It has been exactly six months since I announced to the world that I was going to make a few lifelong commitments that would change my life forever. If you haven't been following my journey, you can hear that announcement in episode 583 of my Pursuing A Balanced Life podcast.
The images below show only the outside view of what I've accomplished during these past six months. What's happened on the inside is even more impressive.
I've been documenting my journey by posting daily post workout selfies. As a result of folks seeing the transformation from month to month, I receive a lot of emails asking me questions about what I'm doing and how I got started.
In this post, I'm simply going to post a response that I gave to one of my friends.
Just like you, I'm not doing any of that fad junk either.
– I'm not doing any sort of slow carb diet.
– I'm not juicing tree bark
– I'm not cutting out all sugar
– I'm not going vegan
I had a major mindset shift back on November 14th.
On that day… I made the decision that I WANT TO LIVE, FULLY ALIVE, and to work toward fully becoming the person who God created me to be.
I had once gone from 272 pounds down to 212. That took 18 months. Back then, I wasn't doing any of the fads either. It was eating good food, logging calories and pretty much walking every day.
However, after 18 months of great success, I hit a plateau, I couldn't break the 212 barrier and in October 2011, I got really sick.
I was pretty much sick for six weeks straight. I couldn't have worked out if I wanted to at the time. During the last two weeks of that illness, I had a lot of business travel.
Feeling guilty about not working out, getting out of my routine, I had slipped into my old lifestyle habits. I was so busy getting my business caught up that I got back into my long sedentary days spent in front of the computer. I allowed stress to break down my willpower and I started to eat the things that I had detested in the year and a half prior to that point.
From 2012 through 2014, I had gone back up to 268 pounds.
During the past two years, I'd had a couple “false starts” at getting back into a good exercise routine. However, none of them lasted longer than six weeks.
But on November 14th, something did shift in my mindset.
It was no longer about the “vanity” of losing weight. It was about LIVING LIFE.
I wanted to live life to the fullest, as God has intended for me.
I talk about this change in my mindset in episode 583 of Pursuing A Balanced Life which can be found at http://gspn.tv/starthere.
A friend of mine recommended a book called “Younger Next Year.”
This book talks about how exercise can help us reduce our “fitness age” so that we can increase our chances of being fit in our 60's, 70's and 80's.
One of the authors is quite heavy on his Darwinian beliefs. However, the science that he shared about the biology of exercise was exactly what I needed to convince me to make some bold commitments in my life.
Here's what I have committed to doing.
1) I have committed to workout out a six days a week, every week, for the rest of my life. Each of these workouts will be a minimum of 45 minutes each.
2) Four of my workouts each week will be focused on high intensity aerobic exercise. Keeping my heart rate up in what is called “Zone 3” (70% to 80%) of my maximum heart rate is my goal.
3) Two of my workouts each week will be focused on high intensity strength training. I hired a personal trainer at LA Fitness ($280/mo) and twice a week I go to have him torture me with weights.
Each of these strength training sessions are intended to rip apart my muscles and completely take them to the breaking point of exhaustion. This forces my body to go into repair/growth mode and my muscles are restored, fully, in about 72 hours.
I'm happy to report that I had been doing these six days per week of aerobic/cardio and strength training sessions consistently for the past several months. While the strength training sessions can be painful as all get out. I am LOVING IT!
A few weeks after getting started with this workout routine, I decided that I wanted to not only have the health benefits of working out, but also of eating healthy again. So I started to count my calories again and decided to eat only healthy, whole and natural foods.
Every morning I eat 2 slices of bacon, 2 organic eggs, and two slices of Ezekiel 4:9 Whole sprouted grain bread (cinnamon raison flavor) with just a little (pure/real) butter on the bread.
For lunch, I almost always have one of three things. a) Chipotle Bowl. b) Almond Butter sandwich on Ezekiel 4:9 7 grain bread. c) 4oz Wild Caught Pink Salmon and a baked sweet potato.
For dinner, I eat whatever the family is having. However, Stephanie, is on board and we are eating great, all natural ingredient foods there as well.
For snacks, I will either have a 1/4 serving of pistachios or cashews (the roasted and salted kind), or I will have a LARA BAR. These are snack bars that are made from 100% all natural ingredients.
Back in December, I made the decision to give up Diet Coke. I had been totally addicted to Diet Coke for 30+ years. Before giving it up, I was drinking an average of six 8oz bottles per day.
Today, I drink about three to four 48oz bottles of water per day and for some meals, I drink a Grape flavored carbonated beverage called Zevia which is 100% all natural ingredients and the sweetener is Stevia.
So that is what I've been doing.
I have lost a total of 37.5 pounds since November 14th. I do have a goal of being 192 by January of next year. Also, with that goal, I have a goal to gain a minimum of 8 pounds of muscle.
But here's the cool thing. I am not focused on the weight loss. I am focused on putting my health/fitness as a priority above my business and other areas of life.
There may be times when I go a week or more without seeing a drop in the number on the scale. However, as the result of what I learned about in that book, “Younger Next Year,” I'm most interested in the healing properties of the high intensity aerobic and strength training exercises and what these six days per week of exercise are doing for my body.
I'm in this for the rest of my life!!!
That's the end of the email that I had sent to my friend. As I said at the beginning of the post, today is a special day as it has been exactly since months since I started this journey. I've been 100% consistent with my commitments and I'm just as determined, today, to continue doing this for the rest of my life.
I mentioned earlier that the photos above only show the outward signs of what I've been able to accomplish over the past six months. I'm extremely proud of the visible results in my physical appearance.
However, what I'm most excited about is how this shift in mindset, on living fully alive every day, has had a dramatic and positive impact on me being the husband and father that I desire to be and how it's helped me to have a more healthy perspective on work/life balance.
I hope that my journey will inspire you to take your own health and fitness to the next level.
UPDATE September 29, 2015: I have been consistently referring back to this blog post over the past several months. I thought it was important to share an update as a few things have shifted from what I shared above.
Between June and July of this year (2015), I had hit a plateau in my weight loss. I noticed that I was getting out of the routine of keeping a food journal of what I was eating each day (tracking the calories being put into my body). As such, I knew that I was eating more calories than I had set for my budget each day. The problem was that without counting, I didn't know how much I was going over my budget.
At first, the additional calories were still coming from good, natural and healthy foods. However, I slowly saw myself taking in more and more desserts and sugary snacks, even some that were of the store bought, overly processed type. I wasn't really gaining weight due to the amount of exercise that I was still doing on a daily basis. However, I found myself hovering between 232 and 236 for a total of two months without seeing any further weight loss.
As I mentioned in my original post, this isn't all about the weight for me. However, at 5 foot 7 inches, the fact is that at 232 pounds, I would still considered obese and I still have a significant amount of fat on my body that needed to come off.
I knew that I needed to do something and that my daily exercise routine was well under control, mostly in part due to the work that I do with my personal trainer. The obvious place to focus was for me to look at the food part of the equation.
On August 18th, I started working with Glenn Johnson, who is now my Nutrition Coach. I shared what I had experienced up to that point and told him about my plateau. He coached me on a few things related to nutrition and gave me a few suggestions.
One thing that Glenn asked me to do was to start keeping an accurate food journal once again. This alone had a pretty profound impact. I always find that I make much better choices about both the types of foods that I eat and the amount of food I consume when I'm keeping an accurate journal of all the food that I put into my body.
The funny thing is that there are plenty of people out there who have a ton of negative things to say about food journaling (or calorie counting). However, we would never talk down to anyone who keeps an accurate account of each transaction that comes in and goes out of our bank accounts. At any rate, I actually find food journaling (calorie counting) to be a valuable practice in my daily life. It wasn't easy at first. However, over time, the practice became just as normal and as easy as tying my shoes each day.
Another suggestion that Glenn gave me was to consider cutting back on my carbohydrate intake. He did not recommend that I cut out all carbs completely. However, he did recommend that I cut out most sugary snack type foods and focus on eating complex carbohydrates in balanced proportions to the amount of protein and fats in my meals.
Here are some changes that I have made to what I eat.
– I've pretty much stopped eating bread altogether. I'm not saying that I “never” have bread. However, if I do, it might be once or twice in a single month.
– My breakfast each day is still two (sometimes 2.5) slices of organic bacon and two (sometimes three) organic eggs cooked in coconut oil. However, I no longer eat Ezekiel 4:9 bread with my daily breakfast.
– For lunch, I no longer eat almond butter sandwiches. When you consider the sugar included in the fruit spread and add two slices of bread, such a meal for lunch was too heavy on the carbohydrate side and very low on the protein side.
– My most common lunch has been a trip to Chipotle. I get a burrito bowl (no flour tortillas for me thank you). I no longer eat any rice when I go to Chipotle. Instead, I get my carbs from the black beans, which I get two scoops of. On top of the beans, I add chicken, tomato and green chili salsa and cheese. This is still a pretty high calorie meal coming in at 660 calories.
– Recently, I've gone back to pan searing a 5 oz wild-caught pink salmon fillet (sprinkled with all-natural blackened seasoning) in coconut oil and pairing that with a baked sweet potato. The Salmon is 175 calories, the coconut oil is 120 calories and the sweet potato is 112 calories. This brings this lunch to a total of 407 calories.
– Glenn had introduced me to the Dr. Will Bar energy bars. These energy bars are amazing in that they are packed with amazing ingredients such as oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, mealed flaxseed, peanut butter, brown sugar, invert sugar, cherries, cranberries, coconut, puffed rice and whey protein.
The best part about the Doctor Will bar is that it contains a good balance between protein, carbs and fats. As a result, they don't cause a spike in sugar levels and they promote sustained energy levels.
– While I was preparing for a 100 mile bike ride, I was waiting for a new shipment of the Dr Will Bar energy bars to come in. Knowing the bars would not make it in time, I decided to create my own #TrainWithCliff Energy Bars inspired by the ingredients found in the Dr. Will Bar but with some of my own modifications.
Here's a photo of my #TrainWithCliff Energy Bars
– I now make it a point to eat every three hours throughout my day. Between my main three meals of the day, I'll either have an energy bar, a protein shake or some almonds and dried cranberries.
– My dinners are still open to whatever our family is having for dinner. However, again, Stephanie is on board with this lifestyle as well and our meals are in line with a balanced approach to carbs, fats and protein.
Outside of changes to what I'm eating, I've also adjusted my lifestyle in one other area as compared to what I wrote in my original post. I am now doing three one-hour strength training sessions per week. On Tuesdays, I work my chest and triceps. On Thursdays, I work my legs and shoulders. On Saturdays, I work my back and biceps. Stephanie and I do these strength training sessions together with our personal trainer.
I still do cardio/heart rate focused exercises, a minimum of 45 minutes, on at least three of the days that we are not doing strength training. However, there are some days when I'll also do a cardio workout in the morning on a strength training day.
When I started working with a nutrition coach, on August 18th, I weighed in at 236 pounds. It is now September 29th, just six weeks later, and I'm now down to 220 pounds on the scale, dropping a total of 16 pounds in the past six weeks.
On November 14th, 2015, I weighed in at 268 pounds. I've now dropped a total of 48 pounds in ten months. This is in spite of the fact that I've put on well over 15 pounds of pure muscle. If you take the built muscle into account, I've lost well over 63 pounds in the past ten months.
Here's a fun photo I shared back on August 17th 2015 when I first started to see some noticeable definition in my arms.
Also, here's my most recent before and after workout selfie that shows the transformation in my face over the past nine months.
UPDATE November 13, 2015: As of tomorrow, it will be one full year since I made the decision to change my life forever.
For most of my life, I'd been embarrassed to be seen without a shirt anywhere in public. Yes, I was “that guy” at the beach, the swimming pool or the water park who was wearing the 2XL t-shirt to cover up the shame of neglecting the care of my body.
Over the past year, I'd been sharing my progress of how my body has been transforming as a result of the new lifestyle that I've adopted. However, you may have noticed that I've always had a shirt on in all my before and after photos.
I made a decision, a few months ago, that when I approached the one year mark in this journey, I would finally post the before photos that I had taken without my shirt and I would put them side by side with what I looked like without a shirt one year later.
I was a bit nervous about this decision, as I still have quite a ways to go until I have a the fit body that I am going after. However, I knew that if I were to share these images, it would be impressive to see how much progress one can make in a single year and that it might just inspire a few hundred, or even a few thousand other folks to make the decision to start putting their health and fitness first.
So here they are. The photos below show the physical progress that I've made.
One year ago, I weighed in at 268 pounds.
Today, I weighed in at 211 pounds.
The scale shows that I'm down a total of 57 pounds.
However, these pictures reflect the fact that I've burned 72 pounds of fat and built 15 pounds of pure muscle.
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