You Look Leaner

She stopped mid-sentence and said: “You look leaner”.

She was wrong, but I understood why she made the comment. I was actually the same weight I was the last time I saw her. My weight has been in a stable range of 194-198 this year.

How I Keep Track of My Weight

About 3 times a week, I weigh myself at the gym. I take everything out of my pocket and step on the scale. Even though I learned from The Power of When that I’d be better off going to the gym in the afternoon, I’m still going in the morning. It is a hard habit that I have very little desire to break at this time. I even wear the same outfit, so everything is consistent for this measurement.

The other number I get 3 times a week is a tape measure on the widest part of my waist. This is also taken in the morning. I don’t know if this is the best place to measure, but I’ve been doing it this way for 15+ years. I’d love for a personal trainer to leave a comment on where they advise their clients to measure. Both male and female.

Of the 3 numbers in both groups, I throw away the outlier and average the other two.

I use the widest point because it is easy. Measuring chest, arms, or even thighs accurately by myself would be more difficult. The only problem I see with the tape measure is there are periods where areas above and below the widest point lose in size before the widest point catches up. But I am patient, as I view any uneven fat loss as temporary and thus is not a concern. Directional accuracy is good enough for me.

2 Numbers Tell a Much Better Story

If your weight goes up, but your waist size remains constant, that means you likely gained lean muscle. A good thing. Just going by weight alone would not tell you that. Conversely, if your weight drops and your waist remains the same, you lost muscle. Not good news.

I feel that using the two numbers together are essential for understanding where you are at. You could do a body fat test, but having 3 tests done each week in a consistent manner is not feasible for most people. Who wants to be pinched that much? As for the scales that measure body fat, maybe they are better now than they were in the early 2000s when I last used one. I found my scale was sensitive to things unrelated to me, such as room temperature.

Why Was I “Leaner”?

My weight went from 194 to 197 while my waist size remained constant. The last two months, I have increased my weight training as I am finally making progress on my knee issues. I’m also taking creatine again. So I’m gaining back some of the muscle I lost over the winter and doing it in a way that minimizes fat gain.

Weight and waist size independently aren’t that important, but together they tell a story. A man ideally wants a strong Golden Ratio, which means having broad muscular shoulders and chest and a tight waist. Build the “V”.

scale

Photo by Wade Kelly

Declaring Victory! How I Lost and Kept Off 25 Pounds

It was just over a year ago that I decided I needed to lose 20-25 pounds. But before I started on my diet, I knew the challenge wasn’t losing the weight, but keeping it off. That is where many people fail. There is no shortage of success stories, but they often regain. I’ve read estimates that between 70 and 95% of people that successfully lose weight will regain the weight. Often they gain more.

My belief based on the research I did a year ago was that using willpower would be a long-term losing strategy. If setpoint theory has any validity then the brain will both remember the higher preferred weight and the hunger signals experienced during any weight loss. Then when your willpower drops, the brain will ramp up hunger and take you back to your setpoint.

So following a simple “eat less, move more” plan without addressing how the brain would respond to hunger is a poor strategy. The key that I tested and proved for myself during my diet is to create a calorie deficit by minimizing hunger.

My 2 tools were:

  1. Volume (Peasant Diet, Potato Hack, Volumetrics)
  2. Protein (Old School Bodybuilder)

I’ve talked about these approaches at length in other posts, but the short versions are that foods with a high volume and low calories fool the brain. The stomach doesn’t measure calories. It measures volume. Given the same volume, boiled potatoes will have far fewer calories than French fries. And protein is known to crush appetite.

I have more ideas and thoughts here: Fat Loss Cheatsheet: What Works and What Doesn’t (for me)

Why Victory Now?

In March 2017, I weighed 222.

By August 2017, I was down to 202.

Today, I weight 197. That is a 25-pound loss. (Height 6′ 2.5) 

Why did I wait so long before declaring victory? A few reasons:

  1. When I reinjured my knee, my activity fell. I needed to maintain my lower weight at a lower activity level. If I didn’t, I’d need to change my plan.
  2. If setpoint theory is correct and I use a conservative 1/2 pound per week reset, then my fat loss moved much faster than my setpoint. But now that we are just over a year, it has caught up. This means that because I’ve been at my lower weight for several months now, I’ve likely locked in the new lower setpoint. This is all my speculation. The science is still being debated. I took a conservative view of the debate.
  3. I have spent more than a year building habits with the Peasant Diet and the Potato Hack. And lately, the Fasting Mimicking Diet. I’m very skilled with these tools. I’m well past the learning curve. I know how to use these methods to get immediate and predictable results. Muscle memory. Like driving a stick-shift.

I know that thousands of people have read my various posts on the Peasant Diet and the Potato Hack and it is likely that I inspired a few people and hopefully they are having success. If you are, leave a comment. May your success inspire others.

victory

Photo by Japheth Mast

I Completed My First 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet

I was going to wait until spring before trying my first 5-day Fasting Mimicking Diet period, but I got impatient and went for it starting last Thursday. This post will cover my experience.

For those that need a background on the Fasting Mimicking Diet read these two posts:

Instead of following the detailed macro and calorie recommendations in Dr. Longo’s book, I decided to keep it simple. The most important thing is to keep protein super low for this period. The 2011 Protein Cycling Diet has a page on calculating your upper limit of protein grams.

There 20 grams is calculated as the boundary for a man weighing 154 pounds. At that start of my FMD, I weighed 203. Instead of bumping up my protein grams, I stayed with a 20 grams limit. Each day during the FMD, I would not exceed 20 grams of protein.

Pure Fasting

What is less than 20? Zero. My concern was that if I tried to micro-manage low levels of calories early into the FMD, I might find it harder to be committed for 5 days. This concern may not be warranted. What I decided to do was to start the FMD with a pure fast. Not only zero grams of protein, but zero calories as well.

I’ve done intermittent fasts of 16-24 hours probably 250 times in the past decade. However, I’ve never gone longer and I’ve never gone to sleep on an empty stomach. My belief was that I couldn’t sleep if I was hungry. What I learned was that I could, but the sleep was not great, which was to be expected.

My hunger peaked at hour 22 on Day 1 and declined afterward to a steady level that was not distracting. The loud stomach rumbling only happened on Day 1.

On Day 2, I discovered what countless other fasters have discovered, hunger doesn’t continue to rise. It actually falls a little. So I continued a pure fast until 9 PM on Day 3. During the FMD, I drank a lot of coffee, which Dr. Longo doesn’t like, but without coffee, not only would I have never succeeded, I would never have attempted the FMD.

Low Calorie, Low Protein

At the very end of Days 3, 4, and 5, I had a bowl of boiled potatoes with a pad of butter. Protein grams were well under 20. Probably closer to 12 grams.

I could have probably continued the pure fast for the 2nd half of the FMD, but I wanted to experience a few days eating very low protein. During the pure fast, I got SUPER COLD. However, it just so happened that Seattle experienced a sharp drop in temperature at the same time. This is why I originally planned to start my first FMD in the spring. Cold and windy weather sucks for fasting.

Photo by Ezra Jeffrey. Did I mention how cold I felt?

Activity

During the 5 days, my activity level as very low. I averaged about 5,000 steps a day. I also did stretching. Mostly I stayed immobile at home trying to stay warm.

Results

It is impossible to know much my health benefited from a single 5-day FMD. Other than the skill of being able to deal with hunger, the only metric I can really discuss is my weight.

  • Day 0: 203  (morning before Day 1)
  • Day 3: 197
  • Day 6: 193   (morning after end of FMD)
  • Day 9: 197

I placed my Day 9 weight here because it is something I see too many fasters not including. When you depleted your glycogen stores via fasting or ketosis, the water that binds to the glycogen is also lost. So when you resume normal eating, not only will your glycogen stores fill back up, but so will that lose water. Whenever you hear some Low-Carb fan talk about their amazing first week with carbs or how they gain weight back when they resume eating carbs, this is what is going on.

See the post Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion for a deeper explanation.

A 6-pound weight loss over 5 days is pretty awesome. Is it possible that some of that weight is muscle? Maybe, but I did lose almost an inch off my waist at the widest point. Muscle loss during fasting is a topic that is debated, but it is not a concern because I understand how muscle memory works. Muscle is hard to gain the first time, but easy to recover with training and calories. See the Tim Ferriss or Mickey Rourke posts for details.

I will continue doing these 5-day FMD cycles using a combination of pure fasting and low protein fasting. They should get easier as the weather gets warmer.