Automating Fat Loss with 4 Simple Observations I Made While Living In Thailand Part 2

A few days ago, I talked about 2 things… First we talked about tracking your training, and then how we had to scrap the tried and true protein maxims. If you missed part 1, please do yourself a favor and read it.

Onto part 2.

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Lots of Activity in short bursts can do a lot for fat loss

During the first part of our trip, we ate like idiots, and I am making no joke here. I’d say for the first week, our daily intake consisted of the following, and this was just breakfast:

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 2-3 pancakes
  • fruit
  • lattes
  • waffles
  • ham

This was the typical American breakfast choices many of the small restaurants in the old city serve to tourists. And talk about cheap. Our money went a long way, so we ate and ate and ate.

Coffee side note: I also enjoyed a ton of boutique coffee shops. Here’s an Instagram (follow me) of my favorite coffee spot called Ristr8to. If you ever get the chance to visit Chiang Mai, hit this place up.

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After a few weeks, I was getting a little puffier than I liked. We were still training, and walking many miles each day as we refused to get motorcycles, so we were simply satisfying our hunger.

Note: for my cultured readers, do not fear, for I ate my fair share (and loved so much) of Thai food. I even eat Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean food here on the regular in Nashville.

Then we decided to take a trek into the jungle.

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As far as life experiences go, this has to be one of the most memorable of my life thus far. Me, Roger and Mike signed over our lives to a few jungle guides for a two day trek into the wilderness where we slept in bamboo huts and made friends with elephants.

The activity was incredibly high, just see the chart below from my FitBit. I’m so thankful I had it charged to see this.

jungle_trek

As you will see, just over 20 miles were trekked, and trust me when I say this wasn’t just any regular walking.

It was hours of hiking up and down hills with a light pack on our backs. Roger and I were actually at the back end of the group so we didn’t hold anyone up.

Yeah, we took our fair share of breaks.

juciy_rog

As fitness junkies, we assumed we were in good shape with all the super-setting of rows and presses we’d done in the past.

All the weight lifting in the world couldn’t hold a candle to the amount of fatigue and oxygen debt we experienced on this hike.

I remember the sweat pouring from our brows, and us cursing life in the process – “why in the hell did we think this was a good idea?!” kept coming out our mouths.

Then we’d see this:

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Which made us forget about any hill we previously climbed…

Okay, back to the activity level talk.

In the graph above, we hiked a lot. If I mentally tally up the food we had in that period, I would say it was probably less than 2000 kcals each day, and hardly any protein.

Breakfast wasn’t much but my regular eggs and milk on the day we left. A truck ride 2 hours north, with a short stop for a bowl of rice and some fruit probably netted us, oh… maybe 500-600 kcals at most.

Then we embarked on the laborious trek which lasted 4-5 total hours.

Upon arriving to our final destination, we all hopped into the cold river for a bath. We jumped around a good bit, shivered a TON (burns even more kcals), and then finally sat down to feast on Massaman curry, rice, veggies, and some chicken (still, not a ton of meat here).

After a night around the fire, we all fell asleep.

The next day we’re up at 5 am to go back into the jungle on a search for elephants. This trek was worse than the one we did the day before.

Not only did it last 2.5 hours as opposed to 4, it was way off the regular path.

Roger and I were sliding down hollers  (‘hollow’ for you educated folks), and hanging onto small trees as we walked to prevent us from rolling all the way down the hill.

Again, we kept asking “why did we deem this a good idea?”

But then, we found this:

elephant

And all was well with our world again.

We rode the elephants back to camp to bathe them with the rest of the folks who were still sleeping when we left.

I was very sick with more food poisoning at this point, so I was relieving myself in the woods. An hour later, we  took a bamboo raft down the river to our truck, and returned to Chiang Mai.

The next few days, I noticed I was visibly leaner. All the bloat accumulated from the 8 days of stuffing my face was all gone, and I even looked leaner than I did before boarding the plane to Thailand.

Takeaway Point: High expenditures in a short period of time can really boost fat loss, especially coupled with low calories. But, and this is a HUGE BUT, it’s not advisable for very long. The steeper the deficit, the shorter the duration should be.

I was so sore for a few days afterward that I did no training and simply laid around until my legs felt normal again.

Quick tip – sometimes you won’t see much change in body composition despite the great stressors you’re submitting to. That’s okay, and perfectly normal.

However, be mindful of falling into the trap of extending the low calorie period or upping exercise to be a good idea. It’s not, and here’s why.

You’re under a TON of stress when you eat very little, and exercise a lot. It’s even more true when you’re doing something you’re not used to, such as hiking in a jungle.

Maintaining the ultra-low calories and high expenditure is a good way to feel like dirt, and possibly get injured.

Earlier this year, I invited my community of LGN365 folks to join a 2-week fat loss kickstarter program. I put together a plan pretty quickly, and helped them work out their starting macro nutrient/calorie goals.

This kickstarter was low on calories, and the workouts were intense. I made it this way on purpose to give them that extra nudge needed to get focused again.

The biggest warning I gave them was this was for 2 weeks, and 2 weeks only followed by a pretty big refeed (lots of carbs and calories above maintenance intake) to give them a break.

Once they were done with the kickstarter, I had them move into a much more moderate deficit using the LGN365 calculators and training plan (moderation may not be sexy, but it sure does work wonders).

One lady I got an email from was at first a bit disappointed with the lack of progress from the initial two weeks. I then encouraged her to continue on with LGN365 as written, and to give it time.

She sent the following email to me:

“I was so upset and bummed out about nothing really happening during the 2 week kickstart. I mean yeah I may have lost some in inches, but visibly… it didn’t really look much different.

Well, the past two weeks after the kickstart I transitioned into LGN365 training 3 times a week with your workouts.  It seems like NOW I’m seeing better visible results.  I’ll have to do picture comparisons soon also.  Plus I get to eat more!  =)

My coworkers are asking me if I am starving myself because even they see the change.  Mind is blown.  Thank you!  Will keep you updated.  I am actually sticking to your program…..(even though its like a year late).”

This is a perfect example of how to properly utilize the very strict periods of dieting and exercise. She went really hard the first 2 weeks, backed off to a more moderate plan, and is now seeing the progress, even if it took a while to see any changes.

This is why we stick to the plan, kids.

Habits – They Determine Our Success, Failures, and Our Lives

Due to my recent obsession with habits, and routines, I got a chance to see how a new environment would allow us to create new habits, and how it completely ruined some of our old habits (both good and bad).

We all made a point to continue our training. That was a given, even if we didn’t have access to a gym. There were early mornings where Roger and I would string up a TRX to some fencing in an alley for tons of rows, reverse flies and pushups.

We even did this in the park every now and again.

Roger managed to stay very lean even while eating a cinnamon roll damn near every single day and pigging out at the buffet on fries and pork buns.

How? He walked everywhere. In fact, part of his daily routine was to go for a long walk to clear his mind, and for self-reflection.

One of the habits I created was working for a set period of time, and then SHUTTING everything off each night to make sure I didn’t stay in my room and work all the time.

Some habits fell to the wayside. I didn’t have access to piano, so no jazz practice. This is the only thing I detested about my living situation abroad.

Habits such as daily reading, and meditation faded as the previous triggers weren’t present.

I’m a big coffee drinker, so each morning in the states, my routine is typically to pour a cup of coffee right after waking, and then sit and reflect or meditate for a few minutes, then I begin my day.

In Chiang Mai, I didn’t have a coffee machine in my room, so my trigger wasn’t there, therefore the reflection habit wasn’t easy to maintain.

Instead, my morning was normally to wake, shower, and then head out with my laptop to the nearest coffee shop for a latte and some food.

Anyway – your habit-building method, when it pertains to fat loss, is EVERYTHING but it’s up to you to create them, and make sure they’re small enough in the beginning that it’s almost too easy.

Let me give you an example.

One thing I wanted to do better this year is making breakfast. I hate cooking in the morning, so in the past, I’d always start strong – make some eggs, hash browns, coffee, milk and fruit.

This would only last a few days, and then something would happen. I’d wake up late, or have to be somewhere, and taking 30 minutes to make the food, sit down and eat just wasn’t possible.

As a result, I’d start feeling bad about not sticking with my habit, and then quickly experience a spiral of negativity. Negative self-talk about how I wasn’t any good at making changes, or that I was never gonna “get this right” crept into my head a lot.

But then I realized I was making it WAY too hard on myself.

I asked myself – what could I do for breakfast that is really small, and takes very little time?

Immediately, I asked myself “what would I tell a client?” and then BOOM. It hit me.

For clients who suck at eating breakfast, but need to be, I tell them to make a quick shake. If you have some fruit, milk, protein powder and 3 minutes, you can make a damn shake.

And this is what I’ve been doing on autopilot.

Each morning I wake, have my coffee, reflect, then go downstairs and throw some fruit, cottage cheese, honey, milk, and dark chocolate into a blender. Within 5 minutes I’ve made and consumed my 800-1000 calorie breakfast and can go on with my day.

Simple as that.

It’s much easier to stick to because I made it easy to prepare, and ensured it wouldn’t take me more than 5 minutes from start to finish.

New habit created, and better health and energy as a result.

Allow me to clarify one thing before moving on…

The reason I was able to create this habit very easily, and not let myself spin out of control is because of how I view myself.

My personal perception is very strong and I see myself as a leader, and doer.

This is very important for you to understand. Do not take this lightly.

The way I conduct my life revolves around my own intrinsic values that I’ve developed over time. I choose to see myself as someone who takes charge in everything – my diet, my training, my relationships, and my personal pursuits.

Since I view myself as someone who is in control and takes action, I simply find a way to make things work.

If I want something, I go after it with an understanding that I may not have all the answers, but a belief that I’ll figure it out eventually.

In the past, I could’ve let the supposed defeat of screwing up the morning eggs-for-breakfast schedule send me down a road of self-loathing, but since I’ve chosen to focus on my identity (who I am and what I value), I don’t see the ‘failures’ as negative or positive.

I merely see them as feedback Then I adjust until I’m happy with the process, and the eventual outcomes.

Let’s sum this up, shall we?

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TL;DR – 4 Sneaky Tricks To Automate Fat Loss.

Idea 1: You’re only as good as your records.

You heard me right. You should be doing 2 things above all else if you want to lose the most fat possible.

1. Track your training, and pay attention to trends. Your number one goal on a fat loss diet with training is to create enough intensity to maintain and/or build muscle. If you’re getting stronger, that’s a good sign. If you’re maintaining strength, that’s a good sign, too. But remember you probably won’t make leaps and bounds in strength gains while trying to lose fat.

If your strength starts heading south very quickly, it’s time to rethink your training, and recovery strategy.

What’s worse is if your training isn’t going well, and you’re not keeping records… How would you know what to change? You wouldn’t. You can’t afford to ‘wing it.’

2. Track your intake honestly. This part might get tedious, but it’s a necessary evil. A diet doesn’t need to last forever, therefore you should place a priority on keeping good records of your calorie intake. When fat loss stalls, and it will, you can look at the averages over the period you were losing weight, and adjust downward to keep fat loss going.

This is the most sensible way to make this work as opposed to jumping from diet to diet when one stops working.

Idea 2: Protein is good, and you need it, but don’t stress about it.

Intakes above and beyond 1 gram per pound of body weight for males over 10% body fat, and females over 20% body fat are probably not necessary as long as your overall caloric deficit is not excessive (more than 800-1000 kcals over many weeks without a significant break or refeed).

I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat more protein if you want to, but I don’t believe there to be any more benefits to be had, and I’d rather see people eating more carbs and fat, than front loading protein, and skimping on the other stuff.

Remember, just because your body can turn excess protein into sugar for essential function doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. I’m looking at YOU Paleo Man.

Having a well-rounded diet (plenty of all 3 macronutrients) is a better bet for long term success and adherence, almost always.

NOTE: I am in no way advocating ultra-low amounts of protein. Sticking with 1 gram per pound is always a good idea when possible.

Idea 3: Balance the crazy with some sanity when it comes to your activity.

If you’re one that likes to get things moving quickly, that’s fine by me – do it. But understand you can’t go hard all the time with your training and diet. Lots of training with no rest and little calories can never end well if you keep pushing those limits.

Something will give, whether it be you becoming ill, getting injured, or your body forcing you into the kitchen at 2 a.m. in your sleep to eat all the ice cream and pizza in the land.

One of those things WILL happen.

Learn some patience. Sure, it’s nice to get things going.

It’s why I did the LGN365 kickstarter, but that only lasted for 2 weeks, and then I made everyone resume normal activity and diets.

Stress is stress is stress. If you keep piling it on without managing some down time here and there, the shortsightedness will come back to bite you.

Please heed my advice. I’ve been there – don’t do it.

Idea 4: Habits are what determines your success.

Think about this for one second. If you’re looking to change your body, you probably know a series of changes need to happen, not just one thing.

If it were just one simple trick from the internet, you’d probably have it down already.

Fat loss, especially when you want a major transformation (or even to lose the last bit of fat), is a series of habits you build up over time that gets you through to the finish line. Most people need to change their eating habits, train differently, focus on stress-reduction and better sleep habits.

It’s best to take it one step at a time. Pick something you can change immediately, and then begin working on that.

Make sure that change is easy, and then pick the next big one.

Build momentum. No one said you have to get it right all at once, and if they did, I can assure you they have no clue.

Be well friends.

Fist Bumps

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Further Resources:

The Power of Habit — great intro on how habits impact your life.

The Brain that Changes Itself — fairly in depth read about how the brain can be your most powerful asset in changing your life… all by making up your mind to do so. I loved this because it takes a scientific look at how the brain can actually rewire itself after injury, or damage from disease.

Personal Coaching — if you need help with your training, nutrition, and developing habits that you can sustain, I’m always willing to help and work with others.

The Best Way To Lose Fat — this is something I wrote with everything you need to know about losing fat.

6 thoughts on “Automating Fat Loss with 4 Simple Observations I Made While Living In Thailand Part 2”

  1. Great read JC, so glad you’re getting all this out to us. What a privilege to be able to plan and execute such an awesome, life altering trip!

    The part about how you see yourself and value yourself, sounds like the opposite of how I view myself when things stall. Any good resources for help with that?

  2. You lucky guy to fall into an elephant during your hikes!! I will have to say I’m jealous! ;) Think it is great that you got to do this trip! This is a great blog and I am going to share it!

  3. Very informative as always JC… How or where in the heck did Roger get those pants in the last picture? Had to be somewhere in Thailand. They even look like some of the old 80’S/90’S workout pants.

    Yeah I was going to ask about protein consumption because the Herbalife folks were trying to get on my case about if you consume more than 20-25 grams after a workout, your body cannot digest that and it turns into bad fats. Dr. Jim Stoppani recommends at most 40 grams and I have been going that route, I know you have your own thoughts.

    Keep the writing going sir and welcome back to the States,

    Eddie

  4. Nice one JC.

    Not sure how into the science you are, but what are your thoughts on this latest round of media hype about the dangers of ‘higher’ protein consumption? Observational studies, no mention of confounding variables but the press is all over it like a rash.

    I have been banging my head against the wall in despair for most of the morning. Here is a link for you

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/04/animal-protein-diets-smoking-meat-eggs-dairy

    Great post as always, appreciate your effort

    Cheers

    Steve

    • Just a bunch of nonsense. first they demonized it. then they said it was okay, then they demonize it again. I can say, for sure, them saying eating animal protein is like smoking is sensational, and utter bullshit at best.

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