This time last year I was almost half way through dieting for a bodybuilding contest.
That’s right. As embarrassing as it is, I have been on stage, in a pair of glorified speedos, posing for a table full of judges.
You can call it a freak show, you can call it a bikini contest or you can call it pure vanity. I admit, I make fun of these competitions too.
I decided to compete last year to make sure that I could transform my body. After all, I’d be a hypocrite if I wrote in this blog about nutrition and weight loss if I’ve never actually taken my own body to the extremes of dieting.
And to be honest, it was one of the single best things I have ever done, because I recorded a journal of every single day of my diet.
And now whenever I feel like I need a little motivation and direction, I can simply look back at what worked for me.
I know I say this all the time, but it is worth repeating – A journal is your single best tool for getting in shape. It doesn’t have to be super detailed, just a quick outline of how each day is going.
Here is an example of one of my pages…it’s mostly chicken scratch that only I can understand..but it tells me exactly what I need to know.
Basically, the yellow highlighted stuff is my workout…and the rest is notes. From this one page I know that I didn’t want to go any heavier on dead lifts, that my diet was going well, and that I tried step-ups, but preferred split squats for this particular workout.
It took me about two minutes every day to fill this out. I never did it in the gym..often I filled it in during a break at work, or when I got home that night. But it’s proved to be extremely valuable for me.
A couple of months after the contest, I summarized some key notes about the whole experience.
- I had great results using intervals.
- I had great results using a whole body split.
- I had poor results using a bodybuilder type routine.
- I was able to maintain my strength during the whole diet.
- I was able to maintain my activity level during the whole diet.
- Cheat days are a waste. I found no benefit from them at all.
- 1,200 Calories was a little too low for me, but 1,500 to 1,800 worked perfectly.
- I lost almost no muscle during the entire diet.
- Avoiding simple sugars seemed to make a very big difference towards the end of my diet.
Great reminders for whenever I felt I needed to look back at what worked for me. This is why I view keeping a journal as your number one tool for weight loss.
Another great bonus was that during this time I had regular access to a BodPod..a great device for tracking body fat and lean mass changes that is very easy to use and very accurate.
Every Thursday I would take my measurements with the BodPod, and then chart my changes in a spread sheet.
This is the second most important tool for weight loss – measurements.
Now, you don’t need a BodPod to track changes – a scale, measuring tape and a digital camera will do just fine. In fact, I used the pictures I took with my digital camera more than I used my Bodpod readings to track my changes.
If you photograph, weigh and measure yourself at the same time every week, this will give you a great way to look back and track any changes that were made.
Once you get in the habit of monitoring your progress by recording a journal and measuring your body, losing weight becomes much easier, because you are no longer guessing at what works and what doesn’t work. You can simply look at your records.
PS- for those of you who have been asking about the next installement of the Deconstructing Nutrition Series (Dr. F), it’s still coming – I just have a few more articles to read through before it’s completed.