There are just over 6 months between these two photos - Nov 3rd 2014 to May 31st 2015. I was working full-time in Finance, studying part-time to be a PT and training hard. It wasn't easy but it was possible because I wanted it bad enough. Here's 6 major key factors I can attribute to my transformation:
1. Map out exactly why you want to change.
You have to want to change bad enough to make some sacrifices and practice self-discipline. For me, I hated my job. I wanted to be a personal trainer and I realised that I needed to be my own best advertisement. It pushed me beyond excuses. I had so much more motivation when it was more than just 'I want to lose weight'.
2. Get a really good PT and train for Hypertrophy.
I stopped doing endless cardio and testing one rep maxes (which I was doing in the first photo) and started training less but smarter. Not all PTs are created equally so make sure you pay somebody who is helping you towards your goals and not just getting you into a sweat for an hour. Hypertrophy means to build muscle and in a proper hypertrophy program (in general) you should be lifting/pushing/pulling weights that you can't do more than 12 reps for. Above that rep range might give you a burn and make you feel like you are training hard but you will be in the endurance range which won't do much more than burn calories.
3. Stop drinking as much.
Admittedly, my social life was put on the back-burner for most of the 6 months. It had started when all my friends decided to do 'Sobember' in the run up to Christmas. I saw such good results from not drinking that when it came to December I didn't want to ruin my progress. I decided to go out drinking once a week (as opposed to 3-4 times a week in December in the finance industry!) and I do feel like I stalled my results slightly but I didn't regress. For Christmas I took almost two weeks 'off' and piled on the weight but thankfully, with muscle-memory, I was able to pull it back quick enough at the start of 2015. I didn't drink again until March and by then I felt amaaaazing. I had gone on the odd night out and not drank and I just loved all the comments I got on how great I looked - it was so worth it. I also went on holidays to Portugal in April and ate and drank all around me. Again, I pulled it back on track as soon as I was home.
4. Find a nutrition plan that fits your lifestyle.
While I started out on a strict given diet, as I learnt more about nutrition and did research on flexible dieting, I realised that is what worked for me. It meant that if I accidentally had Pringles instead of sweet potato that the day wasn't a complete write-off. I was able to plan my own food around my lifestyle and learn to adjust for what my body needed. I found a level of calories that I was seeing progress, without adding in cardio - which, when you're tight for time, was really important for me.
5. Have a cheat meal.
Every week I had a meal 'off-track'. It was really important for me because at the end of the day my favourite food will never be 'clean food' but rather Pizza, Pringles and Nutella. By planning a cheat meal, it meant I was able to plan a bit of a social life at the weekend. It also meant that I had something to look forward to. If I didn't have anything planned I might be more likely to have an unplanned cheat meal. It meant that if everyone was going for pizza after work on Friday I was able to decline knowing I had it planned for Saturday evening. It also meant that if I wanted it on the Friday I could go, but I would have to stay on track the rest of the weekend.
It was also important to keep it to one meal. This meant on a Saturday, for example, I would save about 1,000 calories for my cheat meal and eat every thing else on track (and usually lower in carbs). I would also get straight back on track Sunday morning. I would also be aware that some cheat meals were better choices than others e.g. having a thai takeaway would be better than Dominos.
6. Change your lifestyle.
I stopped living for the weekend. I stopped rewarding myself for surviving until Friday. I stopped spending all weekend in the pub. While I did have some sober nights out, they are never easy so I had to find other things to do at the weekend. I made new friends who liked to train at the weekends or go on hikes or go for a nice healthy lunch. I felt good going into Mondays knowing I hadn't spent the weekend ruining myself and I always looked forward to seeing the progress I could make in the next week. I enjoyed training and feeling fit and healthy. Training and food was never a punishment. I was making myself a better person day to day through proper fuel, heavy training, studying and working towards my goals.
Hope these points make sense and hopefully you can make some of the changes into your own life. One very important thing to point out is that in the 'before' photo, I was very strong. I had built a strong core. I had a lot of muscle built up from strength training with no proper programming. So, I was lucky that the strength transferred well to the Hypertrophy training and I was able to see results quicker than others might. I always say it takes time to build muscle but there is no better time to start than now.
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