If you’re reading this, I assume you’re wondering if I achieved my goal of a six-pack in six months. Let’s let the photos speak for themselves.
First pic was me on February 21 of this year, weighing in at a solid 184 lbs. The last pic was August 12 at 154lbs.
As you can see, the answer is yes! Now, how did I do it?
There were five major steps I followed:
- Make a measurable goal with a deadline
- Research what others have done to achieve my desired result
- Get tools to facilitate my work
- Join a support network
- Do the work
Step 1. I Made a Measurable Goal with a Deadline
It’s important to make a specific, measurable goal otherwise you’ll never know if you’ve reached the target. Likewise, you need a date so you can create a timeline for the journey. After some planning I decided on the following:
“Lose weight and/or gain muscle to reveal my abs by August 21, 2017.”
Step 2. I Researched How Other People Got a Six-Pack
This step was ongoing throughout the project. I spent hours reading books, magazines and websites. I talked with with experts, semi-experts, average people and a couple of morons. I signed up for classes and email lists. I tried to find everyone who knew how to get my ab muscles out from under their protective layer and into the open.
There are thousands of books available on diet and health and I recommend reading as many as you can. The following five are books that I’ve referenced multiple times during my project. I guarantee they will help you on your quest to transform your body.
“Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes
Recommended to me by Gambit, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is the first diet book I’ve ever read that convinced me to change the way I think about food. Taubes’ meticulously researched journal covers a century of diet history and demonstrates with hundreds of studies that the conventional thinking about fat and carbohydrates is dangerously incorrect.
“Fitness Confidential: Adventures in the Weight-Loss Game” by Vinnie Tortorich (with Dean Lorey)
For over 20 years Vinnie has been the go-to guy when celebrities are desperate to lose weight or get strong in a hurry. Inside this book you’ll find Vinnie has all kinds ways to kick your ass and help you accomplish your fitness goals. “Fitness Confidential” is not only badass, it’s also the most entertaining (and R-rated) fitness memoir I’ve ever read. I guarantee you’ll have a difficult time putting it down.
“The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook” by Lyle McDonald
Of all the weight-loss books I’ve studied, McDonald’s “Rapid Fat Loss Handbook” is both the shortest and the most powerful. In it he introduces the concept of a Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) which is basically a turbo-charged version of the keto-diet. If you’re serious about losing weight quickly, a PSMF will transform your body faster than anything I’ve tried.
“Bigger, Smaller, Bigger” by Nate Green (with John Berardi & Martin Rooney)
My first introduction to Nate Green was this book where he chronicles his experience gaining 20 pounds (90% muscle) in 28 days, losing all 20lbs in 5 days and then getting everything back in a single day. Not only is this book full of inspiration, wit and dozens of helpful tips on crazy body transformation, it’s also free. If you like “Bigger, Smaller, Bigger,” I also recommend signing up for his excellent monthly newsletter at www.nategreen.com.
“The Bulletproof Diet” by Dave Asprey
Most famous for launching the “Bulletproof Coffee” craze, Dave Asprey is a Silicon Valley tech geek who got fed up with being fat and sick and decided to “bio-hack” his own body. Asprey’s ideas are often controversial but always interesting and some of them can change your life.
ARTICLES AND OTHER DATABASES
Over the course of six months I read hundreds of articles on body transformation in magazines and websites. Here are a handful of my favorites:
- This was one of the first articles I read about a powerful form of dieting called “intermittent fasting.” http://dailyburn.com/life/health/intermittent-fasting-methods/
- A great list of studies on the benefits of increasing your fat intake and lowering carbs. http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-low-fat-diets#section1
- Scientific American discusses the various neurological advantages of high-fat diets. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat-fueled-brain-unnatural-or-advantageous/
- Recent study showing long-term weight and BMI reduction in obese adults using a keto-diet. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
- A pro fitness model gives tips on achieving and maintaining 5-percent body fat. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-siege-how-do-i-get-to-5-percent-body-fat.html/
- This is one of the most inspiring sites I’ve ever found. It’s a bunch of stories of guys and girls who used to be in sad shape and are now in excellent shape (before and after pictures are always included). There is a lot of good information about what each person ate, how they worked out and what mental techniques they used to accomplish their goals. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/transformations/
- Here you’ll find 10 reasons that occasional fasting may be one of the healthiest things you can do. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-benefits-of-fasting-that-will-surprise-you.html
- I only recently started using T-Nation.com but so far I’ve enjoyed both the range of available articles and the scientific approach the authors use. There are also many different free workouts and diets, including in-depth videos to further your education. http://t-nation.com/
- Although bodybuilding.com does have some decent articles, for me the truly valuable part of the site is the tens of thousands of comments in the forums. Though there’s a fair amount of newbie lifters and some jock assholes who post, there are also many responses from experienced weight lifters who include solid, science-based information including links to actual studies. Plus it’s just cool to see people helping strangers get healthier. http://forum.bodybuilding.com/
- I have to admit I’m addicted to watching crazy body transformations. This site gives you over a dozen stories of celebs doing ridiculous things to their bodies. While I can’t in good conscience recommend trying any of these diet programs, they’re like staring at a train-wreck. You just can’t look away. http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2013/10/celebs-ate-bulk-upslim-movie-roles/
Step 3. I Used Tools To Help My Weight-loss
The single most useful dieting app on the market, MyFitnessPal is a digital food journal, calorie counter, internet food database and health hub all in one. Even better, the free version of the app is excellent. For more information on MFP and how it will help you lose weight, check out my post here.
A Good Bathroom Scale
My personal preference is a high-visibility digital scale without any extra features like bodyfat monitoring or wi-fi data sync. If you do decide to go for the bells and whistles, be aware that the bodyfat sensors on home scales are often wildly inaccurate.
Fat-Caliper Bodyfat Measuring Tool
Bodyfat calipers are the most accurate fat measuring tool you can use outside of a dedicated health facility. There is a learning curve at the beginning but it’s worth it. A DEXA bodyfat scan will run you roughly $80 every time you do the test. For a single investment under $10, fat calipers offer thousands of accurate readings.
If you’re going to lose or gain weight, you have to know how much you’re eating at every meal. Without a scale to weigh your food that’s pretty much impossible. I have a small kitchen scale from Etekcity that I use constantly. It may feel a little obnoxious weighing your food at first but it only takes a few minutes a day and the benefits will last a lifetime.
There are three kinds of personal heart-rate monitors available to calculate heart-rate and calories. The most accurate are the chest-strap monitors used by athletes. Slightly less accurate but still excellent are the new smart watch monitors like FitBit. And finally you’ll find the hand-grip monitors built into exercise equipment which can work great, badly, or not at all, depending on the gym you’re at. I’ve used all three and while you can’t beat a chest-strap for flawless data, the overall convenience and features on smart watches make them your best bet. Unless of course you just enjoy holding onto the sweaty bar at the gym.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) Calculator
Every second that you are alive your body is burning calories. If you want to lose (or gain) weight, it’s important to know how many calories your body burns during the day. A good TDEE calculator will help you estimate those numbers. Once you have a working calorie baseline, you can adjust it up or down depending on whether you want to lose weight, maintain your current weight or work on bulking.
Note: MFP does include a basic TDEE calculator but it can be off by several hundred calories/day
Calories Burned (CB) Calculator
Once you know your TDEE, the two main ways to lose weight are: (1) Reduce your daily calories; and (2) Increase your weekly exercise. A CB Calculator will help you estimate the energy you spend doing hundreds of different activities. For example, did you know that if you weigh 200 pounds, you can burn 300 calories by reading for two and a half hours?
Bonus Tip: If you want more precision, a smart watch is a great investment. Devices like a FitBit or Apple Watch can calculate your heart-rate on the fly and show calories burned for everything you do during the day.
Step 4. I Joined a Support Network
People who work together as a team accomplish more than individuals. Everyone knows this. I know this. But strangely enough, before I started the six-pack project I had never worked directly with a group to achieve a personal fitness goal. I’ve just done my own thing in the gym. The difference between the two methods was night and day. From now on I don’t ever want to work on a health project by myself.
At this point I’d like to send a big shoutout to all the guys at We Are Superior Men. This project was WAY harder than I thought it would be. There were many times I wanted to just give up, eat an entire fucking pizza, drink a six-pack of beer and forget my dreams. In their own way, every one of these guys has helped talk me down off the ledge and kept me moving forward all the way to the finish.
Our fearless group leader, my cousin Matt (aka Gambit) has been an invaluable guide, confidant and support. At the moment he’s already lost over 100(!) pounds and he’s very close to achieving his ideal body weight. Matt’s passion for learning, his enthusiasm for change and his dedicated work ethic have been a massive inspiration for me throughout this project.
My favorite workout partner also happens to be my brother, Joel. I am very blessed that one of Joel’s favorite activities is finding cutting edge research and sharing it with our family. Some of the things he has taught me during this project include CrossFit, Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey and how to choose meat. He is constantly sending all of us inspirational texts, photos, TED talks, lectures and music. He has also lost almost 20 pounds in the last few months and somehow seems to be in better shape every time I see him. Joel’s creativity, curiosity and drive have helped me immensely in the last six months.
My youngest brother, Josh, is 37 years old and he looks 25. This is probably because Josh has been in love with working out since he was a toddler. Josh is the only person I know who will go to the gym twice in one day “because it’s fun.” He is obviously crazy. He’s also my best resource for all things fitness related. Josh is the perfect coach because he’s always upbeat, always excited and always ready to find something positive about any situation. Josh and I are running the Scenic Half Marathon on September 17. I am going to do my very best to keep up with him without dying.
The epitome of the strong, silent type, James is the newest addition to our group and he has proven invaluable. Though taciturn by nature, his comments are always genuine, supportive and usually hilarious. James has been training in Muay Thai kickboxing for several years and could kick everyone’s ass if the need arose. During the last six months, James was my voice of reason. He helped me check the safety of my diet protocols, forced me to re-examine the extreme nature of my weight loss and to refine what my goals were, both physically and psychologically. James firmly believes in doing things because you believe in them and his strength, conviction and stability have helped me become stronger during this project.
You guys are awesome. All of you.
In addition, I’d also like to thank my parents (especially weekly checks with my Mom); my friends Ben and Dave; Emily; many co-workers including JAG, Danielle, Marci and of course Tony; Kate at LA Fitness Vista; and finally Cedar, Liz, Alison and dozens of other smart, knowledgeable individuals who have helped me with their ideas and enthusiasm. Without all of you this project wouldn’t have been possible.
Step 5. I Did The Work
With the other four steps firmly in place, the groundwork was laid for my success. I assumed that if I got all the external stuff in place, the internal stuff would take care of itself.
After six months, I can say it unequivocally, without reservation or hesitation:
Losing weight sucks.
It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It requires a lot more work than I ever thought. From now on and for the rest of my life, anytime I hear someone say “I just lost weight!” I am going to jump up and congratulate them. They deserve my praise. They deserve a freaking medal.
For those of you lucky individuals who have never had to lose a bunch of extra fat, you have no idea how difficult it is. You don’t know the sacrifices required, the endless aching days or the long, foodless nights. You haven’t watched friends fade away because you no longer drink beer or eat the carne asada fries that goes with it. You haven’t heard the doubts of family members or the murmurings of your co-workers. You haven’t forced yourself to go back to the fucking gym at the crack of dawn even though every molecule of your being wants to stay in bed.
Most of all, you haven’t felt the constant, gnawing, insatiable, devastating hunger that comes with a diet. I’m not talking about the hunger for food. This craving is a hundred times more painful. This is a hunger for acceptance. It’s a desperate need to look at yourself in the mirror and to like what you see.
The worst part of this hunger is that unless you learn to accept yourself somewhere along the way, you won’t be satisfied with the results of your diet. Even if you lose fifty pounds, you won’t like your nose. Or your legs. Or your skin. Or your voice.
That is the hardest part of the diet: When you get to the end and you learn that you will never be perfectly beautiful.
When I first started this project, I thought it was only going to be about food, exercise and self-control. Now that I’m finished, I know those things are just the beginning. If you are going to succeed, you will also need smart coaches, diet tools, exercise tools, new habits, delicious recipes, a support group, a new library and a better way of looking at the world.
Ultimately, the process of body transformation has no end. No matter what level of energy you invest in them, diet, exercise and self-control are a requirement for all human beings. Whether you weigh eighty pounds or three hundred and eighty, we all eat, we all move and we all have to set limits.
Growth, then, is a choice. Weight-loss is a choice. Learning to run a mile, a 10k or a marathon is a choice. Whatever change we want to make in ourselves is possible. Others have done it and we can too. That’s the biggest lesson that I’ve learned. I’m never going to be complete. Nobody is ever going to be complete. But if we keep working, we can keep getting more awesome every day.
Now that is one hell of a great goal.
So there you go.
Six-pack project: Done.
Damn it feels good.
Check back soon to see my next awesome project and of course to see what great new material we have on WeAreSuperiorMen.com. Cheers guys and remember, you can accomplish anything you can dream. So get cracking!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find myself a giant IPA.