Big Mac's Training Log (Formerly Rock Bottom)

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my weight. 4th through 7th grade I can recall being pudgy and being the kid struggling to run the mile, clocking in times of 13 minutes. Thankfully, being genetically tall, by 8th grade I had grown upwards enough to be lean, and I remained this way through most of high school. 11th grade is where my body started to change horizontally again.

I had my fist real relationship which led to the appearance of an anxiety condition, and this condition continued to plague me throughout college. From 11th grade to the end of my senior year in college, I had put on probably close to 100 lbs. It was when I reached 260 lbs during the summer of 2015, that I finally felt disgusted enough by myself to do something about it.

I started to religiously count calories and managed to get down into the 220s, although I was lacking in muscle definition. I ended up putting the weight back on (of course) and in late 2016, I picked up weight lifting in combination with calorie counting, and yo-yoed between 220 and 250 until I met another girlfriend in 2019.

This girlfriend was a vegan, and as I’m sure many of you have experienced, it is incredibly difficult to diet when you are constantly eating meals with other people. I somehow managed to not gain a ton of weight during this relationship, but the yo-yoing still existed.

During some point in this relationship I had some kind of psychological break, and eventually ended up enrolling in therapy to deal with the anxiety condition. In 2020, we ended up splitting right during the midst of COVID.

I was so low at this point of my life, and for a variety of reasons, I ended up deciding that starting a treatment of SSRI’s was the correct course of action. I ballooned up to 275 lbs by the summer of 2021, but other areas of my life were beginning to work themselves out.

Once I hit 275, I tried the keto diet, and was able to get sub 230 over the course of about 3-4 months. My weight since then has gone up, then down 5-10 lbs, then back up again. My anxiety condition had subsided, women were still dating me, and I more than doubled my income at work so I continued to take the medicine. I was constantly emotionally numb though.

During the fall, I decided it was time to get off SSRIs. I was tired of not feeling. Finally, the emotions are starting to return. I am starting to care again. This past weekend, I experienced another low point.

To ring in the New Year, my friends and I ended up staying at the vacation home of one of our friends. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone to have their own, so we all ended up sharing rooms. Many friends in this group likely fall on the spectrum and are not the best about dealing with sensitive topics.

Every morning, the two guys I was rooming with made it a point to comment on how loud I snore (I know I snore) and how they were unable to sleep because of it/how I slept through my iPhone alarm one morning.

Beyond the daily shaming, I saw photos of myself and it finally clicked how absolutely disgusting I look right now.

At this point I don’t know what to do anymore. I have lost weight countless times, so it’s not a matter of how to do it. The question is, how do I keep it off? The thought of putting sustained effort into something that is just going to revert to the state I’m in now is so soul crushing.

People who have lost weight and have managed to keep it off, how did you do it? The odds seem to be against success here, but I don’t want to give up. Was there something you changed in yourself internally to escape the vicious cycle of yo-yoing? Or was it a matter of finally getting a habit to stick? I am really desperate for lasting change.

Stop looking at the foods you eat like a diet and start looking at it as a lifestyle.

And maybe give The Body Fat Solution by Tom Venuto a read. Your bodyfat problem is moreso a mental health problem than anything; fix your food relationship.

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My story is somewhat like yours in places: gained a ton of fat from 11th grade to sophomore year of college. Diagnosed as obese. Lost it all, started lifting, and kept the fat off ever since (around 33 years and counting).

How? Well, a lot of things, and this conversation could go deep very quickly. Some thoughts:

• I started lifting weights and never stopped. This is the core of your training. Any type, any plan, just lift weights consistently. There is no magic plan. Choose a form you like and do it, then switch something else. But always be lifting. I’ve used every style, every plan, you name it. The secret was never the plan; it was the fact that every plan involved lifting.

• Junk foods, fast foods, soda, candy, etc. are off the table. Forever*. This was important for me. For many years, I just had to say, “I don’t eat that stuff.” No excuses, no birthday treats, no cheat meals, no holiday binging, no foods with added sugar, no alcohol. For fat guys (like I was), it’s a slippery slope. Don’t step onto that slope. Don’t panic though, because the cravings fade anyway and you learn to make delicious things that are just as satisfying. (I have a whole thread about that.)

“Forever?” I will say that after years of avoiding those slippery situations, of course you can have the occasional holiday meal. I think I full-on “cheated” three times in 2023. But the cycle was broken years ago and I’m at no risk of making a cheat meal into a cheat week, then a cheat month.

But right now, you likely yo-yo because you’re either on or off the junk food. You’re either “on keto” or “eating everything.” You don’t even need a brand name diet; you just need to stop eating obvious shit. You are now on the “Stop Eating Shit” diet. :grinning:

• What do you think a good, healthy weight is for you? 215-ish? If so, eat that many grams of protein per day. We call this the Protein First Eating Strategy, and it generally helps autoregulate everything else in your diet without calorie counting. Combine that with “I don’t eat anything with sugar in the ingredient list” and you can’t NOT lose the fat. (Just don’t drink a gallon of vodka each night.)

• Mentally/internally, before it all became habitual and easy, what worked for me was self-directed anger. I was pissed I’d gotten fat. It wasn’t who I was. It was a sign of weakness. It was a sign of having no discipline. And that wasn’t ME, you know? So I quit blaming, whining, and making excuses and got a little pissed at myself. I’d get tempted to eat creap or skip a scheduled workout, and (this sounds a little nuts) I’d cuss myself out. But like I said, it was a feeling and a strategy that I didn’t have to stick to forever, but it worked until the better habits kicked in. May not work for everyone.

• Healthy habits stick because you stick to them long enough for them to stick.

• Every choice counts. Every positive choice is a win. Soon they’re not even choices; there are just what you do… or don’t do.

Hope this helps a little. Feel free to ask questions.

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I think you might enjoy a read through the (Un)Official 2024 T-ransformation Challenge , and maybe consider joining.

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Absolutely excellent post here by Chris. OP please read this post, then re-read the post and then read it again.

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Chris, thank you for the informative and thoughtful post.

Your training advice seems pretty cut and dry and I find myself agreeing with you on the “any kind of resistance training” advice.
In the past, resistance training has given me the best results and as someone who just wants to be healthy, I don’t feel like I need to find the ideal or the perfect program, just one that gets me into the gym at least 3 times per week.

Regarding nutrition, I have some follow up questions on what you mentioned:

First, there is so much conflicting information out there about what is a good food and what is not. Soda, candy, McDonald’s etc. are all obvious no foods. What about things like pasta, Asian noodles, white rice, bread or more healthy “fast” food options like Chipotle? As someone who travels a lot for work, needs to remain flexible, and has irregular waking hours, I am often put in a situation where sometimes I need to eat out or catch breakfast/lunch on the fly. What is your advice for tackling a situation where I am stopping for breakfast or lunch on the road, and when eating out at a restaurant for dinner, what are you doing to continue to make healthy choices? Sometimes I am logging up to 12 hour days which makes preparation difficult.

I remember my prior plans being an all consuming undertaking. I was constantly thinking about fitness. When I could eat, what I was going to eat, how my energy levels would be impacted. As I mentioned before, I don’t need to be the biggest or leanest guy in the room, but I want to have a physique that is healthy and I am not embarrassed of, and perhaps the rest will follow. I want time and space in my life for other hobbies and interests beyond fitness, and I think you nailed it right on the head when you mentioned I was either “on” or “off”. I don’t want to be either of these. I want this to be second nature so that there is mental capacity/time for other fulfilling aspects of my life. If I decide fitness is going to be a major hobby down the line, great, but I really just want to be someone who is not considered overweight or obese.

Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll check it out!

I will take a look at this, thank you!

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Not Chris but wanted to add my 2c here. I meal prep all my lunches for the week on Sunday. All I have to do is take the tub out of the Fridge and take it to work. I eat 2 lunches at work and they are both Chilli con Carne with rice or veggies (depends on how much carbs I am allowing myself). I have eaten the same 2 lunches at work every day for over 6 years now. It is a little boring, but its tasty and I have 100% control of what I am eating.

Now when travelling this can be more difficult, but I figure that if I can control the food on all the non travel days, then grabbing a wrap or a salad for lunch when I am travelling is not going to ruin me. As for eating out at night, you cant really go wrong with simple meat and veggies.

I would say no to all those things you listed there, but that is just me. Going to Tag @QuadQueen here. She may be able to offer some simple clever advice or link to a good article.

I think getting away from the idea of “good” vs “bad” foods would go a long way. There’s no need to ascribe morality to this. Food is simply food. There are contexts where some foods are INAPPROPRIATE, but therein is where we have nuance.

I feel like Justin Harris has a good philosophy of “if you can’t grow it or hunt it, don’t eat it”. Another way to look at that is, if it has more than 1 or 2 ingredients, don’t eat it.

Is fasting an option? Sometimes, nothing is a better choice than something. Or another way to look at it is delayed nutrition. Often, I will delay eating SOMETHING until something better shows up, and then I’ll eat a lot of the something better. In the wild, this would be like if you stumbled across a rotting carcass and weighed the option of eating the meat and risking disease or waiting until a fresh kill presented and then gorging on it.

Yummy visual, I know.

My philosophy is “when in doubt: steak and eggs”. It’s hard to screw those up. Sometimes, for me, that’s a breakfast burrito where I toss the outside. This was from last week, while I was traveling

I avoid cheeses/sauces and keep things simple.

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Lots of good info and suggestions here already, and I agree with all of it.

Bottom line is that this needs to be a complete lifestyle change for you. Since you’ve struggled with weight for most of your life, my guess is that there’s an emotional component here and until you get to the root of why you eat and/or medicate with food, it’s not a problem that will just cease to exist.

On the food side of things: There are no “good” or “bad” foods - the devil is in the dose. Small, infrequent amounts of the not optimal stuff can fit - BUT you can’t have it all of the time and in large quantities. Case in point - Chipotle: is it healthier fast food? That depends on your order. A 1200 calorie burrito - not so much, a burrito bowl with lettuce, double meat, veggies, salsa, guac and maybe some beans depending on your carb needs - yes. Notice that there’s no rice, no cheese, no sour cream, no tortilla, and potentially no beans in there. When you go out to eat, structure your meals the same as you would at home - focus on plain lean meats and non-starchy veggies. Avoid sauces and fried foods; ask that meats and veggies be prepared and served without oil/butter. If you order a salad - skip the nuts, croutons, dried fruit, cheese, bacon, etc. and request olive oil and vinegar on the side to use as dressing (and use the oil sparingly). You need to be PROACTIVE and make choices that set you up to succeed. If you want to order something less optimal, make a rule that you only get to eat half of everything served. Better yet, have them only serve half and box the other half up in a to-go container. Give that to-go container to a friend, a homeless person, your Uber driver - anyone. Do not take it home or back to your hotel room.

This is about making choices - you need to decide what’s important to you and do the things that get you to that spot. You can still have pizza, once and while - but maybe only 2 slices and not the whole thing. Maybe give yourself 2 small treats each week- unless that sets you up for failure. Know thyself.

And remember, these are LIFE changes, not quick-fix, short-term diet strategies. You need to get comfortable with that idea. Find other, non-food ways to deal with the tough life stuff, make choices that get you closer to your goals consistently, and change your thought processes around food for good. If you do those things, long-term success is possible.

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Lots of good responses already. A few more things:

The above folks make good points about the idea of “good” and “bad” foods, but I take a little different approach. I think there are some definite off-the-table-forever foods. My joke is, “Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s food.” Minor quibble, and just generally trying to eat healthier means you’ll probably avoid that stuff anyway.

I’d also add a term my wife uses: benign foods. They aren’t particularly beneficial from a health perspective – no special powers – but they also aren’t detrimental. So those are fine, mainly as vehicles for healthier stuff. Think: tuna (beneficial) on a plain rice cake (benign).

Generally, I don’t think anyone needs a brand-name diet that restricts a whole macronutrient or food group, like paleo, keto, or veganism. I like principles or little rules. (And in my 25 years in the fitness biz, after beating obesity, I’ve experimented with everything.) My personal principles, most of which I’ve used for decades now, that help me maintain at least a 4-pack year around without hunger or feeling deprived:

  1. Protein First: My last few articles have been all about this. Eat about a gram per pound per day. Don’t sweat it if it’s a little more or a little less. For me, a portion of this comes from 4 scoops of MD Protein daily on average. The rest is the usual protein foods. I also make a lot of protein powder, no-sugar desserts and treats, so I never feel deprived. I mean, my cheesecake is 30+ grams of protein per slice.

  2. Eat no foods with added sugar. Always check ingredient lists. If sugar is on it, I don’t eat it. Sure, an occasional gram or two slips in, but that’s the general rule.

  3. Healthy fats: fish oil, avocado, coconut oil. No seed oils or products with seed oils.

  4. No, or very limited, wheat. I’ve found that a lot of the paleo-ish “grains are evil” stuff isn’t necessary as long as you drop the wheat. So, yes, white rice is fine. Also oats. Over the years, many paleo types have switched to “paleo+rice” because they need the carbs for their workouts and muscle growth, and rice just didn’t hurt their progress. So, call it benign. I generally avoid bread, but there a lot of good wheat-free versions out there now. I might have two slices per week.

  5. I keep an eye on dairy. I have it daily, but I do avoid drinking milk. I save my dairy for sour cream, a little cheese, etc. Now, if my goal was fat loss, like if I really wanted to get stage-ripped, those foods would be set aside for a while.

  6. Calories. I don’t count them. When you adopt a protein-first approach, it’s usually not necessary. It’s that magical autoregulation effect. And it’s hard to overeat anyway with all the above rules in place, and by avoiding the obvious crap like soda, candy, chips, etc.

Note: You’ll develop your own set of “rules” as you go. Everyone experiments and finds out what works for them and their lives. The key is this: What can you sustain? All diets work if calories are low enough, but what’s healthy, helps you reach your goals, and is something you can do 99% of the time?

I can usually make all these rules work at restaurants. A little tougher with crappy fats and oils that restaurants and fast casual places use, but as long as you avoid them most of the time and keep them out of the house, it’s fine.

As QuadQueen said, the issue with some places like Chipotle is the sheer volume. Her advice about what to order is great. I used to use places like Texas Roadhouse a lot when travelling. Steak, salad with olive oil and vinegar, and a naked sweet potato. Boom, done.

Does your job allow you to make a protein shakes? That would be a simple solution for those long hours. I have one every day in place of lunch.

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This is an awesome thread with tons of great advice!

I agree with everything above (I was going to drop the “kill it or pick it” foods thought as well). I also travel for work, so I’ll add a couple super easy thoughts:

  1. If I’m really stuffed after a meal, it wasn’t a great choice - regardless of what the menu told me. This helps kind of vet out the confusion about whether they fried my chicken in oil or if Chipotle is a good choice; my food coma tells me. It’s also a great way to “save” a poor order - I just stop eating partway through the meal when I’m no longer hungry.

  2. Metabolic Drive saves me so much justification it’s insane. It goes like this: I know I need more protein for a variety of reasons and that dietary fat is not inherently evil… so all of a sudden I justify eating tons of fatty cuts of beef and pork, etc. (to hit my protein targets), until I’ve still blown out my caloric load. A scoop of Metabolic Drive before a meal both hits that number, so I don’t “need” to eat the fatty choices available, and it fills me up so it’s easier for me to get satisfied (number one above). This might not be a big deal for everyone, as a lot of folks seem to control their fat intake better than carbs, but it helps me.

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So much good advice above. About a year ago I changed my diet for reasons unrelated to weight loss but the effect of the change led to weight loss. Two changes I made that I believe caused the most weight loss were the following:

  1. Focusing my meat consumption 90% on fins and feathers with no deep frying. Eating almost exclusively poultry and seafood with the occasional red meat or pork naturally reduced my calories. (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with red meat, I just do a bad job choosing lean cuts.)

  2. Replacing highly processed carbs with fiber rich alternatives. For me this means white rice is mostly off the table. I now try to make sure my carb sources contain at least 1 gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbs. I find it is hard for me to overeat such foods.

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@bigmac615 I just read that it’s last call for the (Un)Official 2024 T-ransformation Challenge. I really think it might be something you enjoy participating in. There are exceptionally fit people in there, but also folks in worse shape than you. And we all have the same goal - to be closer to our goals come June 1st than we are now.

It’s a nice, supportive space.

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Hello everyone, seeing as you all provided such thorough and thoughtful advice I just wanted to check in with a progress update. I am running an upper/lower split with some compound lifts included and am enjoying it so far. I have started at moderate intensity and am including some sauna work as well. For the first month or so, I plan on keeping the intensity around a moderate level to not burn myself out early. After the first upper/lower round I feel sore and tired, but generally in good spirits. The workout is included below.

UPPER
Bench Press (Dumbbell) 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Bent Over Row (Barbell) 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Seated Shoulder Press (Machine) 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Lat Pulldown (Cable) 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Cable Fly Crossover 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell) 2-3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Concentration Curl 2 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Triceps Rope Pushdown 2 sets of 12 to 20 reps

LOWER
Squat (Barbell) 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell) 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Lunge (Dumbbell) 3 sets of 16 to 30 reps (total)
Lying Leg Curl (Machine) 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Single Leg Hip Thrust 3 sets of 6 to 15 reps (per leg)
Leg Extension (Machine) 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Seated Calf Raise 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps

For nutrition, I have not been focused on any kind of “counting”, but have been trying to cook for myself for every meal and focus on eating healthier foods. I’ve been eating things like beef stew loaded with veggies, egg scramble, peanut butter/tuna on whole grain toast, fruit, and been trying to cook my meals at home. Tonight I’m making chicken thighs and will probably cook some asparagus and some kind of nutritious grain as well. For the first month, I have decided to not go extremely strict on nutrition and instead am trying to just eat better and see how my body responds with the lifting program. As you all mentioned, this needs to be a lifestyle, and I need to find something that is sustainable. As I get further into training/if I am not having a positive response, I will look into adding some more of the suggestions offered here. I am hoping the weight training and healthier cooking will be enough to initially send myself in a positive direction.

Additionally, as part of my New Year’s resolution, I have made it a point to consistently journal throughout the course of the year, which I have already noticed is having a positive impact on getting me to be more disciplined/ I think will be a positive way to keep my emotional eating in check.

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I just saw this last call message today. Hopefully it is not too late! I will look into it.

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Let’s ask! @TrainForPain?

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Jump in, man. I think it would be an outstanding idea for you. Let’s go!

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Not together I hope. :slight_smile:

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