I've tried it all. Intermittent fasting, HIIT, all fruit diet, raw/vegan diet, eating whatever the heck I want and just lifting weights (you know, like the guys). Well, it has resulted in me gaining up to 174, which is 29 pounds above my lowest weight of 145. Okay, not all of this is fat gain. I would guess about 5-7 pounds (based on the change in my body fat percentage) to be muscle gain. But we are still looking at about a 20 pound fat gain.
So I've gone back to basics. And I've lost 7 pounds in less than 3 weeks.
What are basics?
More cardio. Less calories. Okay, I HAVE to clarify this. Less calories BUT more volume and nutritious content in the foods I'm still eating. Where before I had switched to lots of protein shakes and bars, I now am back to eating large portions of vegetables and using things like meat, beans and potatoes as a side dish. Dairy, oils, nuts and seeds have become a garnish, measured out with spoons instead of measuring cups.
I still believe fats are very important. I still believe that the hormonal effect of food matters almost as much as calories (and possibly matters MORE for overall long term health). I still believe that high intensity cardio intervals and strength training make fat loss easier. However, my body has not let me escape the fact (no matter how much I've wanted to) that calories in versus calories out matters.
More than this superfast return to my ideal weight (which I guess to be around 155 now), I FEEL so much better. The more extensive cardio curbs my appetite and elevates my mood. Less (yet more nutritious) calories has made my digestive problems all but disappear (we won't count last night when I used about 8 garlic cloves in my dinner....living and learning here people).
So last time around, at 167, I looked very saggy and wore a size 14. This time, at the same weight, I wear a size 10 and, I have to say it, I look pretty friggin good. Not perfect. Not even close. But my butt and legs are firm and round. My arms are fairly sculpted looking and nothing jiggles. Even my once very saggy breasts have lifted because I've built up the muscles underneath (nature's breast lift, ladies!).
So here's my very simple formula for the best, healthiest, jiggle-free body possible:
- After warming up, strength train hard (ladies, gravitate toward more total body training opposed to isolated strength training--think planks and squats to overhead press vs. crunches and seated leg press--UNLESS if you are still trying to adhere to an exercise program, then keep it simple. Don't do anything you hate until you feel dedicated.)
- During your strength training or after, do cardio intervals. There are many ways to do this. If you do it during your strength training, you will do it during rest periods. For example, push ups followed by 20-40 seconds of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, running in place,....you get the idea. If this is a little too advanced or overwhelming for you, do your cardio intervals on the treadmill or elliptical afterwards. You will do a "sprint" where you work as hard as you can for about 20-40 seconds, or until your body tells you it's time to stop. You take a minute (or a few) to recover and then repeat.
- After your intervals, you do extended cardio. This can last 20-40 minutes depending on how much time and energy you have.
- Count calories at least for a while to get an idea of how much you're eating. Don't starve yourself!!!! On days you're working out hard, eat more. You can find all kinds of online calorie calculators but I encourage to compare notes from different places and truly learn what your ideal calorie range is. Going too high will result in no loss. However, going too low will do exactly the same and could result in muscle and bone loss as well which not only compromises your health, it also lowers your metabolism and makes you look mushy.
- Veggies, veggies, veggies!!! Load up on non-starchy veggies. Not only do they physically fill up your stomach and provide you with fiber to keep food moving through your system, they also nourish you which prevents false hunger signals that result from nutrient deficencies. They also make your skin look great and keep that spare tire bloat at bay.
- Watch your carbohydrate intake. While different people will run optimally on different levels of carbs, most people who struggle with their weight, need less carbohydrates. Experiment. Find the amount (of complex carbs such as beans, potatoes and low-sugar fruits) that works for you. You will know because they will give you energy without a crash or cravings soon to follow.
More than anything, learn to pay attention to your body. Every single time I tune back into my body, it tells me what I need more than any book or blogger ever could. How is your energy? How is your stomach? Are you gassy? Constipated? How are your cravings? Learn to identify which foods do and do not contribute to your overall wellbeing.
Now that I am back on the downward trend once again, I am more convinced than ever that weight loss is merely a side-effect of health because I feel better (and FULLER!) than I have in a very long time!!