When I was a teenager, I made the observation that a desirable physique is something you attain, not obtain.
It was a shame that it took almost a decade to finally put that principle into practice.
And it’s a shame that so, so many people fail at one of the many hurdles erected by the quest to a fitness magazine cover’s physique.
Of course, many who’ve started that quest don’t really that those models are enhanced, dehydrated, carbed up, and dieted to an unfathomable level for days/weeks running up to the photo shoot.
Step 1: Address the root causes steering you to chronic overeating
There’s no point to embark upon a lifelong lifestyle change if you’re only going to succumb to your old ways after a few weeks.
You’ll be disheartened at your failure and further away from your goal.
Seek counselling or psychological help to get to the bottom of why you overeat.
I’m not a fan of modern hypersensitivity surrounding obesity — fat acceptance, body positivity, and similar movements do nothing positive for somebody suffering from an eating disorder except offer temporary faux acceptance.
But, aside from my views on these movements, you will need to treat the aspect of your life holding you back.
For me, it was my dear late Narcissistic mother, who, despite her best efforts, enabled my childhood obesity through lovebombing and resultant anxiety disorder.
Address any emotional trauma you may have suffered or continue to suffer.
If you watch My 600lb Life, you’ll find that the vast majority of participants have suffered horrific childhood abuse — both physical and/or sexual.
Step 2: Pursue Something Achievable
I hate to be the bearer of sad tidings, but, if you’re pushing 40 and at 40% bodyfat, you’re not going to look like Chris Bumstead, Zyzz, Frank Zane, or anybody with an insane physique.
Those modeling on fitness magazines covers DEVOTE their lives to fitness, have everything on point, boast good genetics, and take performance enhancing drugs — it isn’t something achievable naturally or as a casual pastime!
However, you can become a better version of you.
You can become stronger, fitter, leaner, and vastly improve your quality of life.
If you can manage to get to 18% bodyfat and maintain it for a few decades to come, your life will be immeasurably better than what it is now.
18% Bodyfat is achievable and maintainable with a sensible diet and exercise plan.
And you will look better than 95% of your peers!
Step 3: Be Patient
Assuming you’ve picked a sustainable diet and exercise plan that has you in a moderate caloric deficit, it will take time to get to your ideal physique.
It won’t happen overnight.
Getting discouraged and tempted to binge on bad food and alcohol will happen at some point.
If you’re natural, you don’t have all that much wriggle room to play with when losing fat. You should always strive to lose the most fat at the lowest and most comfortable caloric deficit possible.
For example, if you’re on 2800 calories a day, doing 45 mins walking a day and working out 1 hour 5 times a week, while running a 500-600 calorie deficit, keep it up as long as possible.
As soon as you stop losing fat, drop to 2600-2700 calories and do an extra 10 mins cardio a day.
It’s as simple as that.
It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated.
But, whatever you do, don’t try to starve yourself and do 2 hours of cardio a day when you’re still at 25% bodyfat.
While you’ll lose the weight quick, when you plateau — and you will plateau — you can’t really drop more calories or do more cardio without feeling like poop.
Step 4: Find New Habits
Old habits die hard.
But it doesn’t mean that these habits have to go completely — they can evolve, adapt.
If, for example, you drink sugary soda, drop them out for a zero-calorie option.
You can still drink soda, just cut out the sugar.
Replacing a weekend binge can be a little harder, but you can still enjoy the same “unhealthy” food as always, just attempt to eat them in moderation.
Instead of 10 pints of beer, go for 10 vodkas and diet coke if you really feel the need to go hard. By doing this, you’re essentially saving yourself around 200+ calories per drink. If you’re a beer drinker, unfortunately this is one habit that has to go.
Always look askance at people who say they don’t like pizza — they’re not to be trusted.
Everyone likes pizza.
I love pizza; but I also know that polishing off a family size pizza will basically nullify 4-5 days worth of diet-induced caloric deficit. I’d have to walk for several hours to burn it off; plus I’d feel like garbage and have indigestion.
So it’s not worth gorging on the world-renowned Italian pie.
You could eat pizza every day if you wanted to — as long as it remains within your daily calories.
Unless you’re a woman or a small and skinny man who’s new to lifting, you could get away with eating at least a couple of slices every day if you wanted to.
Should you do it, though?
But it doesn’t mean you can’t have a few slices of pizza with your friends on a Friday night.
For a 1000 calories, you could have 3-4 slices of family size pizza — that’s more than enough to fill most people up.
Assuming you’re trying to stay below 2,500-2,600 calories a day, you could easily restrict yourself to 1,500 calories before the meal.
Likewise, forging new habits isn’t something exclusive to eating.
Downloading a step-counter will also be conducive to ingraining good new practices.
When you’ve nailed the “eat less” principle, you should approach the “do more” part of the formula.
Aiming to walk as much as possible is another way to help you bring about a caloric deficit.
But it also should be included to improve your general wellbeing.
Step 5: Patience, Experience, & Self-Education
Unfatting yourself permanently is going to take time.
If you’re 100lb overweight, don’t expect to have washboard abs by the next summer — and even the one after that might be out of the question.
A decent, healthy pace to be losing weight would be around 40-50lb a year.
While this sounds insignificant, you don’t want to crash diet, drop 70lb then gain another 120lb.
You need to be unscrewing yourself and reeling from the damage caused by overeating.
Lifting weights and building muscle are one of the best ways to boost your metabolism.
Each pound of muscle you build increases your daily metabolic rate by around 20-30 calories.
Muscle is very expensive calorie-wise.
Just resting with extra muscle mass will enable you to burn more calories than somebody with undeveloped muscles.
Self-starvation is a good way to shed muscle as the body breaks down muscle fibers for 1) energy and 2) to lower your calorie needs when you’re in an extreme deficit.
Another thing to consider is trial and error — experience.
Experience is an invaluable boon to anybody seeking to improve their body composition.
Certain techniques may not be as effective for some people; for example, some people prefer intermittent fasting because it can be difficult to overeat within an allotted feeding window. Trying to shovel more than 3000 calories in clean food in a six-hour window is very hard to do — believe me, I’ve tried.
But, then again, some people might need a meal first thing in the morning.
And this is the luxury of experience: you know what works for you.
Moreover, somebody who’s exchanging a life of inertia and chowing down on junk food to the gym life and 95% clean eating won’t know the ins and outs of what the best routines for them will be and how to count calories effectively.
Honestly, speaking to the average non-gymgoer will surprise you as to how little factual knowledge they possess on nutrition and training.
I’ve had several — SEVERAL — people ask me mind-boggling questions on whey protein: does it contain steroids? Will I (a middle-aged obese woman) grow muscles if I drink this? Is this illegal? I heard your balls can shrink off this, is this true?
The average person simply has poor accessibility to basic information, even though the internet is at their fingertips.
Step 6: Never Giving Up
There will always be momentary relapses. After all, we’re only human.
Even if you went on holiday somewhere and gained 10lb, this isn’t recourse to continue down the same path of self-destruction.
You should try to get back into your new habits of healthy, sensible eating.
And while you may never have shredded abs, it isn’t a cause to become dispirited.
At 18% bodyfat, you’re far better off under almost every standard than at 36% bodyfat.
You shouldn’t immiserate yourself in pursuit of a body that even the pros struggle to maintain — with PEDs!
If you need to read books on self-discipline, self-mastery, and changing psychological attitudes, then do so.
The real W comes from improving your quality of life, life expectancy, and health; an enviable physique is a nice bonus.
Step 7: Build Muscle
While it is not an absolute imperative to build muscle to lose weight; it will make your life a whole lot easier if you do.
Unless you’re blasting test, tren, deca and pinning insulin and growth hormone to achieve a superheavyweight bodybuilder’s physique where the sheer muscle mass –alone — can place the heart under a lot of stress: there are virtually no downsides to building muscle.
Building muscle will give you more leeway in how many calories you can eat and remain in a caloric deficit.
Building muscle will also help instill corrective behaviors.
In the first year of lifting, you can gain up to 15-20lb if you have good muscle-building genetics.
Watching yourself grow and your body change is a powerful motivator to keep going.
You will surprise yourself by what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.
And furthermore, you CAN build muscle in a deficit.
Maybe if you’re at your genetic ceiling, you might struggle in gaining more muscle. But — BUT — if you’re an overweight novice, lifting weights in a caloric deficit, provided you’re not grossly undereating, you will put on muscle.
As your body composition changes, it’ll become easier to lose unwanted bodyfat down the line.
Step 8: Eat More Protein
This step is something of cliché since all fitness-related publications boast the importance of consuming enough protein.
However, it’s not, to say, that you should eat an excess of protein.
Protein will make you feel fuller for longer.
If you struggle with portion control, cravings, or snacking simply add more lean protein to your main meals then swap out snacks for low-calorie dense foods.
Around 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass should be enough per person.
Guys, on average, should aim for around 150-200g and gals should strive for 100-150g a day.