How I Said "Goodbye" To Dad-bod

Fifty Shades of Dad-bod!
The global pandemic was disastrous for my waistline. The stress of the situation led to some serious gains, but not the welcomed kind! I soon amassed a spare tyre and was heading for oblivion. Many have gained weight during the pandemic, but you can reverse the damage.

The reality is, I'll be homeworking for the foreseeable. But home-working requires great self-discipline. Many home-workers are now considerably less active than they were pre-lockdown.

Too often I was raiding the cupboards, for biscuits, sweets or whatever I could find! My wife has a proper job in the real world, so she wasn't home to motivate me with encouraging words like "stop eating you fat b*stard!". 

Shamefully I gained 2 stone (12 kg) between March and July. It wasn't just the food, I started drinking more alcohol. Partly through boredom, partly through pandemic-stress. Proudly I fixed this situation and here is my journey out of planet dadbodsville.

The Realisation

The problem with weight gain, is the little bugger creeps up on you. Excess (unused) calories soon turn to flab. Inactivity becomes detrimental, because few calories are burnt sitting on one's arse. If you are a home-worker, you have to make exercise happen. These are unpresented times. There are no walks to work, or in the office.

My realisation came during July 2020, when my jeans suddenly felt tight. I weighed myself and was horrified. At almost 5"10 (a touch under) I had ballooned to nearly 13 stone (82 kg). I am small-framed, so I looked like I was wearing a fat-suit. I was too big, it was my wake-up call, my WTF moment.

A couple of other moments stand out. I couldn't get into my jeans, as my waist had grown. And in July, it was hot, so I went topless in the garden. I then caught sight of my reflection in the patio doors. Uhghh. Had I auditioned for Jabba the Hutt, they would have said "Get out of here kid... you're too fat!".

Diet is Number One

If you are overweight, you must correct the diet. Diet is key.  

The blame and accountability lies with you. Your weight is in you control. We control what we eat and when. Physical activity is also within our control. Together, these are the fundamental parts for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. If you aren't prepared to eat healthier, then you aren't ready.

Most people eat too much and eat poorly. That's what I did. If you want weight loss, the diet must change. The change can be gradual, but it has to change. In fact, a gradual change is preferable, because slow changes are sustainable.

Regardless, you only lose weight by entering a (sustained) period of calorie deficit. Simply put, you must consume less calories than you burn. If you are overweight and consume 3000+ calories, then this must change.

Health experts say men should consume around 2500 calories a day. Rubbish, this arbitrary figure assumes the average man is active. A lazy overweight man has no business consuming 2500 calories. If this is you, you should be hitting around 1500-1700 calories a day. You'll only trim the weight, when you trim the calories

Limit Alcohol (for a bit)

Reducing or removing alcohol is imperative to fat loss. Nobody needs to become teetotal, but alcohol can be diet suicide. Beer and wine are high in calories and have little nutrition. There are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives, with a fraction of the calories. 

I haven't given up alcohol completely. I still enjoy a drink, but I have started to limit it. As I mentioned earlier, I was drinking out of boredom and stress. These days I drink, but only when I have something to celebrate. Recently it has been Christmas and in the future it will be Birthdays. 

As I mentioned, alcohol-free options are great for getting the alcohol taste, without the calories (and hangover). Really try to limit alcohol, if you are serious about weight-loss.

Intermittent Fasting

Another thing I did was intermittent fasting. This is an eating pattern, where you eat at specific times. You can read more about it here. Seek some medical advice first, because it isn't recommended for everyone. 

Essentially, you only consume calories in an 8 hour window, such as 12-8pm, in my case. I sacrificed breakfast, because that's my least favourite meal. There is a giant myth, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Remember, no calories out the eating window, but you can drink water, black coffee and certain teas.

A typical meal day for me looks like this:-
  • Mid-day: Soup, Mixed nuts, fruit
  • 3:00 pm: Whey protein bar, fruit, nuts
  • 6:00 pm: Chicken, vegetables and potatoes
  • 8:00 pm: Protein shake
So we have 8 hours where you eat and 16 hours where you are fasting. The fasting period allows your digestive system to rest. More profoundly, your body starts to burn fat as an energy source during the 16 hour fast, once the calories are used. This worked best for me, because I hate calorie counting and portion control. The weight also started to drop-off, even without work-outs!

When you eat, try to go for lean and clean options. Avoid nasty processed foods and sugar where possible. Protein is important, especially from natural sources like chicken, eggs, nuts, lentils. It helps to build and maintain muscle. Protein supplements are fine, as it can be difficult to get protein at every meal. Also, try to get your five-a-day from fruit and vegetables, along with healthy fats and carbohydrates from natural sources. 

Introduce HIIT Workouts

The term HIIT refers to 'High Intensity Interval Training'. These are intense workouts that take 15-20 minutes. They are tough, but they get the heart pumping and reap great results. If you are overweight, you need to shock the body into action. HIIT workouts are a great way to do this.

Joe Wicks has some great beginner and intermediate HIIT workouts on his YouTube channel here.

The great thing about HIIT workouts, is they are quick and effective. Perfect for busy people, who are time poor. I do just three 20-minute sessions a week, so an hour in total. Leave a recovery day in between, so something like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, would be a great approach for HIIT.

If you are new to HIIT, you will struggle through the first sessions. You will ache the next day, because the workouts will target untrained muscle groups. This is normal and a good thing. It means your body is reacting and adapting to a new norm. Stay strong and struggle through it, it gets easier. No pain, no gain!

Even in these difficult times, we are still permitted to exercise outside. I would compliment HIIT workouts with some outdoor activity. Walking, running and cycling are great ways to keep moving. Take a cautious approach with running. Jogs on hard surfaces can place stress on your joints. This is magnified if your are overweight or have poor running technique. I like cycling because it's low impact. Being 40, the last thing I need is a dodgy hip, back or knee.

The Outcome

So, I kept things pretty consistent, particularly from August until November. I was turning 40 in late-November, so I had a goal to work towards. Consistency and discipline are vital. I personally found the dieting part easier than the workouts. 

It made a world of difference, when I started replacing processed foods for healthier alternatives. My energy levels were far improved. The process of cooking healthy foods can be enjoyable, when you get into it.

I also kept then HIIT workouts consistent and results were quite astonishing. My sleep and energy levels were much improved. I dropped down to around 11 stone (70kg) within a few months. I seemed to plateau at this weight, which will happen. Everyone will slim down to their natural and fighting weight eventually!

Magic Mike

Most impressively, I managed to get lean and to around 12% body fat. It all points to diet. I had never eaten so healthily, for such a sustained period.

Which leads me back to the earlier point. Get that diet sorted! I would estimate that 90% of the battle is diet. Once you get into the habit of eating sensibly, everything falls into place. You don't have to do intermittent fasting, but it can help. Just get the calories down, keep active and do it consistently.

If you are out of shape, I hope you can take inspiration from this post. Even as a busy parent, you don't have to accept being out of shape. Results require sacrifice. Ask yourself these questions.
  • Do you want to get in shape?
  • Can you put in the work?
  • Do you have the discipline?
  • Can you dedicate time to it?
  • Have you got the mental strength?
  • Are you making excuses?
Good luck!

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