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Training/Eating Help for a Beginner?

Hi my name is Chrislyn. I am 38 5’0" and weigh 149 lbs. medically I am 30 lbs overweight. physically I’m tired and have pain in joints and muscles. emotionally I feel crappy about myself. I have always stayed somewhat on the smaller side 120-130 but as age and life progressed the same old tricks don’t work anymore. I have tried numerous diets!!!

I want something different. I want to be healthy I want to feel and look great! I want to build muscle and strength. Problem…I have no idea where to start!!! currently I have been doing a high protein low carb diet 900-1100 calories a day no starches no sodas and no artificial sugars. the first month I lost 17 lbs then I started a new job where my work hours are ridiculous fluctuating between 2nd and third shift throughout the week, my body doesn’t know up from down so since july I have been yo-yoing with 4 lbs. I try to do a workout everyday but it doesn’t always happen. currently doing 21 day fix with a set of 5lb dumbells. can anyone help.

I know nothing about this way of life so I literally would need the manual of weight training and healthy eating for DUMMIES!! lol thanks everyone

I would start with 5/3/1 for Beginners

Can’t find a link here on T Nation, but this is from Wendler’s blog

It outlines the program well.
BUT, you will not be able to weight train on 900 calories a day. Don’t even try!

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First things first is to realize you can’t run your body on 900 calories a day. That won’t even cover your basic functions like immune system. So, if you are being absolutely accurate about the number of calories you are eating, you are in trouble.

If you want to be healthy you HAVE to eat more. And if you want to be leaner you have to have enough fuel in your gas tank to do activities like weight lifting.

The best course of action here is to GRADUALLY increase your calories a bit to normal levels. A huge immediate jump in calories will see you gain a lot of weight back, but if you gradually increase it 60-80 calories a week for 4 weeks you will make it easier for your body to adjust. Easiest way to do that is simply to add a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to your day (like on a salad as a" dressing") every day. Then the week after add another 1/2 to a different salad.

And so on for 4 weeks.

How long have you been dieting on that low calorie diet and how often do you cheat on the diet? Do you count absolutely EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth that isn’t water or spinach/lettuce?

EDIT–I would say a minimum calorie intake should be at least 1300 calories, so I would take this approach–you can use other things besides olive oil–til you get to 1300 at least every day. I would prefer a bit more but that is at least not as dangerously low.

Also, what is your current job?

Another consideration is that you need enough fuel to make your job function–if it is physically demanding you need energy and if it is mentally demanding you need energy to make good decisions.

As far as diet goes the big picture, strategic basic rules are:

  1. good protein intake–you are currently doing this so good

  2. predictable meal times–your body needs to know when to expect food. The more predictable your meal times the easier your body will eventually let go of fat. This means evenly spaced out meals of approximately equal calories. With shift work there is only so much that can be done, but set a schedule and keep it.

  3. Don’t skip meals–this goes along with the above point. The less predictable your meal times and calorie intake the more your body will hoard fat. Incidentally this is also a big reason I said not to abruptly change calories by a huge amount in my first post.

  4. Never have a meal of ONLY protein. You need healthy fats to run your body–immune system, nervous system, joints, you name it–so if you are going with a low carb approach each meal needs to have healthy fats in at least some amount. (If you were doing a diet with higher carbs this same point applies to that–no matter the diet never have a meal of ONLY protein…like a scoop of protein powder in water. Bad idea)

These are the big picture things. The diets can get complex, and they can add a lot of details, but they are always built on these principles—if a diet is not built on these principles it is very likely it is bullshit or unhealthy.

TRAINING–Training wise the best immediate advice I can give is to be active every day putside of work. Weight training is great, but in your present calorie condition at 900 calories a day I do not believe you can sustain any weight training. 5 lb dumbbells do not count so those you can continue to use now, I am talking about rigorous weight training.

So my best advice is to be active while you raise calories: go for quick walks for 45 minutes, bicycle, find trails and hike them, anything that is not sitting down and watching TV.

To lose fat the biggest factor besides diet is frequency of activity. Your body is inefficient at burning fat, and as with any new skill the way to get better at it is to practice frequently. At this point it does not matter what you do so long as you are doing something that makes you sweat.

As your calories increase you should start seriously weight training, but right now you need to get out of the danger zone first.


Hi, thank you for the response. I have been doing this since the first week
of June. I do count everything and I usually go over 1100, but I don’t
worry about it cause I was still seeing results. I have cheated a few times
but I’m pretty good about staying on track. I already use olive oil with
just about everything I cook. What should my totally calories a day be?

My current job is a security guard. I sit in a shack for 8-12 hours and do
nothing. I try to walk when I can but it’s not always possible. Depending
on what post I’m at there are always cars coming in and I have to check
their badge. I know that routine is let, that’s my problem my schedule is
different day to day and week to week. Last week my schedule was
Mon-Thurs 2pm-10pm
Fri 10pm-6am
Sat and Sun off
This week
Mon 2pm-10pm
Tues 6pm-6am
Wed 6pm-6am
Thurs and Fri off
Sat 2pm-10pm
Sun 10pm-6am

Sometimes he will schedule me back to back Fri 10pm-6am then go home get
about 3 or 4 hours of sleep and be back Saturday afternoon 2pm-10pm. The
only 3 people in our staff who are thin or in good shape is him and 2 other
people who have a set 1st shift schedule. Everyone else is largely
overweight and they have told me it is because of this job. I’m trying to
get another job but so far no luck.
As far as the protein. Their are many times I will just have a can of tuna
or for breakfast a protein shake and a yogurt or just eggs. What else
should I add veggies? I have been staying away from all starches but I read
on this website last night that rice potatoes oatmeal buckwheat are good
for you to have I was shocked when I read that and it scares me cause that
has always been a big diet no no!!! I think maybe I should hold off on this
type of body building until I have a better job I don’t want to screw
myself up worse :frowning:

More later, I’m on my phone right now, but it is never too early to start. You dont want to wait, you want to start working towards that. If tha is the message you got from my first couple posts I apologize, that is not the message I want to send to you.

It is possible to lose fat on a shift oriented job. I know a doctor who did just that. It’s not the job that is an excuse people make. People who want to improve make time to improve. Don’t continue to be one of those people making excuses. Jobs, careers, degrees, sports, new skills, none of that stuff is easy to get it all takes work and struggle. It’s not going to be any different for fat loss, but it’s possible just like everything else.

Then if there is a way, tell me what it is!!! Cause I don’t want to give
up hope I don’t want to continue to look and feel this way!

The way is hard work. It’s just not going to be fast. The big picture stuff I already told you.

Yes, rice, potatoes, buckwheat and quinoa can all be good sources of carbs. The trick is in the amounts. Aspirin can help you get rid of a headache right? And it can help with heart attack risk when taken daily right? So if 1 aspirin is good, then a WHOLE BOTTLE must be the best! Right? No of course not. Carbs are not evil. The amount of carbs, the timing of carbs, and the sources of carbs all matter though just like the amount of aspirin you take can help or poison you.

There is more than one way to diet–low carb, higher carb, zone, etc.etc. you know all this stuff. If you’re on a low carb diet then you don’t want to be taking a high carb approach (that’s the opposite of the diet you chose). So while they’re fine you don’t want to use a bunch of them at any 1 single time/meal considering your current state.

The plan is simple:

  1. gradually–GRADUALLY–increase calories every week to at least 1300-1400 to start with. Probably it will be more like 1500 in the end but at least get to 1300.

  2. be active every single day for 1 hour. Every day. Forget the nonsense about 30 minutes 3x a week. Frequent exposure to a new skill increases your ability.

  3. the activity doesn’t matter–what matters is that you break a sweat and get out of breath. Do stuff you like. Swim, hike, bike, etc. You don’t need to be out of breath for the whole hour, just hit periods of being out of breath.

  4. add in weight training–serious weight training. There are lots of beginner programs that you can use, but you need to be adding that in because it’s the most effective single tool you can have for your body. As with all tools you have to use it correctly in order for it to work, and as with all toolboxes you don’t ONLY have 1 single tool in your kit. But it is the most valuable.

If that’s all too complicated, then walk for 1 hour straight every day. Find a couple trails near you or parks, etc. Quick walk mind you, not a slow saunter. But just walk and listen to a book on tape or to music.

Now, what EXACTLY did you eat Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? Exact times and measured amounts. Everything that is not water, even if it is ‘zero calorie’

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I have not been tracking the last few days cuz I started getting discouraged and I have no idea the times I ate I just try to make sure I font eat more then 30gm of protein every 3 hours. But yesterday I got home from work T 615am and went to bed at 7 am slept till 2pm got up and about 30 mins later had a Greek 100 calorie strawberry yogurt then at 5 pm had a small baked potatoe with a sliver of butter salt pepper and a sprinkle of bacon bites about 3oz of baked ham a cup of sauteed spinach with a 1/2 cp cottage cheese at about 12am I had a 8oz protein shake with orange juice about 3am had 1/2 cup of the spinach and cottage cheese. At some point I can’t remember when I had a cheese stick and 2 mini slim jims. Got home at 615am went to bed at 7 am got up at 1pm about 30 mins after had a 1/2 cup oatmeal with Apple’s and cinnamon and that’s all I’ve had so far today


Now, lets look at this.

Breakfast 2:30
yogurt 100 cal

meal2 5pm
baked potato ~160 cal
sliver butter ~40 cal
bacon bites
3 oz ham ~200 cal
1/2 cup cottage cheese ~100 cal
total ~500 cal

12 midnight
scoop protein
8 oz orange juice ~ 250 cal

3 am
1/2 cup cottage cheese, spinach ~100 cal

1 cheese stick ~ 80 cal
2 slim jims ~280 cal (original kind)

810 cal + your biggest meal 500 = 1310 cal

Now, does this look like a healthy diet to you?

Does this look like a low carb diet to you?

Your 30g protein every 3 hours is a good rule…but you are not even close to following it. You have 1 meal there (maaaaybe 2 if we call he protein shake a meal). You have 7 hours between meal 2 and the next time you eat. You are not following your own rule on protein or meal times. And you are not following a low carb diet.

Now that no doubt isn’t what you wanted to hear, but you have to look at the facts if youre going to make good, clearheaded judgments on what and when to eat instead of emotional judgments that will lead you deeper down the spiral.

You could have had something like the following:

2 eggs
1/2 cup oatmeal

4 oz chicken breast
3 oz red potatos
salad + 1/2 Tb olive oil

4 oz salmon
4 oz asparagus
salad with 1 TB vinaigrette dressing

4 oz chicken with lime juice and salt
1/2 avocado topping chicken
spinach salad

4 oz top sirloin, trimmed
1/2 Tb coconut oil topping the steak

1 snack of 1/2 cotage cheese before bed.

That would have been the rough equivalent of your day in calories. And it would have been lower in carbs. Which looks more filling to you?


Your menu definitely looks and sounds much more delicious but also much more expensive lol. I thought what I was eating was low calorie and high protein so I was doing ok. Our food source financially is scarce so I try to go with healthy cheap options. Cheese that’s on sale canned tuna every now and then I will buy a bag of frozen fish and any meats that are on sale. I try to get the least amount of fresh veggies to keep cost down.

Well, you can choose what you want.

frozen chicken breasts in a bag are pretty cheap. And they usually come in 6-8 oz per breast so you dont even use a whole one.

You dont have to use sirloin, you can go with ground beef. That’s normally on sale in at least 1 location. Change salmon to cod or tilapia, fish you can get frozen in bulk (you can for salmon too).

It’s your choice. Slim Jims aren’t cost effective–at my local comvenience store they’re $1.5 each, which means 2 of them are 3 buck or over half a pound of beef or chicken. 1/2 pound beef lasts you 2 meals at 4 oz each. 2 slim jims lasted 1.

Look, I don’t know what your family situation or money situation is. You asked for a diet, you asked for pointers. I gave you a complete starting package with food and rules and activity guidelines. What you do with it is up to you–you can adjust things based on cost or you can keep making excuses. I did this as a broke ass college student, I know something similar can be done.

Make excuses all you want, it won’t change your physique or your health.

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Aragorn’s given you loads of great advice.

I would add that you can really up your green veg and it will only do good things without adding fat, -good for energy, hair skin etc

Here are somethings to try for training and only need light weights…

6 months down the line once you buikd a base, this would be ideal…

I wasn’t trying to make excuses by any means, but there’s a difference
between a broke college student and a family of 4 where one income pretty
much carries the household and the other income is only enough to make up
the difference of what the first income doesn’t cover and running a farm.
The slim jims I buy are a 14 pk of mini’s for about $2.50 I only use them
as a snack until I can get to my next meal. I have been laying here for
hours unable to sleep thinking of what I can do to replace what I’ve been
eating and how I can change my eating and exercise schedule to fit my
screwed up work schedule, so please don’t tell me that I’m making excuses.
I came on this site for help and encouragement. I told you my situation so
that maybe you would know of alternative things, not for you to tell me I
was making excuses. When it comes to determination I can pretty much bet
you don’t know anyone who has as much as I do.
Thank you for taking the time to go thru the things you have gone thru.
Good night

Look, you came on here wanting advice. Aragorn gave you great advice. Now then, if you want some mamby pamby bullshit you came to the wrong forum. These guys are serious. The first post I made on here they ripped my heart out. It hurt, but they were right. I started out on one of those mamby, pamby, bullshit sites and ended up making myself deathly ill, and screwed up.

There is NO quick fix. You said you wanted to be strong and healthy. This is way you get there. The other way just makes you skinny fat, and that is NOT where you want to go. It is an ugly winding road full of potholes. Trust me.

And yes, I am speaking from experience. I don’t a high paying job, I am a single mom with an autistic son who takes care of my aging parents on a small farm. There are days I work 15 hours and some days only 4. And part of that being outside in 105 degree heat. Not to mention I have 10 years on you.

If you live on a farm you can plant a garden, raise chickens, etc… That cuts your grocery bill down and the work helps you towards your goals.

No one has ever taken the time to help me as much as he has you. You should be grateful. Not sarcastic. It wasn’t what you wanted to hear, but it IS what you needed to hear. Now pull yourself together and get it done! You can do this! It is not selfish to want better yourself. The better you feel about yourself, the better you will be for the people around you.

And one more thing…there is NOTHING in a slim jim fit for human consumption!

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Hey, voice of reason here, which isn’t usually how I roll. From the outside @chrislyn, it can be a daunting undertaking and the best thing you can focus on is creating habits that will make you successful in the long run, because, that’s what it is, a long run.

On the internet it can be difficult to tell the difference between some one calling you out to motivate you and some one being insensitive. Because I have been on this site long enough, I can guarantee you that the folks posting in this thread are trying to help and are not being judgmental.

There are shortcuts, but they do not last. The only way to do it right takes time and effort and patience and discipline are the keys. You can do some of the other shit out there - my wife is on 21 Day Fix, just won’t listen to me - but, eating right and resistance training as a way of life is the most effective and healthy way to achieve success.

From my personal experience, when you don’t like advice on this forum, ignore it, or research it first. My first few days here, I completely snapped at a long time member who was trying to be helpful and later I regretted it.

Consider chicken thighs as a protein source. They aren’t as lean as breasts, but are also a lot less expensive. I de-bone and take the skin off and marinate them, then grill up a whole bunch and eat them with brown rice and veggies (frozen) for a few days. The flash frozen fish you mentioned is a great protein, and consider canned salmon - it’s wild caught; I mix it up with eggs and some whole wheat bread crumbs into patties and saute’ them.

There are a few other threads on here with nutrition/meal ideas. Many of them include cheap protein and a crock pot and are pretty good.

Keep your chin up, good luck!

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I have two things to add.

  1. The people who take the time to post on this site tend to care more about your success than they do your feelings. You should start thinking like this as well. It is not a switch you can flip, but it is a mindset you can gradually shift towards.

  2. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be good enough. How do you know if you are being good enough? Simple. You are making progress that can be measured.

Find a way to fit the necessary changes into your life. Good luck!


Thank you. I was also on the 21 day fix and after the first few months I
reverted back to old habits because I didn’t feel fullfiled. I do get the
chicken thighs because I can get 2 meals out of it for my family of 4 for
about $6 for a 10lb bag and every now and then when we have extra money
I’ll get a big bag of talipia, love talipia!!! I am trying to change the
way I do things and find something that will be lifelong not just a quick
fix to drop a few lbs, that’s why I came here. Thank you for talking the
time to respond


I have a thirteen year old daughter that is 5’5" and 165 pounds and still growing, and a ten year old boy with a tapeworm, so I know how to eat cheap. There always seems to be some classic combination of food for each culture. My Honduran friend uses beans and rice, my Italian friend uses peas and pasta. These are cheap and, I believe, provide a complete protein when combined. I avoid high glycemic index carbs so I use whole wheat pasta and brown rice, but that’s just my particular preference.

I’m also a big fan of oatmeal - not the instant! I mix it up with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana for breakfast - all pretty cheap. I add honey as a treat (Low GI).

You can also figure out your calorie requirements with a TDEE calculator on the interweb, or use MyFitnessPal if you have a smartphone. According to this site


you need 2200 calories per day (I used moderate exercise for you). So, figure you want to lose a pound a week, eat 1700 calories per day. Track it, and if it isn’t working after two weeks, add exercise or cut calories. I’m sure the 21 Day Fix probably had you around 1400 calories, which will kill your metabolism and is why you [quote=“chrislyn, post:19, topic:220635”]
didn’t feel fullfiled.

Try a few things at first and make them habits - total calories first, exercise second. Once you have them ingrained, make a few more changes (conditioning for example) and see what happens. It’s important to make them habits and then things will start to change.

Keep plugging!

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