My weight loss journey has not been easy, but it’s most certainly been worth it. I thought I would share this story with you, so you can gain a better understanding of me, and this Blog. I surpassed many downfalls and savored the hard fought rewards—in the end, making the decision to lose weight has dramatically changed the quality of my life. What initially started out as a thought, turned into my passion. I ended up losing over 70 lbs (30 kg) in less than 8 months.
New Years day, 2014, at my friend Storm’s house on Hartbeespoort dam. After the previous nights alcoholic infused festivities, I vividly remember thinking to myself deeply that morning: I wonder what my life would be like if I was not overweight? At this stage, I weighed 200 lbs (90 kg), baring in mind I’m only 5’7". The post-hangover banter was flowing like the previous nights Jägermeisters, and I got chatting to Storm’s father, Richard (who is an ex-bodybuilder), seeking advice on how I could possibly lose all this weight. Freshly inspired with motivation, I couldn’t wait to start
When I got back home after the debauchery that was New Years, head throbbing and liver suffering, I couldn’t wait to get started on my new diet regime. I remember watching one of those cliché motivational videos on YouTube, I’m not too sure who said it, but I vaguely remember separating the bullshit from the advice. The overly ambitious dude shouting something like, “Keep your goals and ambitions to yourself. The minute you tell people about your goals, you give them power over you.” This stuck with me. I consciously made an effort NOT to tell people about my goal to lose weight—even my family.
Not telling every living soul about the start of my diet worked in my favour. I was never obligated to not eat certain foods/drinks that didn’t fit in my “diet" because of potential social criticism. Instead, I could silently cultivate my own habits without people knowing, this created a stress-free environment in which I could work and experiment with new habits. Even when I weighed 198lbs I was, surprisingly, going to gym everyday. Being relatively strong (and of course fat), I was like, as my best friend Mitchell put it, “A little bulldog in the clubs, standing on toes and starting fights.” I never did cardio or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) — I focused mainly on isolated exercises with heavy weights and low reps. My main form of cardio consisted of walking to the fridge and attempted breakdancing at Tiger Tiger (an old nightclub in Johannesburg, South Africa)
I asked myself a question which dramatically shifted my paradigm in the early days of my journey. How could I expect to be successful one day if I can’t even take care of my own body? You see, whether we like it or not, people judge. We all do. First impressions are important. We are all salesmen, we are selling ourselves in one form or another.
How I lost The Weight
In the beginning I had no specific goal weight or ambition that I wanted to reach--all I know is that I was fat, unhappy and tired--I simply longed for change. I started out by eating my food S L O W L Y. Really paying attention to what was going in my mouth helped answer questions like: is this pulling me closer to losing weight, or pushing me further away? I generally followed a rule of thumb by chewing each bite of food for 30 counts. I wasn’t necessarily following a strict diet in the very beginning, but I did cut out most processed carbs like bread, sodas and sweets. Initially, I lost weight fast. I would say I lost around 22 lbs (10 kg) in around 2 months.
But, like any diet, I hit a plateau around 3 months in. I noticed that the more weight I lost, the harder it was to lose further. I would spend hours in the gym doing cardio (no joking, hours) and seeing no results. I started researching and first thing I noticed was how many advice-givers there were out there. Every diet seemed have one thing in common, “Low fat.” Online nutritionists preached that low-carb, high-fiber and low fat was the way to go, so I quickly hopped on the low fat train and noticed that it made a difference. I lost further weight (which I suspect was mainly muscle). I was, however, extremely tired and exhausted all the time following an extremely low-fat diet. 3-4 hour post-school naps were routine.
I was encapsulated with how nutrition directly affected my biology—specifically on a mental and physical level. After those long, glorious naps, I would often research further—expanding my knowledge on the subject of health. I have a passion for learning new ideas and experimenting. I sort of consider myself a combination between Dave Asprey (Bulletproof Coffee) and Tim Ferriss (4-Hour Work Week)—in other words, a human guinea pig or bio-hacker.
I reached a stage where I was pretty happy with my progress. It was around August, 2014, I had little to no muscle or fat on my body and I weighed roughly 58 kg. Things were great, but often I would have these overwhelming cravings for salty food and fat. Mid-night cramps occurred frequently along with sleep deprivation, dry eyes and serious brain fog—all symptoms that I wasn’t getting enough of the right carbs and fat, especially fat. I introduced fat, specifically high amounts of quality fat from coconut oil, avocados and grass-fed animals, back into my diet along with moderate protein and relatively low-carbs (most of my carbs came from veggies or sweet potato). I immediately felt more energized, stronger and alert—I had found a formula that worked for me.
The right fat should never have left my diet (I will write on fat in the upcoming weeks). My usual day of eating currently, which I have been following for the last 4 months or so, has allowed me to maintain muscle mass while losing fat. I also regularly practice intermittent fasting and cold exposure which I will also write on.
My usual day of eating looks like this:
- Breakfast: Coffee. The common notion that you MUST eat a massive breakfast first thing in the morning is total bullshit. Breakfast, however, is the most important meal (whether food or beverage). Breakfast is my make or break. If I have any sort of carbs in the morning, and yes fruit or yogurt are carbs, that just sets me up for a roller coaster of crashes throughout the day due to the spikes in my insulin. I don’t just have any coffee, I have Bulletproof Coffee, made with grass-fed unsalted butter and MCT oil.
- Lunch: Usually something light (the Bulletproof Coffee will honestly keep you satisfied until dinner). I will often have an avocado, soft boiled eggs or some sort of Whey Protein sourced from grass-fed cows.
- Dinner: By far the meal I look forward to the most. I will often have either salmon, lamb or grass-fed steak with either a large salad or sweet potato depending on how I’m feeling. If I am craving something sweet, I will have some dark chocolate before bed which helps me sleep and I find reduces my anxiety.
- Faterday: I got the name from Tim Ferriss. On Saturday I will treat myself and schedule a cheat day or meal--I usually go nuts.
This simple, yet effective regime, has kept me at around 14% body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass for the last 4 months. I'm obviously not planning on being a body builder or fitness model--but I've gotten to the point where I know my body well enough, and if I wanted to lose more fat I could. However, this being at the expense of physical and mental fatigue which is not an option at university which requires my full commitment. I don't count calories at all and I don't believe in it. If you eat the right food, at the right times, your body will naturally tell you when it's full. Also, the biggest myth I hear is that "dieting" (I despise this word) is boring and inflexible. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do go out, have fun, and enjoy myself. The trick is not falling into the trap of over-consumption--which is where good, productive habits come into play.
I lost majority of my early weight without reading a book or following a fad diet. I lost my weight by experimenting; If it didn't work and produce results, then I didn’t bother. I’m certainly no expert, nutritionist or trainer, but I do know what it is like to feel useless, unhappy, fat and fatigued 24/7. My absolute favourite thing is seeing naturally aesthetic personal trainers (that probably came out the womb with a chiseled six-pack) giving nutritional advice to obese individuals working their butt off in the gym (I was one of those individuals). I’ve got the utmost respect for personal trainers, but most of the time they give advice from their own body's experience.
I believe most people need coaches/trainers who have been in their situation. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t exercise 7-days a week, run 50 miles and lick an apple for dinner to lose and maintain my weight-loss. I focused on doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) paired with light cardio at least 3-times a week. This was enough to produce hormonal changes in my body that aided in burning fat and building muscle. My favourite three letter acronym from Tim Ferriss’s book, The 4-Hour Body, is Minimum Effective Dose (MED). What is the bare minimum I can do to produce the maximum amount of results in the least amount of time?
I hope my story maybe inspires you in some way or another. This Blogs purpose is to share my thoughts, experiences and ideas with people who are interested in learning and/or want to change; whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
Before and After Photos
I never really documented and took many measurements other than weight during the very beginning. Here are a few pictures that I took during 2014. On the far left I was around 77 kg and had lost a significant amount already. The middle picture is when I really started to notice a difference in my weight--that's when people started commenting on my progress. On the far right I was close to my skinniest at around 58 kg--my legs were half as big and my stomach had shrunk ample amounts.