***A brief side note: I’ve included progress pics to showcase the transformation that my body underwent in my last dieting process. Although I’ve heard from some that they view this as showcasing vanity, I will disagree in the sense that these are pictures taken with a cell phone in a bathroom, not professional shots done for an adult magazine. These are simply for documentation purposes only to further emphasis points in the blog bellow***
A few weeks ago I finally decided it was time to really bring my body fat down and ultimately get “shredded”. I did this for several reasons. Some are covered in several of my previous blogs, HERE and HERE, but one of the main reasons is that it reminds me what my clients go through when we need to drop some of the excess insulation.
Below are some of the random lessons that stick out in my mind from my 9-week process.
Fat loss is not always linear
I swear, for the first two weeks it felt like NOTHING was happening. Even though as a trainer I knew better, it still didn’t make the process easier.
After the initial “cleaning out” process, (for those of you who have never dieted down before, when you switch to cleaner foods, your body will start getting rid of a lot of junk weight in the form of excrement… in other words, crap) during which I had dropped 5 lbs in a weekend, I swear the scale did not move for two weeks afterward.
It was a reminder to me that your body is ever-changing and that what it’s doing is making the physiological adaptations for you to drop more body fat. So some weeks are 2lbs and some are only .5lb. BUT… that adds up over time.
In the end, although the scales don’t matter, it’s the pictures that will tell the story.
Trust the Plan
Fat didn’t come on overnight, nor will it leave overnight, so you have to trust the plan and just keep moving forward.
Not many diets fail. In all reality, the majority of diets work. It’s people that fail the diets.
Side Note: I should clarify that when I say “diet,” I mean a way of eating, not necessarily a caloric restriction. So many EXPECT fat to come off within the first week or even the first few days, then they get upset when it doesn’t happen.
Think about that for a second: you get upset when you don’t get abs after dieting down for a week and working hard?
If it were that easy then everyone would be shredded.
You didn’t gain 20lbs overnight, so don’t expect to lose it overnight. Trust the program you’re on and stick to it because YOU WILL see the results.
Sometimes you have to focus on maintaining fat loss.
This piggybacks off of my last comment. You need to realize that fat loss isn’t always linear and that you WILL deviate away from your diet in some form.
It doesn’t have to be a deviation of epic proportions, say bathing yourself in Nutella while stuffing your face with pop tarts, but you may overeat in some way.
If you do, you’ll be ok. Just start back up ASAP and know that you’ll have those days, but as long as you didn’t put fat ON, you didn’t lose any ground. And THAT is huge in the big picture.
It’s a mind game
If you are gung-ho about achieving a new level of “lean,” you’re going to have to be conscious and aware EVERY DAY of alternating your lifestyle to get there. I mean, your current lifestyle is what got you there in the first place.
So you’re always trying to avoid situations that may tempt you, you are trying not to think about food (which is damn near impossible some days), you’re altering your social life to where you’re not eating or drinking, and the list goes on.
So with it being on your mind so much, you’re checking the scale three times a day and looking at yourself in the mirror every 30min to see if your “lean” or do you have abs yet.
Hell, someday you swear you’re fatter than before!
I’m telling you it’s a mind f–k some days.
When that happens I have found it VERY crucial to look back at progress pics of where I’ve come from in the past week or month, heck even years, just to visually verify that I AM making progress.
Your mind will play tricks on you, but the pictures won’t lie.
Just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you have to eat
You’re dieting. Accept the fact that there will be times that you’re hungry.
Hungry does not mean eat; that is what gets most people overweight in the first place.
Any chance you get, sleep.
I noticed several things when I tried to sleep through some of the harder days of the diet.
Whenever you sleep, your body secretes levels of Growth Hormone, and this is one of the holy grail hormones of fat loss. High levels of GH = fat loss.
For those days that, for whatever reason, the diet is just hard, going to bed early and sleeping through it made it a lot easier. In a “get shredded” stage, you’ll get hungry and want to eat but if you do you’ll regret it.
BUT… you’ll never regret going to bed and waking up leaner feeling better about yourself knowing you didn’t give in to any temptations.
This is another piggyback off the mind game.
I have found that you HAVE to be consistent to see continued progress (even if it isn’t linear). I have found that if I treated my diet just as routine as brushing my teeth, then everything took care of itself.
The point is to be PERSISTENTLY CONSISTENT, and you’ll be surprised at how fast the results can come.
You’re going to have a LOT of downtime since you’re not going to be thinking about food as often…you should already know what you’re going to eat each day.
You’ll find that you tend to eat the most out of boredom so staying busy is a must.
I personally was reading A LOT of books and working insane hours on my business to where I had NO time to even let my thoughts stray about food.
This GREATLY helped me during the first 2-3 weeks phase where you go through this self-perceived skinny-fat phase. After that, I was in such a routine of reading and working that the days flew by quickly.
Find something that you are interested in and throw yourself into it, you’ll be surprised at how good you get at things after a few months of focus.
Having a plan
I’ll admit that I did lose SOME muscle during this diet. Face it, a pound or two of muscle lost is going to happen when you reach VERY low fat levels; but I do attribute me having a workout plan and tracking my plan to helping me keep a lot of muscle on, and in some cases, reshaping certain muscles (although I’m sure that illusion is just due to the lower levels of body fat).
I had a plan each workout of certain things that I HAD to do before I could leave, whether it was lifting a certain amount of weight or doing a certain number of reps. No matter how the day was going, I HAD to do what I had written down so this kept me from going easy or reducing the weights when I was exhausted.
This allowed me to take an objective vs subjective look at my workouts and just accept that “I can’t leave until this is done” attitude, because there will be some days that you’re just tired and feel like poo and you’ll be tempted to leave the gym early, but if there is a plan in place, you’re less likely to leave and more likely to get work done.
I did sprints for a bit of time when I was strength training, but I have to admit that I noticed a BIG difference in the way I looked when my body sprinted vs when I didn’t.
I attribute that in helping me keep a harder more athletic physique for these pictures.
Sprinting is hard, yes, but give it a few weeks of sprinting and a clean diet, and you’ll NEVER stop.
Proper Warming Up
I learned when I started getting under 8% I was noticing that my strength was decreasing and I pulled a muscle two weeks out from my shoot from not warming up enough before my sprints.
When the body gets to a lower level (this can be different for most), you will NEED to spend more time warming up and backing off some of the ego weights (which I admit I was still trying to hit some big PRs with my squat). In hindsight that was dumb.
At this point, I realized that I need to address my recovery more since I didn’t have the fat cushioning me like I was used to at higher percentages.
End Results of 9 Weeks:
What kind of water depletion or carb depletion did I do? Really you would be surprised to hear that I didn’t do anything fancy. I do remember eating half a bag of Oreos 2 days from the shoot (guess that was my carb load) and NOT drink water the morning of the shoot; everything else was the same. I was running late and didn’t have time to do anything fancy but the pictures turned out pretty awesome in my opinion. I need to give thanks to Jay Fuertez who is well known among the fitness world with his fitness photography.
Week 1: 196 @ 11.8% bodyfat
Week 9: 182 @ 5.8% bodyfat
As blunt as this may seem, getting lean isn’t always easy. Even for the seasoned gym goer, it can be pretty hard. Most people will never try it, and those that try to diet down to VERY lean levels will not stick to it.
For those that are left, if you’re looking to see what life is like on the lean side, follow and take heed to some of these tips above. Even though I’ve blazed a trail for you, it doesn’t mean it’s still not full of potholes and bumps.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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