6 Key Principles for a Healthy Weight loss

It was a dark, cold New England winter morning. After standing in the shower for what seemed like hours, I turned the water off, pulled the shower curtain to the side, and stepped out. The tiny little bathroom in a tiny little attic apartment filled with steam.

I stood there, considering whether to face the truth or not. On the one hand, I knew I gained weight, but I was confident it wasn’t too bad. But the truth still seemed frightening.

“Ah, what the heck,” I thought to myself and stepped on the glass bathroom scale. I held my breath while waiting for the number to pop up. 169.9lbs.

I was shocked. I stepped off the scale, unwrapped the towel, and stepped on the scale again. The digits barely changed.

This number might not seem like a big deal to you. And I’d be the first to agree with you. 170lbs for a 5’6” tall powerlifter is a decent number.

But five years before that cold morning, I was standing on the scale in a friend’s bathroom, seeing the exact same 169.9lbs, disgusted with myself and the way I looked. That day, five years ago, I decided to quit smoking and start working out. This decision led to a wonderful career change and the opportunity to help others.

Me, spotting a client

And yet, there I was back at 169.9lbs, the number where it all started. Seeing these digits was devastating. It hurt to realise that I was a liar and coward. Over the course of eight months, I refused to see what was happening with my weight. I kept devouring pints of ice cream on a regular basis, while telling myself that I was fine. In the end, I needed to eat a lot of food to be a strong powerlifter.

So things had to change. Normally, I’d go on a strict diet with a cheat day here and there, while doing the dreaded cardio more often than I’d like.

Seven months later.

This time, however, I decided to change my approach. Because of the change, for the past seven months I haven’t starved, I ate foods I liked, and I did just a moderate amount of cardio, all while losing 17lbs and 6% body fat . And I believe you can, too.

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Here are the key principles I used that can help you achieve weight loss in a healthy way while having a life.

1. Take a closer look at your life.

For me, it was hard to face the truth. I didn’t like the image in the mirror, the jiggle of my belly, the fact that clothes barely fit, and the number on the scale.

I wanted to lose fat and to see my muscles.

Also, I knew that my job needed me to be upbeat and cheerful. Nobody likes zombie-ish personal trainers walking around with their gallons of water. Nobody.

I assessed my schedule and looked where I could fit in grocery shopping, which days I’d need to bring my food with me, and when I’d work out.

If you look at your schedule in advance, you end up being in control of 80% of situations that might screw up your progress. You can check what days you have meetings, when you need to run home to pick up the kids, etc. Sure, life will happen, but only some of the time will it be  unavoidable. But if you take control of the majority of your obstacles, you’ll end up far ahead of those who don’t.

2. Focus on a long-term, performance-based goal.

Me, finally hitting 305lbs

Every time I’d attempt any weight loss plan, I’d want to lose weight fast. I’d want to lift heavy, but I also wanted a six pack. So I’d end up on a low-calorie and low-carb diet. Not only would I lose my strength with this approach, but I also never saw the pack.

This time, I chose to focus on weight loss for a competition sometime in the fall. This meant I had to be extra cautious and extra patient with my diet approach. I wanted to lose weight, but I also wanted to preserve my strength.

Not only did I lose 17lbs and 6% body fat, but also I squatted 250lbs and deadlifted 305lbs.

You don’t have to be a powerlifter to have performance-based goals. Working towards a first pull up, bodyweight squat, or 200lb deadlift can be your focus. These are solid goals that require strength, muscles, and patience. These are also goals that take time.      

(Check these 4 common mistakes women make when start strength training)

3. Focus on ONE thing you can do right now.

Looking at all the variables alongside what I wanted, I figured that for the first month, I’d dial down the amount of ice cream I’d eat. From a pint per night, I went to one  serving. I also realized I wasn’t eating enough veggies, so I made sure to have two servings with each meal. These were simple and easy changes that didn’t make me think hard, nor did they feel overwhelming.

After dropping 6lbs and 2% body fat in a month, I knew I could kick things up a notch and started focusing on  calories.

If you choose one or two things you can do right now, you set yourself up for a success. After seeing what you can do, and how much progress you can make, you’ll have a boost in motivation and the desire to keep going. By choosing this approach, you also decrease your chances of getting overwhelmed, stressed out, and quitting.

4. Keep ONE thing that you enjoy the most.

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So I have Hashimoto’s, a hypothyroid disease. Because of that, my food choices are pretty limited. Things like gluten, grains, tomatoes, peppers, legumes, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, and a lot of other things are out of the question. Because I already had to give up so many things, I didn’t want to give up my most favorite, ice cream.

So I had to find a way to keep it in my diet. My calorie-needs were high enough to allow me to continue eating ice cream every day if I wanted. But I had to eat protein, veggies, and a decent amount of carbs pre- and post-workout the rest of the day.

And I did. I ate that, and then exactly one serving of ice cream each night. To help myself boost the volume, I’d mix the ice cream with a cup of greek yogurt, blueberries and strawberries. This allowed me to stay on a diet without feeling like I was dieting.

If you want to feel the same, choose one or two foods that you love the most and keep them in your diet. You most likely will need to find a compromise with your food choices the rest of the day, but it all will be worth it.

5. Diet in phases.

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For the first four months, all I did was watch what I ate and lift heavy. I went down to 158 lbs but then I needed to drop my calories below 1700. I started feeling hungry, less energetic, and couldn’t give my all at the gym. So I switched to maintenance phase for a month. During this time, I gave myself a break and didn’t count every single thing I ate. It also happened to be my birthday month, so there were definitely days where I wouldn’t give a flying fart about nutrition.

If you find yourself more hungry than usual, less energetic, and experiencing cravings more often than usual, first check if you’re pregnant. If not, then take a break from counting for a little bit.

No, this doesn’t mean you go ham on eating pizza,  doughnuts, and milkshakes. Nah. During this time, try to not focus on calories but still listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry, eat what your body craves in small amounts, and then go back to caloric deficit.

6. Add cardio when calories drop down significantly.

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When my calories went lower than I’d like, I decided to add more cardio so I could still eat a good amount of food for my performance-based goals. This time I’d do cardio 3-4 times a week anywhere between 25-35min. This was the amount I could easily handle, and also gave me the opportunity to eat a little bit more on the days I strength trained.

You can do the same thing. Find the amount of cardio that you can handle. Do it 2-3 times a week, and you’ll speed up your fat loss without going super low on calories.

I realize that this isn’t the fastest approach to a weight loss, nor does it sound sexy. But it’s healthy way that will help you to lose fat and keep it off for good. 

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

My buddy, B. Franklin.

Thank you for reading! You could choose to do read anything, anything in the world, but you chose to spent a few minutes with me. Thank you!

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