July 10th, 2019 marked the end of my 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge that I set for myself. Through discipline, willpower and sheer determination, I was able to adhere to the following requirements:
- Absolutely no junk or fatty foods
- Limit daily calorie intake to 1500 or less
- 16:8 intermittent fasting
- Kettlebell exercises for 20 minutes every day Mon-Fri.
I’ll be going into great detail on how I dealt with each of these requirements but first, the results. When I began the challenge, my weight clocked in at 201.3 lbs. Also, the measurement around my stomach was 41 in. A big reason I wanted to take on this challenge is that my weight would yo-yo from the mid 190’s to the low 200’s. I hated seeing the scale cross over 200 pounds and I knew I needed to do something drastic to change that.
I figured I would set the bar high and aim for losing 20 pounds during this period. Did I make it? Almost! At the end of this challenge, my final recorded weight was 183.1 lbs. That’s a loss of 18.2 pounds in a month. Additionally, my stomach measurement went down 3.5 in. to 37.5 in. Even though I didn’t reach my goal I’m still extremely happy with these results.
The toughest part wasn’t exercising. Rather, it was avoiding unhealthy and junk foods. That’s not to say I eat that stuff on a regular basis, but the temptation does arise from time to time. Perhaps if I was separated from the rest of the world in my own little bubble, that wouldn’t be too difficult. The reality is, life isn’t always convenient and there will always be obstacles in the way.
How I Managed My Temptations and Diet
I had a lot going on personally during this challenge. There’s never really an opportunity where there’s a lull in my life for 30 days. Holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are a common occurrence and I knew that they would factor in during this time. It doesn’t make sense to wait for the best opportunity and say, “Hey, this month looks pretty clear on the schedule.” Even if that’s true, something stressful is bound to happen. When it does, it’s easy to give yourself an excuse to be bad and order or dine out.
In my case, I had my daughter at my house for two weeks. During these extended summer break visits, myself and the other members of my household would go out to eat and celebrate. Sometimes due to a holiday (father’s day) and other times just because. I’m not going to miss out on that so the solution is to choose carefully when ordering.
It helps that we went to a steakhouse since the semi-strict paleo diet I’m on allows for the consumption of meat. Ordering a steak, salad, and some veggies on the side enabled me to stay on track and not go off the rails. Sure, it was hard to watch others in my party eat fries, bread, and other bad but deliciously-smelling foods. However, at least I didn’t feel like I was left out and could enjoy my meal.
Although I knew what I could and couldn’t eat, there was still the issue of watching my portions. Just because I stayed away from fatty foods didn’t mean I could endlessly eat healthy stuff. It was important that I monitored how much food I consumed to remain in a large calorie deficit.
Tracking Food and Calories With SparkPeople
Many years ago I signed up with SparkPeople to help me with a failed weight loss goal. It had been some time since I logged in but to my surprise, my account was still active. I downloaded their app and began recording every little item of food I ate each day. Below is an example of one day’s worth of food broken up into 3 screenshots.
As you can see, I logged my entire day of eating. Total calories for this particular day were 1206. I believe I averaged around 1250 calories throughout the month for each day. I never even exceed 1400 calories. Towards the end, I really went all out and tried to limit myself to 1,000 calories per day. In fact, the last week of the challenge I cut out my salad in order to get close to that limit.
What I like about the SparkPeople app is that you can scan the barcode for certain foods and, most times, all the nutritional information is already filled out. If it isn’t, you can easily add that in yourself through the Add Food Not Listed option. This is great if you have a prepared meal and already know the calories. This way, you don’t have to calculate each individual item.
There’s also an exercise feature in the app where you can add various activities. I ended up just going with the roundabout estimate of burning 400 calories for my kettlebell workouts. Since there is no way to accurately track calories burned (sorry fitness watches), guesstimating was what I did.
I’m not going to lie, tracking all of your food each day is a bit tedious. If you repeat meals a lot, you can save them as favorites in the app. That will save you some time. The main benefit is that you will have much more structure and guidance when you log your calories consumed. I think not doing that is what really kept me at a plateau before.
Choosing An Eating Window With Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. Usually, you’ll see people refer to it along with a ratio. Say 16:8 for instance. What that means is that you’ll fast for 16 hours a day while the other 8 hours you’re free to eat.
I think a lot of people make the mistake of eating too much during their allotted time. That’s not how it works. It’s not a free pass to eat as much as you want. You still should monitor your portions. It’s equally important finding a schedule that works best for you.
For my schedule, an allowed eating period between 2 pm and 10 pm was best. I typically stay up until around midnight and get up to start my day between 7 am and 8 am. So during most of the restricted period I’m asleep. The hardest part was in the morning and early afternoon. Sometimes it seemed like forever until 2 pm came around. I needed something to help get me to that point. My answer, seltzer!
Fighting Hunger With Water
I used to be a big-time soda junkie, drinking several a day. Not only was it not nutritional for me, but those calories quickly added up. So I wanted to find something that could simulate that soda feeling without any of the bad stuff. Although it was an acquired taste, flavored seltzer water did the trick.
The carbonation gives you that fizzy feeling in your mouth while the zero calories mean you can have it any time during intermittent fasting. I’ve read some concerns about dental health due to the slight acidity of seltzer. However, research indicates that any effects are minor and you could always follow it with some normal water if it is a major concern. This article does a good job of discussing other concerns of seltzer and carbonated water.
Weekday Exercising With Kettlebells
Nothing really changed for me during the challenge in this regard. After all, I’ve been exercising with kettlebells for over a year now. I strive to do 20 minutes every Monday through Friday. Sometimes I only ended up doing 3 or 4 days of exercising a week. However, I made it a point to get my exercising in every weekday in these last 30 days.
I have my rotation of favorite kettlebell workouts that I cycle through. There’s the 300 swings kettlebell workout, the gut buster, my favorite flow, and even though I completed it, various workouts from the skogg system. There’s no shortage of workouts to choose from, that’s for sure :).
Getting Some Group Support
What also helped me with keeping me on track with kettlebell exercises was becoming a member of the Caveman Inner Circle. It’s an exclusive group led by master kettlebell trainer Taco Fleur. I’ve found that Taco, the other trainer Anna, as well as the members themselves, are very supportive of my weight loss goal. A lot of the members have their own individual goals they are trying to reach and are encouraging of each other. Once I reach my goal I’ll be transitioning over to strength and endurance. It really is a group for the members as each week they can vote on the creation of a unique workout. It brings a fun element to kettlebell training!
My most difficult problem with exercising isn’t the workouts. It’s getting them in at a certain time. It’s only 20 minutes, right? I know, I know! Still, I’m a procrastinator and typically wait until the last minute to get things done. That’s not the ideal way to go about life.
In order to make it easier, I bit the bullet and got my workouts in as early as possible. Before the challenge, I’d normally do my exercising in the afternoon. However, I overcame my procrastination during this time and worked out somewhere between 6:30 am and 10:00 am. I’m not a morning person so I really had to force myself to get started. Afterward, I felt awake, refreshed, and satisfied. Plus, I really think it helped speed up my metabolism since I was exercising during the fasting period. I never felt queasy or fatigued, but everyone’s different. Use your best judgment and caution if you decide to also exercise on an empty stomach.
Final Thoughts On This Challenge
Down 18 pounds, a 3.5″ slimmer stomach area, and my weight loss plateau obliterated! That’s a win in my opinion. It doesn’t matter that I missed the goal of 20 pounds. I set my expectations high and nearly got there. Now I have a template to follow if I should find myself stuck in another rut.
Doing this challenge during father’s day and my daughter’s visit wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I received some gifts that actually helped me quite a bit. A smart scale, ab roller, and some compression shorts gave me some new things to try during my workouts. I feel fortunate to have people who respect and support me in my life and seeing how much I want to improve myself.
Hopefully, I’ve provided some inspiration to other men and women who are looking to lose weight. I never would’ve thought that I would make it this far. Just know that even if you don’t have anyone in your life to help you with your weight loss goal, there are other avenues of support.