As I am sure of most people, my weight gain has been gradual; I didn’t realize it until it was too late. I was stuck in a little cul-de-sac and the combination of poor diet, the harmful effects of alcohol, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle had a cumulative effect. I actually still went to the gym three or four times a week, but I just went through it and wasn’t giving myself nearly enough strength.
I’m someone who has always kept myself in decent shape and took pride in the way I looked, so I definitely felt a sense of self-blame. However, instead of dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to take positive action. I knew that if nothing changes, nothing will change. I found myself wasting way too much time looking at other people’s lives on social media instead of getting up and looking for them myself.
I designed what I call my “Brains and Gain” initiative, devoting at least one hour a day to academic development and another hour to resistance training. Whether privately or professionally, I’ve always been very goal-oriented. When I made the conscious decision to get back in shape, I knew it had to be tangible, because what you can’t measure can’t be done. Instead of just having a vague fitness goal, I’ve set myself the ambitious goal of getting 8% body fat while increasing muscle mass.
Historically, I’ve always trained on my own, but I realized that if I was to get the best shape in my life, I needed the help and support of the best in my life, which is why I turned to Nick Ellaway and the team at Ultimate Performance in Sydney. Although I was always very self-motivated, they gave me this additional impulse and made me very responsible. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I really believe that motivation is the beginning, but it’s discipline that keeps you going.
That meant I had to make serious dietary cuts because it’s true what they say – six packs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. As tough as it was, I immediately stopped eating all processed foods and reduced my alcohol consumption almost entirely. In consultation with professional nutritionists and the team at Ultimate Performance Sydney, we have developed a tailor-made, high-protein nutrition plan. I became very particular about everything I ingested and carefully tracked my calories and nutrients with the My Fitness Pal app.
Controlling my appetite was certainly a major challenge, so finding a filling food while maintaining a highly calorie-controlled diet was important. Fortunately, protein is the most filling macronutrient and is believed to have the highest thermal effect. I tried my best to mess things up, but my main diet became chicken. I started eating so much chicken that I was worried I might sprout feathers! As a side dish, I would always have a generous helping of greens as they are not only a healthy appetite suppressant but also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If I was hungry between meals, I would nibble on a basket of berries.
As for my workouts, I did high-intensity resistance training five to six times a week, worked with my trainer twice a week, and then did the rest of the work on my own. In rain or shine, I would run or run 12 km every day.
Let’s face it, everyone is a self-proclaimed health and fitness professional and I was no different so it was really important for me to be open and trust the process; What is the point of hiring a trainer anyway? Nick pays great attention to detail and helped stamp out any bad habits and soon let me do each rep in perfect form. Not only did he explain the physical function of each exercise to me, but he also taught me the mechanics, which was a real eye opener for me. Mechanics seems to be the most overlooked, misapplied, and misunderstood aspect of performing an exercise, but it is arguably the most important.
Over the course of 14 weeks, I lost nearly 9 kg (19.8 pounds) of fat mass and reduced my body fat by 8% while adding about 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of muscle mass.
For me, this was not just one of those body transformation challenges, it was more about making lasting changes to my lifestyle and way of thinking. As my own boss, self-motivation can sometimes be a challenge, so a welcome side effect is that I have become incredibly structured and disciplined again not only in my training, but also in my work. I’ve also seen improvements in cognitive function – I just feel a lot sharper.
I often say that I hate the thought of going to the gym, but I definitely hate the feeling of not going any more. Regular exercise definitely helps improve my mood and reduce any feelings of anxiety or stress. While I used to have persistent fatigue, I definitely have more energy now and am just generally more positive.
I can’t stress how hard it was to achieve my goal, but I’m so proud of myself. That said, maintaining this body composition all year round is unrealistic, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to either. The future will be about finding the important balance between lifestyle and fitness. My reverse diet went exactly as planned and five months later I am pleased to report that I am still in fighting shape and now have around 10% body fat. I am now consuming about 2,600 calories a day. I still exercise four to five times a week and an average of 10 km a day.
Anyone who is at the beginning of their own journey, I would say; The hardest thing in the beginning is actually to start. My advice is to be clear about your goals from the start and then set yourself a series of mini-goals. These have to be realistic, measurable and achievable. I would highly recommend using an app that will track your diet and exercise. When you have the financial means, hire a personal trainer to help you. This will immediately lead to some accountability. If you’ve booked and paid for a session with a personal trainer, you’re much more likely to hit the gym. However, do your research and look for one with a proven track record. Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of your daily steps. Taking a long walk every day is one of the easiest ways to improve your fitness. It doesn’t cost anything either.
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