[BEFORE I BEGIN: After successfully completing one of my Gap Year Experiments of losing 30 pounds this year, dozens of friends, family, and blog readers have been asking me, “how did you do it?” Well, here’s my answer in short, digestible blog form, and I hope it serves a good purpose in helping you accomplish your own health goals and “experiments”. Although I completed this weight loss successfully about two months ago, I’ve been delaying a blog post about it for some odd reason, but without further adieu, here it is!!! If this post did in fact help you or inspire you in some way, please let me know by sending me a note because it will make my day and I’d love to hear more examples of all of you having success in your health experiments.]
– – –
On January 3, 2014, I had just gotten back from vacationing (read: ‘partying’) in the Grand Bahamas for New Years (a story in itself to save for another post!).
I knew I hadn’t been happy recently with my weight, and even though I had a new girlfriend at the time and things were going relatively well overall, I decided 2014 was going to be the year I focused on health over everything else.
I checked the scale, and realized I was a whopping 230 pounds! Now, at 6’2, I hid the extra weight well with a tall frame and wardrobe consisting of larger, darker shirts, but 230 pounds was easily the most I had ever weighed. Yikes!!!
I set a New Years Resolution of dropping 30 pounds and getting back to a lean, mean 200 pounds, which would bring me back to a solid muscular and athletic state reminiscent of my basketball-playing days a few years back at the beginning of high school.
After three months, with more conscious eating and occasional workouts, I was only down 7 pounds, now 223, and was finally ready to take massive action to make a drastic change rather than trudge along with mediocre results.
- I had just broken up with my girlfriend a couple weeks prior, and wanted to get over her while getting myself in shape to start dating other people.
- I was going through a relatively stressful period work-wise and needed to get back to eating healthy and working out regularly in order to keep my sanity.
- After losing just 7 pounds, my body was beginning to have indigestion and pains from eating overly-fatty, processed foods (which was actually a good sign!).
- Summer was just around the corner (I began this experiment in the beginning of April, 2014) and whether I ended up at Burning Man (which I didn’t, but have on my list to attend this year!) or the beach, I wanted to look good.
- My 17 year old soccer star of a brother, who takes more ab selfies than an overly-active male Tinder-swiper, constantly walks around the house without a shirt on (I have recently moved to NYC, and he is playing academy soccer in Orlando), and I have always been secretly jealous of how shredded he was despite ever having to lose weight or struggle for his body type.
- I had a ton of other motivations that finally pushed me over the edge….It was finally time for change!
So, with all that in mind, I finally decided to try the Slow Carb diet as made popular by Tim Ferriss in The Four Hour Body (and shared here on his blog), alongside more exercises and some accountability hacks.
How did I go about this experiment? Here were the basics (and, by no means am I a nutritionist, personal trainer, or psychologist, but this is what worked for me…):
- Each of my meals consisted of a protein (egg whites, chicken, lean steak, fish), a vegetable (baby spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peas, mixed vegetables), and legumes (black beans, pinto beans, lentils).
- I had the same type of meals, with minimized variety, over the course of the months I was cutting weight.
- Absolutely zero “white” carbs (bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes, pasta, or fried food).
- Protein Powder was OK only after work-outs. I used EAS 100% Whey Protein because it had a high protein amount (26g per serving) with only 150 calories, 2g of Total Fat, and only 7g of Total Carbs.
- No drinking calories. During weeks, I drink mostly water and black coffee.
- ONE CHEAT DAY EACH WEEK! Although I didn’t take a cheat day every single week, I definitely cheated hard. Think burgers, pizza, ice cream, bagels, Nutella, chocolate shakes, and more (most likely all in one day). Tim Ferriss advises a “Dieters Gone Wild” day in order to keep your sanity while also spiking caloric intake each week in order to trick your metabolism into burning tons of calories and avoid plateauing due to the decreased caloric intake a slow carb diet brings.
- None of my real workouts lasted more than an hour. Normally, I did 20-25 minutes of hard cardio (either running, doing sprint cycles on a stationary bike, or doing “Overtime” workouts as my old basketball coach used to call it which includes 5 minute cycles at ultra high intensity on a stationary bike, elliptical, and treadmill in succession without rest at the end of a workout), and then 20-25 minutes of weightlifting, stacking exercises so I was alternating between 2 different exercises for 4 sets without rest.
- Weightlifting was important for burning fat, as well as high-intensity cardio that boosts metabolism.
- I also played a lot of basketball on weekends because I find it fun and it doesn’t feel like working out at all.
- Try to do workouts earlier in the day than later. Although I wasn’t perfect with this, doing so will boost your metabolism for the entire day and you’ll be more likely to complete the workout than if you try and do it with a day full of work and other distractions popping up (you’ll also feel better for the rest of the day!!).
3) Making Sure I Didn’t Fail!
- Using another Tim Ferriss tip, I “raised the stakes” and gave my brother $300 to hold hostage in case I didn’t reach my goals and stick to the script in reaching my goals. I gave him directions to use the money to purchase a gift for someone I was (to say the least) not very fond of, and the thought of purchasing a $300 gift for this person added even more motivation to succeed. You can do this with any accountability buddy and any charity or cause you don’t like (i.e. a Republican giving a friend $1,000 to donate to a Democrat’s campaign should a goal not be reached).
- I cooked meals ahead of time so that I always had grilled chicken to heat up for lunch easily. You can pre-cook and pre-package an entire week’s meals each weekend if you’d really like to, and it would save a lot of time.
- If I had to eat on the run, I chose to eat Mexican food as much as possible. It’s the easiest cuisine to get your protein, beans, and vegetables with, and I had a ton of Chipotle over the month (salad bowl, no rice, half pinto and half black beans, half chicken and half steak, and a tiny bit of salsa…Boom!)
So with those things in mind, I was off!
With most of my weight loss coming in only 2-3 months over the course of this year where I heavily focused on cutting weight, I now weigh 200 pounds, resulting in a 30 pound weight loss since the beginning of the year. If I had measured for body fat, I most likely lost 40-45 pounds of fat too, to make these stats even more alarming, as some of the fat was converted into lean muscle through resistance training throughout the year.
Actually, here’s a full tally of what I lost (and gained) this year (so far!):
- 30 pounds
- 40-45 pounds of fat
- Craving for unhealthy foods for the most part
- Tons of inches off my waist and rest of body
- A lot of stress
- A few pieces of nice clothing that don’t fit me anymore (oh well, I’m trying to partner with a celebrity stylist during this gap year anyways…)
- Appreciation for eating right and exercising as it relates to overall happiness and daily productivity
- New clothes (that are also slowly beginning not to fit as I keep getting in better shape)
- New lifestyle
- More dating success (due to my confidence boost)
- The realization that people share information, products, etc that make them healthier, wealthier, or helps their children in some capacity. After sharing this diet at least 20 times this past year with inquisitive people, I’ve learned that you’ll earn some serious loyalty if you help a person in any of those three areas of life. I mean, I’m making a post that includes info about Tim Ferriss’ diet and book now, aren’t I?
And with that, I will say that the weight loss experiment I set out to achieve was a massive success! Rather than putting on the “Freshman 15” that many people gain in their first year of college due to greater access to cheaper eats (and a ridiculous amount of partying), grouped with an unhealthy amount of social and academic stress and poor time management skills (on average) that leave little time for working out, I was able to cut 30 pounds and completely change my relationship with food, my confidence, my productivity working on a daily basis, and (most importantly) my own health.
I hope this has been helpful, and I’d love to continue hearing from all of you about your own health “experiments” you’d like to take on this year and how I can help you accomplish those goals.