Winter 2023 Programming – Turning left

First Program of 2023

Going into 2023, my main goal is getting lean. This fat must be shed, for a number of reasons. That’s primarily a diet thing. Right now I want to talk about the gym side of things.

Changing gyms

For the past 2 years I have gone to the local Snap Fitness. It’s not bad, really. The one here has some age, both in equipment/facilities as well as target market / demographic. It’s got a power rack with a Texas Squat Bar, a half rack with a shit bar (my boys were always a sight, bringing my original EliteFTS Power Bar in every day), a Smith Machine, some benches, dumbbells up to 120, Cybex machines (which I’ve really come to appreciate), cardio, other “fitness” stuff. Really, it’s not a bad place. Owner/operator didn’t care if I used chalk (just clean up). I could “drop” my deadlifts (i.e. respectful clanging is ok). Good people there (other old people like me, a few young people). All in all, Snap was alright. I wish the racks were bolted down (the half-rack further out so that pole wasn’t an issue – which is why the weight storage pegs are all broken off), I wish the bar didn’t suck and there wasn’t 1 of them. I mean, it was kept generally clean. Generally functional. Did recently upgrade/replace a bunch of bench and machine pads. Not perfect, but nothing is and it was generally good. No complaints. Satisfied customer.

It’s more about a life change. Oldest is moving across town. We need to centralize, so gym switch.

As well, 2 years ago I was still on the “strong” path. I wanted to reclaim some glory and bench/squat/deadlift 3/4/5 wheels again. However too many injuries and realizing that I can get there again, I just need to take a much different – and longer – path to get there. Which is, ok at this point. Look at someone like Mike O’Hearn – say what you will, dude’s got longevity and looks better now than most (if not all) of his critics. Dude fucking inclines 405 for reps… So, just take it slower, mind the process. It will come.

And with that, I also find myself more drawn to bodybuilding at this point. I will get to a sufficient level of strength, if I just build the way I want to build. It’s so funny that I always felt a draw to things in like the 5-8 rep range – it just always felt so optimal to me. And it’s great to see how that’s actually bearing out now in research, and I see it too in my hypertrophy response. But I think only now am I willing to put in what it takes to really understand and pull out a 5-8 to failure – and I still think I have a ways to go to really blast through that mental (pain) barrier.

So I naturally want to lean more towards machines right now. So this other gym, TruFit (they seem to be an up-and-coming Texas-based chain)… they’ve got lots of Hammer Strength shit. Boy, HS’s ideal of knurling is so silky-smooth… 🙄 I mean, it’s knurling, it feels really nice, but I still feel like it’s going to slip out of my hand. But they are nice overall. The machines are pretty good, with me opting for the plate-loaded over the selectorized when possible. Hammer Strength’s plates are THICK due to the rubber coating, and it seems like many of the plate-loaded weight shafts (heh) are short (heh), so maybe 4 plates if you’re lucky on the load. I’ll see how things bear out, but so far I’m digging the machine offerings.

Turning left

I already knew I had to change things up (go read to see where this is coming from).

In light of all this new equipment, I opted to reapproach things. I have new toys, so why not!

If we look at Day 1, I wanted more delt focus, maintain upper pecs, something triceps, more delts, then a general back. I used their Iso-Lateral Shoulder Press, IL Incline Press, Rolling DB Extensions, Cable Y Raises, IL Row. The Iso-Lateral stuff is pretty nice. Presses don’t converge, but it’s ok. Row is a little different because now my humerus is about 45º, which is alright.

Day 2 I’m probably going to try the V-Squat.

Day 3 there’s more interesting back machines around there, and I’ll keep seeing what there is. I know there’s some nifty lat-pulldown types. I want a good row, a good pulldown, something rear delt, something biceps, chest press.

Day 4 I’m not sure. The good morning in the V-squat is all the rage right now, but I think I want good old RDL’s. Then probably lying leg curls. Not sure what else… there is a standing calf raise machine, so I’ll probably use that.

It’s fun to have new toys. 🙂

First Impressions

Gym was open when I got there, which is a good sign (esp. day after Christmas). Not many people (maybe no more than a dozen at any time while I was there, tho probably 2-3 dozen did cycle through).

Bathroom… generally clean. Needed soap at one set of sinks, lots of water splash on the mirrors and around sinks. When I left, I stopped into the locker room on my way out. I saw a reflection… of 2 ovals, close together, on one of the benches. I noted to not put my bag there.

There is cleaning stuff but not necessarily together. Like there’s a trash can and a cleaning bottle in the middle of the floor, but only a paper towel dispenser way on the other side on the wall. Interesting how they locate the cleaning supplies.

Took the time to look around, check out all the machines, see and start to learn what’s available. Decided to go with plate-loaded over the selectorized since I think it will fit me better – I tried some ergos and overall the plate-loaded will work better for me. There’s a nice selection of stuff.

Opted to do this shoulder press. I worked up for sets of 8 until I felt it was “there”, then did 2 (work) sets of 5-8. I didn’t think much of it. I then moved to the incline press, same work-up to 2×5-8. I will note I felt myself pushing (contracting) harder than ever before. It was… wild. And my right pec is reminding me that it’s not without prior injury, so I gotta be mindful.

After I finished those, my delts were on fire. I never felt that before. It was a crazy ache! We’ll see how it feels in the next few days.

Rolling DB extensions were ok. I have to find the groove on this equipment (e.g. “place my butt here so when I lay down my head will be here”). Plus my delts were so fried that my body was like “No, I am not going to stabilize these dumbbells, I don’t care what you say”. 😂 I may need to find another movement that doesn’t involve that stability aspect.

Good Y-Raises. They don’t have a “free motion” machine, but they have a setup that has 2 stacks at 90º close together which is good enough.

And the Iso-Lateral rows. Of the various hand positions, the top handle with pronation was the one that worked best for me (i.e. comfortable range of motion, no weird stresses, optimal width). I didn’t feel it there at the gym, but this afternoon here at home I’m feeling the work.

All in all, this is a good move. Equipment more towards what I’m now pursuing. This is novel and fun.

Being strict on my diet coupled with this work should pan out well.


I will spend the next 2-3 weeks sussing out the program: honing in on the exercises/machines, weights to get that 1-3×5-8, etc. Do more with less.

I will take this as long as I can take it, which ought to be be 3-4 months at least.

I should have a good feel for this gym by then too.

Welp… time to change it up

Enough signs and emerging pattern to say that caloric deficit is taking its toll. It’s time to carb back up a bit, then start again. Small steps downward.

I’ve been building up some strength and size on various movements. I’ve picked up a bunch from the past 5 macrocycles: 1-3 sets of 5-8 reps to failure 3 minutes between (working) sets is… choice (h/t Paul Carter). I’ve got some movements better suited for my build, like I respond well to 20º incline bench – nice clavicular pec growth. Leg press ain’t just a side dish. Dedicated calf work is important, and put the ego in the backseat (the neverending reminder). Stabilization is… a thing (again, Paul Carter); that Cybex chest-supported row machine is sweet. I set some nice PRs, including inclining 265×3@8 – I’ve never inclined 265 let alone 3 easy reps.

And so the strength goes down. It’s ok. I play tricks: pick new movements where I have no idea where and how I’m strong with it. So change it up and keep on.

Here’s what I’m looking at now:

  • General
    • Mon/Wed/Fri – it’s a 4 session cycle done 3 times per week, so it’s a 9-10 day microcycle.
    • 1-3 sets of 5-8 reps aiming for true failure. 3 minutes rest between (work) sets. (Carter)
    • Start light, progress slowly. (Wendler)
    • You need less than you think you need.
    • Push the shit hard, and build up to it over the weeks. Again, start light, progress slowly.
    • Accumulate volume over the week/microcycle; since it’s 9-10 day microcycle, “working a muscle” once per microcycle isn’t enough.
    • Keep recovery in mind – I’m 50… TRT helps, but I’m still 50.
    • Do stuff out of the gym to stretch, keep mobile and limber.
    • Treadmill cool down, 20-30 minutes.
  • Day 1: Push
    • Flavor: more of a delt-focused approach. Maintain pecs. Grow tris because arms.
    • Seated smith machine overhead press
    • Incline dumbbell press (maybe… wrist sensitive; something for pecs, bias upper)
    • Rolling DB extensions (some sort of triceps work)
    • Cable Y raise (something for middle delts)
    • Those Cybex machine rows
  • Day 2: Legs, quads
    • Flavor: keep growing quads.
    • Cybex Plate Loaded Squat Press
      • Reset the weight a bit and work back up.
    • Leg extensions
      • here too.
    • Hip adduction
    • Seated calf raises (350 method… dunno… I just seem to get more out of these with those; it’s variety if nothing else).
    • Cable upright row (a little more delt, and a little biceps)
  • Day 3: Pull
    • Flavor: Keep growing the back – get really honed into activation
    • Barbell row (lighter, really work the muscle instead of muscling it…)
    • Neutral grip pulldowns (with those angle-90 grips or something where I can have neutral grip and some free movement)
    • Cable rear-delt “raises” (not sure how I’ll execute this yet…,)
    • Preacher curls
    • Cybex chest press (selectorized)
  • Day 4: Legs, posterior
    • Flavor: leg press 2x/micro was too much; swap in RDL instead. Unilateral work in lunges, which is also good for me.
    • RDLs
    • Seated leg curl
    • Lunges (I don’t want to do these, they are the right thing for me to do… so I will do them, probably half-assed, but I will do them). LOL
    • Calf raises on leg press (these are 3×5-8, stretch and squeeze; it’s not much weight)
    • Pushdowns (actually leaning over the bar and pushing down like a dip, not the hinge at the elbows pinned to your side version of pushdowns).

So basically I keep doing what I’ve been doing. What has built the muscle is what will “maintain” the muscle, because really “to maintain” means to keep (re)building the muscle. You are actively fighting against muscular atrophy. So the best weapon is that which will maximize growth. And the above is panning out pretty interestingly well to support stuff.

What will be interesting will be to see how, even in deficit, I might grow. I want to focus some on my delts/shoulders – I need some width due to my narrow skeletal structure.

I’m down…

…to about 250-ish pounds. The other day the scale said 248, but that was just water/carbs.

Catching you up

I track my bodyweight via RepCount into Apple Health,; before that in spreadsheets. I’ve also written about it here under the weight-management category. tl;dr 2015 I got my leanest to date at 199 from my highest ever at 265. After that I got more into powerlifting, Vitamin T. Got strong, and big… especially big. My bodyweight has fluctuated up and down since then, tho certainly the overall trend has been increasing. This time tho, there’s far more muscle. I’ve been sitting in the 250’s for maybe 18 months now. I ballooned up to 261 from Thanksgiving bloat.

I’m tired of it

It’s fun to be big. No lie.

It’s also tiring. #IYKYK

Oh, I still want to be big – don’t get me wrong! But I don’t need to lug around fat as the amount I have does me no good (you only need so much to function). What I’ve got gets in the way more than helps. Put it this way: lean abs and big pecs help with AIWB, and I ain’t helpin’ myself.

It’s been my eternal struggle. Food is my crutch, my comfort, my drug.

That must stop. Not just change, but stop.

I’ll state right out front: death comes for us all, and until that day I will occasionally enjoy a fine meal and good whiskey. I will also not stop eating Mrs. Hsoi’s cooking, especially when she makes me large-pearl tapioca pudding (just like my Grandma Eleanor used to). I just want to ensure that until that day comes I can live well – which for me right now means leaning out.

And never going back.


Being sick was perhaps the blessing in disguise. It killed a bunch of my appetite. It’s been pretty easy to bypass the sweet snack-y things (props to Alan Thrall). That alone I know is a help – and I told myself

Or… it could be the Animal Cuts. Yes I know, but let the little bro in my live a little. LOL. I actually wonder if the appetite suppressant properties may be contributing. The tin is almost empty, so I’ll cycle off for a bit and see what happens. Over all these years I’ve always experimented on my body to see how things act, react, respond, etc. I keep data. The experiments are interesting and educational. But I know like any supplement, if you don’t put in the work, you still ain’t gonna get results. Frankly? Even if it’s placebo, if it’s only just helping me somehow be accountable (e.g. like why some people have a personal trainer) because that paying out $$$ makes you not want to waste it. 🤷‍♂️

Still, my appetite is down. I can look in the mirror and see I am VERY flat. My wedding ring comes off more easily. So while I got down from the post-Thanksgiving bloat of 261 pretty quick, it was back into the 254-257 range. So that I’m now bouncing around 248-251 is… good. I believe this is mostly water and glycogen loss, maybe a pound of tissue if I’m lucky? Which I know contributes to the dizzies at the gym. Still, that’s needed to deplete to drive the body to alternate energy sources (fat). Working to keep my protein intake high (at least 200g/day on the “lazy measure”, which means I’m probably getting 225-250g from all sources).

It’ll manage out. There’s some fine-tuning to do and I’m doing it. I know the scale is but one metric, and I know how I leverage that metric. To see 250 consistently for the past few days is actually good. We needed convenience supper last night, ordered pizza, I ate a couple more slices than I should have however I’m not feeling guilty because my body needed it. I’m coming off a really hard some months at the day job and last night started 2-weeks PTO… so I unwound a bit and don’t feel one lick of guilty about it. Woke up 250 this morning, a little fuller looking. Pretty cool. I’ll return to normal today, both in food consumption and glycogen levels. It’ll be fine in the long haul.

So… it’s a small step, but it’s a meaningful step. Slow progress is still progress.

Here I go again…

If you don’t care about my fitness and diet stuff, stop reading now. 🙂

The past year has been a mixture of frustrating and fun. Fun because I have made some reasonable gains in size and strength. Found a new gym that is much more suited to my needs. I’m generally happy with how some major aspects have moved.

But frustrating because I’ve had on-and-off injury issues, the worst being my arm pain. That forced me to take 6 months away from benching, and while I managed OK, if you look at “year over year” data, I look to be sitting still. That’s probably been the most frustrating thing for me is when I look at yearly snapshots, it seems like I’ve made no progress. One cool thing about the in-gym app I use, RepCount, is the data/statistics and graphic features it has, and if I look at that data, I have progressed because the lines are overall an upward trend. Just not the rate I wanted. I mean, last year my goal for the end of 2017 was to bench/squat/deadlift 315/405/495, and I’m no where near that due to all these problems. If I 1RM tested today, I’m guessing I could do 275-285 bench, 365 squat, and deadlift I have no idea but probably mid-400’s. That seems good, but relative to where I was a year ago? It’s not great at all.

What’s also been frustrating is my bodyweight. About 2 years ago I ended a big “defattening” phase, dropping 66 lb and landing at a bodyweight of 199. Today? I’m about 250 lb. Some gain I expected and allowed for given my goals, but I never should have gotten above 230. My trouble was my focus has been about building strength and lawdy you gotta eat to accomplish that goal. If I wanted to take some time to drop some fat, it would set back my strength goals, so I kept eating. I got stronger, I got fatter. Fuck.

What also is happening is I’m finding myself more beat up. I love powerlifting-style lifting, but it’s taking a toll on me. When I took a break the past few months and did a more bodybuilding style, that was so much nicer on my body despite being more intensive in other ways. And I must admit, I am appreciating the hypertrophy gains.

While I still want to get stronger, I have to change my greater goals.

Going back to my foundational goal for all of this: I do all of this because I don’t want to become decrepit. I don’t want to stay young and avoid death, because I cannot. I just want the ability to live whatever live I have (left) to the fullest. Seeing people my age struggle to pick things up off the floor or climb a flight of stairs, no thank you. I really don’t want a wheelchair nor a walker when I get older. I want to be like Sonny.

So I need to change my approach.

See, I’ve been chasing strength goals. For example, setting a goal of 3/4/5 in bench/squat/deadlift. So I start on 5/3/1, I see how in 12 months I can put X amount of pounds on my lifts, and I just chase that number. Trouble is, I can’t chase it the way I’m chasing it. Maybe if I was 20 years younger I could, but I’m not and I can’t. I need to look at this quite differently.

I’ve been starting to sow those seeds, but I haven’t taken the full-on plunge because I was still exploring and figuring things out. I won’t say I have things figured out, but I can say what I’m going to try.

I’m going back to my friends at Renaissance Periodization.  They just released version 3 of their Diet Templates, so I’m going to try the templates out (again) and see if I can drop 20-ish pounds in 12-ish weeks.

One difference? I’m going to strongly commit to the templates. So I’m going to do serious food prep. Like Sunday afternoon is 2-3 hours of just cooking and packing my meals for the whole week in plastic containers. The containers follow the template, and if it’s not on the template and not in the containers I don’t eat it (with minor exceptions, like whey). I’m expecting this should help me in a number of ways.

But then, I’ve been wondering how to contend with the gym work. I know I will lose strength, but I really want to work to maintain muscle. If I do that, getting the strength back is no biggie. And it’s not like I’m planning on a 16-month cut, just 12-ish weeks. So instead of trying to roll my own program, I’m trying RP’s Physique Templates, the 4-day, whole-body approach. Why this? especially why this vs. the RP Powerlifting Hypertrophy templates? Goal is to build/preserve muscle mass during the cut, so naturally some sort of hypertrophy work is what I want. And then, I want to try this out, as a change of pace from the powerlifting-style work that’s dominated my approaches for the past some years. And having a totally different style and approach to the gym should also give me some deeper insights into this approach.

I plan on starting this soon. I’m thinking right here after Thanksgiving, but I may not if I’m not fully prepared. Basically, things like ensuring I have enough containers for a week’s worth of food prep and so on. But I do want to start on this a.s.a.p. because there’s really no reason to wait.

Long term, my thinking is to take a longer-view and probably start to move away from strict percentage-structured templates. To look at mesocycles, like 6 weeks hypertrophy focus, 6 weeks strength focus, 6 weeks peaking. Repeat. This is vs. just pounding away on a 5/3/1 BBB template until it’s time to reset (which could be 6-9 months). I may go back to 5/3/1, because I love it, but I could see something like:

  • 6 weeks on a 5’s PRO, lots of assistance work, cut-style diet (aim to drop like 5 pounds or at most maintain).
  • 6 weeks on a 5/3/1 BBB or SST style approach, keeping it simple, building strength.
  • 6 weeks on 5/3/1 FSL type of thing to “peak”
  • Repeat

Something like that would allow me to cycle well, even taking some time to do “mini-cuts” to help keep fat gain in check.

Anyways, we’ll see.

First things first. Gotta get back in control of things.

The Defattening Project – End Phase 1

16 Months. 265 – 199 = 66 lb lost. The Defattening Project, Phase 1, ends and Phase 2 begins.

Short Summary

At the start of August 2014, I weighed 265 lb. I’ve never been that heavy, nor that fat, in my life. I was upset and disappointed I had let myself get to that point, and that lit the fire. I contacted Nick Shaw of Renaissance Periodization, and began a 1-on-1 coaching trek that today, December 2015, sees me weighing 199 lb.

It took longer than I wanted, but I think that’s become a blessing in disguise. And I’m not done yet, just entering a different phase of what I’ve called “The Defattening Project”, because that’s what it is.

More Details


I was always the skinny kid. I could eat and eat and remain a stick. I got older, I became less active, you know the story. Sure I put on a little bit of weight finally, but I didn’t think much of it – that’s just what happens as you get older, settle into a desk job, suburban family life, etc., right? And for a number of years it really wasn’t much to bother with: well within parameters (right right… what I kept telling myself).

However, I can’t recall when things started to get where I wasn’t as happy. Maybe 10 years ago? Maybe more? I tried various things to get the weight back into control. I recall my good friend W doing this “up day down day” thing and it was working well for him, so I tried it and actually had good results (lost about 25 lb, IIRC), but it didn’t take.

The big changes came about 4.5 years ago, when I started lifting weights again. I’ve lifted weights on and off since I was a teenager, and about 4.5 years ago I went back to them and have been dedicated ever since. Of course, you have to eat to fuel all of this, and so I ate. I wasn’t horrible, but I wasn’t good either. I certainly found ways to use “gotta bulk, brah!” as an excuse to keep shoveling food.

But the worst really came maybe 2-or-so years ago, when I decided to become self-employed. See, food is a wonderful thing to me. I love food. I love the smells, the flavors, the textures, the sensations, the experience – food is blissful, and far more than just nourishment.

Food is also stress-relief, comfort, and coping.

My worst habit? Finishing off a stressful day with a huge bowl of ice cream covered in chocolate chips.

And doing that almost every night.

Chips & salsa, and beer aren’t helpful things either. Those wouldn’t be all that often, but certainly enough to add up.

I could see it. It was obvious.

My gut was getting bigger. It was obvious even with a large, baggy shirt on.

The rest of my clothing was getting tighter. Heck, my shirt size went from XL to XXL, which in part was from all the muscle gain but certainly from fat as well. My shorts/pants/jeans were getting tighter too. Belts had to go up, but what kept me somewhat reigned in was that I could tell I was getting bigger but I just did NOT want to have to do a wholesale change of my wardrobe. Still, I pushed capacity pretty hard.

But some of it I justified as the price you pay for getting to lift bigger weights, and that on my (then) quest to have a 1000 lb total, that was not the time to start dieting!

I achieved that goal, chilled out on the food a bit, but then the stress of job, life, providing and trying to launch this self-employment thing, all took over. And food became the coping mechanism.

I recall the first time I weighed 225 and thinking “wow, never been this big before.”

I recall the first time I weighed 245 and thinking “wow, I’ve never been this big before”.

And that was when I stopped getting on the scale.

Then August 2014 came around and I got on the scale for whatever reason.

265 lb.

Holy shit. How did I let myself get here?

And that was it. That was all I needed. I was mad at myself, disappointed in myself.

See, I need something to “make it stick”. When I was younger I smoked cigarettes. I like to comment that “quitting cigarettes is easy – I’ve done it hundreds of times! sticking with it is the hard part”, as that was my case. But one day maybe 18 years ago, I was sick of the fact I couldn’t walk 2 flights of stairs to my office without getting winded; that I couldn’t roll around with my infant son and play without grunting or wheezing. It was stupid. And I quit, and haven’t had a cigarette since. I needed something strong enough to trigger the transformation.

Finally I had it with my weight.

I also knew that my past efforts could be successful, but I realized that diet was something I just didn’t know enough about to forge true success. I needed someone to coach me, to help me learn, to help me through this. I kept reading about this new outfit called Renaissance Periodization. In fact, I had a small experience with them back in February 2014 in the comments on another blog. You can see I’d had weight-loss on my mind for some time, but just not enough fire to do something about it. But once I did, I contacted Nick and off it went.

Defattening, Phase 1

When I contacted Nick Shaw, RP was still a small group – not what they are today. There were no auto-templates, no lifting templates, no eBooks. Just one-on-one. I’m glad for that, because 1-on-1 is what I needed. I contacted Nick, paid for 6 months because I wanted a trial period, but knew I needed more than 2 weeks to actually evaluate this process. Nick sent me a questionnaire, some other paperwork, and away we went.

I honestly can’t recall how the early days were, but I can say some things about the overall.

First, I appreciate the spreadsheet. The diet is laid out, and you just follow the template. It’s designed to be as little headache as possible. You worry about the macros (protein, carbs, fats), but you don’t have to micromanage it because there’s leeway put in and acceptance that no food is truly a single macro. But that does mean foods that make it more complicated, like dairy, are avoided (tho if you want it you can have it, it just has to be factored in); no big deal, really.

Second, I appreciate that I can basically eat whatever. No, I can’t make it a Pop Tarts fest. But a lot of diet fads are so massively restrictive, which is a big cause for diet failure. Like a lot of diets shun fruit – why?!? The fact I can eat fruit with RP is a huge win, because it’s fiber, it’s carb, and frankly it’s a good way to satisfy the sweet tooth without resorting to Snickers bars. Yeah, there are some foods that are right out, but it’s also interesting to note that it’s totally cool to drink Tang and eat kids cereals on RP; in fact, you have to! But there’s a method to the madness (e.g. peri- and post-workout nutrition).

If you want to understand RP’s basic approach, check out this short playlist of YouTube videos from Dr. Mike Israetel.

People ask me how I did it. It was pretty straightforward:

  • Lift weights at least 3-4 times a week.
  • Do cardio (just walk for an hour) on the non-lifting days (ugh).
  • Follow the diet plan. Again, watch those videos for a totally free explanation of the foundations behind RP’s strategy (hint: science!)
  • Check in with a weigh-in semi-weekly.

I also opted to take pictures at least once a month. Progress is more than just the scale.

And so I went.

And it sucked.

Let me tell you. Being constantly hungry every day for 16 months is irritating and gets old.

But that’s the way it goes. You have to have a caloric deficit, and your body will respond by saying “Dude, you’re not eating enough. I need more food. Here, let me ratchet up that hungry-feeling.”.

At some point early on I ready something from Dr. Mike. I don’t recall his exact words but the gist was basically:

Hunger is just fat leaving the body.

Honestly? I clung hard to that notion. Every time my stomach felt it (which was pretty much always), I just told myself that was fat leaving the body.

Every time I woke up on my not-lifting days and had to do cardio, I just did it. I hated it, but you don’t get better by doing the things you like. The thing I liked – eating ice cream – is what got me here.  But I made the best of it and used the elliptical time to either read or listen to podcasts.

Vacations, business trips, other things would come up that would derail things. So you just find ways to stick as best as you can to the diet and the plan. Sure, maybe it amounted to no weight lost that week, but in the grander scheme it was just a small bump.

And we’d cycle through things: a few months on a strong cutting cycle, then a month of “mid” to hold weight, then a few more months cutting, another mid, and so on. At one point we did a small bulk just to give me a break, but basically it’s been 16 months of a “cut program”. While the data points plotted on a graph are scattered, the overall trend is downward.

The motivation was strong, and you just have to want it bad enough that you stick with it no matter what. That you make the sacrifices (and really, sacrifices like this are one heck of a first-world problem), you do the work, it’s not always fun, but you know achieving the goal is going to be awesome – more awesome than the ice cream. So you keep going.

But I’m not done, I’m just done with Phase 1. I didn’t expect there’d be phases, but that’s how it’s become.

Phase 2

When I was at 265 I figured 225 was a good goal and would get me where I wanted.

Then I got to 225 and realized I was still no where near what I wanted. Again, it’s not just about scale weight, but also body composition and “look” in the mirror. So I thought 210.

When I got to 210, I realized that I was getting somewhere, but still wasn’t where I wanted.

Then I got to 200. Actually I didn’t get to 200. I went from 202 to 199. When I did that weigh-in I was shocked because I didn’t expect that drop. And seeing that “1” as the first digit? It really threw me, because I can’t recall the last time I saw such a thing… it was a bit of a “moment” for me.

At this point, I can look in the mirror and I do feel pretty good about how I look. I appreciate that my pecs push my shirt out, not my gut. I appreciate that my clothing isn’t so tight any more. I appreciate that I actually may need to drop yet another pant size.

You know what’s funny? I can physically see and feel the veins sticking out in my arms. No it’s not crazy “vascular” or anything, but just that the last time I recall being able to do this was when I was in high school. I don’t have so much fat, spackling everything smooth.

So while I’m quite happy with where I am, I can also see that there’s still progress I want to make. If you look at my “after” pictures, you can see there’s still some fat around my middle, that there’s still some fat spread around my body. I want to shed that fat.

However, at this point the marathon downward trend ceases. It’s no longer cut-mid-cut-mid-cut-mid-etc.. Now the cycling will be more proper. Have a bulk cycle, mid, then cut. I’ve been calling it a “2 steps forward, 3 steps back” approach. So for this next macro-cycle we’ll work to bulk me up to about 210, hold it for a bit, then cut down to about 190. The goal is to gain some muscle, then just trim the fat; that should trim off any fat I gained during the bulk as well as some preexisting fat. Thus I should have a little more muscle, a lot less fat, and things be even better than they are right now. If I need to do a second macrocycle of this (e.g. up then to 200, then down to 180)? Well, let’s see how the first macrocycle goes and where I end up. I don’t necessarily intend to become some pro-bodybuilder ripped, but I would like to get leaner than I am now.

My next longer-term goal is to bench/squat/deadlift 3/4/5 – that’s 3, 45 lb plates on each side of the bar (315 lb), 4 plates (405 lb), 5 plates (495 lb). Right now my primary goal remains Defattening, but it’s not as strong of a goal as getting my strength back and rebuilding muscle is a stronger goal. Goals are changing, but not yet changed. This next year will be an important transition phase.

One thing to take from this? It’s been a lifestyle change for sure. That’s why nothing before ever stuck: it was a gimmick, and wasn’t really sustainable. I always knew I’d have to change habits and lifestyle, and having to do this for so long has made it a change. It’s now just how I eat, it’s just how I operate. What I eat, what I don’t eat, when I eat it, how much I eat, that I get up and just go to the gym every day, it’s just life. It’s not really a program, it’s not really work, it’s just my life. Yeah, it takes a lot of discipline to get there, and it still takes discipline to not fall back into old habits. But at this point it’s “life” and pretty much how things will continue forward for me. I don’t expect to stay 1-on-1 with Nick forever, but the general habits ought to remain.


I’m happy to have achieved this milestone. The process hasn’t always been enjoyable, but the results make up for it.

I want to thank Nick Shaw and all at Renaissance Periodization; couldn’t have done it without you. If I could have my way, I’d never eat chicken or do cardio again. 😉

Also some thank you to Paul Carter. Paul didn’t do anything directly to help me, but I’ve been following his training philosophies all this time, and it was a big help.

Thanx to Andy, gym owner, for letting me use the gym at odd hours. That freedom to schedule continues to be a huge help.

To my friends and co-workers, I thank you as well. You’ve been very tolerant and supportive of my restrictive diet and other weird habits. But now you know why I spend so much time exercising every day every week, and why I eat like I do. 🙂

Biggest thank you goes to Wife & Kiddos. They have been my biggest supporters. For all the help with food shopping, meal prep, and how all of this has generally taken over my life – it’s become my life. Y’all have put up with a ton from me and really helped me through it. I cannot thank you enough, especially the Mrs.

Well, back to it. My work is not yet done.

Thinking beyond The Defattening Project

So when I get to the end of this cut cycle, what am I going to do?

Note that this can change as life progresses, so none of this is in stone, just a reflection of my current thinking.

My original desire was once I was done to start right back rebuilding strength. While I’m enjoying Paul Carter’s programming and really want to explore it more, I have thought about dropping back to 5/3/1 because I know it really works, or even diving into Cube Method. But the more I think about it, this isn’t the right way to go just yet.

I’m pretty tired and drained from all this dieting, and I need to let my body readjust and rebuild itself. As well, I suspect that when I’m done with this cut cycle I won’t be exactly where I want to be bodyfat-wise. I’m close, but I suspect I may need a little more work. I just need a damn break, to eat more, to let my body regain something, and have a little more cycling instead of more months of restriction and loss. And so, training has to be geared towards that. I don’t want to start down the road only to have to stop short.

So I’m pretty sure I’m going to just do some mass building.

Nick @ Renaissance Periodization and I spoke about it, and the current thinking is to do something like 2 months of massing then a month of mid or maybe even a mini-cut. Exact details TBD, but essentially 2-3 months of growing, then we’ll assess. Who knows. I might do 2-3 months of growing then be happy to do 6 months of cutting to really get myself shredded. Dunno yet, just have to see how things are when we get there. But you can see, whatever the lay is, chances are it’s not totally conducive to my next big goal of bench/squat/dead 315/405/495. BUT, building some muscle? Yeah, that will help towards that end, no question. So… mass it is.

Besides, I look in the mirror and tho I look tons better, I also feel so damn small. I wouldn’t mind getting bigger again, but this time a good bigger. 😉

I started looking at Paul’s programming for mass building. Again, I want to continue using Paul’s methodologies because I really want to explore them more. And since it’ll be really trying his stuff, I think it’s good to start with as close to a written program from him as I can, before I start to go it on my own, y’know?

Big-15 and other mass programs from him look great, but just don’t look like they’ll fit my general schedule. So as I look through it all, one existing template is from the Base Building book. It’s a 4x/week program: chest/shoulders, legs, day off, back, arms, day off, repeat. Now thing is, I interpret that as 4x/week, but really it’s just 4x. So it’s probably more like Monday chest, Tuesday legs, Thursday back, Friday arms, Sunday chest, Monday legs, etc… But whatever works best for you. There’s general adherance to his protocols and away you go.

A few months ago I saw an article from Paul on t-nation for “Guaranteed Muscle Mass”. I filed it away, and recently came back to it. Of course it’s based in the core philosophies of his approach, but I took a closer look at the specific program.

The program is basic movements: bench, incline, squat, rows, chins, dips, press, curls, etc.. It’s split simply into an upper body day and a lower body day, but 2 variations of each day. You can click through the article to read the specifics. But some things stood out to me about it:

  • volume, but not too much
  • day #1 is like a heavy day
  • and day #2 is like a light day
  • and where have I seen similar loads before…?

Maybe it’s the fact I’m reading Arnold’s “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” (never read it before) and I start think about frequency. Heavy and light days are nothing new. And while the #2 days aren’t “light” they sorta are. For example, upper day 1 is bench, incline, heavy bb row, pulldowns. But then upper day 2 is press, then dips, db rows, chins… and everything but the pressing is 350-method, all about the reps. Lower day 1 is pretty heavy stuff, lower day 2 is more about reps. Hrm.

One other thing that struck me was that in some ways this was very similar to 5/3/1. In 5/3/1, and let’s look at the most basic templates of Boring But Big and The Triumvirate, well… basically you’re working upper body one day and lower body another, but then there’s really 2 variations of each day: bench/press, squat/deadlift. Very similar. As well, if you look at the workload presented in those 2 templates and then look at Paul’s template, man… things are really similar.

But one difference is Paul does lay things out to be 3x week, and Wendler is ideally 4x week but you can certainly do it 3x week.

So… it got me wondering.

What if I did Paul’s t-nation article but all within 1 week (Mon/Tue, Thu/Fri). How would that work for me?

I’ve usually done approaches that put me on a weekly basis, but this would be every 4-ish days instead of every 7. Would this work for me? I think it’s worth a try, instead of the more traditional approach.

I’m thinking I’d like to try it and see. I don’t see these sessions being amazingly draining… it’s not digging too deep a hole that’ll be hard to recover out of, but there’s more frequency. Exactly where is my recovery and supercompensation curve, y’know? Do I get more out of doing a lot and taking more time in between? Or might I get more out of doing a little less but taking less time in between.

So… I’m kinda leaning towards Paul’s t-nation approach with the main mod being 4x week instead of 3. Try it for 6 weeks on the massing diet, then assess. I might continue it, or I might switch to something like the Strong-15 short cycle just to do a little assessment of strength. But we’ll take it as it comes.

I still don’t like chicken, but…

I’m pretty simple when it comes to meat: give me beef.

I do like pork from time to time, fish on occasion (especially sushi). I can deal with game meats, turkey, and so on. But if there’s anything I just don’t like, it’s chicken.

Of course, every “weight-loss” or other types of “healthy” or “low-fat” diet out there involves… chicken.

My dislike is pretty straightforward: chicken meat has no flavor, and it’s dry. Of course, this all comes from the lack of fat (which is, in part, the point in consuming it). So to give it any sort of flavor, you always have to dress it up, but often dressing it up runs counter to the low-fat protocol. Dark meat is passable, but again that doesn’t really jive with the diet protocol. So chicken breasts it is, but ugh. I know, first world problem.

However, I’ve found a way to make it manageable. Thankfully it’s pretty simple.

The grocery store sells bags of chicken breasts. It’s 5 lbs. of de-boned breasts, and they are fully frozen and “ice glazed”. It also seems they brine them, which helps plump them up and meet that 5 lbs. without having to actually be 5 lbs of meat. Sneaky, but whatchagonnado? But in a way, it’s a positive.

All you have to do is throw them — still frozen — on the grill. The grill is at about 350º-375º, and I throw on some oak wood chips. There’s your flavor, from that wonderful smoke. 30 minutes, turn them, 30 more minutes, and done. The brining actually helps because the breast meat is moist with a touch of salt throughout the meat. And the way they cook, they get a good “crust” (not a true crust, but the exterior does “harden” a bit) which helps to seal in all the juices so a lot of the brine is retained within the meat.

And yes, this works out great.

I get about 5 lbs of meat, which lasts me a few days. It’s dead simple to cook. It fits the diet protocol. And best of all, it has flavor. 🙂

Have to find ways to keep the taste buds happy.

The De-fattening Project – Month 1

One month ago I started on a concerted effort to lose weight. Time to check in and see how the first month went.


It’s actually been a little longer than one month, maybe 6 weeks? I don’t recall the actual day I stepped on the scale and saw 265 lbs. But I do distinctly remember feeling ashamed of myself for getting to that point — never have I weighed so much. It’d be one thing if it was all muscle, but it’s not. I didn’t take a precise body fat measurement, but if you Google around for “body fat estimator pictures” I used those and figure I’ve got at least 30%, maybe 35% body fat. That sucks. I know precisely what got me here: stress eating, comfort eating. And over time, it adds up. I’ve tried fat loss before, with varying success but it never took. But it’s kinda like when I quit smoking cigarettes some 16-17 years ago: quitting is easy, did it hundreds of times – sticking with it is the hard part! But there just comes a tipping point, and it sticks. I’d like to believe I’m at that point with my weight. I’ve tried so many things, so many techniques, solutions, programs, etc… and nothing has really worked. But I also think, in part, it’s because I wasn’t at the tipping point. Again, I’d like to believe now I’m there.

I had been thinking about getting help with the weight loss for some time, because I figure it can only help. I know the value of having a teacher/mentor/coach in other areas of life, so why not here? One big reason is there’s an overload of information out there about eating, weight management etc., and you get analysis paralysis. Having someone to help me sift through the chaff to find the wheat would be useful. So I settled on Renaissance Periodization because they have a solid reputation for both success and the use and application of science! If you want a taste, take an hour and watch their YouTube Nutrition Videos Playlist. Science! What’s great as well is that Nick Shaw and Dr. Mike Israetel make all this knowledge digestible for normal people, without talking or dumbing down.

When I officially started with RP, I weighed in at 261 lbs. So, I’m measuring my weight loss both from my worst, and from when I started with RP.

One Month of Results

This morning I weighed in at 250 lbs. So that’s 15 lbs from my worst, and 11 lbs. from RP. I will take it!

I am working on fast weight loss, as fast as is healthy. I know this may seem a little fast for that, but some of the initial loss was simple bloat. When you factor that out, I’m averaging about 2 lbs. a week, which is about as fast as one wants to go. I’ve still got a long road of many months ahead of me, but if I can keep up this rate of progress I’ll be quite happy. That seems quite do-able, if you look at RP’s list of testimonials, as most of their clients lose at about that rate.

I decided to take pictures on a monthly basis. Comparing my start to now? You can see a difference. It’s slight, but it’s there. I won’t post any pictures yet, but once I have a good “after” picture, I’m sure I’ll post something.

I cannot quite say if I’m losing muscle mass and/or strength. But so far my weight-room results are saying that I am not. It’s still to early to say for sure, but the trend so far is that I’m at least holding fast and maybe increasing a bit. I can live with at least maintaining because then at least I’m not losing. Time will tell.

All in all, I’m pleased. Yes, I’d love to have overnight results, but I know that won’t happen. So long as I can keep on this rate of progress tho, it’s the best I can hope for.


Certainly I have to stick to the program, including parts I don’t like. That’s one reason I think I’m at the tipping point, because I’m willing to do the work needed, including work I hate. Like having to do cardio 4x week. It’s light cardio but still anything that isn’t “squat faster, for more reps” is cardio I don’t like. But you want something bad enough? You do what it takes to get there. Besides, if you look at the numbers, it’s obviously a contributing factor. If the little calculator on the elliptical is to be believed, I burn maybe 500 calories a session, so that’s 2000 cals a week, and that adds up.

Sometimes eating gets to be a mechanical chore tho. Must eat at certain times, in certain measured amounts. But again, if success comes from following the program to a “T”, then so be it. To Wife’s credit, she’s being very supportive and working to help find ways to make meal-time less boring and repetitive for me, yet also not a major inconvenience to the whole family. I’m thankful for that support.

The low/no-carb days can be hard to get through sometimes. What helps is lots of veggies to fill you up, and it’s great that I can have diet sodas. I’m not much of a soda drinker any more, but if a little sweet fizzy water helps me get through the day, so be it. I also like that it’s not as restrictive of a diet as say all of Kiefer’s CBL/CN is; so if I want a Diet Hansen’s soda, fine. BTW, I’m finding the Hansen’s sodas are simply awesome tasting — almost better than “regular” sodas. Their Ginger Ale tastes excellent. But this makes sense. If you watch RP’s nutrition videos, you’ll see that what matters most at this point is calories in vs. calories out, the macronutrients, and perhaps timing… and things like food composition are so unimportant for someone in my position. So eat fruit and be happy. That helps so much towards success.

Many months still head. It’s not easy, but I know it’s going to be worth it.

Getting back on the losing train

The goal for 2014 was to be less fat. Check that, it still is to be less fat.

I’ve tried to go down this road numerous times, with varying degrees of success — but really, it’s all failure because I haven’t STAYED there. In fact, right now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been: 265# (more or less). I don’t know my precise bodyfat measure, but if you Google around for body fat estimation pictures, I’m at least 30% body fat. Let’s do some math. That means I’m 185# at 0% body fat, which is unrealistic but it’s math good to know because assuming I maintain that lean body mass, then a 15% bodyfat would be about 215 pounds. 15% body fat is a good goal for me to start with and folks… that’s a 50# difference.

Put it this way. You go to the gym, and those big plates? The 45# plates? Lug one of those around for a while… I’m wanting to lose a little more than that. I have a little more than that just sitting on my body, weighing me down, stressing my body, my joints, and everything. And that, to me, just sucks. I also get stupid and think about how if I do decide to compete in powerlifting, that’s dropping down 2 weight classes (vs. being in the 275# class when I’m not a guy lugging around 275# worth of muscle). So yeah, I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of being fat. I’m tired of all the downsides it brings. I don’t want a flat stomach because “abz” aren’t a priority, but I do want the ability to carry things on the front of my belt, like AIWB. I want my clothing to not fit me because of muscle, not fat. Yeah, there’s vanity. But there’s also a desire to accept that my 40-something body is only getting older, going to fall apart more, and I have to change a lot of habits to help me manage this “over the hill” thing so I can still kick ass when I’m 70 years old, like Sonny:

The diet has always been my struggle. I eat to manage stress, to find comfort, escape, joy, whatever. All the things I’ve tried, I can manage somewhat, but there’s always some piece of the puzzle I’m missing. I’ve come to accept I cannot do this alone, and that having a coach, someone to direct me, to kick my ass when I need it, to be there to answer questions — well, I stress the value and importance of this in every other aspect of life, so why should it be any different here? It may not work, but at this point, it’s well worth trying.

As I’ve mentioned in some prior posts, I’m trying out the guys at Renaissance Periodization. At this point I’m doing a 6-month plan with them. I’ll talk more about this as I go along, because it’s going to be a journey. But so far, it seems like a lot of stuff I already knew, just well-structured and in a manner that I think should be more consumable with less information overload. We’ll see how it goes.

The other thing is how my lifting will go.

Since the primary goal is fat loss, I know that strength and muscle mass will be lost as well. I want to minimize this, so it seems the best recommended path for me to take is one that builds muscle mass. While a strict bodybuilder approach isn’t what I want right now, because strength is still more important to me, that philosophy is certainly there. So, I’m going to give Paul Carter’s Basebuilding a go. Philosophically it seems the right thing to do. I don’t know how well it will work on the restricted diet, but then I’m willing to adjust and adapt as I go along. I believe I read somewhere that Paul said BBing works out well in a diet phase since you can just adjust your weights (downward) and keep going. I just have to remind myself that the key isn’t to focus on the numeric value of the weight as much as it is ensuring I work to preserve strength and muscle mass. It’s the work I do, not the weight I lift.

The other thing? I have to do cardio. 3x a week I’m in the gym lifting. On my non-lifting days, I have to walk for an hour. That’s part of RP’s plan. Ugh…. not my favorite thing to do. But, I will say for a while there I kinda dealt with it because I listened to podcasts while I was walking and I kinda miss listening to them. So this will be useful. I may try just simple reading too as my reading list is backing up.

RP wants a semi-weekly weigh-in, so the plan is to weigh myself on Sunday and Wednesday. I will also take periodic pictures, probably just on Sunday. I debate posting the pictures. Part of me doesn’t want to because I’m sure you don’t want to see me half-naked, nor do I feel like sharing my half-naked self with the world. But I think about it — that’s in part because I do not like how I look. But 50# from now? Yeah, I’m sure I’ll like it more and be kinda happy to run around with my shirt off. So I dunno… part of me thinks that the public shaming and accountability it would create for myself would be good for me. Plus, look at a guy like John Stone and his pictures. If that’s not some level of inspiration…

So… here we go…. voyaging down this road again.

2014-08-01 training log

No gym today.

I’m officially starting with Renaissance Periodization. Paid my money for 6 months of diet protocol.

Yeah… 6 months. I reckon I’ve probably got 50# to drop, at least.

Today, day off. Rest up. Work and personal life will be kinda crazy and stressful the next few days, so I figured more rest and reduction/removal of anything stressful that I could (including lifting) would be good.

Next week… Monday I’m going to test squat and deadlift. Wednesday I’ll test bench. And then after that, whenever the RP stuff is ready to go, I’ve done the needed shopping to get started, etc….. well… then I start.

Lifting will be bodybuilder style. I actually may start off with basebuilding, but that may be too much for the diet. Still, I’ll stick with it as long as I can, then transition to bodybuilding style if it’s just too much. The goal is fat loss, and the lifting direction will be to support that.

Here we go!