From top to bottom is about a year apart.
I basically decided after a family tragedy that I was sick of making excuses and sick of not being happy with how I looked. I'm a competitive powerlifter in the 198 class (1521 total, 450 bench in competition), and I was always the fattest middleweight at any meet. So from an objective standpoint, I simply wasn't going to be able to perform my best carrying all that useless fat. And off-topic, I think the "fat leverage" argument is complete bullshit and everyone from 220 down benefits much more from being lean.
So my main motivation here was to recomp in a way that didn't affect my performance. For me that meant a slow cut, and I did all my own diet programming throughout the process. I also am of the belief that ultimately we all have the potential to be our best coaches. When coaching yourself, there is no language barrier to try and overcome in describing how you feel, you just know it. The process takes longer to get good at, I'd say, but the ceiling is higher this way.
I followed an IIFYM approach throughout the cut, which lasted from May through the first week of January. This meant that no foods were restricted provided I hit my numbers, but I did take this time to really discover what foods worked for me.
My basic strategy was to initially just hit macros, and as I went along I would try to introduce a new "healthier lifestyle" variable. For me that included things like eating more green vegetables, consuming primarily very lean cuts of meat, making as much of my food myself as possible, minimizing artificial sweeteners, etc. the possibilities to "clean up" one's diet are endless, and given the aggregate nature of chronic inflammation, I think this is the most logical approach to counter it.
I had at least one massive refeed every week, and for a period I was refeeding twice. I noticed that for me I could only tolerate the one and still get leaner, so that's what I did.
In addition to IIFYM, I employed strategies that I considered to be the 10% to the 90% that is hitting consistent macros. The main players there were carb-cycling, intermittent fasting, shifting to a relatively low-fat diet, and nutrient timing.
To me, these mainly function as mental relief. It was a way for me to keep the diet "fresh" while still maintaining the willpower to move forward with it. I'll say that I feel better having gone to a lower-fat diet, but there was a noticeable basement level of dietary fat beyond which I felt awful.
I introduced cardio around the halfway point, and started with 1 day of HIIT, 2 days LISS. I tried to increase my LISS time or intensity each time I did it, and did the same with HIIT. I've since gotten into the 4-6 range of days cardio/week, trying to balance HIIT and LISS.
From photo 1 to photo 4 I went from 215 to 195. I was initially around 20% bodyfat and finished around 10%. My main assessment tool was the mirror, though I did caliper measurements a few times over the course of the cut. I don't remember where my macros started, but they bottomed out at 250p/100c/45f and 250p/200c/45f on alternating days.
My basic strategy was to run a few weeks at a given level of macros, then tweak something, whether it be macros or introducing a new variable like carb-cycling. My meal timing changed to accommodate my ability to train.
The scale is an awful tool for non-beginners to gauge progress
Eating nutritious foods makes the body feel incredible
Cardio makes the body feel incredible
Being lean is way better than the alternative
There is more than one way to diet, just do what is sustainable for you
There is no reason you can't get stronger while cutting, especially in the initial phases
My profile pic is 3 weeks into the reverse, and I'm currently 5 weeks into it. Current macros are 270p/300c/65 fat. My reverse has been 20g c added on Monday to the weekly macros, and 5g fat on thurs. I replaced that with 20g protein one week, and I'm going to keep fat at 65 for the time being. I'll keep adding calories until I start gaining weight and belly fat, at which point I'll stop adding and maintain through my next meet in April. My goal is to push calories as high as possible without getting fatter, then shred for summer after I feel recovered from the meet. I'm taking a weekly abdominal caliper measurement to keep myself honest. I'm currently at 8-9mm and want to keep that under 10.
As I said, all self-programmed. It's basically high frequency on the competition lifts and is pretty much a DUP program periodized as I saw fit. It's detailed in my log much better than I can explain here.