I’ve been getting a lot of questions from folks on how I dropped the weight for the IC body fat challenge, so I wrote up most of what I did over the last two months.
No story is complete without context, so let me give you a brief recent history. I’m 44 years old and just a scosh under 5′ 10″. For most of my adult life I’ve been overweight at somewhere north of 185 lbs. As far as BMI goes this is squarely in the middle of the “overweight” category.
"A lot of people commented on why I wanted to do the body fat challenge as I wasn't heavy to begin with. Well I was, you just never saw me then!" -Gunther
Exactly, three years ago this week, I made a commitment to ride my bicycle to work everyday (about 10-12 miles R/T). That first year I dropped over 25 lbs without changing anything else. Two years ago next month, I started the IC 0700 boot camp MWF and traded a bunch of fat for muscle and lost another 6 lbs to put me somewhere around 154 on most days.
At the start of the challenge in February (seems so long ago) I was still carrying a holiday paunch at 159 lbs with a pretty good BF of 15.2% (norm for me has been 12ish since joining IC).Â A lot of people commented on why I wanted to do the body fat challenge as I wasn’t heavy to begin with.Â Well I was, you just never saw me then! I also felt like there were a bunch of healthy habits out there that I was ignoring by exercising a ton to compensate for my regular not-so-healthy habits. What would a truly “healthy” me look like? Here’s what I did to find out.
On the food front I started by doing the following: research! What did the last BF contenders do. I discovered the TT Path and implemented it all the way; I dropped all foods with sugar in them and anything with flour (even whole wheat), focusing on good whole grains like brown and red rice, beans, lentils, salads, greens, nuts (almonds, almonds, almonds!), dried and fresh fruit, nonfat yogurt, etc. No bread, no pasta, no muffins, no croissants, no cookies, no bagels, no chocolate, no ice cream, no exceptions.
Since my son has both Type 1 diabetes and is celiac (gluten/wheat allergy), this menu really works well for our family. Not overly carby and not the spikey carbs with a high glycemic index.Â Whole grains and beans make good protein combinations and keep your body steady-as-he-goes after meals.Â I also cut out second portions of anything and avoided fats as much as possible. Hardest part? Cutting back to low fat lattes! Oh, no! (I’m almost used to them now). Of course I didn’t hold my family hostage to the challenge at all, but there was spill over that everyone took part in. I also got tremendous support from my wife in planning good meals for all at the table.
A typical eating day for me looked like:
* green tea before IC with 1/2 a banana
* Protein/recovery shake after boot camp (2 cups nonfat milk, 2 scoops TJ’s MET-Rx vanilla protein powder, 1 scoop Endurox R4 orange).
* Breakfast on non-IC days was nonfat yogurt, berries and slivered almonds
* Nuts and a piece of fruit mid-morning.
* Green salad (TJ’s pre-made salad was a good cheat), bean soup, or lentil salad for lunch.
* More fruit and nuts in the afternoon.
* Rice & beans with greens for dinner, or salad with chicken breast, or greens and a small steak. No second helpings.
* For dessert: a cup or two of fruity non-caffeinated tea helped to quell the post dinner cravings
The first 2 1/2 weeks were the most difficult. For one, the lower blood sugars made me run a low grade headache, so I was a bit testy (apologies to all!). Secondly, my stomach was still used to larger meals, so I didn’t feel as satisfied. In week 3 I hit my stride, though, and the new eating regime became more than satisfying.
"For me, the key to burning calories has been combining exercise with function. Ride your bike or walk everywhere: shopping, pick-up/drop-off, work, play dates, hardware store, always, rain or shine, no excuses." -Gunther
In addition to boot camp, I would take a 2-4 mile walk at lunch, usually with a co-worker to do an errand or something. On non-IC days, I would typically extend my morning commute to 16-20 miles by riding the Bay Trail before work. This is an awesome, local, no-traffic resource that is great for riding/running.Â For me, the key to burning calories has been combining exercise with function.Â Ride your bike or walk everywhere: shopping, pick-up/drop-off, work, play dates, hardware store, always, rain or shine, no excuses. And there was a lot of rain! On the weekends I would try and shoot for a mountain bike ride just to mix things up a bit, or maybe a road ride with a friend. Also bike down to 4th Street with the family or walk the mile to Solano Ave or the Plaza for something or another.
At the end of the first month I wasÂ down about 8 lbs to 151 and 12.3%Â BF.
At this point I felt like I was hitting a plateau at the 150 lb mark.Â What’s left?Â I’m eating so healthily and not too much. What’s that? What am I drinking? It was Don from 0700 who told me he stopped drinking alcohol at the beginning of the challenge. I thought, “Ouch, this is going to be hard”; first I have to resist the peer pressure about food: “Gunther, have some ice cream. I made it from scratch!”, “Gunther, have some birthday cake”, “Would you like something from the pastry cabinet to go with that low fat latte?” Try baking a fresh loaf of excellent gluten-free bread and resist buttering a slice off the end while it’s still hot. Or, one of the hardest days, when I had to pick-up three boxes of bagels in the rain, ride them to work, set them up with cream cheese for my work mates and then just walk away.Now I would have to resist the bev, too? Hmmmmmm.
So I quite the booze. My own private Lent. No wine, no beer, no cocktails, no excuses. Guess what happened? Nothing for a week and then the ponds began to melt off. About 3/4 lb a day until I got down to around 145, blowing past my original stretch goal of 149. At 145 I thought I was a doner, but the habits were just solid now and magically a few more pounds dropped in the last week before the weigh-in. I say magically because I had got to the point where I was eating almost constantly (my desk drawer at work was brimming with healthy snacks), yet still losing weight. My co-workers laughed because there was a constant crunching sound coming from my cube. I also got some great recipes going this month like the lentil salad I copied from the Pasta Shop on 4th street.Â Or whizzed white beans (like faux mashed potatoes) topped with grilled asparagus and seared scallops.Â Eat that and tell me I suffered on this “diet”!
"You can't make excuses for skipping exercise and you can't use food and alcohol as a reward for a tough day or a job well done." -Gunther
What I learned is that everything you already knew works when it comes to losing weight, you just have to do it (“Let’s do it, people!” isn’t that what Steve always says?). You’ve got to get exercise every day, you’ve got to eat vegetables, fruits and nuts. You’ve got to avoid processed foods and sugar and flour. You can’t make excuses for skipping exercise and you can’t use food and alcohol as a reward for a tough day or a job well done. Tom R. from 0700 (isn’t 0700 great?!) put it like this: “There’s an excuse switch in your head and you just have to flip it OFF”. Watch out for Tom, because he will put an idea in your head and then every time you try and get around a good habit, you’ll hear his voice on your shoulder: “How can you put that in your body after working out so hard at the Ice Chamber?” Thanks for that, Tom.
I Can’t Because
As I shed the pounds I got a lot of questions from folks about what I was doing. Almost everyone would start to listen to the regime and then interrupt me with a, “Oh, you see I can’t do that because…” and then the excuse switch flips to ON: “I can’t ride because, it’s too cold/dark/rainy/I have a doctor’s appointment/I have to leave early/etc”. “I had to eat that bread on the table. it was free”, “I can’t just order a salad”, “I can’t give up my wine because I’m so stressed”. “I can’t walk at lunch because there’s no where to walk where I work”. “I can’t ride/walk because I have the kids.” Man! I can’t because is THE phrase you need to avoid if you want to change. You need to find a way: swim, don’t bike, walk, don’t run, just find the exercise path that works and stay on it and watch those simple carbs that don’t come from fruits. That’s it. And, of course, flip the switch to OFF.
Will I keep this super-low BF and weight? Hell no!Â I’m too skinny! But, oddly enough, my new BMI is, according to standards, squarely in the middle of the “normal” range. Still, I think it’s too skinny, so unless I get that TV role that puts another 10 lbs on, I’ll probably let myself drift up to 150. Regardless, the great thing about how the ICBF challenge was laid out is that it was over such an extended period that I think I’ve acquired some good habits that I will hang on to throughout the year. Bonus: Losing 18 lbs has turned my steel road bike into it’s carbon fiber equivalent, so I’ll have a lot less weight to take with me when I ride 100 miles for my favorite cause next month!
Thank you Ice Chamber and thanks to everyone in Team 0700 for the support and good times! YTB.