I have some broad concepts that may help you, and I can go into detail on specifics if you’d like. I notice you said you’d like to keep this fat off “forever”. This is my truth that I know from my own experience the past 3 years when I started my own fitness project – which has kept my spare tire off with no sign of coming back.
I’ve been helping a friend get in shape, and the first thing I told him was to mentally reframe the entire endeavor differently. The actual problem is a busted metabolism…the fat is just a symptom of that problem. Instead of being the guy chasing 20 pounds, be the guy who is determined to fix his metabolism, which will eventually end with being fit. He’s been doing well for three months, and sometimes I have to tell him dial it back a little because he thinks he’s going to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club by summer. But I keep telling him he’s sabotaging his long term progress by going too hard with the calorie deficit and training. People will tell him he looks better this summer…but next summer he’s going to look good.
Which leads to the second important point…set a long term goal and work toward it slowly, because from what I’ve seen with people around me (and myself) is that when you set a short term goal to “lose weight” quickly, you may make it there – but the crazy, intense program you’ve used will not be sustainable over the long term. I’m not saying make things easy for yourself, but it has to be something you can work into your lifestyle and almost not notice it’s there. Once you stop the super intense emergency diet and exercise (which will happen) the fat will come back with a vengeance because you’ve further damaged your hormones and told your body to basically be a fat storage depot. It can’t wait to get back into that mode and will do it as soon as you allow it by letting up.
I fixed my metabolism by intermittent fasting and adding hill sprints to my workout program twice a week, and not eating bread or processed foods. Of course, it’s a little more complex than that. While I don’t pay too close attention to my macros, I do focus on getting lots of protein, with (good) fats second and carbs a very distant third – unless I’m bulking like I am now. The first year I looked OK, but the second year I was looking great. The third year has been even better, and I haven’t reverted back to my old ways because I eased into my fitness program, and also had room to experiment with different thing like ketogenic diet (which I abandoned) – but I’ve stuck with IF and HIIT (mainly sprinting) because it seems to help me drop body fat when needed. Ever see a sprinter’s body? They didn’t get that insane physique by jogging on a treadmill.
The last thing I’ll say is I’ve noticed that once you get lean, you would have to make an effort to get out of shape. I believe this is because over a long period of time, I’ve wrangled my metabolism to prefer fat burning to fat storage. This isn’t something which will happen in a few months.
Oh, and don’t worry about volume vs intensity so much. I do both with no rhyme or reason, depends on how I’m feeling that day and it’s been working nicely. Just do the work and the results will come. I will say I really like 5 by 5, as long as I’m using it to make progress with one body part.
Some will disagree I’m sure, as it always happens. This is my own personal experience and if it helps someone, that’s great.