In high school we all tend to think we were hotter stuff than maybe what we really were (or at least this kid did). World conquering seemed like a by-product of breathing. Nothing could possibly stop you because you are entitled to success.
Then you leave home and reality kicks in…
College Wasn’t What I Anticipated
Here is a good example for how this arrogance bit me. In high school, I had grown accustomed to cramming for tests and spreading myself thin. I could easily get away with it and get great grades. In college this was a different cup of tea.
I remember being warned in college that I couldn’t study for a test the night before and think I would get a good grade. It required more attention and preparation. If I wanted to still get A’s I was going to have to start studying a week or two in advance. I of course took this advice for granted.
My first test at the testing center happened about a month into school. When I got out of the test, my grade was automatically posted on a monitor next to the last four digits of my social security number.
When I saw it I had to do a double take. That wasn’t a C+ next to my name was it? Wait…was it? IT WAS!
I went into shock. How could this have happened? I always got A’s.
I felt like my parents would disown me even though I was a legal adult. I thought my world was going to crumble around me.
I then realized something…I was dumb! My eyes got watery and I vowed at that point to never let this happen again.
Something similar happens with losing fat. We make noteworthy attempts, but sometimes the results we see in a bod pod test, on a weight scale, or with skin calipers show little to no results. It is easy to get frustrated and give up just like that freshman college student after his first C+.
Before you bail on yourself you have to ask yourself, while you wallow in a pile of snot and tears, “What expectations should I have?”
I got a C+ on that test, but I got an A in that course.
Results can come quickly in the matter of a few months, but don’t have a mental breakdown over a few days, a week, or some plateau seen in the middle of your journey for a couple weeks. Fat loss is a gradual process, especially if you have spent many years going in the opposite direction.
It isn’t just important that you get results, but that you learn from those results no matter how positive or negative they may seem to you.
What Should I Expect?
About 2 pounds of weight loss a week is an ideal goal according to the ACSM. In line with that, it is ideal that we lose .5% body fat on a weekly basis while maintaining muscle. That may seem little to some of you, but it is realistic and actually a huge decrease over the course of even a few months. Let’s take a deeper look.
Let’s say you do that for the first four weeks or month. That is also 8 pounds in the first month-ish. That is amazing if you can do that. Over the course of 3 months that is 25 pounds. Now I don’t care that much about pounds as I do about how I look and how much body fat I lose. I could be losing weight, but that could also mean I am losing lean mass along with fat which only makes me skinny fat.
If you lose .5% body fat weekly, that is 2% of body fat or 2-3 pounds of body fat in 4 weeks depending on your overall weight. Again we are talking about fat and not weight. Cutting 6-7% of your body fat in three months is huge and will make a noticeable physical difference no matter who you are. That can be the difference between an exceptional athlete and sedentary desk worker.
If you are maintaining your muscle, then you are in essence wiping away the “dust” covering your muscle instead of power blasting off the rust and the paint by losing both muscle and fat.
Now some of you entitled folks may scream, “3 months!?!?! That long?!?! Are you kidding me!?!?”
No. I am not yanking your chain, in fact it may take longer. Remember the discussion about tears and snot? What I am sharing with you is realistic. I am helping you to set obtainable goals now so you don’t give up on yourself later.
Even if you stumble a bit or have genetic challenges that make it harder to lose fat and you reach only 1-2% body fat loss over 3 months, that is still a great accomplishment. You are going in the right direction and that is all that matters. This is all about progress and learning from the progress. No one is perfect here and if so, then this probably isn’t the site for you.
I Want More Fat Loss!
If you want to set more aggressive goals than that, then please do. I want you to push yourself and create positive pressure to break that barrier. Some people will be able to exceed common thresholds. Just because I say this may be a “common, realistic goal”, I don’t want you to limit yourself. You are not me. There is no reason you can’t break past any success I have personally had.
Now as you start eating healthy and exercising more often, it all starts to snowball in the right direction. As your body contains more lean mass, it requires more burning of fuel (fat cells) in order to maintain that lean mass. As you start to avoid grains and sugar, your body burns more fat than glucose, again cutting fat. And finally as you have less fat or less fat being stored in your cells, it requires less energy (received through either your body craving for more carbs or sleep) to maintain that size. So in turn you exert more energy than you take in.
All of this means your body is begging to move and exert fat in the form of energy. You will find yourself more focused, disposed to have less stress, more engaged in work and exercise, and countless other benefits. See how everything is rolling in your favor?
You can make great strides in days and weeks, but realistic long-term changes are going to take time to not just achieve physically, but to etch in stone in your mind so you never, ever go back.
Remember this is really a skill set you are building. You can’t cram it all in one night. It isn’t going to be a week or a month. This is a process. This will be a winding journey that will take dedication and consistency.
Some Hurdles You Could Face
There are a few reasons why I say you should be realistic. Don’t forget that for some of you, you have been eating fat boy and girl meals loaded with refined carbs and sugar for years and potentially even decades. You have built up a wall of fat by not working out much and eating a lot of junk. It is going to take some time to break that wall down. So be patient. The Berlin Wall didn’t come down overnight, and you shouldn’t expect any less for the fat on your body.
Realize that genetics play a role in this, especially as you age. Some of you may naturally have genetic dispositions to gain fat easier. As we all age it will become easier to put on fat, and harder to keep it off, no matter who you are because men lose testosterone and women lose estrogen. With that said, you can still look great as you get older or at least a lot better than if you didn’t eat healthy. You can also prolong your life by years and potentially decades. Whatever hand you have been dealt, this is not one you can fold. Embrace whatever fight that God has given you and win the battle to the best of your ability.
There is a similar mental myth that takes place that you can easily build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Sorry to burst your freshman dreams again, but it is very hard to lose fat while gaining muscle. In fact, very few people can make drastic alterations in both categories at the same time unless they are a genetically gifted body types called Mesomorphs. There are genetic freaks of nature like Arnold, Dwight Howard, Adrian Peterson, Usain Bolt, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Lisa Leslie, and you get the point. More than likely you will not be in that boat and that is ok.
You just have to be very clear what your goals are and why you want a gain a certain body type. Do you want to be very lean because you are running a marathon? Or do you want to build a lot of lean mass because you pulling a Vince Papale and want to try out for a football team?
Whichever one you focus on, then the other option of the two will probably suffer a little bit. You could gain some fat while you build muscle. You could lose some of your lean mass while you trim down on the fat cells. That is all fine because you are still getting closer toward your goals. You will still notice a difference in the mirror. If you don’t like the direction your body is taking, then switch it up.
The important thing is that you focus on which one of those two you want to do the most and do everything to go in that direction. If you are not sure where to start or want both, then I would always recommend focusing on losing fat first. You always seem to get faster results if you can get leaned out first.
Start there and be patient. I don’t want to see you drenched in tears and snot.