2023 Weight Progress
Back in the beginning of the year, I said:
I have a habit of “eating through my lifts” as in, I just eat more until I make progress. I have no idea if this is inefficient or not, but I can control what foods I eat (mostly). So, with this progress, there was a cost. My pants size. And shirts. XXL shirts are starting to stretch. So I should probably follow up celebrating my increased bench press with 2023 being a cut back year.
Well, I did, I put myself on a diet this year.
Whats the Damage
I got… big. I’m 6'0", and no matter how much muscle I try to pack on there is a limit to what is possible and acceptable.
So, lets just say 270 is well past where I should be.
Originally, I thought I would run this diet for maybe 3 months. My target weight was ~240lbs, or thereabouts.
My other goal was to maintain my lifts as much as possible. I was fairly adamant about still dead lifting 405lbs, squatting >315lbs, and keeping my bench around 265lbs.
I have been on a diet for close to 7 months, and I’m below 230lbs. My lifts stayed more or less around my goals, so that was good.
Did I notice my lifts going down? Yes, absolutely. It was very challenging, and the first few months I felt the recovery post workout was longer. My joints felt a little more sore, and I was pretty gassed.
Those peaks there are vacation or work trips. I didn’t stress about a bit of a bounce back, I figured any sort of regression would be made up in about a week and that was okay. I also noticed weeks where I went out for drinks with a friend would also impact my progress, but it could be recovered from quickly.
I had about a month+, from April to May, where I had enough vacations, travel and extracurricular activities that I was more or less in a maintenance mode. So it flattens out for those months, and then mid-May I was able to refocus again.
My approach was pretty simple:
- Stop eating sugar
- Stop mindless snacking
- Skip breakfast
- Walk daily
- Downsize portions
- Don’t go insane
- Don’t piss off the family
So, sugar… I had formed a little ritual that on Sundays, I would (find any excuse) hit up Safeway for some groceries and I would bring home a few two-packs of peanut butter and chocolate cookies. The ones made by Safeway. I used to get one pack, and have it sunday night with a glass of milk.
Then I would get a “few”, and have them throughout the week.
That was cut off. The first week I could tell I really wanted sugar. Before I knew it, it was a whole month before I had literally any sugar, then two.
Stop Mindless Snacking
Cutting out sweets is actually easy for me. I don’t crave sugar, I don’t have a sweet tooth, and desserts were not something I grew up having. So, thanks to my Mom, that part was easy.
What I do love though is SALT and CARBOHYDRATES. Chips. Lots of chips.
This goes way back to growing up, we always had cheez-its or a big bag of tortilla chips in the garage pantry. My older sister and I would just shovel that in our face at night. Our version of carbo-loading.
I still love that. Winding down late at night, I would very easily watch some Youtube and eat handfuls of salty tortilla chips.
So I stopped that, cold turkey, no more. I don’t buy it so I can’t have it.
So the next was skipping breakfast. This is just something I learned I could do, and I have been an adamant breakfast eater my whole life. As in, I felt I would be queasy and light headed if I didn’t eat in the morning.
Some folks call this intermittent fasting. I would stop eating around 9pm, and have lunch around 2pm after a long walk. Now, I’m not convinced intermittent fasting is actually doing anything more than a reduction of calories and the Hawthorne Effect/Observer Effect. It doesn’t matter really, because I was losing weight (because I was skipping an entire meal).
Mornings were now just a cup of coffee, water, and when I felt I was getting hungry I would go brush my teeth and then go for a walk. Both of those tend to shut down your hunger impulse.
I’ve always liked walking at lunch time, but I had become a little complacent up here with the weather interrupting that. When I committed to this, I also made a mental pact to walk at least every M-F, the same route, which has a good uphill portion that gets my heart rate up.
I do just over 3 miles a day, and I try to find a reason to walk during the weekends.
As you can see from the daily steps, I do a lot more and I’m consistent. Rain, sun, snow, hail, sleet. I walked no matter what.
My daily target was 8k steps a day. That isn’t a whole lot, but it is when you have a desk job like I do.
Pretty simple, I just used a smaller bowl for lunch and dinner.
That’s it. Instead of the LARGE blue salad bowl (the family size one), I just used the one size smaller orange bowl.
For dinner, I just used whatever would fit in a glad storage container, and not the giant dog food bowl sized bowl I would use.
Don’t Go Insane and Don’t Piss Off The Family
I’m super strict Monday through Friday, but its become a tradition to go out for dinner on Fridays, so I take the weekend off and I don’t stress about what I eat.
There are two main reasons.
- People who are not on a diet do not want to hear about your goddamn diet and restrictions. They hate it. This keeps the peace.
- I’ve heard about things like “metabolic damage” if you diet too long. I’m not an expert so I won’t guess, but I’ve heard from fitness folks that for long term dieting you should have re-feed days. I eat almost zero carbs during the week, so the weekends was where I had bread.
I didn’t really give up anything in the big picture, I just made sure I was more active and the majority of my days were in a caloric deficit.
What I Ate
Lots of lean chicken breasts. Two a day
Typically I would have some kind of salad with a chicken breast for lunch, and then dinner was more of a crap shoot that was usually veggies and a chicken breast.
Costco carries large packs of chicken, and there are two breasts in a pouch. Every weekend when I went to Costco, I would pick on up and throw it in the freezer when I got home.
After I made Owen’s breakfast, I would pull out a frozen pouch and put it in the kitchen sink with some water to help thaw it out. By the time I was done with my lunch walk (around 1pm), it was usually ready to be seasoned and cooked.
I have to stress, what I ate was to support my goals of maintaining muscle mass and staying at a caloric deficit. I like protein, and I don’t like whey, so animal protein is what I focus on. That was the most optimal path to feeling satiated, amount of calories consumed, tastiness, and protein intake. You do you.
Pan Baked Chicken Breasts
- 2 thawed chicken brests
- Salt and Pepper
- Some kind of oil (I used Avocado Oil)
- Cast iron pan with a lid
Turn your large burning on medium, get your cast iron pan going.
Take out the chicken breasts from the pouch, pat dry with a paper towel and GENEROUSLY season with salt and pepper.
Pan should be hot enough to accept the oil, give it a little spray of oil, and put the breasts in.
Put the lid on, and cook for 4 minutes. Flip after 4 minutes and cook again for another 4 minutes.
After 8 minutes total cooking time, turn off the heat and let it rest for 2 minutes.
After two minutes, place on a cutting board OR in your salad bowl and cover with a lid. This will trap a lot of juices that I use as dressing and this rest period is also carry-over cooking time to ensure its done (and tender)
Rest for 15 minutes, then cut up however you wish.
Mix 1 breast with your salad, use the drippings, and just a tiny amount of actual salad dressing. This keeps the calories down.
Use as much lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli as you want. I don’t count the calories in those, its free food in my opinion and more importantly its fiber.
Roasted Broccoli and Veggies
- Baking Sheet
- Salt and Pepper
- Some kind of oil (again, I use avocado)
Set your oven to 425 F
Cut up bite sized pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and really whatever vegetables you want. I personally like carrots and peppers, a poblano or jalepeno. The spicier you food it, the harder it is to eat a lot :)
Place you cut and bite sized food on a baking sheet (I use parchment paper as well), spray or brush lightly with your oil, and GENEROUSLY apply salt and pepper
Bake in the oven for 16 minutes.
Plate with your remaining chicken breast you made with lunch.
Top with Sriracha sauce
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
- Large pasta pot
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1 head of cauliflower
- Chopped or baby carrots, 1 cup or more depending on preference
- 1 quart or more or chicken broth
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 sweet onion
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbps of oil (I used avocado)
Start by sauteing your onion and garlic in the butter and oil. Let the onion get soft, cooking for maybe 5 minutes.
Add in your broccoli and cauliflower. Mix it up and let them steam and cook for maybe 7 minutes
Add your broth. I like to just barely cover the broccoli and cauliflower.
Raise your heat, let it come to a slight boil, then turn down and let it cook until the broccoli and cauliflower is fork tender. This may be about 15 minutes.
Once its cooked, use and immersion blender and get it as smooth as you want.
Ladle into a bowl, I add my 1 chicken breast to it and a generous amount of Sriracha sauce. Add some shredded cheese and let it melt in.
I do not add the cheese to the large pot, it just makes cleaning the pot hellish, and a tiny amount goes a long way. Remember, your days of cheesy indulgence are OVER!
Fajitas or tacos, whatever you like to call them. Just get some bell peppers, onions all nice and charred and cooked, some tortillas, avocado and whatever toppings you like.
I like to present a few different protein options, like chicken, carnitas, and beef. You should vary your proteins occasionally, its good for you.
- 1 cup of brown rice
- 1 can (8oz) of chicken broth
- 1 can (8oz) of water
- 1 can (8oz) of black beans
- Shredded cabbage
- Shredded carrots
- 1 Jalepeno
I cook the brown rice, 1 part rice, two parts liquid, on the stove top in a pot with a lid.
Combine the rice (rinse it if you want, I don’t think it matters with brown rice), broth, and water in your pot. Use the 1 finger nuckle trick, thats what I do.
Bring to a rolling boil, then turn down to the lowest heat setting. Let it cook for about 40 minutes.
Once finished, drain and rinse your can of black beans. Place the beans in the pot of rice, stir to combine evenly and let the rice warm the beans.
Now, grab your chicken from lunch, put in a bowl. Warm in the a microwave, with the cabbage, carrots and pepper. This will soften and partially cook the vegetables. Add a little bit of rice and beans.
Now you have left-over rice and beans to make this same meal throughout the week. I hope you are like me, and you can eat the exact same thing every day.
Tips and Tricks!
If you’re hungry, try the following:
- Drink some water!
- Brush your teeth!
- Play games instead!
- Go to sleep for dinner!
- Cry in a pillow!
- Let your self loathing overpower your snacking urges!
Playing a game does help me out. I find if my hands are busy with a controller or mouse, they are not wandering into a bag of chips.
Brushing your teeth does help, but I don’t compulsively brush through the day. That would be psychotic.
Going to sleep does help, I mean, if its after 10pm its just as easy to lay down and read instead of standing in the pantry eating as many chips as you can before your family catches you and say “I knew it! You’re secretly eating!”
Eat spicy things! Buy it in bulk!
Wear better clothes. I cannot tell you how much of a different better shorts and underwear was for me. Past years when I would walk, my big piggy thighs would rub together and I would have a terrible raw rash for days. I’m way past having a sexy thigh gap, so I got shorts with an inner liner and better boxer briefs. Now I can walk pain free, every day, and only hear the comforting swish of my futuristic teflon like fabric rubbing together.
My ability to create and stick with a routine is well known in the household. It is also not always well received.
You know whats great? Making your job part of your daily habit and routine. I am the king of showing up no matter what. I don’t take sick days, I don’t take vacation. I’m up at the same time, I leave at the same time, and I have lunch at the same time.
I am a super reliable person and I think it has helped me in many ways. My family appreciates that I can hold down a job, do it well, and we can all survive.
There is one pro-routine example.
In general, exercise as a habit is also good. Generally speaking, if you have some form of obsessive or addictive behavior, lifting weights or running is better than lets say, cocaine.
What can really wear thin is when all of my routines edge out the rest of life.
I work out Monday - Thursday for about 1.5 to 2 hours, starting at 6pm. There are no exceptions to this.
Oh sorry, you would like me to run to the store? Nope. Go to the farmers market? Nope. Go out to eat? Nope. See a movie? Nope.
And this impacts everyone. I know one night off isn’t a big deal, but it IS a big deal. I get anxious. I get restless. All of my gains are melting away. I’m edgy and not at all pleasant to be around.
I quickly become a prisoner of my routine.
I don’t want to be like this, I just am. I would have loved to be like those other post-30 people I’ve met that seem to know their thresholds. The ones that can eat a reasonable amount of food, live a naturally active lifestyle and not depend on strict exercise regiments.
Now apply this to every aspect of all the things I listed above. Now add in walking daily, and being VERY inflexible about when I go and even the route I take. Now add in my meal planning. I must have the same items procured. They must be made the same way at the same time.
This is partly why I cannot live like this indefinitely. This is why for about 10 years I really said “screw it” to my diet and figure. I only kept weight lifting as my primary obsession.
So when the phrase “You know, there is more to life than exercising” starts getting used, its time to wrap it up. Its time be less selfish with my time and try and find more inclusive things to do.
Again, What is Next?
Probably be less rigid in my routine… Or not… Look man, I just work here. I ain’t in charge.
My primary goals are to be stronger. That is the part I enjoy. Gaining and loosing weight in-between is just required maintenance.
As a life goal, I would still like to hit a 495 lbs deadlift, and 315 bench. For my frame, I think those are achievable with diet and a progressive overload program.
I’m in my 40’s, building muscle mass is a challenge unless you’re compensating with some kind of managed hormone therapy like HGH and TRT. I’m scared of Doctors and needles so those are out.
So that might be a beginning of 2024 thing. I’m looking at different programs right now that might require more equipment, so I need to plan for that.
My plan is to:
- Reintroduce breakfast
- Add in a protein shake
- Add carbs back. I wouldn’t mind having sandwiches again or turkey burgers
I would like to avoid the “dirty bulk” I did for years.