Fat as a noun is defined by Google.com, as “a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs.” From the same resource, fat is used as an adjective to describe a person or animal as “having a large amount of excess flesh”. I’m no “Webster” but I would use fat as an adjective of having too much fat under the skin because excess flesh is a result of being “plump, stout, overweight, heavy, large, solid, chubby, portly, rotund, flabby, paunchy, pot-bellied, beer-bellied, dumpy, meaty, broad in the beam, of ample proportions.” On the other hand, “lean” is not a noun, it is a verb that means “be in or move into a sloping position”. And it is interesting that “lean” doesn’t refer to a person with lower fat deposits on average.
The psychological, sociological, political, and economical issues to being “fat” are well known and this paper does not address that. It is also understood by many that there is diet upon diet, supplement upon supplement, and fitness trend after fitness trend in society today. This paper is not about that either. This paper is about me. A strong, fit Ironman triathlete that wanted to become more competitive by losing excess fat. I hope to inspire you to lose fat and reach your fitness goals because if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Coming from a mathematical background I will give you the key to losing excess fat in the next section; it is the secret that every diet book, supplement, or machine is behind. As an Ironman triathlete I know what it means to push myself. After all, our test day demands us to push our bodies through a 3.8KM swim, 180KM bike ride, and 42.2KM run. And, when it is all said and done, we athletes shouldn’t make excuses for what we do or haven’t done. It’s up to us out there
come race day; our preparation, our fitness, and our mental toughness.
Believe it or not, fat is energy because energy is in everything. But fat doesn’t produce anything besides protection around your internal organs. Fat won’t make you swim, bike, or run faster. It will actually make you slower because this excess is weight that you must carry along with you for the ride. In other words, you must become even more powerful to do what somebody half your size can do because you must carry this excess. It was obvious at the Kona roll-down at Ironman Western Australia in December 2013 that those who earned their spot to the Ironman World Championships did not have any fat come along for a free ride and thus, made them powerful machines. These athletes, the top 3% on the day and some of the fittest in the world, were certainly not beer-bellied. So it was then that I decided in my next iron-distance campaign, Challenge Atlantic City in June 2014, that I would remove my excess and become lean.
But how would I do this? After all, I had just trained for 6 months, nearly 400 hours, and all I lost was .8KG or 1.8 pounds. Mind you, my body composition did change; I gained .4 pounds of muscle, lost 2.4 pounds of fat, and reduced my body fat percentage from 10.2% to 9.1%. But what would it take for me to drop weight and what was I trying to achieve? 9% may sound good to most of you but I can assure you that the pro’s and those who qualified are down near 6% (avg pros) or 7% (avg male runners). My goal is to get my body fat percentage to 6.5% and reduce as much muscle mass as I can.
It was pretty obvious to myself when looking back why I had not lost significant weight over a 23 week plan training 15 hours per week on average. But first I must reveal the mathematical secret.
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain.
Some of the audience may have heard this or seen this statement before but if you haven’t reread it. Now re-read it again and again. I want you to understand what this statement means because if you understand it, you will not be able to make any excuses and you will begin to allow yourself to focus and reach your goals.
For 6 months, I ate well. Sure, I had candy, alcohol, fried food, and beef, but I also ate veggies, sweet potatoes, salmon, whole-wheat bread, and oats. By eating 3 key meals and 2-3 snacks throughout the day, I was in balance but I didn’t lose weight. Why? Because you now know the formula, you know why. Because my caloric intake was greater than all the calories I burned while training 15 hours per week! There are no excuses, no other explanations. Anything else you could try to explain this is an excuse plain and simple. Time and time again we hear as many excuses as we do opportunities. Whether it is a thyroid, hereditary component, family issues, age or anyone of the other thousands of explanations you or anyone could bring up, all these responses are is excuses for lack of personal accountability. Look at the formula again. There are no other variables.
Calories in refers to everything you consume. Whether it is a piece of fruit or a fruit cake, there are calories. If you want to know what you’re eating everyday, then write it down. Every single thing you eat you write down. Do the tally and see what you come up with.
Calories out refers to everything you burn. Whether you walk up the stairs, sleep, or run. You engine and muscles are always working, all of the time.
Weight gain refers to eating too many calories and burning too few, period. Weight Loss on the other hand is burning more calories than you consume. If you eat too much fruit and just sit in a chair all day, you can gain weight!
Listen, I’m going to compare going to school with losing weight. When we grew up we were told about school so we went to Kindergarten and then 1st grade. Then every year we were told how important it was that we excelled to make sure we get in the next grade, don’t get left back, etc. Then we got into Junior High and it was important to get into High School. We had to excel there as well because we wanted to go to college. Then we had to get a really high GPA so that we could get a good job. I’ve learned that all of it was BS. The point of all of it was to come out with a job making the most money you possibly could because where ever you start will be the start of all future raises. No one cares about all the other stuff. It’s all BS. So like school, there is a lot of BS with fitness. We’re told to eat this amount of fruits per day and follow a specific daily recommended percent, we’re told that we must eat this free-range chicken or that fish, take this pill, and use this gym equipment for 6 minute abs. We’re shown that by sitting in a chair you can burn a thousand calories by having electrodes attached to our stomach and that by going on a colon cleanse we’ll drop 10 pounds. Like education, it’s all BS! It’s true. Fundamentally, education gets us into a well paying job and having a balanced lifestyle maintains our weight.
So what does any of this have to do with weight loss? Well, if we just follow the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle, we are not going to lose weight. Which is exactly why I didn’t lose weight training for an Ironman! I don’t want to discount truly healthy living or real recommended daily intakes of all types of food and exercise but for 60 days I gave myself one goal. Lose Fat.
The Results. I am proud to report that in 55 days of my 60 day fitness challenge I lost 8.8 pounds or 4KG which was composed of .9 LBS of Muscle and 7.5 LBS of Fat. Most importantly, my % body fat reduced from 10.8% Body fat to 7.2% Body Fat which is a reduction of 33% of fat. This is comparable to some of the total weight loss competitors on The Biggest Loser. (Total body weight drop was only 5%) but is not a good indicator for a person like me). I received very welcoming comments from friends, colleagues, and others. It was interesting that some thought I actually built up size and got bigger when I all I really removed was the fat which allows better definition of the muscles we all have under our excess. My before and after pictures reflect all of this. Now for a complete random aside, I remember hearing about how the great Michelangelo made his sculptures. He said that the art was always in the stone; he was merely removing the excess stone. That is similar to our own bodies. My ideal body and yours are there, we just need to remove our excess.
So what did I do to drop my body fat by 33%? I reduced my calories. My training has ramped back up to levels seen in the IM’WA campaign but I have changed my diet. I have drastically reduced my intake of bread, pasta, and rice as well as candy, cookies, and liquor. I reaffirmed healthy eating with real fruit smoothies, and dinners consisting of lean kangaroo meat or lean beef, chicken breast, or salmon. We’ve had grilled vegetables and stir-fry’s and haven’t really eaten out all that much, especially not pizza. One of the most obvious pieces I removed when looking back was my morning energy drinks. These easily added several pounds for me.
I’m not going to lie to you; I was not perfect. After 5 weeks I hit my birthday. I had cake and liquor, we even had a Mexican night last weekend where I drank plenty of coronas. But, I still lost weight because I reduced my overall caloric intake.
I’ll give you one more formula. 1 Pound of Fat = 3,500 calories.
That’s a lot of calories. For most women, that is equivalent to 2 days and a night of eating. For most men, it’s 2 days. But who can stop eating for 2 days without eating a crazy amount at the next meal?
500 calories per day * 7 days = 1 pound.
Friends, it is much easier to eat 3,500 calories than it is to burn 3,500 calories. And this is what you need to realize as well. I didn’t make my challenge 2 weeks long. I made it 60 days because the more time you have, the more change you can make.
A few more points. We are what we eat. If you eat like a cow, you may look like a cow. Cow’s are slow and fat. Do you think by eating beef you’ll be fast and lean? Maybe if you eat the lean piece of the cow which is often the most expensive piece, or the filet. However, are Kangaroo’s fat? Not at all, they are very fast and one of the leanest meats you can buy. That’s why we have been having it each week in this challenge.
Now, PB&J sandwiches are healthy, contain protein, some healthy fat (nuts), fruit, whole-wheat grains, Sounds good right? Well not at 500+ Calories!
By no means am I an expert on nutrition and fitness but I think I’m a good case-study. Just because you are an endurance athlete doesn’t make you healthy or thin; it just makes you crazier than most people!
The point of this article is to broadcast to the general public that losing fat is easy. Yes, I said it. Losing Fat is easy. Why do so many struggle then? Because the amount of time it will take for most people to lose the obese level of fat they have can be quite lengthy and generally we don’t have the patience. I want to show you how simple it is to truly lose weight. All those diets and pieces of exercise equipment are suited to fit many different lifestyles. You have to find out what you can fit and where you can push it. Remember, if you eat less and burn more, you will lose weight. Best of luck in your search for what you want. I hope you reach your goals as I am closing in on mine!