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How I lost over 40 pounds and went from 17% body fat to 11% body fat in 6 months

By Edited Jul 8, 2014 2 5

In 2006 I made some minor changes to my diet that led to some greater than expected weight loss given my size. To give you some context, I weighed 227 pounds with a 17.4% body fat. So I had a bit of weight to lose but by no means was I fat. After 6 months of this small change to my diet, I hit a low of 181 pounds with 11.2% body fat. I wanted to give my 46 pound loss that context because while 46 pounds is good in 6 months, someone who has a higher body fat than me would probably have even more drastic results than I given that they have more fat to lose.

Diets, calorie counting and over-exercising do not work. During this time I still had no guilt over enjoying bacon or a burger or pizza and I did not increase my exercise routine. I do about 45 minutes to an hour of working out (running, cycling, weight training) 5 times a week before, during and after my change so keep that in mind as that may have contributed to the affects I saw after changing my diet. Maybe it helped to speed up my metabolism. But the point is I did not burn more calories by increasing exercise when I made this dietary change.

The key to weight loss success is controlling your body's chemical reactions. I've read up a lot on this and could go on for ages but I'll limit the "science" part of this article to this paragraph and let you do your own research on some of the terms I use below if you wish. You want to be able to control and regulate when the body releases insulin. You want to keep insulin levels low in order to release glucagon, which is a hormone in the body that promotes fat burning as it takes fat and readies it for use as energy. But at the same time you want to be able to have insulin available to you in order to suppress cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone in the body that slows metabolism and eats up muscle.

So what were my relatively simple changes to my diet that led to tremendous weight loss? 1. I ate a lot of spinach 2. I pretty much eliminated all sugars and most starches for dinner time and beyond as later on in the evening is when the benefits of having insulin to suppress cortisol diminishes and you want to be able to release glucagon to promote fat burning.

When we talk about carbs, we want slow burning carbs that take a lot of energy to burn, but more importantly, control insulin levels. Spinach and similar dark leafy greens (not iceberg lettuce) are actually the slowest burning carbs out of anything so they are by far the best source. And what I like about spinach over similar dark green vegetables like broccoli is that it has a tolerable taste and texture when its fresh. During the morning and afternoon you have a lot more leeway when you are talking about carbs. Oatmeal, fruit and brown rice are my most recommended picks. I would say to you avoid the candy bars, but if you must have one, have it in the morning or early afternoon when your body's chemical balance won't go out of whack like it would in the evening.

While I had to control my chocolate and ice cream cravings during this time; burgers, pizza, bacon and all that other high-fat, high-protein salty stuff were not cut at all. So I guess I am promoting a pseudo-Atkins diet, but I view my weight loss success in spite of these delicious items, not because of them. I'm not an angel when it comes to diet or caloric intake and the amount of calories I consumed did not change during this time.

Even so, I managed to lose weight. Not by limiting my calories or going hungry or even limiting the amount of fat I ate. I did it by controlling my body's chemical reactions to maximize metabolic burn. All it takes is a couple servings of spinach a day and avoiding sugars at dinner time and later. Think about that before you watch your next commercial of a skinny woman enjoying Vanilla Almond Special K or Activia yogurt as an evening snack. You're probably just as good off with some potato chips or buttered popcorn at 3 times the calories and less of the insulin spike (not that I'm promoting those items when you make the change, I'm just saying).

Four years later I sit at 219 pounds with a 13.4% body fat. So understand that while I have put much of the weight back on, I intended it to be that way through muscle. I went in for a physical and my nurse stated I have twice the amount of good cholesterol needed. My chances of getting heart disease are well less than 1%. I wanted to share my story because while I am not a bodybuilder, I am definitely fit and happy with my body. My exercise routine is moderate and my diet is controlled but not restrictive. It is certainly doable by anyone with a day job like me. I just came back from my mom's place after having her lasagne today for dinner. I ate a bacon double cheeseburger yesterday. But on the flip side I had oatmeal for breakfast both days, had a hearty bowl of spinach with my meal tonight and I could probably count on one hand the amount of cans of pop I have consumed this year.

You don't have to do what they do on Biggest Loser to lose weight. You just have to educate yourself on how your body works and what you have to do to maximize your weight loss potential while minimizing disruptive changes to your lifestyle. I hope this article set you in the right direction.

Refer to my workout articles if you are interested in:

How to build big Biceps
How to build big Triceps
How to build big Forearms
How to build big Shoulders
How to build a big Chest
How to build a big Back
How to build big Legs
How to build big Calves
My Workout Routine

More workout advice:

Are Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells suitable for you?



Nov 3, 2010 6:35pm
My mteabolism is shot from low activity(lymphedema in both legs). I love fresh spinach salad, so I'll give this a try.Did you use diet sweeteners?
Nov 3, 2010 9:14pm
No I don't those are just as bad if not worse because its still a chemical that can get into your body and mess up your system. The more natural diet you can get, the better. So sugar is the better alternative. It'll be interesting/unfortunate to see how much damage will be done to the "Coke Zero" generation.

This is the link to the article that goes into great detail about body hormone control, which was my #1 asset:

Nov 17, 2010 5:18am
Excellent article EV38, but having done a quick calculation of the body composition that you lost.
Out of the 46 pounds you lost 20lbs was fat and 26lbs was lean muscle mass. Which will of dramatically slowed down your metabolic rate which means you will find it much easier to gain weight in the future.
Was your protein intake low, due to the large amount of lean muscle mass lost.
I've just started with a personal trainer and he has got me on a 50% protein 30% carbs and 20% fat diet plan. This is so I can hold onto valuable calorie burning lean muscle mass as I'm losing body fat.
Nov 27, 2010 6:26pm
You're right blogger, I did lose some mass unrelated to fat according to the scale. Much of it was excess water weight. I had 5 pounds of muscle loss during this time but gained it back and then some since then. At the time I do think my protein intake was on the low side. Had I made further adjustments I probably would have seen less drastic results on the weight loss side but a better body fat %. But considering I was 17% at the time, having 20 of my 46 pounds (or 43%) being fat lost, I think that is pretty decent.

In my opinion I think it is unrealistic for anyone to assume NO muscle mass lost when dropping in the neighbourhood of 50 pounds or more, unless you're talking about a very long time span of maybe 10-15 pounds a year.

Those guys on Biggest Loser obviously are not losing all fat when they lose 10+ pounds a week. If you're, for example, 100 pounds overweight and 40% body fat, losing 100 pounds with 80% of it being fat (a very good % imo) is still going to cost you 20 pounds of water/muscle weight. As your body fat % falls, you will find it harder and harder to lose fat until you're like me where 50% of all weight lost is not fat. The key is if you choose to gain the weight back, make sure its, say, 25% fat and 75% lean mass. Metabolic burn has to be viewed as a matrix of numbers instead of a snapshot. My burn will naturally be faster at 227 than 181. What I care most about is that my burn is faster at my current 220 than when I was 220 a few years ago.
Dec 18, 2010 3:55am
Having spent a few years yo yo dieting, I reckon I'm about 20 pounds down on lean muscle mass, which has really affected my metabolism. Your 100% correct in saying that whilst cutting weight you will lose muscle mass and I totally agree. Unless your a genetic freak most people will find it very difficult to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.

I will be happy losing 2 pounds of fat for every 1 pound of lean mass. Too many people focus on what the scales say in body weight and not on what there body composition is. We get fat as we age because we lose lean mass, which slows down the metabolic rate which means by eating the same foods has we always have we will put on weight.
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