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How I lost over 15 kilos in 2015

January 8th, 2016
One Year of Weight Loss

I put in the work and I ate less. It isn’t rocket surgery, people make it out to be to be some complicated magical process that requires a guru, a trendy diet, and the perfectly chosen gym outfit. Exercise more and eat less, it is that simple. I lost the weight working ever changing shifts in a foreign country with chronic back, knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip problems, so suck it up buttercup. If you want more specific advice well never let it be said I am at a loss for words.

I’m not a fitness expert, I’m certainly not a guru or medical professional, but I have played a lot of sports, I got the joint problems to prove it and I’ve trained all over the world with all sorts of people, I’ve even been known to thoroughly research a blog post or two, here are twenty simple rules I try to follow.

Consult a real doctor before beginning any fitness routine.

  1. Rule Number 1 Squat, this is somebody else’s rule but it is a good one. You don’t have to start with the barbell back squat either, beginners are probably better off starting with the goblet squat with either a kettle bell or a dumbbell, if you don’t have access to even that equipment you can do bodyweight or jump squats, there is no excuse not to squat, even people with one leg can squat.
  2. Rule Number 2 Deadlift, again this is somebody else’s rule but it is also a good one. I have chronic inoperable back problems according to a doctor who reviewed the x-rays but even I deadlift. You don’t have to deadlift everyday. And again you do not have start with the barbell deadlift, you can do some trendy one legged kettle bell variant or if that is too difficult do dumbbell deadlifts but once you can do 10 kilos in each arm, switch to the empty bar to learn proper form.
  3. Learn proper form, don’t be a gym idiot. Ask gym staff or a bro or a girlfriend to teach you proper form and technique. In 2015 there is no shortage of articles and videos online that demonstrate how to squat and how to deadlift, I linked to good ones above. I recommend you get a fitness app for your smartphone, these also demonstrate and explain exercises. The app I use to track my workouts in the gym is JEFit, feel free to shop around, I use Cyclemeter to track my outdoor distance training of which I did almost none of in 2015. If you can’t learn from a bro, or a video, or an app, hire a trainer even for one week or one month, once you have a routine and proper form you need to stick with it.
  4. Track your progress again I use JEFit but also Fitocracy. I even got guilted into taking way too many selfies and posting them to WeChat. I’m living in China so yeah WeChat > Instagram. I’m not really pro-selfie or pro-oversharing of your life online in the vain quest for #instafame. I don’t even recommend counting every calorie in every meal. I do however recommend tracking your body weight and your workouts. You can also track the inches you lose, smartphones are really good for all this tracking, use your smartphone for something other than texting and games.
  5. Don’t skip Monday again this is somebody else’s rule but I like it. I’m almost forty, I’m pro-rest day, even two rest days in a row is necessary at times, and you shouldn’t workout if you are really sick, but you should always try to start your week off with a workout.
  6. Don’t skip #legday again this is another rule you’ve heard before but the biggest strongest muscles in the body are in the lower body, you don’t have to become a powerlifter, but if you want to get in better shape, you’ll burn more calories on leg day than just about any other day of the week. Squats and deadlifts both are regular features of leg days, though others do deadlifts on back day.
  7. Prioritize if you really want to lose weight this year, you have to prioritize losing weight. You will have to make sacrifices, you will have to give up stuff, you will have to get up early in the morning, your will have to exercise on the weekend, you will have to skip dessert, you will have to not have seconds, you will have to drink less beer/mochas/soda/wine. If any of those things sound like too big of a sacrifice to make, then hit the back button on your browser now because you’re wasting you’re time.
  8. Do weights and cardio numerous studies have been done, doing weights (or resistance training if that sounds less intimidating) and cardio is better than doing just weights or just cardio. And I’m sorry to tell all the runners out there, doing just weights is more effective than doing just cardio if your goal is aesthetics, compare the Olympic marathon champion and the Olympic 100m champion, who has the better body? Sprinters lift weights these days.
  9. Do weights then cardio again numerous studies have been done, even if you are dog tired from lifting weights you will get some benefit from doing a short cardio session after your weight training. However if you are dog tired from cardio and then you try to lift weights, you will lift less weight which is less effective than lifting more weight even if your goal is weight loss.
  10. Show up this advice actually comes from the bowels of Sherdog but even if you are tired and sore and you will be tired and sore, show up to the gym and if all you manage to do is your warm up and some stretching you will still be better off than if you sat in front of you computer or laptop not exercising. If you can only do one set with the empty bar, you’re still better off having done one set with the empty bar than having done zero sets. Try to follow your plan and put in the work. The same thing applies to cardio, if you can only manage to run half as much as you ran last time c’est la vie, you’re still better off having run 50% of your target than not having run at all.
  11. Failure to plan is planning to fail, there are no shortage of perfectly good exercise routines online or built into your fitness app, pick one and stick with it for 12 weeks. You should definitely see progress after 12 weeks assuming you are putting in the work.
  12. Intensity matters, lots of people exercise but they don’t train. They don’t have a plan and they don’t make progress. They also probably candy-ass it at the gym. If you spend more time texting or watching TV at the gym than actually working out you’re wasting your time. Try not texting at the gym at all, once you’ve finished your workout then you can post your selfie with #beastmode or whatever but try actually working out hard for say an hour first before bragging online about going to the gym. Lots of studies have been done comparing LISS (Low Intensity Stead State) versus HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), the short answer HIIT wins if you’re pressed for time, intensity matters look again at the Olympic sprinters, they have better bodies than marathoners who need to train for long distances at moderate intensity which is LISS. Sprinting is maximum intensity for 10+ seconds which is HIIT.
  13. Everyone is different, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, I assure you I train through a lot of discomfort, so although any old exercise plan you download online will work in theory, eventually you should figure out what works best for you. Some powerlifter’s optimal squat form might not be your optimal squat form. Some online fitness celebrity’s booty building routine may not work for you, by all means try these surefire revolutionary routines for 12 weeks, you should change up your routine every couple months anyway. You should definitely have a longterm plan and goal which you make incremental progress towards as tracked on your smart phone app.
  14. Variety is the spice of life, so try different exercises, cardio machines, and sports. Your body will adapt to your fitness routine so you need to change things up from time to time. Doing a variety of exercises will also help keep you mentally fresher. I try to do all the major cardio machines at least once a week even though I think some are more effective than others, Fitocracy seems to agree with me and awards plenty of points for the rowing machine. The machine I actually use the most however is the stationary bike. You should also vary your sets and reps while weightlifting. When I was in high school it was gospel that you did 3 sets of 10 with 45 seconds rest between sets. Now many people do sets of 12, 15, 20, or even AMRAP. Others prefer to workout doing lower rep sets: 8, 6, 5, 3, 2, and even 1 rep sets, these folks often take long breaks between sets as they are looking to add absolute measurable strength. You should definitely vary your routine and track what works best for you and your own personal goals.
  15. The Best Gym is the one you actually go to. I try to strategically choose my apartment to be within walking distances of a good gym. I’ve had the best results when I could walk or bike a short distance to the gym. Others may have success training at home or just doing running, biking, or playing basketball, exercises which require little equipment. I prefer to have access to actual weights and a variety of cardio options, again research backs up the benefits of cross training. Research also favours barbells, dumbbells, and kettle bells over weightlifting machines.
  16. Don’t Eat After 8pm this is one of Oprah’s many diet tips from one of her hopefully successful diets. You need to eat less. You need to eat less garbage. After 8 pm you are unlikely to burn off many calories and your food choices late at night are often poor, so just skip the late night snack entirely, go to bed hungry, get up in the morning eat a healthy breakfast and go to the gym.
  17. Do What You Love if you like to run alone in the wind and the rain, by all means do so. If you love basketball, burn calories playing basketball. If all you care about are biceps, broscience can work up to a point, the important thing is showing up and putting in the effort.
  18. Do What You Hate whether you are training for aesthetics (looks) or athletics (performance) certain exercises just aren’t your thing. There are cardio queens who log hours on the treadmill but never lift even a two kilo dumbbell, there are broscience lifers who always have time for curls but never time for leg day. I think if you are serious about building that Brazilian booty or setting that PR you’re going to have to train smart and do exercises you don’t particularly enjoy doing.
  19. You can’t PR everyday. One of the big advantages of tracking your progress with a  smartphone is the phone remembers things way better than you. You might think you lifted a lot of weight today or ran really hard, but when looking at your previous workouts you realize today was not your best day. Trying to do your personal best is a good goal, but somedays you just don’t have as much energy or strength or resolve. Log your workouts accurately, train with a purpose, and eventually you’ll manage to set another personal record.
  20. You’re doing it for you. Motivation can come from many sources. You might have a gym buddy. You might have a hero or role model . You might have the best personal trainer in the whole wide world. But if you personally can not motivate yourself to get out of bed and go to the gym, ultimately you are responsible for staying in your present unhealthy or unsatisfactory state. I didn’t have a workout partner, a hero, a role model, or even a personal trainer. I did follow other people’s progress online. I prefer Fitocracy to Instagram, or even Pinterest to Instagram, I know some people are big on #fitspiration, I personally prefer quotations. If you can find a mantra, something you can repeat to yourself to motivate yourself to get up from the laptop and go to the gym, who cares if someone overhears you and thinks you’re crazy?

My weight loss from March 2013 to December 2015

I didn’t set out to write a lengthy blog posting about fitness regimes, I’m supposed to be studying for the CFA® Exam. I’ve been trying to lose weight and get in better shape for many years. Sometimes I would make progress then something in my personal or work life would get in the way and I’d end up sliding back into unhealthiness. I did used to play a lot of sports but I kept hurting myself so I finally stopped. I’m not sure what my heaviest weight ever was, but I definitely weighed 285 lbs at one point as pictured above. The lightest I ever remember weighing was I think in 1996 when I weighed in under 200 lbs. However I think my soccer, rugby, and football playing weight was around 220-225 so that is a more realistic short term goal weight, getting under 200 lbs is difficult for me, but not impossible. Since I’m living in China I made my goal weight 99 kilos. I didn’t quite get there in 2015. However since it is New Year’s Resolution gym joining season I decided to exercise my typing muscles. I even made one of those before and after photos that are so beloved online.

I’ll even try to embed my first ever Instagram #gymselfie below taken at the start of 2016, I definitely prefer Flickr over Instagram. You can leave a comment below or over on Instagram if that is your thing.

Spinning class the morning after deadlifts. #firstgymselfie #allkindsofgains #fitocracy

A photo posted by Andrew McKay (@muskiemckay) on


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