February 17, 2020
Weight-Loss: Consistent Consistency, Consistently.
As I mentioned in the last post, and will probably consistently reference in future posts, consistency is the most consistent predictor of consistent weight-loss.
Let’s just break down why.
Once upon a time, I was way overweight. I am 181 cm tall and I swung the scales at 97 kg. That’s a BMI just short of the “obese” zone.
I decided to take action.
This was pretty daunting. I needed to get back down to an ideal weight of 80 kg and I was pretty ignorant about good diet and exercise at the time. I ate processed food and especially takeaways all the time, I didn’t even do any walking, let alone lift up a heavy object and my sleeping pattern and work-life balance were non-existent.
I had a very loose understanding of how bodybuilders trained, having been a casual sofa-spectator of pro-bodybuilding (but obviously not practising any), so that’s where I started.
I followed this workout programme. It used to be free 😭 but essentially it’s a classic bodybuilder’s programme. Lots of sets until you can’t lift anymore. Then supersets and drop-sets of that. Quite brutal in hindsight and was definitely way over my ability level. I even have a few long-term injuries because of it, especially bench-pressing incorrectly. I really wish I had recognised the value of a coach then! Now I have four!
There would have been many better ways to have exercised but the great thing about this programme was that it came with an app with great videos and Kris Gethin is extremely engaging. He takes you along for the ride. Every evening, I would wind down and watch a 10-minute video on the next day’s workout. The content is excellent.
I also started walking considerably more which helped morning fat-burning.
During the week, I ate 5 meals a day. I took a stack of identically-sized, small lunchboxes with me to work each day and just ate one of them every 2-3 hours, basically whenever I felt hungry.
While this high-protein, bodybuilder-style diet was designed for muscle-building and not fat-loss, the effect it had on me was that the protein kept me well-satiated, it was full of what I enjoyed eating (i.e. not empty quinoa salads) and was whole-foods based.
Each meal, without fail, contained some meat or fish, some carbs like rice or potatoes and some green veggies, probably just broccoli drizzled with olive oil.
I was always just the right amount of full. It was so enjoyable and allowed me to forget about my fear of going hungry.
I also allowed myself to snack on nuts, but I did notice my weight-loss curtail the more liberal I was with this, nuts being rather calorific.
I limited my meals out socialising with people at work to strictly once a week, but I still allowed myself to go out for a drink once in the evening too.
My sleep back then was probably 4-5 hours of actual quality per night with maybe 7 hours on the weekend. Living in London, I worked for a California-based company so my hours were rather whacky, but once I started on my new health drive, I put a stop to the all-nighters and erratic nocturnal behaviour, tried to get more efficient at work and keep a more consistent sleeping schedule.
I was still chronically undersleeping, by my circadian rhythm was more consistent. I could sleep at night when I got to bed because my body knew how to prepare me better for it. This was definitely the part that could have been optimised the most and, I would have hit my targets way sooner if I had aimed to prioritise this more.
I wasn’t doing any direct stress management like meditation, mindfulness or breathwork, but offloading and optimising my work and giving more time for myself helped bring my cortisol down from 568 nm/L to 242 nm/L after 4 months, where Medichecks.com state that the normal range is 133-537 nm/L.
Sleeping more consistently helped too with my bedtime routine, as well as letting off some steam each morning in the gym and just the enjoyment of being fitter.
Weight-loss, increased strength and change in my body composition, confidence, overall happiness and wellbeing.
Tracking my successful attempt at losing weight in 2017. Note that the weight increase was me switching my training to heavy weight-lifting and wanting to pack on some muscle and eating a lot more. Also, the tracking stopped once I moved to Colombia 🇨🇴!
Why did it work? Consistency.
Sometimes the “how” is not so important.
I lost weight because I was consistently providing the right inputs my body needed and, consistently not providing the wrong ones. I managed to consistently do this over a long enough period of time to exact change.
It’s that simple.
I found a way that worked for me. An easy diet I could stick to, an exercise regime I enjoyed at a time I could maintain and I tracked my weight each week to see how I was progressing.
Things have changed a lot since 2017 when I decided to make major lifestyle changes. My girlfriend has changed, my routine has changed, I now work from home, I do mainly bodyweight training and barely lift any weights at all.
My eating schedule is now based entirely on intermittent fasting and longer-term fasts and, I certainly do not have enough time to eat 5 times daily.
Yet, when I decide it’s time to lose weight, I am still able to do so. I still have the same genetics as when I lost weight eating 5 meals a day, but I have found that this new way also works for me.
There has been only one constant. Consistency. When I have said that I am eating a certain way, I really am. No bullshit.
But that’s not because I am stronger in the mind than anyone else. I am a Homo Sapiens like you, probably. I love cake just as much as the next person and, maybe even more. I have always said that I am a fat person in a slim person’s body.
This was confirmed to me when I had my DNA analysed by FitnessGenes.com. They alerted me to the fact that I have two copies of the dreaded FTO Gene, a.k.a the Obesity Gene. It’s also pretty rare, occurring in just 14% of the global population. In one meta-analysis (a study of multiple other studies), people with both copies of the FTO gene were a whopping 1.67 times more likely to be obese.
I can certainly echo the dogma on this subject, my signals of satiety have always typically come from physical signals of discomfort versus natural self-control in terms of how much I shove in my mouth. I have never had an off button and I have been known to crave some of the worst foods imaginable. I didn’t need a DNA test to tell me that I was different from everybody else in this regard.
But there’s always a way around it.
I just found the right methods that worked for me. My greatest challenge is hunger and satiety. When eating 5 meals a day, I was able to solve both problems by being constantly fed. With intermittent fasting, I am now able to use simple strategies to keep hunger at bay before it’s time to eat while my restricted eating window allows me to pretty much eat what I want with my weight under control.
There was once a time when obesity was non-existent with the same gene-pool that we have now. It’s just how you control your environment.
While my general knowledge of different modes of health and fitness have come from different experts around the globe, there is no better expert on me than me.
I have tried being vegan, veggie, eating 6 times a day, once a day, eating in 4-hour windows, 8-hour windows, eating breakfast, not eating breakfast, eating late at night, eating high-dairy, low-dairy, no-dairy, gluten-free, doing the green smoothies thing, 3-day fasts, 10-day fasts, eating before a workout, eating after a workout, doing fasted workouts…
…blah, blah, blah.
I have good first-hand data as to what works for me at this point. For example, it’s going to be pretty difficult for someone to convince me to go vegan again, given the amount of research I put into making sure I had a balanced vegan diet and the suboptimal outcome it still had on my physiology. I have a well-formulated opinion not just based on research, but based on experience.
Certain things that I’ve tried haven’t worked for me, ultimately because of two reasons:
- I couldn’t stay consistent
- If I could stay consistent, then after a certain amount of time, I didn’t want to stay consistent, based on the longer-term effects of said-diet.
At which point, it’s totally okay to admit defeat and adjust things.
You've lost the battle, but not the war!
So, you decide that you want to do a low-carb diet and that you’re not going to eat any carbs with your meals. The thing is, your boyfriend still is eating carbs. You see him 3-times a week and you can’t help yourself sneaking in a couple of his potatoes alongside your dinner. Also, at work, they have Pizza Fridays and your Grandma is Greek so each Sunday you visit, she’s always feeding you potatoes and makaronia tou fourno (pasta in the oven). You’re never allowed to lose your carb-craving and you haven’t eliminated your carbs because your environment hasn’t let you, requiring way too much willpower to keep saying no.
Are you really on a low-carb diet?
How about calorie counting? You measure out a precise amount of food into lunchboxes each day but you still can’t say no to chocolates they’re offering out at work, you’re snacking on healthy nuts between meals and, you go out to eat twice a week and drink pints of beer and drunkenly gobble a kebab with garlic and chilli sauce on the way home.
What’s your total calorie count?
...is the one you can stick to and meet your goals with.
For me, I need to make sure I’m satisfied. I love red meat and would consume it daily if I were fully responsible for my own menu. I love the taste and it makes me love cooking and eating. I also love full-fat stuff and dairy. Milk and cheese. I even love bread and baking.
I have found a way to satisfy myself with real whole-foods and not with processed, packaged foods.
For me, a salad isn’t satisfying and chickens are paltry.
This has allowed me to stay consistently eating whole foods in the right proportions and not crave crap and I feel happy with the effects of my high-meat diet which motivates me further to continue.
One thing that I had to do was to educate myself on what real food really is. This has been a process but within the space of 2-years, I have really made myself believe this:
If something comes out of a packet and doesn’t resemble the original, natural entity, it’s not food. And if it’s not food, why would I eat it?
Stay tuned for a future post on this!
Follow these steps:
- Decide on what changes you’re going to make to lose weight that are going to be congruent with your lifestyle.
- Try your best (but not too hard) to stick to those changes over a decent amount of time.
- If go you off the rails, then adapt things accordingly. Don’t give up on the goal just because you reached one dead-end. Be objective as to whether you’re actually doing the things you say you have been doing.
Self-experimentation is an iterative process and you will eventually find what works for you.
At WildLife, we will take you through the self-experimentation process and keep you accountable and objective.
We already have a list of common strategies that work for most people and we will help you discover what works for you. What’s more is that our strategies have all stood the test of time. No fads, no gimmicks.
However, you’re a rat with a lab-coat. You’ll still need to decide what works for yourself.