Note: You are an individual, your results will vary depending on genetics, adherence, and effort.
For the Japanese, new year is like Christmas – people gather with family and, of course, there are special foods eaten. Those green things in the image below are mochi, soft, gooey rice sweets, about the size of a large soup spoon, and every year a handful of people choke to death in front of their families after a failed attempt to swallow the whole thing.
In the same way that these poor souls literally bite off more than they can chew, so do many people with their approach to dieting each new year. Ramping up activity to a vast degree and cutting calories to a heavy level is a terrible way to go about sustainable weight loss, but mainstream media have people convinced that you have to suffer to lose weight. And even though our logical minds understand that slow and sustainable is probably the best way to go about making permanent changes, the heart often tells us that faster is better – and there’s always an event that you need to look good for, that can be used as an excuse to rush, right?
Here’s an interview with a man that’s tried it all, my longest running client, John. His words and results are testament to the fact that while ‘consistency’, ‘moderation’ and ‘modest deficits’ may have an unsexy ring to them, the results aren’t.
Client Interview: John, USA
Age: 45-46, Height: 5’11, Weight: 221lbs -> 175lbs, Stomach: 41.5” -> 31.9”
John, thank you for your time. Can you tell us what you do?
I am a Unix System Administrator for a well-known media corporation.
You were fit when you were younger, how did you get overweight?
Well, since sitting is the ‘new smoking’, that’s most of how it happened. A sedentary job combined with 24/7/365 on-call duties that too frequently disrupt sleep or have me up around the clock… combine that with “convenience food” that we now know initiates a vicious cycle of cravings and bingeing. It really doesn’t take long for those patterns to destroy your health. I could always lose weight with effort and sheer willpower, but like many people I found myself losing the same 15-25lbs over and over and over. As I grew older, those rebounds produced diminishing returns. Each cycle I ended up 5 or 10lbs heavier than the previous time.
You told me recently that you’ve been a stalker of internet fitness info on the web since way back in 2001. Why did you hire me?
I’ve worked with several ‘big name’ internet trainers/coaches. ALL of their programs and diets produced results initially. The problem for me was that those programs required increasing amounts of gym time and caloric restriction to either maintain or produce further results. I had to be honest with myself about the amount of time I could spend in the gym and how many chicken salads with plain baked potatoes I could eat.
My ‘epiphany’ came at the point where I was working with a popular online trainer and I was doing 2 hours of cardio PER DAY. I was definitely losing weight, but the amount of effort and restriction didn’t seem commensurate with my results. One Sunday I was up at 6am to do my cardio and my knee was really sore. Just before I started I had a thought.. “Will I still be able to weight train 3-4 days a week AND do 2 hours of cardio per day when I’m 60?”. I realized that I could suck it up and battle through this NOW.. but I was a spry, young 40 yr. old. Now, of course, I know there are 70yr. old triathletes out there today crushing it, but I also understand that I won’t be one of them. Instinctively I knew that I needed to find something that was sustainable for ME. After stumbling upon this “new IF thing”, I tried to implement it myself twice and screwed it up both times. I would get solid results initially… but I could never make the right adjustment when my progress stalled. I wanted guidance from someone who had implemented the program successfully.
That’s when I found your website… which clearly instructed me to go hire Martin Berkhan. He was busy, so I hired you. 🙂
How did you progress?
In hindsight? PERFECTLY. At the time, as you’ll recall, I was experiencing some frustration because I was “only losing 1.5lbs/wk”. Working with other coaches I had lost anywhere from 3-6lbs per week. Mind you it was with MUCH greater effort and restriction, but we clients never remember that, do we? So that was the overall story of my progress. It does take a while for 1.5lbs/wk to add up to 50, but my progression was as close to linear as one could possibly expect, I think. The amazing thing was that I continued to gain strength month after month. If I remember correctly, It wasn’t until I had dipped below my high school weight of 185lbs that I saw any decline in my lifts at all (yep… bench press). I understand those dips are due to the changing leverages that accompany such substantial fat loss, but I still vow to reclaim them when I reach my leanness goal and turn the corner to clean bulk. 🙂
Please share any surprises or frustrations.
I am still surprised to this day at the simplicity and sheer effectiveness of IF applied with RPT. Friends and family can’t believe that I’ve achieved this drastic change with only 2 hours a week in the gym. If I hadn’t lived it, I’m not sure I’d believe it either. For me, it has been such a natural and effortless integration with my daily schedule. I think my greatest frustration is the knowledge that I could have enjoyed this level of health and well-being my entire adult life if these principles had been understood when I was in my 20’s. I spent YEARS on the diet and exercise merry-go-round and THOUSANDS of dollars on ridiculous, worthless, supplements. That time and money would have been completely wasted if it weren’t for the educational value of discovering that you really can work “smarter not harder”.
I feel you John, had been there myself for a few years which is how this site came about. How do you feel now? Any advice to offer to others?
I literally feel like a new man. It is hard to express in words how this experience has improved literally EVERY aspect of my life. Above all, for me, though.. is the peace of mind I have knowing that I’ll never struggle with my weight again. My advice to others is simply DON’T GIVE UP! I was 46yrs old before I ever saw my abs and I’ve tried pretty much every diet, supplement, and training methodology under the sun. Seriously… I drank raw eggs because Rocky drank raw eggs. 🙂 Give IF a try and see if it fits your life as perfectly as it does mine. If you have the opportunity to work with Andy, so much the better. For me personally, it made all the difference.
Thank you for your time, frankness of speech and willingness to share John.
If you’re wondering about the extended time frame, yes, John kept rehiring me (which is unusual as I like to create independence in clients). This is despite me explaining exactly what he needed do at the end of each three-month period moving forward and bluntly telling him that he didn’t need me to be successful. He insisted that he wanted me to be on him to get this done. In hindsight, perhaps me hovering there keeping him accountable was what made him so? Anyway, here are a few other important notes…
Strength: DL 355×5 -> 375×4, BP 260×7 -> 250×6, SQ 275×4 -> 315×6
- Fair to say that his strength has been maintained pretty well but no significant increases except for the squat. Numbers listed to help you compare. If you’re at a similar start point in terms of body weight and height, but significantly weaker, then you’re not likely to be carrying as much muscle.
- Can’t rule it out. – Despite the little change in John’s main lifts, his chest/back measurement barely changed. This is unusual as reductions in the chest measurement are normal when people are fat-loss focused. (Reach with your right arm across your chest and under your left armpit and grab the fat on your back at nipple level.) I would have assumed measurement error were I not looking at a consistent 18 months of data.
- Ageing – John aged by 18 months.
The Coaching Lesson? Maintenance is still success
It can be hard to convince a client this, but it’s true. Would you believe that John, even at his lowest of 175lbs in that photo, still wanted to hold off from sharing his results because he thought he had further to go? Trust me, everyone raises the bar for themselves when they reach a goal and people all too often fail to take a step back to appreciate what they have done/achieved.
Maintenance of weight is a success and it’s important to allow yourself (or your clients) to recognize that. Your body hates you for changing the status quo – the ‘set point’ that it is used to – and tries hard to fight it by ramping up hunger and playing all sort of other tricks. However, if you maintain it for long enough you’ll create a new set point for yourself where you can pretty much just eat to hunger again and maintain it, or around that level at least. (More on set point/settling point theory.)
So how is John doing now?
It’s a solid 5 months after that photo was taken and at around 180lbs. There have been a couple of (what he’d perceive to be) set backs from his goal of being truly shredded, but he’s still in the right range despite being looser with counting, and I think that’s the main thing.
Here is John’s scale weight data for the last 18 months. Gaps are just missing data, jumps are from either purposeful diet breaks, holidays or otherwise.
Full guide to do it yourself here, so if you think a friend may find it useful please share.
Thank you for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments.