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How I lost 35 Pounds the Hard Way

(I know this site is focused on Minimalism, but being healthy and happy is the end result of Minimalism. So I think that this applies.)

A year ago I weighed 220 pounds. Today I weigh 185 pounds. I’d like to get down to 175 pounds over the next year.

For the past ten years I have hovered around 200 pounds. I tried every pill and diet fad out there. Some would work and I would lose 10 pounds. Only to gain it back the next month. I even went as far as going to a doctor and asking for a prescription to lose weight. The drugs are basically a legalized form of Speed. The doctor kind of laughed at me and said that I was not considered obese and I should just exercise more. He recommended getting a personal trainer for motivation. I left the office a little frustrated. But I checked into the cost of a trainer anyway. Unfortunately to get a decent trainer meant giving up some of the other things in my life so that I could fit a trainer into my budget. Because they were not cheap. I decided it wasn’t worth it right now and started searching for a different solution.

A friend of mine started talking to me about his crazy workout. There was a local martial art school that did a boot camp style workout three times a week in the parking lot outside their school. I decided to try it one night to see what it was all about. My friend wasn’t joking about it being crazy. I went through Army (Infantry) boot camp close to twenty years ago and we didn’t do anything like they were doing. It was basically a circuit training exercise program. But the exercises were extreme. Including: Tractor tire flipping, beer keg pressing, car tire throwing, then a half dozen more mundane but difficult exercises. Between each one you ran a lap around the parking lot. Then when everyone was finished, we would throw their cargo van into neutral and pushed it around the parking lot. Just when you thought it was done, we went inside the school and would do crunches and leg lifts till I was ready to puke. Then as a cool down we practiced MMA holds and take downs. You know the stuff you see on UFC. By the end of the evening I was exhausted. I was dripping with sweat and honestly had a hard time driving my manual transmission car the two miles it took to get home. I did this for about four months. I lost weight and was getting stronger. But the problem was that the whole exercise program was really aimed at people half my age (I was 39 at the time). I didn’t recover physically as quick as them and I was more prone to injury. I had to find something else.

I started going to the gym twice a week and spent a lot of time on the treadmill and elliptical. I changed my diet to basically eat salads and other rabbit food that I didn’t really enjoy. I lost no weight over the next two months. Not just one or two pounds, literally zero pounds. Again I was frustrated.

Then around the end of year holidays, my work place sent me to Chicago to work on a big project. Winter in Chicago?! Luckily it was really just two or three days at a time up there and the rest of the time I worked remotely at home in Texas. While I was up there I met another consultant that was a competitive power lifter. To say that he was a large man would be an understatement. His body was like you see in the Muscle and Fitness magazines. He offered to take me to the gym to work out with him one night. Even though it was a little intimidating, I said yes. We went to his gym and I signed in for a visitor pass. Then headed strait to the elliptical. Just like I usually do. But after only 5-10 minutes we stopped and went over to the free weights. I asked on the walk over why we did so little cardio. He said that the higher your muscle mass was, the more efficiently your body burns calories. The elliptical wasn’t intended to be serious exercise. It was just to get the blood flowing. Plus he said that lifting weights will burn more calories than cardio will. We worked out and chatted the whole time. You could tell he was passionate about his hobby. We only did four different exercises in the free weight area. But concentrated on proper form and breathing. He recommended a book to visually show the proper form for other lifting exercises: Strength Training In our chatting he said that the hardcore body builders had very little fat on their bodies. As low as 3-5% of their overall body mass. He said not to worry as much about weight and concentrate on losing fat. He suggested Googling “Burn the fat, feed the muscle”. So I did.

I found an ebook by a man named Tom Venuto with that same title. He is a professional body builder and fitness trainer. The gist of the book is this: There are different body types and not one type of diet will work well for everyone. Eat quality (non-processed) foods. Eat more often and in smaller portions. Lift weights to lose fat. The book goes into a lot detail. With a large food section and weight lifting guide. If you Google his name you will find hundreds of photos and fitness stories.

Most people don’t want to look like body builders. But by increasing your muscle mass just a little, all other exercise will burn more calories. The largest muscles groups in your body are your upper back and upper legs. Gaining mass in these areas will make the biggest impact, the quickest. Be sure to build up your core (lower back and abs) before lifting heavier weights above your head.

This is how I lost the weight. Slow and steady. Not trying to rush the process. Consistent workouts are important. Pick two time a week that you will be in a gym. Educate yourself. Do not step foot in the gym without a plan. I highly recommend Tom Venuto’s book: Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle. There really is not a better guide. It is a little bit more expensive than your average ebook. But the amount of data packed into this book will save you hours of research. You will become knowledgeable and more confident in what you are doing. He even offers a money back guarantee.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Matt October 24, 2010, 12:06 pm

    Good article. Years ago, I had inched my way upnto 195. We were in a position to get a trainer with trade. In six months I got down to 145 – and nearly had my oft dreamed of six pack abs.

    Mostly, it was just as you mentioned… The types of workout, the frequency and kinds of food, and so on. Of course, I was doing about 45 minutes a day on a bike ~600 calorie burn each day. But all that only got me so far. Then I started doing carb depletion cycles. Random numbers of days with normal (moderate) healthy carbs. Then random number of days with no carbs at all. That got me to my goal. The problem is when your body fat gets below a certain point, you start to mess with your body chemistry. It made me a little crazy.

    If your not built to have a flat stomach, it’s just better to accept a little pudge and be happy with what you can do. I’m not at my goal weight any more, but I’m in the vicinity. But I did learn that short term diets, at best, only give short term results. We made a decision to change how we eat forever. It’s made all the difference, and we still eat more flavorful food.

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