Friday, July 27, 2018

The Transformation Equation - The dynamics of how I did it, and how you can too!

Carb Loading?
1299 Days, 14 hrs, 24 minutes, 53 seconds. The time that has elapsed since the day I looked in the mirror  and felt disgusted with myself. The moment I thought "What have you done?" And the day I started out on my quest to lose weight. I had no idea how long or how far I could or would go. I told myself this was the time, and no matter what I was not going to give up! To this day I have held myself accountable to that promise!

I watched a video once that related losing weight to holding a stretched elastic band in your hands out in front of you, and I have always remembered that. Something about it stuck with me. At first it's easy to hold onto but as time goes by the tension becomes harder and harder to hold, until eventually you cant hold it any longer. If you're reading this because your looking for guidance, you need to be ready for this moment. This will be the moment when you really feel like giving up.  The moment where you may wonder why you started in the first place, or why you should continue. This moment will probably happen multiple times over the course of your journey and it is in learning how to deal with this moment that will determine your success or failure. For me this moment comes in the form of diet cravings. I hold out for a long period and then cant hold back anymore. I go into frenzies of post workout face stuffing, almost uncontrollable binge eating, where I will smash thousands of calories of junk. Not because I'm hungry, just because holding back for so long builds up inside. I have found a way to use this to get cravings out of the way. I almost embrace these moments. I let them happen, wake up the next day, go for a long run, or a long bike ride and then go to the gym. I get back on track. For that brief period its 2 steps forward one step back. But I always try to keep forward momentum.

For me that moment looking in the mirror was the driving force that kept me motivated day after day. I always remember how gross I felt, and why I started and it keeps me strong. The moment that really changed everything was when diet and exercise became not a choice that I made, but a lifestyle that I lived. So if you're reading this thinking the changes I made sound so easy, they are. It's the sticking with it for hundreds upon hundreds of days that will be true test of determination!

Before we start, I should state that I am truly like a pet pig. I LOVE FOOD! I ate not because I was hungry but because I loved eating, and tasting and drinking. If there was food around you can bet that I was going to get in on it. As I soon found out that eating this way is like using your credit card - you can have it now, but eventually the bill comes and you gotta pay up - everything has changed and I have now had to learn to control my eating and this has by far been one of the biggest challenges I have faced.
The initial changes I made were easy, splitting my food up into 6 meals a day using protein shakes and high protein foods to keep me feeling fuller for longer. I had an active job in the oil patch so I wasn't too concerned about calories at this point. I headed down to the local gym and bought a membership and started doing cardio 3-5 times a week for 30-45 minutes and some strength training a couple times a week. My extra pounds started falling off. But this wasn't enough. I ended up downloading a calorie tracking program and tracking all my foods making sure I was eating enough of each macro nutrient (proteins, carbs and fats) .

The Cheat Day, "Breakfast of Champions!"
At this point I was still taking "cheat days" where I would binge eat pizza and burgers and cookies and basically everything I could fit in in one day. This helped fight off the cravings for junk food, and allowed me to stay on track. It worked for quite some time until I hit a plateau at 225 lbs. At this point I hired a personal trainer and started hitting the gym with vengeance. She helped me with workout plans and got my diet on track, with the exception of my "cheat days" which still happened a little too often.

The Beginning of every Week!
It wasn't until I cleaned up my diet completely that I saw the next few pounds leaving, this took a lot of effort, I had to cut sugars, beer, most processed foods, and worst of all, the cheat days I loved so much. Every Sunday without fail, I would spend hours in the kitchen prepping all my food for the following week. I would portion, weigh and package everything for convenience. I had to turn down BBQs at work and instead go to the lunchroom and eat my chicken and veggies.

Now, I had goals this year to run three ultra marathons, stepping my way up to a 70 miler in August. Because of this I had to make exceptions to my diet. The first few weeks of running I could sustain myself on fruits but as my runs progressed to longer distances and times, I had to add some sugars back in on long run days to fuel my workouts. I managed to get my weight down to 195 for my 50km race but got a little scared after this race thinking I was still a little too big. I hadn't been using my calorie tracker for a year and a half as I had been prepping meals and eating the same thing day in and day out, but decided that I now needed to be extra strict in the following weeks coming up to my 80k. I continued meal prepping and tracked every single calorie I ate. I searched the internet for the best macro split until I found one that I thought would work (40% carb, 30% fat, 30% protein seems to work well for my body type - this breakdown may not work you). I set it up and ate to it right up until race week. I stepped on the scale and I was 185.4 lbs pre-race.

Chances are you have heard of (or tried) one of the many diets boasting rapid weight loss by taking some miracle pill or drink, or workout programs promising rapid results. I'm here to tell you there is no miracle and there is no quick way to lose excessive weight in a healthy fashion. There is only motivation, dedication and determination.

I get asked for advice a lot on how to go about losing weight. So I figured I would put forth the basic principles here. Now to clarify I am not a nutritionist or a trainer; the following is compiled from my own personal experience and articles that I have read.  Losing the amount of weight that I did was  the biggest challenge I have ever faced in life. It requires a serious long term commitment to yourself and, if you can turn it into a healthy lifestyle like I did (I still struggle with pizza and beer) then you should be able to obtain lasting results!

So lets start at the beginning. You! You are the person responsible for getting to where you're at. Take a good look in the mirror for a minute and own that. No one else is responsible for your extra pounds, your pizza binges, your late night McDonalds runs, but you! You ate the extra calories and skipped the gym one to many times. Now it's time to pay up!

Ok so now you have accepted responsibility! So we can move forward. If you want long lasting results, you must embrace these changes as lifestyle changes. Every choice you make must be towards your goal. If your goal is to diet temporarily, chances are you will regain the weight shortly after (I've done this multiple times in my life). It will not be easy. After being free to eat whatever you want whenever you want, a diet can seem restrictive and impossible at times. It's these times you have to remember where you started and where you want to be and keep moving towards it.

You need to understand and realize that it will take time.  For your body to burn excessive fat you still need to eat lots of good healthy food. If you deprive your body of the proper nutrients, it will just break down lean muscle mass, and as a result you will burn less calories in a day, shut your metabolism down, and kick your body into fat storing (starvation) mode.

So chances are, If you're still reading this far, you have a few extra pounds you’ve been wanting to get rid of. Or, maybe you're just bored and sitting at home and stumbled across this awesome web page about crazy people who run mountains (for fun) then clicked your way into this blog :) either way here’s how the magic happens:

 -Calories matter! 
You can break down a very complex subject into very simple math.. 3500 calories = 1 lb
-If you eat an extra 3500 cals - gain 1 lb
-Cut out or burn 3500 cals -lose 1 lb
(Sounds Simple right?)

* I should take a moment to clarify here, you get a choice of what you eat, you can eat your calories in chocolate and soda if you really want but you're probably not going to feel very good at the end of the day, Foods like chicken breasts, veggies, sweet potatoes and berries are low in calories and are way better choice to fill your daily caloric intake *

Your body has a number of calories that it burns by just existing. You can do a quick search and find a basic calculator for this. Here's one that I like using . Once you have this number you can decide on how many calories to cut out. Most of the calculators have an activity level set into them. Do not lie about the amount of exercise you do. The standard for safe weight loss is commonly said to be 1-2 lbs a week but I find 2 lbs to be cutting an excessive amount of nutrients causing me to feel tired all day long.  So that being said, I recommend no more than a 500 calorie deficit to start. This would give you 1 lb a week of healthy fat loss, while still allowing you to eat enough healthy food to not starve or feel empty all the time. For this process to work you can’t lie to yourself or guesstimate how many calories you're eating. Download a tracker, get a food scale, and hold yourself accountable for what you're eating. If you can't be bothered to put in the work, don't expect the results. 
A great way to start is to take your daily calories and divide it into 6 meals. This allows you to be eating all day and not having large gaps in between meals.  Eating high protein foods will keep you feeling fuller for a longer period, avoiding the spikes that come with high sugar loads. Some examples of meals/snacks I've used and still use.
Typical dinners/lunches:
1. Chicken breast (150 grams), sweet potato (100 grams),  mixed Asian style veggies (140 grams)
2. Baked salmon (150 grams), avocado (60 grams), steamed veggies, (140 grams), rice (140 grams)
3. Basa Fillet (150 grams), sweet potato (100 grams),  mixed Asian style veggies (140 grams)
4. Kale salad (no dressing, 200 grams), chicken breast (150 Grams), balsamic vinegar  (2tbsp)

*I use Frank's Red Hot Sauce and chili flakes on most dinners and lunches as it caries a nice 0 calorie balance and adds some kick and flavor. Also if you're wanting to up your fat intake 5-15 mls of extra virgin olive oil can be added as well. I have done this lots, but keep in mind that fats are calorie dense so if you're not careful you could be adding a lot of calories to your plate*

1. Oats (140 Grams cooked), Mixed berry or blueberries (140 grams), 1 scoop whey protein
2. Egg whites (140 Grams), ground chicken/turkey (100grams)
3. Whole grain toast(2 slices), all natural peanut butter (50 Grams)
4. Oats (140 grams cooked), dates-pitted (40 grams), almonds natural unsalted crushed (20 Grams)

1. Whey protein (1 scoop), 20 grams of almonds, apple-gala (approx 150 grams)
2. Mixed berry smoothie - whey protein (2 scoops), almond milk (500 mls), mixed berries/blueberries (2 cups/280grams) 
3.  Low fat yogurt (60 grams), banana (approx 145 grams), whey protein  (1 scoop)
4. Watermelon (280 Grams), almonds (20 Grams), whey protein powder (1 Scoop)
5. Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie: whey protein (chocolate 1 scoop), almond milk (250 mls), banana (approx 70 grams), all natural peanut butter (1-2 tbsp)  

These are all just examples of the types of meals and snacks I use throughout the day. I usually eat 6-7 times. Every person has different tastes and different requirements and this is why planning is everything. Take the time to create 6 or 7 days worth of meal plans to keep it interesting. It only takes a couple hrs to put together, plus shopping is way easier. Here is a link to a food calculator that allows you to put multiple items in:

As far as macros go, everyone has a different tolerance to different levels of each macro nutrient (proteins, fats and carbs). Our body types are all different so what works for me may not work for you in terms of what your body needs. Some people have a high metabolism and can eat a higher value of carbs in a day while others have a slower metabolism, and may need to cut back on carbs to lose weight. I recommend doing a quick test for your body type and setting up your macros based on that as a starting point, and then fine tuning it later. Here is a link to a test that can help determine your body type, and also has some great basic information on the 3 main body types

Myfitnesspal is a great App/Website to use since it allows you to set macro nutrient goals, and it's easy to adjust the percentages to fine tune your daily values. It may take some time to get used to, but in the end knowing what you're eating can greatly affect the way you eat, and your views on what you're actually getting from your favorite foods.
Even if you don't want to do full on meal prep, planning ahead, calculating, pre-weighing and measuring out foods into containers makes it easier to stay on track during the week even with a busy schedule. Make your diet easy and stress free so that you stick with it.

Don't let others influence you. It's your body. It's your goal! If you give into the pressure from friends, family or coworkers, you are only setting yourself back. If you always give in, you will derail your own efforts and inevitably give up because you're not getting the results you wanted.

Diet really is the key to success but exercise is also important, even 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week of cardio can help a lot. And don’t rule out strength training if hitting the weights is something you like doing! By all means, lift all the weights... just don’t pig out on pizza afterwards!

Anyways, that is how I did it, and the fundamentals of changing your lifestyle. Keep in mind the internet is a great resource for information if you're looking for more in-depth information about macro splits or counting calories. I have used MyFitnessPal and Lose It (both good programs) but there are lots more out there, and most have a free option with all the features to get you on the road to success!

Also a huge thanks needs to go out to my beautiful fiancé Robyn, who helps me every weekend with my monster food prep program.  And to all my friends, family and co-workers whose positive words and encouragement kept me and keep me going to this day.  I love you all and couldn’t have done it without you!

My journey is not complete and maybe never be as I continue to push on and see just how far I can go.  So get on with it and never look back!! Thanks for reading!
Cheers!  BigBearRunning!

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