I use and love a web app called Beeminder.com
Beeminder lets you commit to personal goals and then takes money out of your bank account if you slip up. It's perverse and fantatsic. There are a bunch of integrations so its especially helpful for fitness goals that you can track with a health gadget.
This new year Beeminder issued a challenge to stick to one goal for a whole year. After much ado, I decided to commit to dropping body fat.
I am fully aware that there are more important goals that I could have picked. I'm not as fit as I'd like to be, but I don't have a serious weight issue, and dropping to body fat 9% is just vanity.
However, I put on a bit of extra weight a few years ago and the consequences were about so much more than pride or appearance. People treated me differently because I was fatter. It was subtle at first. Simple things like how people talk to you, or how much patience they have for you. It was as though letting myself go gave people permission to treat me like shit.
If I wasn't important enough to look after myself, people took the cue and thought it was ok to treat me the same way. I don't think any of this was explicit but the drop is social status was palatable.
Social intricacies aside, as I began to lose weight I had much more energy and focus at work. My general sense of purpose and motivation improved and I was much happier.
I'm not going to pretend the reason I want to drop my body fat to 9% isn't entirely driven by a childhood desire for six pack abs. However, the reason I am taking this seriously is because looking after your body is about more than the way you look. It's about social status, self-worth, purpose, how comfortable you feel, your ability for sustained focus, and your overall wellbeing.
Whether or not I chose to maintain 9% once I achieve the goal, I am hoping that pushing myself that far will leave me with healthy lifestyle habits. Specifically, sleeping well, buying and cooking fresh food regularly, exercising consistently, spending less time in front of a screen and taking care of my posture.
Now for the how.
Measuring body fat is noisy.
My understanding is that the reason body fat measurements are all over the place is because changes in hydration affect the way impedance scales measure fat.
I'm using a Nokia + scale at the moment. https://www.withings.com/uk/en/body-plus
Luckily it also measures your body's water content.
My approach is to wake up and immediately drink a litre of water. I then wait about 45 minutes and measure myself.
The idea is that I will be consistently hydrated every day, any excess water will be peed out within the 45 minutes.
I don't mind if the readings are not correct. I'm trying to make sure they are consistently incorrect so that I can compare readings over time.
Two years ago, I bought a Skulpt with the promise of it being the most precise body fat measurements money can buy (shy of weighing yourself in a water displacement tank). It wasn't. A waste of money if you ask me, and doing the actual measurements was a hassle.
Nokia + might not be perfect but it's good enough. You stand on a scale for two seconds, everything is hooked up and Beeminder gets updated.
In terms of losing the weight, I'm going to start off by going to kickboxing classes twice a week and cooking twice a week.For shopping lists and recipes I am using the healthy meal prep cookbook https://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Meal-Prep-Time-saving-portion/dp/1465464867 . The idea is to prepare a bunch of portioned out meals so that I don't have to deal with all the calorie counting nonsense. I'll figure out my weekly calorie allowance, cook all the food on one go, and then just stick to eating what I have prepared.
I'm optimistic about this approach because it's capitalising on my own laziness. Having tasty food ready in the fridge means all I have to do is heat it up in the oven for 10 minutes. I've managed to get rid of most of the garbage in my kitchen (there's still some cookies for when people come round for tea). Now I have to actually go out and buy rubbish if I want to binge. I'm betting that If I can stick to cooking twice a week, I'm going to be my usual lazy self and fallback to eating the healthy food in my fridge. This idea of least resistance weight loss comes from an excellent article by Matt Might http://matt.might.net/articles/least-resistance-weight-loss/
I've also stocked up on some meal replacement packs so that I have a backup when I can't eat at home.
Something I learned when I first started experimenting with diets (keto, slow carb and Shangri-la) is how social a phenomenon the act of eating is. Going on a diet can be an incredibly isolation experience. I don't want to do this to myself again. I don't have any dietary restrictions this time, just calorific ones. I'm free to eat whatever I want, I just have to control how much I eat. I have found that fresh, protein-rich food with lots of fibrous vegetables is usually more satiating per calorie than french fries or cake.
So that's pretty much it, no dietary restrictions, no supplementation, just cooking and kickboxing twice a week. I know that this is not enough to see radical changes in 6 weeks but I have a whole year so I'm in no rush. I don't want to make too many changes too fast.
Once I get used to kickboxing twice a week I would like gradually increase it to working out 5 times a week. It has to be gradual, I have a life and I can't just be tired all the time. I enjoying strength training, running and skipping (and I've always wanted to be able to do a handstand) so I will incorporate those elements when I'm ready. In his article, Matt Might also talks about leaving weights around the house and office so that you get exercise through the day, I will probably start doing eventually.
On the dietary side of things, once I get used to cooking regularly I will drop breakfast and start intermittent fasting to increase my calorific deficit. Dropping body fat becomes increasingly harder the skinnier you get. Eventually, I'll start breaking my meals into tiny portions and eating at fixed times, but that's a lot further down the road. I'm also open to using healthy supplementation if needed, but I'm fine for now.
I just weighed myself and today I am 69.3 kilos at 19.3% body fat. I will continue to add updates on this thread as the challenge progresses.
I hope this post has been helpful if you're thinking of starting something similar. Please let me know if you have questions, want to share useful advice or if you think I've missed something.
Happy new year everyone.