Healthy Living, Phased Approach

So people have been asking me what my secrets are in losing so much weight this year. I was going to write out a similar post at some point anyway, but it’s now time. That’s because it’s difficult to explain how I did what I did seemingly effortlessly (and surely healthily). My healthy living checklist wasn’t checked off all in one day. Maybe I’ll refer them to this post.

What I mean is if I explained to anyone a-z what I have done, cumulatively it’s a lot to digest, confusing, and perhaps intimidating. I would not have succeeded if I had thrown all of the changes I incorporated all at one time. For one it would be frustrating as it’s a lot to think about. Also, I think physiologically things more naturally fall into place the way I phased things in. For example, my body might not have been ready for “phase 5″ things in the beginning.

Still, this might not work for everyone.  Everyone’s fitness levels, body composition, and a million other factors can differ from me. But there should be no debate on the foundation, which is eat very healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Also, I never had a real tough time eating too much cake, candy, cookies, chips, etc., which should be at the top of the list for anyone.

There are debates out there about long slow cardio vs. shorter and higher intensity cardio. I actually favor high intensity, but that depends on where you are starting. It’s easy for an in shape fitness guru to push high intensity. Plus considerations on growth hormone and testosterone levels are really next level things that you should not be distracted with in the beginning. You can’t lay that on someone who is very out of shape. That’s not the time for it. There is low hanging fruit to pick off first.

The bottom line is I used long slow cardio in my endeavor and did not sacrifice lean body mass. Actually I’m still deemed overweight by the BMI standards because of my lean muscle mass. I haven’t done a body fat composition test yet, but I would bet anything I’m in a very healthy range.

Ok, so here are the phases. 1, 2, and 3 are fairly basic and should be phased in within a few months. There are really no dependencies other than getting the habits down pat. Phase 4 should come when you are seeing success and ready mentally, but that should not prevent you from incorporating it a few months in even if you are still far from your goal. It’s my opinion that the next level stuff is not effective without everything else being optimized and firing on all cylinders first, so save it.

Phase 1 (get calorie balance under control, start exercising, sleep more) :

  • Use MyFitnessPal (or other BMR or calorie tracker) to track calories and set calorie target for weight loss goal per week. I started at a goal of 1.5 pounds per week.
  • Do cardio exercise. Long  and slow at this phase. I recommend couch to 5k (c25k).
  • Drink more water.
  • Take vitamins. I take a multi, fish oil, and some vitamin d.
  • Sleep more.

Phase 2 (start making better diet choices):

  • Keep with Phase 1 items.
  • Consume less sugar (even juices, which are unnaturally concentrated and sweetened).
  • Eliminate anything with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Reduce salt intake if you are taking in too much (others may not have as I had been).
  • Try to eat leaner proteins (chicken, turkey, eggs, higher quality beef).

Phase 3 (really start to eliminate and replace in the diet):

  • Keep on with Phase 1 & 2 items.
  • Take out something bad and replace it with something with good.
  • Eat a lot more fruits and veggies. A lot. Everyday.
  • Eliminate all artificial sweeteners.
  • Increase cardio. Still stick to long and slow for now.

Phase 4 (up the  optimization):

  • Keep on with Phase 1 & 2 & 3 items.
  • Eat whole foods as much as possible (e.g. natural peanut butter vs. skippy with artificial ingredients). Really start to look at ingredients of things. If the list is long, avoid it. Peanut butter’s ingredients should be peanuts and nothing else (besides salt if you like it salted).
  • Prepare your own food. Look for healthy recipes online and start playing around.
  • When buying fruits and veggies, incorporate the rainbow (red, green, orange/yellow, blue/purple, white).
  • Eat healthy snacks like nuts.
    • Be careful with portion size as nuts are calorie dense.
    • Also stick to dry roasted nuts.
  • Bring calorie intake to a balance (depending on how close you are to your weight loss goal).
  • Start incorporating some resistance training (also depending on how close you are to your weight loss goal).

Phase 5: (Next level):

  • Incorporate new things to further optimize, such as:
    • Green tea
    • garlic
    • turmeric
    • probiotics
  • Increase level of resistance training.
  • Cycle in more higher intensity training (e.g. sprinting) and reduce long slow cardio.

STILL! My challenge is to keep the weight off this time around as I had some success the previous 2 years. BUT! So far so good this winter as I’ve carried the healthy living and lifestyle parts past Thanksgiving (where I started to fail before). So far a cold has kept me out of the gym, but I’ll be back there tonight. I will declare this entire thing a success the much longer I stick to it.