This May will mark 7 years since I realized my health was in danger and made a change for the better. At this point I have gone through so many different phases and acquired so much information about health and fitness, that I am feeling a little unsure of how to proceed, and thought I would ask some advice on this forum as I have come to respect the guidance I have found on this site over the years.
I started out at 350lbs, and maybe managed to take 10,000 steps a week; I did nothing but play video games and had a sedentary job. I was on a first name basis with every employee at Chik-fil-a as I ate there for almost every meal.
When my father died at 51 mostly due to heart complications, I was told I had high blood pressure at 25 years old, I started paying attention; at the time I had no clue how much I even weighed, made no conscious decisions about what to eat, and was just wheezing through life like most Americans these days.
Long story still kinda long, I dieted down to my original goal of 220 pounds in about a year, and found it was so easy for me that I decided to go ahead and drop to 170 so my weight would be in the proper BMI range because I gave BMI a little more credence at the time than I do now. At 220 I also decided getting some exercise would probably be a good idea, and my workplace offers a free gym membership, so I started a simple 5x5 variation, and started running. Fast forward another year or so, and I was in the best shape of my life; I was 175 pounds, (I am 6’0" tall) I was benching 265 for 2 reps, squatting and deadlifting 315, could do pull ups all day long, and ran 7 miles every day. I still did not care much for running, I did it out of obligation, but I absolutely LOVED weightlifting; it is just plain enjoyable to me, and it still is.
After about a year, I had fallen into the trap of just never really changing anything; I wasn’t hitting new PRs, but I have never really been a PR chaser so I didn’t care all that much, but a knee injury dropped me out of running. I was still eating at my original diet calorie count of 1500 a day, and Sunday was a cheat day that could easily get over 10,000 calories, and I was mostly eating microwave dinners just like I did while dieting because I had never learned to cook.
The first thing I did was learn to cook, I started paying a lot more attention to nutrient intake, but I was still meticulous about counting calories. I realize now that I was probably TOO meticulous about counting calories from the get-go; I counted chewing gum for crying out loud. I used my fitness pal when I learned about it (was originally using paper) and I would not go a single calorie over. Ever. So fast forward a couple more years, and now I am still lifting weights every weekday, I have recently taken up rucking with a 30lb backpack, but I am not sure if my knee is going to allow me to continue that, so I have mostly just been walking and doing the powermill at the gym for cardio. I just recently changed my routine after a one week break, and have taken the advice in an article I read here to go “programless” instead of following a set program, I basically have my standard lifts, and I do as much as I feel I can on any given day; but it generally pans out like this:
Decline bench 1X10 @ 135lbs, 1X10 @ 185 lbs, 1X6-7 (depending) @ 225 1X2-4 @245/265 (again, depending)
Chest Flye Machine 3X10 @ 285, also varies depending on how I am feeling and how I did on bench
Chinups: 60-70 over the course of 4-5 sets.
Cable Rows 3-4 sets of 10 at 160-180 per set
2 core workouts at 3 sets of 10-15, varies a lot, I also do 2 minute planks.
3 sets of 10 deadlift ranging from 20% to 60% 1RM due to knee injury recently from rucking.
Then I do hack squats and hamstring curls right now as my knee is rehabilitating, and squats have always seemed to bother my knee no matter how light the weight or how meticulous I am with form.
Like I said, mostly doing program-less, but have general lifts I like to hit. The only supplement I take is creatine, so from my recent reading here, I have gathered that hitting muscles multiple times a week is better than doing a split, so I am kind of experimenting with that.
My ultimate goals for which I would like some advice;
I am trying to get away from tracking calories forever, but not falling into a fat-gain cycle. Once again, not a competing athlete, never intend to do any kind of shows or competition, I just want to look reasonably good naked, stay healthy, and have decent functional strength. I still cook everything that goes in my mouth, and don’t intend to stop that, and I kinda go with the 90% clean, and every now and then I will have some Halo Top ice cream (my favorite sweet treat). Dietary staples are what you probably expect from a fitness fan; chicken, tuna, lentils, sardines, lotsa veggies, most fruits in moderation, olive oil (been using coconut oil too, but not real convinced it lives up to the hype) plain greek yogurt, protein powder, oats, sweet potatoes, etc.
I started eating more intuitively of late, and I am kind of going with the rule of thumb that if I feel hungry, I eat some protein and veggies; not until full, just until no longer hungry. I am preparing pretty much the same meals ahead of time as I have been for years, but I also have extra chicken, tuna, raw veggies and boiled eggs as snacks, so I have been keeping some of those handy to gnosh when I feel hungry instead of powering through and sticking to my predetermined calorie count. In 2 weeks of doing this, I have gained about 8 pounds, and have definitely lost ab definition. The belt feels slightly tighter on some days, but mostly has not changed much. I have been as low as 169 pounds, but I was almost unable to move and was miserable, but ripped looking, (at least as ripped as one can look with 5lbs of extra skin) and I don’t want to ever feel obligated to feel that way in order to look slightly better. I imagine a lot of you are asking, “So what?” But after having lost all that weight, gaining back any definitely gives me a little anxiety, and I go back and forth between, “eh it is probably mostly glycogen,” to “No, your mind is just trying to fool you into eating more and being lazy,” to, “this is just like recent studies are saying about the Biggest Loser competitors, you lost so much weight so fast that you are doomed to regain it and this is the beginning.” I am kind of hoping that if I eat more and work harder in the gym, I can fill out some of the extra skin you can see in the “after” picture with muscle, and cant be less anal about calorie counting, but I am not sure if that is really feasible or not, so that’s another thing if anyone has any advice on, I would appreciate it. What is the best way to proceed with eating a little more intuitively and making sure that I am not just getting far again and weight gain is either water weight or (hopefully) a little muscle especially considering my past? Sorry for the insane length of the post, but trying to be relatively thorough.