Operation Be Less Fat: A Year In Review

TAGS: burn calories, Operation Be Less Fat, nutrition approach, macronutrients goals, diet planw, training setbacks, lifestyle, food prep, IIFYM, dieting, Vincent Dizenzo, prowler, weight loss, fat loss, conditioning, rehab, recovery

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2015 certainly had a lot going on. My biggest goal was to just get back on the platform. I had severely injured my back and hip in June of 2014 after benching 900 pounds in a bench shirt. It was a long road back, filled with lots of pain and rehab. As important as competing again was for me, doing so in the 242-pound weight class was the real goal. Dropping weight classes is a big inspiration for Operation Be Less Fat. Anyway, I was supposed to hit that goal in late March.

I believe there's a saying, "Plans are what you make while life is happening." Well, life happened to me in February. I ended up tearing my MCL while on a ski trip up in Canada. Years ago, I would have never gone skiing with a meet coming up. Not the new me. The new me is about enjoying life. Powerlifting is hugely important to me, but now it's only a part of my life. Years ago it consumed my life. I don't regret for one second going on that trip.

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Of course the meet was out. The thing that sucked the most was having to dial my training intensity way back while letting the knee heal. I was pretty much out of commission from training for close to a month. The thing I'm really proud of is, while recovering on the couch, I didn't lay there playing woe is me eating boxes of Rings Dings (my favorite by the way) and bags of Doritos (I like Cool Ranch). I controlled the only thing I could: my calories. The weight loss was not great during this time, but I didn't gain any weight either. A huge victory, if you ask me.

It took me a couple of months to get back up to speed where I could start training like normal. At that point, I got a carrot dangled in front of me. The Arnold Classic.

I mean, it's only the biggest meeting of guys and girls who pick things up and put them down in the whole world. This would also offer me the opportunity to redeem my biggest regret in my powerlifting career: bombing out at the Arnold. The caveat was this would be back in the bench shirt, and I thought I was done with equipped lifting, the same thing that put me out of competing for over seven months.


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Sure enough, after a couple of sessions in the shirt, all of my back and hip problems came back. Long story short, it was back to rehab and more setbacks to training. Setbacks in training equal less calorie expenditure, thus having to really keep the diet in check.

This sounds a lot more like a year's review in powerlifting versus dieting, but it's not. I encountered a number of setbacks in 2015. To coin a phrase, "I didn't let a fork in the road equal a spoon in the mouth." Any one of the events could have sent me spiraling into a food frenzy. Although maybe not powerlifting, everyone experiences setbacks that can thwart their progress. Whether it be a job loss, a death in the family, divorce, etc, there are many excuses to pack weight back on. Yes, I did say excuse. Gaining weight is not going to make any one of the things I mentioned above any better.

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To wrap up the lifting part of this tale, I did end up competing. In October I finally did make the 242-pound class. Keep in mind, I cut to that weight. I was walking around in the low to mid 250's. I benched raw and finished with a 530. I know I had more in me, but it was my first raw bench at 242. There was a big learning curve. My leverages are a lot different than they used to be. That lift landed me eighth in the country regardless of age. Even though I'm 46, I don't compete in the old man division yet. I was satisfied with 530 after such a long road back to the platform.

I'd call the weight loss portion of the year a great success also. Although I had grand plans of being lighter by the end of 2015, I finished up at 248 pounds. My heaviest during the year was 267. That's 19 pounds of weight loss over the course of the year, a little more than one and a half pounds a month. That certainly works for me. I have lost large amounts of weight in short periods in the past, only to put them all back on. Slow and steady is now my weight loss mantra.


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Most people would probably not consider 19 pounds of weight loss a successful diet. However, I have really figured something out: I'm not dieting anymore. I am truly doing that lifestyle thing people talk about. I started 2015 following a low carb approach. It worked well for me. I followed that plan for a long time and by cutting out carbs, I cut out a lot of processed foods which were a staple of my diet. Learning that discipline helped me when I made the switch to flexible eating/IIFYM (if it fits your macros). There are no longer taboo foods in my world. If I really want to eat something I don't have to deprive myself; I just need to make sure I'm hitting my macronutrients goals (protein, carbs, fat, and fiber). I do try to eat mostly clean, as cleaner foods have less calories and allow me to get more actual food in during the day.

Another benefit to my present nutrition approach is that I can more easily adapt to eating during social situations. In addition, Jess and I are now both on the same plan. For a long time while I was going low carb, she followed a different approach. It made food prep a pain. Plus, having a partner makes weight loss generally easier. We use lots of clean eating recipes. We eat great. I'll write up a menu for one of the upcoming Operation Be Less Fat entries. People are always shocked to hear what I eat to lose weight.

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An important lesson I learned last year was that conditioning is more important than I thought. Calories in is paramount, but when you hit a plateau there are only two choices: cut calories from your diet or burn more of them during the day. Conditioning burns calories. Now, there's a delicate balance with conditioning where strength is concerned. I found that if I push conditioning too much over 70% of my target heart rate, my training and ultimately my strength suffer. Short bouts of high intensity like a four minute tabata is fine, but being out pushing the Prowler® or doing hills for half an hour burns me out. So for the most part, a nicely paced walk on the treadmill, a light trail hike, or some flat walking outdoors with a weight vest for forty minutes to an hour work best for me. I'm able to burn the necessary calories, get my heart rate up for health purposes, and by keeping below 70%, I even get the added benefit of some recovery.

So I have learned a lot in the last year. I overcame some obstacles, got my body a little healthier, hit a respectable lift, and last but not least, took some weight off and kept it off. I'm looking forward to 2016. I have an immediate goal of competing in the 220-pound weight class (with a weight cut). Then I want to get myself down into the actual 220's. That will get me to over 100 pounds of total weight loss. From there, I'll decide if I want to go down to the 198-pound class or maybe try and add a few pounds of quality muscle back on. That way I can hone my body down again to a better shape. One thing is for sure, Operation Be Less Fat still has a ways to go.

Thanks for joining along in the journey. Best of luck to all of you in your goals for 2016.

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