People ask me, “what was it like losing 70lbs?”
Freeing? Empowering? Eye-opening? Life-changing?
None of the above. It’s anti-climactic, kinda boring and the easiest part of the journey. You may not even want to do it, because next up is the hard work: maintenance. You’ve heard the saying, “careful what you wish for; you just might get it.” In the same way, in fitness you may not actually want what you think you want.
Losing fat and gaining muscle are the two easiest things you’ll ever do in your life. They are intrinsic to life. You do them both every single day. You’ve done them. The quantities of change vary and may have never been what you “wanted;” but the fact remains that you can and have changed both.
Maintenance inherently is another game altogether. It’s elusive. Holding your ground is the real task. Thanks to entropy even maintenance is a progression. So do you really want the costs involved in that goal? Think about it this way: do you really want your goal if it means you will be living a different life? You may think so now. Consider the future wisely. You may get your wish. And then what?
You see, there is this very simple and incontestable fact: you cannot have it all. You cannot live the way you currently live and obtain the body and health of someone who doesn’t live the way you live. Some people wrap their heads around this for the transformation. “Obviously,” you might say to yourself, “I will have to make lifestyle changes to alter my health and fitness.” Yet what people are generally not acknowledging is the aftermath. Once you lose the weight, gain the muscle, improve cardiac function, enhance mobility… then what? Maintenance doesn’t have to look like what it took to get there. Nonetheless, it does have to look more like what it took to get there than it looks like what you were doing beforehand.
Everyone has already grown a lot of muscle and lost a lot of fat. You once were a zygote. So, even the skinniest waif out there has done some serious mass gaining. You once had growth spurts in height. So, you’ve experience precipitous drops in BMI. The average American has had bouts of weight loss here and there. We are turning over cells daily. So, you’ve undoubtedly emptied or killed numerous fat cells (unfortunately only to replenish them). But on average Americans keep gaining 5-10 pounds of fat and losing 1-5 pounds of lean tissue every 5 years after age 25. Change is a given. Maintenance is the bugbear.
Take it from me, maintenance is a road you may not actually want. As a full-grown adult (pictured on the right at around 160lbs) I proceeded to gain over 120lbs at my peak (pictured in the header photo on left at almost 290lbs) and subsequently lost 70lbs of fat. Both required work. But maintaining that change is the only part that was ever really challenging. This calls into question whether I ever really desired the goal itself.
YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: YOU CANNOT LIVE THE WAY YOU LIVE AND ALSO OBTAIN THE BODY OF SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T LIVE THE WAY YOU LIVE
When I eat 4-5lbs of meat per day, I carry an abnormally high amount of muscle. I’ve pushed the 265-300lb mark a few times. But eating 5lbs of meat (or the 8lbs of plant matter it would take to equate to that protein intake) daily, day in and day out, year after year, as a maintenance program is not something remotely appealing. I did not know that beforehand. It was a lesson I could only get from being that big and eating to sustain all that mass.
On the flip side, I’ve been down around 4-6% body fat at 205-230lbs several times. When I am, I have to practice a nutritional intake which includes modest (when around 205lbs bodyweight) to high (when around 230lbs bodyweight) protein, very high fat and extremely restricted carbohydrates. This also is not something i have any interest in doing all the time.
When you envision where it is you want to be for maintenance, you need to take into account how you want to live. You don’t just get to have certain physiques or performance capacities in a vacuum. They are products of a specific lifestyle. Determine the lifestyle you can truly envision. It most likely does not dovetail with the body or athleticism you want. And if you would humor me for a moment, I would argue that that means you don’t actually want that body or capability. For that very reason, a high level physique competitor client of mine, in response to onlookers telling her, “I wish I had your arms,” she has repeatedly said, “no - no you don’t.” Those arms require a level of effort you simply don’t want. Ergo, you don’t want those arms.
Consequently you have to ask yourself, “what am I genuinely willing to do differently?” Knowing full well that right this moment you are in a familiar, comfortable program whose results you don’t like, ask yourself, “how much WILL I do to change this?” I’m not talking about trying. I’m not talking about what sounds good or sufficient. What WILL you do that is different than what you currently do? What you WILL do differently either is sufficient to move the needle or not. If not, then it ought to provide a launch point from which you can move the needle. And if it moves the needle all the way to “those arms,” then (and only then) did you prove you wanted those arms.
I enjoy fasted mornings. They are easy. And they make staying relatively lean extremely stupid-easy. I can’t get the leanest or most muscular I’ve ever been doing this. But I perform better emotionally and mentally when I keep food out of the morning and/or carbohydrates out of the morning and midday. This enables me to be very productive. And I have begun to realize this is how I prefer to live. Therefore, if that’s how I prefer to live, I have to acknowledge that I prefer to not be a 300lb lifter or constantly super lean. I thought I wanted those things. But technically I don’t. Maybe again one day they'll appeal to me. Right now I’m enjoying how I live. And that’s an odd place to be: satisfied, even elated, with where one is. Sounds like maintenance, doesn’t it?
Losing 70lbs is like any other fitness goal or anything anybody accomplishes in life. You don’t get to just want the product. You have to want everything that comes along with it. You have to want the discipline. You have to love the discomfort. You have to yearn for the effort involved. If you don’t accept the means, you don’t want the ends. That’s why in this moment, right now, today you may very well not want to lose weight even when you say you do.