How I lost 30 pounds of pure fat in about 6 months when I was 56 years old and scared to death
Sometimes you'll do stuff for pleasure, like to gain approval, get a compliment or win a contest.
But you're far more likely to be driven to avoid pain; looking foolish; feeling embarrassed; not living up to what you believe others expect from you.
Fear is Good
“Fear of failing; fear of being embarrassed; fear of looking foolish; fear of letting someone down who had a positive vision of me, was the catalyst that finally got me over the hump and back to being active and fit again.”
An Old Fat Guy Gets Fit
My second daughter, who is a personal trainer, runs a gym and is strong as an ox, asked me to go on a backpacking trip with her into Havasu Falls (this was 2011).
Hmmm, I think. I love backpacking and haven't been in awhile (because I was kinda fat and out of shape) and I'd never heard of Havasu Falls.
Google tells me it's a Grand Canyon hike of about 10 miles each way.
Now if you've never been backpacking, let me tell you there is nothing more miserable than finding yourself 4 or 5 miles from the trailhead (and your car), with 50 lbs of crap on your back (which you need to survive for the next few days), a pounding, altitude induced headache and feeling like you can't take another step.
What could be worse?
Well how about having all that with your daughter standing there, looking at you and wondering where is the superman daddy I remember?
Where's the guy I thought could never fail who first took me out into the woods when I was a little girl?
What's wrong dad?
Pure FEAR overwhelmed me.
Oh, it got worse. The next day my youngest sister called me and said "Hey, I'm coming on the backpacking trip into Havasu Falls with you and Tierney. It sounds like an awesome place!"
Down in the canyon with Tierney, my #2 daughter
I'm like, WTF, now my sister who runs triathlons is going. And she's from New Jersey (like me) so she'll be busting my balls if I can't do this thing.
I'm feeling extreme pressure (and fear) so what do I do?
Well, the engineer in me starts looking into Ultralite Backpacking gear. There's this whole industry around getting your gear weight down to a bare minimum to make it easier to go long distances in the wilderness.
It didn't take me long to figure out I could shave a few pounds off my gear weight for about $5000.
Then the obvious dawned on me - just lose that fat belly because you've got to carry that no matter what your pack weighs.
And luckily the trip was six months off. I had the time.
So my fear of looking wimpy to my sister and breaking the positive, hero fatherly image my daughter held for me coupled with a cool goal (Havasu Falls is a unique place, I really wanted to go) drove me to make a 6 month fat loss plan and more importantly, consistently do it.
My Simple 2 Step Health Plan
Lose 30 Pounds of Fat.
The excess fat had to go. I figured if I dropped 30 lbs, then my 50 lb backpack would only feel like 20 lbs. I had an new idea about how to do this.
Strength Solves All Problems. This is something I inherently knew and I also knew how to lift and train. I just had to get back at it.
Fat Loss is Simple, But Not Easy
I had recently read a Paleo Diet book that Robb Wolf wrote. This was before it had really caught on as the Caveman Diet. But it made a lot of sense to me.
Eat the foods we evolved eating - Animal protein and vegetables.
Now, paleo man only ate veggies when they were available, which wasn't often so I was a modern caveman, eating a steady supply of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and a little fruit.
No dairy other than butter and heavy cream in my coffee. Again, I'm an evolved caveman.
Let me be clear. I'm not saying you can never have these things. I'm just relaying what I did at the time. Remember I was new to this stuff - I've learned a lot since then and do many things differently today.
No Refined Foods
What you don't eat is often as important (and maybe even more so) than what you are eating.
Eating Paleo (or Primal like) meant:
- No added sugars
- No grains
- No industrial seed oils
The Fat Disappeared
I felt great, had loads of energy and the fat just gradually vanished. Like magic. It was awesome.
I didn't really understand the key relationship between chronic inflammation and fat storage at the time. The elimination of the processed food trifecta (sugar, grains and nasty seed oils) made a huge difference.
More on this key eating strategy later.
Strength Training for Backpacking
I kept it simple here too. Full body lifting 3 days a week
and weekend hikes of increasing distance, vertical rise and loading my pack up.
The SAID Principle
Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID). You get better at what you do.
If you're training for a backpacking trip, then load up your backpack and get out there on the trails.
Supplemental lifting in the gym is fine but you have to "Do the Thing" to get better.
If you want my advice on training or modifying your nutrition, go here and set up a free 15 minute call. No obligation, no sales pitch. You tell me what you're trying to accomplish and I'll give you my best ideas on getting there.
I went from about 235 to 205 in 6 months - 30 pounds of pure, useless, embarrassing belly fat gone.
I went in strong and confident with solid aerobic conditioning.
It was worth every ounce of energy I put into it. Great memories were made. Priceless time with my daughter and sister.
They still kicked my ass on the trail. On the way out, the final mile is straight up a series of never-ending switchbacks to the rim, and they left me in the dust.
Tierney out front like a young mountain goat with limitless energy. My sister Patti about a 1/4 mile behind her and me bringing up the rear. But I effing made it (and I was carrying the tent too).
Patti, Tierney and Me at Havasu Falls
You Can Do It
My message is don't let fear of failure hold you back from dreaming and doing audacious goals.
The worse thing in life is to have regrets for stuff not done, things you should have said but didn't, memories you could have made but decided it was going to be too hard.
You can do whatever you decide to do.
- You're not too old
- You're not too far out of shape
- Your low energy and excess body fat will melt away when you get on the right training and nutrition regimen.
Push the fear and doubt aside right now so you don't have to endure any regrets later.
Stuff You Can Do Right Now
First, Determine Where You Are
6 Useful Metrics to Understand
Body Fat %
1 - Waist to Height Ratio
If you only measure one thing, make it waist to height ratio (W/H). It’s a direct measurement of how much body fat you’re storing and correlates very well with potential adverse health effects such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke. It’s easy to measure and track. Get your number (divide your largest waist diameter by your height in inches) and then work to drive it down.
Your goal is to get your W/H at or below 0.5. So if you’re 6 feet tall (72 inches), you’re looking for a waist measurement of 36 inches or less. It can be done. It may take time but this effort will be worth it.
2 - Fasting Blood Glucose
Get a basic blood glucose meter and measure your fasted blood sugar in the morning. Fasting means at least 12 hours since your last meal so measure first thing in the morning. You’re looking for a number below 100 micrograms per deciliter and lower is better (around 80 is super good). Just get your number and then drive it down over time.
If your fasting blood sugar is elevated, it’s a signal that your system is not functioning properly and you are likely insulin resistant. Straightening out your diet will turn this around over time.
This is a must-do activity. You cannot achieve optimum health without getting your blood sugar under control.
3 - Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate is your heart rate when not performing any physical activity – you are at rest. Measure it first thing in the morning. Essentially, the lower the resting heart rate is the more efficient your heart functions. A low resting heart rate is also signifies better cardiovascular fitness.
High heart rate at rest is linked to a higher risk of death even in physically fit healthy people, according to research findings. The good news is, no matter what your resting heart rate is, you can improve it and in turn improve your heart function.
4 - Dead Bar Hang
Hang from a bar for as long as you can. That’s your baseline number. Try to improve it over time.
Goal: 30 second minimum hang time. Longer is better because stronger is always better.
Studies have correlated grip strength as a stronger association with cardiovascular disease than blood pressure and physical activity. This means that using grip strength (stronger is better) is a better predictor for future cardiovascular health than what doctors normally use to assess your health (blood pressure, activity level, BMI, etc.)
Always remember, Strength Solves All Problems. Getting stronger, building muscle makes everything better.
5 - Full Squat
>> Place bare feet shoulder width apart and parallel.
>> Squat as deeply as you can without allowing your feet to turn out.
>> Hold as long as you can and time it.
>> Hips below knees.
>> Hamstrings in contact with calves.
>> Able to hold for 1 minute minimum. You should aim to develop the ability to stay in this position for 10 minutes.
6 - Standing Broad Jump
Being able to produce force quickly is a measure of power. Jumping is an explosive measure of your lower body strength and it indicates a relative measure of your type II or fast twitch muscle fiber.
The main driver of aging is loss of muscle mass through sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and the loss of fast twitch muscle is especially destructive. You want to maintain (or regain) muscle mass and your fast twitch fiber is of critical importance.
Warning: Be careful here. Don’t violate Rule #1 - DFYU (Don’t Eff Yourself Up). Warm up, take your time, jump easily for many jumps before trying to get your number.
Goal: Your goal is to get a jump that is greater than your height in inches. If you’re 6 feet tall, you want a broad jump of > 72 inches.
6 Metrics for Over 50 Health and Fitness
Second, start an exercise plan.
Anything will work for now.
Remember, Anything is Better Than Nothing.
But, exercise is not the main driver for fat loss. Read about it here.
Third, stop blaming your parents and bad genes for your fat gut.
It's not their fault.
You really need to understand epigenetics.
It's critical you understand gene expression, gene reprogramming and epigenetics.
This is why you can turn the tables and get healthy and fit again. It's a fascinating subject.
This Strategy Drives Permanent Fat Loss (and it's guaranteed to work)
Solve This Problem and Everything Gets Better
If you want to lose your fat gut permanently, you must know THE ONE THING standing in your way.