsweetened almond milk (another thing I learned in macronutrients above - whole milk was twice the calories), frozen bananas and strawberries. Wow, this is like drinking dessert, I love it.
- Protein bars: Premier Protein these taste good, are less expensive, and have great macronutrients or Fit Crunch these are more expensive, but taste like candy bars and also have great macronutrients.
- Light and Fit Strawberry Cheesecake Greek Yogurt: this stuff is great for a low-calorie dessert and a 13g protein boost. Really, any Greek yogurt is good, but this flavor is tough to beat.
- Encouragement and motivation: my family and Jocko Willnick. Seriously, if he doesn’t motivate you, you should probably check your pulse.
How I did over summer
I started summer at 173 pounds, which was about 27 pounds heavier than ideal weight for someone in my demographic. As I post this, I’m almost to my ideal weight. I’m at 149 pounds, about 3 pounds away. Only 12 pounds heavier than my 18-year-old! For an almost-middle-aged guy (shh!), I’m pretty happy with the progress. I’m also stronger and have more power than I did when I was my son’s age and do not tire easily now. And, while I’m certainly not keeping up with The Rock, I’m more ripped than I’ve ever been and the Dad Bod is history.
There are certainly processes and techniques that achieve results faster, but I am approaching this as life-change and playing the long game, not shooting for quick results that may not last.
By far, the biggest obstacle of this entire process, now and historically, was me and my self-talk. I am a liar…at least to myself. In fact, if anyone else spoke to me the way I often speak to myself, it would not be a friendly conversation. I wouldn’t be acquaintances with people who spoke to me like that, let alone friends.
I do think there is some value in having high standards for ourselves. I even believe challenging and encouraging ourselves is appropriate. But, negativity is not helpful for anything or anyone, especially, self-negativity.
Stop lying to yourself. You can do it. Go!
Any improvement is improvement. And, small improvements grow into large improvements. Let me know how it goes.