The Healthy Executive

Fat To Fit: What’s Possible In 8 Weeks?

Reading time: 4.0 minutes (2400 words @ 600 wpm[1])
Get Fit or Die Fat

Have you ever wondered how much weight you can lose in 8 weeks? And how much stronger you can get?

I’m sure you’ll agree this is not easy for busy executives facing too many demands and too little time.

I promise to show you proof of what’s possible in 8 weeks using myself as a test subject.

In this post I will show you exactly what I did including what I ate, how I motivated myself, and the ways I moved to build strength and shed fat.

Plus I will explain why your grandma is a liar, how social media can help you shed pounds, and the simplest supplement trick. Ever.

I am 8 weeks into a 12 week experiment, so its reasonable to expect to be two-thirds of the way towards my goals (lose 25 lbs and quadruple my strength).

Below I will show you how this turns out (or not).

Week 8 Expectations

DateWeightWaistBody FatLean
Body-Mass
Push-UpsPull-Ups
START
(Week 0)
191 lbs
(86.5 kg)
40"24.1%146 lbs
(66 kg)
34 reps3 reps
Week 8
EXPECTED
174.5 lbs
(79 kg)
36.5"14%150 lbs
(68 kg)
52 reps
11.5 reps
Week 8
ACTUAL
see belowsee belowsee belowsee belowsee belowsee below
GOAL
(Week 12)
166 lbs
(75 kg)
35"9%152 lbs
(69 kg)
61 reps16 reps

Title

Better Psychology = Better Health

In my original “Dogfood” post, I detailed how my bad health psychology resulted in my 25 lb weight gain and 75% strength loss. I shared my tips on improving health psychology. I even show you how the fitness industry exploits your health psychology.

Here are some further tips I use daily to keep my motivation healthy:

  • Tip – Ask yourself, will eating a donut or skipping exercise moving me closer or farther from my goal? Self-awareness and self-honesty leads to better decisions, and better decisions increase your self-respect.
  • Tip – There are 2 of ‘you’: One of you wants a donut (enjoy yourself now, pay the price later). The other you wants 6-pack abs (pay now, enjoy yourself later). You can’t win a battle you can’t see, so recognize these 2 ‘you’s’.
  • Tip – Be compassionate with yourself: We all mistakes, stress eat, or skip a workout. That’s actually perfectly normal. Perfection is abnormal. Forgive yourself, take countermeasures, and move forwards.
  • Tip – Either way, its easy: What’s easy to do is also easy not to do.[2] Being healthy is really pretty simple. But it’s also pretty easy to put it off. You can’t solve a problem you can’t see, so understand this psychological tendency.
  • Tip – Eat on autopilot:. You eat 21 meals a week. Aim to make as many of those meals as repeatable and healthy as possible (for instance breakfast). If you plan your menu now, you will not struggle with food decisions later.
  • Tip – Compress time: If you can walk 15-20 minutes every day that’s great. But if you are crunched for time, then compress all of it into one 12 minute sprint a week (here’s why and how).
  • Tip – Round up: That means lifting 1 more repetition, sprinting 1 more second, or walking an extra tenth of a mile. If you use an app to measure calories, keep going until you reach the next even 50 or 100. If you are timing yourself, keep going to the next even 5, 10 , or 15 minutes.
  • Tip – Be realistic: If we aim too high too fast, the result is frustration and burnout. If we aim too low and progress too slow, the result is discouragement or boredom. Instead, make one small eating improvement at at time, like walk an extra 10 minutes a day. Aim to incorporate small changes into your everyday routine before tackling a new one.
  • Tip – Cheat day: The truth is, losing weight means temporarily restricting calories and occasionally being hungry. It can even make you feel grumpy. One cheat day a week is something to look forward to, improves your mood by boosting serotonin, and stops the leptin hormone from making you feel starving.
  • Tip – What gets measured gets done: Here are the health and fitness apps I find helpful. Sticky notes, spreadsheets, or carrier pigeons are fine if they work for you.
  • Tip – Delegate accountability: Consider using an online health coach to guide you and hold you accountable as you work together to shift your mindset and habits.
  • Tip – Don’t eat your miles: To burn off an extra 100 calories, you have to walk a mile at a 20 minute pace. It’s a lot less time and effort to not eat a donut (195 calories) than it is to spend 40 minutes walking 2 miles to burn it off.

Title

What It Feels Like

Psychology or mindset is important when losing weight and gaining strength. So how does that play out in the other dimensions of personality? Here are my observations this month:

  • Emotionally: I feel more emotional energy than usual the last couple of weeks. The highs feel higher, my center feels more balanced…and the lows, well, see Stress next.
  • Stress: I’ll be honest – running a 1000 cal/day deficient can at times make me feel edgy and short with people. The antidote? Cheat day. Eating an eating 100g of carbs once a week seems to restore my hormonal balance and equanimity.
  • Cognition: I observe I have more mental energy than usual. I no longer feel “brain drained” after intensely concentrating like I did before. My diurnal low (3pm afternoon slump) paradoxically feels shorter but deeper. I combat it with a power nap (fall asleep holding my keys in my hand).
  • Physically: I feel stronger than when I first started this challenge. I especially notice it going up the stairs or when lifting heavy objects. I am no longer ashamed to see my body in the mirror.
  • Credibility: I believe in proof not promises. So it was gratifying to help a recent client lose 35 lbs (16kg) and become fit enough to participate in his favorite sport.
  • Sleep: In the last weeks, I’ve noticed it’s been easier than usual for me to fall asleep (switch off) and I wake up faster as well. I no longer wake up feeling tired.
  • Travel: I left the U.S. for Mexico to prep my sailboat for bottom painting. Mexico now ranks first in the world for obesity. The cause? Processed foods are now cheaper than their traditional diet of whole foods.

image

Deficit Good. Surplus Bad.

Eating fewer calories than you require ain’t rocket surgery. Last month I lost 8.47 lbs (3.84kg) by running a 29,633 calorie deficit using 60% diet and 40% exercise.

Consider the opposite case.

In a recent study[3] middle-age men ate a daily surplus of 6,200 calories and gained 8 lbs of fat in 1 week! [4]

The point? Calorie deficits or surpluses matter to our health. A lot.

Here are my calories numbers for the last four weeks.

Weeks 5-8 Calories

DateFood Calories In
(actuals from logs)
Exercise Calories
(actuals from logs)
Calorie Requirement
(for steady state)
My Actual
Calorie Deficit
Calculated
Weight Loss
Sub-Totals44,853
(1,602 per day)
-16,550
(-591 per day)
60,200
(2,150 per day)
-31,897
(-1,139 per day)
-9.11 lbs
(-4.12 kg)
Week 511,323
(1,618 per day)
-3,990
(-570 per day)
15,050
(2,150 per day)
-7,717
(-1,102 per day)
-2.20 lbs
(-1.0 kg)
Week 611,346
(1,621 per day)
-4,196
(-599 per day)
15,050
(2,150 per day)
-7,900
(-1,129 per day)
-2.26 lbs
(-1.02 kg)
Week 711,472
(1,639 per day)
-3,395
(-485 per day)
15,050
(2,150 per day)
-6,973
(-996 per day)
-1.99 lbs
(-0.9 kg)
Week 810,712
(1,530 per day)
-4,969
(-710 per day)
15,050
(2,150 per day)
-9,307
(-1,330 per day)
-2.66 lbs
(-1.2 kg)

In real life, weight creeps on gradually and strength disappears silently. I shared my personal struggle about what happens between age 20 and 40 .

As a busy leader, I travel a lot.  When at home, I have the support of friends. On the road, I use social media to support my health goals.

Don't Go Health Alone

Harness Social Support

Going it alone can be tough.

Friends and family play a major role in the success of your health goals. Social support can help you stick to your goals and stay on track when your own confidence wanes. But the people around you can have a negative impact as well.

  • Researchers found that the  participants with social support lost more than three times the pounds of the self-help group the first year. On average, the people with social support group lost almost 10 pounds compared to three pounds in the self-help group.
  • In another study, two-thirds of those who enrolled their friends support had kept their weight off six months after the program ended. In contrast, only a quarter of those who attended on their own had achieved that same success.
  • Tip: Share your health goals with your friends and family. They may not show much interest or support in the beginning, but if you work to improve your health they will come around over time.
  • Tip: An office weight loss challenge can be a fun and motivating way to lose weight in a group. You and your colleagues can offer each other friendly competition and bragging rights that can turn a humdrum health or fitness program into a fun team activity. You can do an inter-mural challenge (between groups at different companies) or intramural challenges (e.g. Sales versus Engineering within your company). You can even use challenges to raise money for great causes. There are now a variety of cloud services and smartphone apps that make organizing these a snap (email me for tips on group challenges).

Social Media for Health

Upgrade Your Social Media

I’ll be honest here – in the group of the 5 people closest to me in terms of time and proximity, I’d have to include  my computer/cellphone/tablet. Business demands it, and I also do most of my research and personal reading online as well. So I tried a 21-day experiment of surround myself with positive messages electronically. I signed up for newsletters that provide healthy messages, filled my Facebook feed with posts from transformational coaches and meditation advice, and followed health-oriented Twitter feeds. I also pruned crappy people and news sources from my feeds that irritated me.

The result? After 21 days I felt significantly more balanced and aligned with my goals. In fact I made it a weekly part of my practice to review my online environment and add new things to inspire me and drop old things that don’t align with my goals.

  • Tip: You can read more about how social media can help you lose weight at Psychology Today.
  • Tip: If you travel a lot but still want direct support, find out if an online health coach might be right for you.

Healthy Executive Food

Healthy Executive Food

70–80% of losing weight is the result a negative calorie balance. It Ain’t Rocket Surgery.

In fact you can lose weight eating coke and chips (the Warren Buffet diet) or lose 37 lbs eating at MacDonalds.

20–30% of weight loss and overall health is the result of exercise and nutrition.

Exercise builds strength and longevity, and good nutrition fuels that process.

  • Tip: To build muscle and loss fat at the same time, the average man should aim for 150g of protein a day and consume less than 100g carbs.
  • Tip: Use food displacement to achieve better nutrition. This means eat your protein and veggies first. This will help ‘displace’ or ‘crowd out’ the amount of carbs you would otherwise consume.
  • Tip: Unless prescribed by your doctor, supplements are highly overrated and matter less than 1% to your overall health. Don’t major in the minors.
  • Tip: You can find more Healthy Executive food and nutrition tips here.

Here are my exact food diaries of every bite I ate in my first 8 weeks.

Title

Your Grandma Is (Sort Of) A Liar

Are you one of those people who cleans your plate because…Mom said so?
Your Mom likely got that well-meaning advice from her mother.

Why?

Your Grandma likely lived through the Depression in the 1930’s when food was scarce. In her situation, eating everything on the plate made a lot of sense because of food insecurity.

Your Grandma loves you and means well, but her advice is terrible if you need to lose a few pounds. Also, your grandma lied to you about vitamins.

But in Grandma’s defense, she is absolutely correct when she says “eat your vegetables and go play outside with your friends”.

Title

The Simplest Supplement Strategy. Ever.

Multiple studies show the need for supplements and vitamins is largely a myth. Sorry Grandma, Vitamin C does not cure the common cold.

  • Three trials of multivitamins and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins using 400,000 participants were systematically reviewed [Fortman, et al].
    • There was no clear evidence that the pills reduced all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.
  • 28-component multivitamins were assessed in 1708 men and women who had previously experienced heart attacks [Lama, et al].
    • After 4.6 years, they didn’t see any difference in mortality rates.
  • Researchers wanted to see if a multivitamin helped prevent cognitive decline in 5,947 men over the age of 65 [Grodstein, et al].
    • After 12 years o they saw now difference between the placebo group and the multivitamin group.

Supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Recent FDA lab testing shows most ‘herbal’ supplements are mostly rice powder.[5]

Fear not, it turns out there is a simple solution:

1 Red + 1 White + 1 Green

This simply means eat 1 vegetable every day that is red, white, or green. Here’s the evidence:

  • 500 researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries compared notes from over 100,000 data sources [Global Burden of Disease Study].
    • The goal was to determine what specifically was causing the most deaths globally.
  • The biggest killer of humans was found to be diet, which is/was responsible for killing almost 5 million people a year.
    • The specific aspect of diet that is killing people is the lack of vegetables and fruits.
    • This approach is shown in a TEDx video by a doctor to reverse her Multiple Sclerosis!
  • Tip: Due to their calorie density, it’s almost almost impossible to overeat vegetables.Vegetables Fill You Uo
  • Tip: Spread your veg:
    • For breakfast, eat a veggie omelette.
    • For lunch, stir fry’s are a good choice.
    • For dinner, broccoli and steak is a great combo.
  • Tip: In a hurry? Want to keep things simple? Eat a salad for lunch.
    • Be careful of dressings – they contain oil (1 tablespoon of oil = 150 calories).
  • Tip: Hungry between meals? Snack on vegetables.
    • Pickles are one of my favorites (they are just cucumbers in vinegar).
  • Tip: Hate eating vegetables? Try a green shake or smoothie instead.
    • NASA claims 1g of spirulina is equivalent to eating 2 lbs (1kg) of assorted fruits and vegtables.
  • Tip: Drink your vegetables Part II: Admittedly it’s a stretch, but occasionally I will count a Bloody Mary as vegetable or a glass of wine as a fruit.

Health Executive Exercise

Healthy Executive Exercise

At the start of my challenge, I set a goal to burn a minimum of 250 calories a day via exercise.

Speed Up Your Progress

What if there was a magical way to get more fit in less time?

Turns out, there is a way.

Fitness is the result of putting a load on your metabolism (aka exercise). And the load on your metabolism is a product the intensity and duration of the exercise. In other words:
Fitness = Intensity X Duration
If your body was a car, you get there sooner by driving faster, right?

If you increase the intensity of exercise, you can achieve the same level of fitness in less time. This is not for everybody. In fact, only ~10% of the population enjoys intense exercise. The majority of people prefer their exercise level only to the level of a brisk walk or casual bike (Metabolic Equivalent Level 4). And that’s perfectly ok.

The following graph shows how higher intensity can reduce your exercise duration.

Exercise Intensity versus Duration

  • Tip: Use High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) when you are short on time. On busy days I substitute 12 minutes of Tabata sprints for 45 minutes walking.
  • Tip: Lift Heavy Things (LHT) once a week for 12 minutes. One of my objectives in this challenge is to quadruple my strength, and walking simply can’t help me achieve that. LHT could mean heavy duty chores, bodyweight movements that require no equipment, or a quick session with weights.
  • Tip: Go Coronal. Virtually all exercise occurs in the Sagittal plane. So mix things up and do a balance workout. I guarantee you this firefighter workout looks easy but will kick your ass guaranteed.

Here are my exact walking, sprinting, and lifting logs from my first 8 weeks.

Healthy Executive Results

Did I Make My Week 8 Numbers?

So the $64 question is:

Am I on track to make the Week 8 numbers?

The answer is yes.

My lean body mass (additional muscle) and strength gains meet predicted expectations.

My fat loss is quite close to predicted expectation, but a tad off (5-8%). I will delve into possible reasons why once the Week 12 data is in (watch for next month’s post).

Week 8 Results

DateWeightWaistBody FatLean
Body-Mass
Push-UpsPull-Ups
START
(Week 0)
191 lbs
(86.5 kg)
40"24.1%146 lbs
(66 kg)
34 reps3 reps
Week 8
EXPECTED
174.5 lbs
(79 kg)
36.5"14%150 lbs
(68 kg)
52 reps
11.5 reps
Week 8
ACTUAL
176.5 lbs
(80 kg)
36.7"14.9%149.9 lbs
(68 kg)
52 reps11 reps
GOAL
(Week 12)
166 lbs
(75 kg)
35"9%152 lbs
(69 kg)
61 reps16 reps

Will I Make My Week 12 Numbers?

Next month I will publish an update on Week 12 of my 12 Week plan. My predicted weight should be 166 lbs (down from 191) and my strength should be quadrupled (by adding 6 lbs of muscle).

I will include exact logs of what I ate and how I moved as well as my psychology and struggles.

Plus, you will get lots of new and practical tips on how to improve your health and fitness, such as:

  • Why motivation is so hard to maintain and what to do about it.
  • How to be physically stronger leader.
  • Stalls and Whooshes: When the scales don’t budge.
  • Why cheat day works and how to do it right.
  • Things I learned during my challenge and what I’d do different.
  • Movember: Growing a mustache to improve men’s health.

Find Out What Happens Next…

You can find out whether I succeed or fall flat on my face in Week 12 of my 12 Week plan. Just enter your email address here and I will notify you of my next monthly update:

image

Images

brain and gears

References

  1. Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?, Forbes  ↩
  2. h/t to Jim Rohn, Mentor of the Masters  ↩
  3. Science Translational Medicine study, Sept 9 2015.  ↩
  4. 7 days x (6,200 calories in – 2,200 BMR) = 28,000 cals / 3,500 cals per pound = 8 lbs (of fat).  ↩
  5. If you work for USANA please do not contact me to enlist.  ↩

Also published on Medium.

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