A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader named Paul. Here’s what he had to say…
I just wanted to send you a note to tell you “thank you” for all the time and energy you put into making this website. About two years ago I came across it and read every word. At the time I weighed 299 pounds and despite being on a 6′ 1″ frame, I had little business and every reason to read a website titled “Intense Workout.”
Today is a day of celebration and I wanted to share it with you. I weighed in at 199 pounds. I haven’t weighed this little since I was in High School (I’m 44). I wanted to tell you, “Thanks,” because you had a lot to do with it.
Now, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I get emails like this all the time from people thanking me for the information on the site and in The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide. And, like Paul, many of these readers also tell me about the fantastic progress they’ve made as a result of putting my advice and recommendations into action.
I always LOVE getting emails like this, and I definitely appreciate everyone who takes the time to provide this kind of awesome feedback. Keep it coming!
But, there was something slightly different about Paul’s email that stood out to me right away… the dude lost 100 pounds!
Not 5 pounds, or 10 pounds, or 20 pounds, or even 50 pounds. Literally 100 pounds! He went from 300 lbs down to 200 lbs and made an amazing weight loss transformation that you just don’t see happen too often.
Knowing this, I asked Paul if he’d mind doing an interview to tell his story. How did he lose 100 pounds? What was it like? How hard was it? What was his diet and workout like? What advice would he give to others looking to lose weight?
Paul was nice enough to answer ALL of these questions and more, so without further ado, here’s his story…
How Paul Lost 100 Pounds: The Interview
Intense Workout: You were nearly 300lbs in your “before” picture. How did that happen? What led you to reach the point where you stepped on a scale saw 299lbs?
Paul: That showed up early and stayed with me for most of my life. I started putting on extra weight as early as Middle School. I wasn’t into too many sports and most of my interests and activities were pretty sedentary.
In High School I developed more bad habits: soda, junk food/fast food, eating as much as I wanted because I was a “growing boy,” and things like that. It didn’t get any better out of college. There was one point where I fought it and had some success with exercise and got all the way down to 205. But then I started dating my wife and stopped waking up early to exercise and the pounds piled up.
In the past, 235, was my “I have to do something about this” number, but I blew right through it. I had a very young family and just figured taking care of myself was one of those things I had to put aside to do the other things I needed to do.
So we would eat out at lunch for work and I’d make bad food choices, follow that up with eating out for dinner or eating a lot of a home-cooked meals (my wife is a great cook), and it just kept adding up. It was about 8 years ago when I stepped onto the scale and saw 299. Initially, it didn’t mean much to me. I just saw myself as a “big guy” and that was that.
But it later dawned on me that the 300 pound range was really for pro football players or people that were seriously overweight. My paycheck suggested I wasn’t the former, so I had to come to grips with the latter.
Intense Workout: That sounds like a pretty typical “on and off” story most people experience over a span of years with their weight until one of those “on” times finally (and hopefully) stick.
Speaking of which, when you started losing the weight this time around, what were your initial thoughts at the very beginning? It’s one thing to start off with a goal of losing about 10-20 lbs. But when your goal is more in the range of losing 100 pounds, what goes through your head?
Paul: Great question. This time around my motivation was decidedly different and it came from a variety of sources.
First and foremost, my children were starting to make comments in response to when I made one of my “fat” jokes. They’d try to convince me I wasn’t fat, that I was normal, etc. I realized that kids need their parents to be “normal” in their eyes, but there was no way I wanted them to consider my body type in the normal range. I’ve been fat for most of my life and there was no way I wanted them to wind up that way.
So I thought it might be a good learning opportunity for them and I incorporated them in the process. I wanted them to see what setting a big goal looked like and how to work away at it. Your website did wonders for setting my own expectations.
By focusing on just losing one-half to two pounds a week, it prevented me from trying to “do it all at once” and getting frustrated. Further, it showed me that this was going to have to be something I committed to for over a year, given my size. Then it was just a simple matter of showing up every day, doing what needed to be done, and then seeing the payoff at the end of the week. After that, on to the next week.
The accountability to my kids was a big piece, and they celebrated almost as much as I did when I reached my goal. For some reason, that was enough. I kept my head down and worked at it each day, knowing that chipping away like that would ultimately put me where I wanted to be.
There were frustrations, though. There were bad days, weeks where I plateaued and lost nothing, and things like that, and they were frustrating. So I developed a couple of lines I’d repeat to myself. Every morning I got to where I would say to myself, “Today is the beginning.” that way I focused on doing my best each day and didn’t worry about what had already happened the day before.
I’ve also started saying, “The worst weight to lose is the weight you’ve already lost.” It’s really no fun to have a bad day or week only to have to spend another week trying to lose weight you had previously lost. Not that it didn’t happen, but with the first saying, I’d just go back to it.
I’ll add that nothing breeds success like success. So by keeping a weekly record like you suggest in your website, I could see that good things were happening. Losing that first pant size was exciting, but to avoid getting complacent with “good enough,” I bought a pair of “objective jeans” that I intended to fit into one day. At the time it seemed like a waste of money buying a pair of 34 waist jeans, but they’re the ones I’m wearing now.
And whenever I decreased a size, I’d donate all the previous sized clothes. That way there was no going back.
Intense Workout: So you had a good reason that was going to be motivating you in the long term (something more than “I need to look good in time for bikini season!!”), a realistic goal and a realistic time frame for reaching it, you set smaller goals as part of that bigger overall goal, closely tracked your progress and kept records of everything, had someone to be accountable to besides yourself, and you ignored the inevitable “bad days” or “bad weeks” and pushed right past them.
I just had to point all of that out, because besides the obvious stuff (proper diet and workout), everything you described is basically the blueprint for successful weight loss. You literally got it all right, and everyone reading this should take note of that.
Now regarding this “obvious stuff” as I called it, how would you classify your knowledge of diet/exercise at that starting point, and what were the first things that came to your mind to do or change in terms of your diet and workout?
Paul: I’d have to say I was a little more knowledgable than in previous attempts. The failed attempt with the diet center did educate me on what foods were the better ones to eat, reinforced which foods to avoid, etc. So I did have some food knowledge.
As exercise went, I have some basic knowledge around weightlifting as I did some of that in college and just after. But it was in reading your website that I realized I really needed to focus on either losing weight or building strength. I had absolutely decided I was going to try to do both and I think my progress would have been slower or limited. So, despite hating aerobic activity, I put my focus on that and soon discovered through trial and error the usefulness of incline training on the treadmill.
All that to say that I didn’t get on a diet plan, I didn’t get a trainer, and I didn’t get a lot of help. It was more of a personal determination to get after it and use the treadmill and weight set that I already owned and see how I did.
I can recommend a little app I picked up for my iPad called “Calorie Counter.” It was a great resource for tracking my progress, researching foods and what to order at restaurants. It really helped me see how many calories I was taking in versus what I was burning off each day.
Intense Workout: Let’s get more into the specifics of your workout. You mentioned you did a lot of aerobic work.
At nearly 300lbs, what was aerobic activity like for you at first? Did you start off really slow and easy? How much were you doing? How often? What kind? And just as importantly, how did it all change/improve for you over time as you gradually started losing weight and getting in better shape overall?
Paul: Well, at that weight nothing was all that fun. It took some drive to get over the aches and pains as well as to look beyond what my capacity was for exercise at that time.
I began with almost no incline at all, focusing on trying to get my speed up, mistakenly thinking that was the best way to burn calories. I would set a goal for a mile initially and then tried to creep it up to “as much as I can get in 30 minutes, etc.” I then took a greater interest in how efficiently I could burn calories and changed to higher inclines and steady walking. That was basically all I was doing in terms of form of exercise.
In the early stages it was all an exercise in talking myself into staying on the treadmill. Initially it was talking myself into one minute more, then it was two minutes, and pretty soon it was five minutes more. Surprisingly, that’s not really a part of my approach any longer. I generally get onto the treadmill now expecting to hit either a time or calorie target and I just go to work.
At the beginning I was content to make it three times a week. I had some early success, but then you soon realize that to achieve more you have to do more. So it evolved to six days on and one day off. Today, I prefer to do it every day just because I feel better when I’ve done it.
I generally go 4 and a quarter miles in the morning for a 900-calorie burn to get my day started. Then in the evenings I do a little bit more depending on what I’m feeling. The evening workouts remain a little bit more variable, but I’m starting to believe I’ll need to structure them more to press on to my goal weight of 180 and a 15-16% body fat. Plenty of work to do yet.
So just to spell it out for your last question, exercise got a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable. It’s still work and I sweat a lot, but it’s now so much a part of my day that I really look forward to it. I’m starting to vary it up a little bit to keep it interesting as well: light weight lifting, sit ups and push ups, some P90X stuff, and I’ve even got a friend at work that I occasionally box with.
As you get in better shape, you really change what you think about yourself and what you think you can accomplish. It wasn’t so long ago that I was thinking I soon wouldn’t be able to keep up with my boys and have fun with them. Now I’m out there with them all the time chasing, throwing the football, whatever.
To think of what I’d be missing if I was still as immobile as I was; this is definitely a better way to go!
Intense Workout: What about your diet? What kind of changes did you make initially from how you were previously eating, and how hard were they for you to make?
Paul: The diet question is a really good one. I can honestly say that when I started this effort I hoped/intended to do nothing different with what I was eating. My plan was to just exercise it all away. As you are well aware, that plan was flawed from the beginning and soon changed.
To be honest, I used to joke that if I ever became diabetic or so fat that my heart gave out my friends would find my body with a spoon in one hand and an empty carton of ice cream in the other. There were certain foods that were “non-negotiable” on my list. I read your section about cravings and thought I was somehow smarter or better and could control what needed controlling and ignore the rest. You are the wiser.
What I learned in my exercise was the value of a calorie. I soon learned that in order to burn just 200 calories I’d be on the treadmill at the steepest incline for about 16 minutes to cover one mile.
That revelation clearly spoke to whether it was worth that 170 calorie can of Mountain Dew. Was I really willing to do that kind of work just to break even on a 12-ounce beverage? The answer soon became, “No.” Couple that with a few weeks where nothing was changing in my weight but I was still working out hard every morning and I swiftly reevaluated whether my diet was negotiable.
It turned out it was. Even ice cream went away. Now I know that some that will read this will not find that fact appealing. I didn’t go into this wanting to “change who I was.” I just wanted to be healthier. But when you have a goal, you have to decide what you are willing to do to reach that goal and I learned that if I was going to lose 100 pounds, things like pizza, ice cream, soda, candy, fried anything, etc. were going to have to go.
The shock for me was that eventually I didn’t miss them. In fact, it has become second nature to limit my intake of those kinds of foods.
Note that I haven’t drastically eliminated them forever, but I make a clear decision about what I’m going to eat and what I intend to do about it on the treadmill later when I choose to eat something. It’s a lot better practice than to just reflexively go along to whatever fast food my friends are going to at work or at home. Being deliberate about what I eat came from all that time on the treadmill and really understanding the cost of indulgence. The indulgences just became less important to me.
To fully answer your question, the changes didn’t come immediately or all that easily initially. But the closer I came to my goal the more I realized that all my food preferences were negotiable and that I was feeling a lot better without certain foods in my diet.
I can definitely tell the next morning when I get up to work out what my body thinks of what I ate the night before. When I eat reasonable portions and healthy food, I’m eager to get to my workout; the opposite is true when I haven’t been as vigilant. Those are definitely the times I have to make myself get through my routine.
Intense Workout: That’s definitely one of the best answers I’ve ever heard to that question, and I can either relate to or agree with everything you said. You also bring up a great point regarding the difference between burning calories and just not eating those calories in the first place.
In my opinion, fat loss is always WAY more about diet than exercise, and given a choice between the two, I’d happily recommend that a person focus on their diet and ignore exercise completely as opposed to the other way around (which is what most people instinctively do).
Not to mention, countless studies show that people greatly overestimate the amount of calories they burn during exercise (and underestimate calories consumed).
Combine that with the fact that many people often have a mindset of “Oh, I was on the treadmill for 30 minutes today, I’m sure I can afford to eat these extra 1000 calories worth of junk food now,” and you end up with a pretty clear picture of why most people fail to lose weight despite thinking they’re doing everything right.
Now staying with your diet for second, was it just a matter of cutting out or limiting these kinds of foods, or did you figure out a specific daily calorie intake and ensure you didn’t exceed it? And did you do anything similar with protein, fat or carbs?
Paul: I never counted carbs, fats, or proteins specifically, but I avoided high carb and fat foods and favored proteins. Turkey, chicken, and fish were my preferred protein sources and I’ve always been a pretty good vegetable eater for my carb intake.
When I wanted something sweet I opted for berries which I had previously learned were on the “acceptable” list provided you took them in reasonable amounts. Red meats, breads, and certainly anything fried moved to the “very infrequently and only in small portions” category. And, yes, I even reduced the amount of alcohol I consumed.
As far as counting calories as a whole, I definitely did that in the middle part of my effort. Initially, I really didn’t know what I was doing beyond avoiding the obvious pitfall foods but I had learned from previous attempts to keep a food journal.
So with the Calorie Counter app I referenced earlier, I got to where I would enter in what I ate and check the calorie totals. It helped me to see very clearly the amount of calories I was taking in on a given day and how many I burned on the same day.
Obviously, deficit days were what I was working for and this got me into the routine. What was best about it, though, was that it was my best help in curbing unnecessary snacks and giving in to cravings.
On Sundays at church I would usually have a doughnut with my kids before the service. After entering yet another doughnut after three weeks I quickly realized how I could cut 300 (or more) calories out of my weekly intake really easily!
I gradually stopped counting calories because, generally speaking, that’s just information I now know. When I’m invited to a restaurant for work or socializing I hop online and check out the nutritional values of the meals they serve. I’m absolutely glad so much information is out there now since an innocent trip to most places can absolutely ruin your efforts in a single meal!
Intense Workout: Great answer, and I can’t say I’m surprised that you ended up counting calories at some point. Unless you’re tracking how much you’re eating, weight loss is pretty much just a game of luck based on whether or not you just so happened to do enough to create the required deficit.
But if you just track your calorie intake and purposely create that deficit, weight loss becomes less of a guess and more of a guarantee. And like you said, once you count calories long enough, you do reach a point where it just becomes something you know.
So at this point you’ve lost 100 pounds and have a pretty good grasp of your diet and workout. What are your goals going forward? Do you still have more weight you’d like to lose, more muscle, strength or endurance you’d like to gain, or anything similar? Or have you reached the point where you’d just like to maintain from this point on?
Paul: Next stop is 180, I believe. At this point that’s only 17 pounds to go and well in range. I have this weird desire to see if I can ever see my abs. They have been hidden away for a long time!
Once I hit 180 I will change my attention to be focused on muscle and strength. I tend to build muscle fairly well when I put my mind to it, so I look forward to what might be possible.
I will shift to body fat percentage maintenance (I assume I’ll be gaining weight when I start lifting) since I won’t be as preoccupied with what I weigh. I’ll need to read your site again to get up to speed on that side of things.
I used to be a pretty decent soccer goalkeeper back in the day, so I’d like to get back into that. And I’ve also had some ideas around maybe doing a half-marathon. I’d like to have a running objective of some kind as well.
Other than that, just staying in good shape and never letting myself go back to what I was!
Intense Workout: And finally, what’s the best advice you would give to someone who is trying to lose weight right now? Maybe they only have a little bit to lose, or maybe they are also setting out to lose 100 pounds just like you did.
What would you tell them now that you’ve officially been there and (successfully) done that?
Paul: This is such an important question and I figured it was probably coming. It’s also a complicated answer and requires a little vulnerability, but I’ll give it a shot.
The truth is, this effort has been 98% mental and about 2% physical. I say that in all honesty and not to trivialize the physical effort that is required.
- First, you have to buy it mentally. Something along the lines of realizing that, “If that guy can do it, what says I can’t?”
- Second, you have to let yourself do it. That means putting aside the shame and guilt that has driven you to remain fat in the first place. That is likely not true for everyone, but it was certainly true for me. It feeds itself; I feel ashamed of my size so I eat things that make me “feel good” or I angle for being the “fat, jovial one.” It was all a way of layering over to protect the real person inside. The large size was a way of keeping people at a certain, safe distance. Again, not everyone is going to have those issues, but I certainly did and I encourage anyone in the same boat to set it all aside. The die is not cast and you can be who you want to be. Believe it.
- Third, and the most demanding part, is making yourself show up every day. Do the workouts without worrying about plateaus or the fact that you can’t see a difference yet. Control what you eat. You can easily be your own worst enemy in this process and subvert all your hard work for the week, literally, in one bad day. Don’t give in to it; want the healthy you more than the pizza, ice cream, doughnut, whatever, that’s in front of you. I think you said it on your website under the cravings section that the healthier and better looking you tastes a lot sweeter than any food that can be put in front of you. There is so much that can take you off showing up every day: food, social situations, relationship challenges, worries, being tired. There were many days where I spent my entire workout talking myself into the next steps. I get it; it’s really hard. The real battle is here.
- Finally, and there’s probably more psychology here that I don’t fully understand, but you’ve got to accept the compliments when they come your way. Be warned, they don’t come for a while and that can be frustrating if we’re seeking some kind of external validation to keep us going. But after a while and enough weight has been shed, people will notice. Throw off any embarrassment or “Ah, shucks,” kind of response. Instead, say, “Thanks. I’ve really been working at it. My goal is to lose X more pounds.” That connects you better to the person kind and brave enough to pay you the compliment, validates their observation, and validates the hard work that you have done. It also makes you accountable to one more person to get to your final objective.
I’m sure there’s a world of advice around good shoes, the right kind of workout, the right equipment to use, taking care of your body, etc. But if you’ve got a big goal like I did, or probably even a small one, the mental part is going to be the critical success factor.
Intense Workout: Fantastic final answer, and really great answers all around. Congrats on the amazing 100 pound weight loss transformation and thanks for taking the time to do this interview and put the details of your experience out there for others to learn from and be inspired by.
Paul Did It… Now It’s YOUR Turn!
Sure, you might not need to lose 100 pounds like Paul did. You may need to lose a lot less (or maybe a lot more) than that. In fact, you might not be interested in weight loss at all.
You might be looking to build muscle, or increase strength and performance, or improve your health, or just look, feel and BE better in general.
Whatever your goal is, no matter how big or small… start today.
Don’t wait for Monday. Don’t wait for next month. Don’t wait until “beach season.” Don’t wait until it becomes next year’s New Year’s resolution. Start your transformation right here and now, and do what needs to be done for your goal to be reached.
The “how” part is easy. Everything you need to know to get the results you want is right here on this very website for FREE. Look around, learn the facts, and put a plan together. Here are some of the best places to start:
And if you need some additional help beyond that, I’d highly recommend The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide. It’s one definitive resource where I lay everything out for you.
But in the end… it’s still all on you. The only thing Paul and I can do is show you what needs to be done. It’s up to you to actually put it into action, stay committed and consistent, and just do it until it gets done.
So the question is, will you be the person I interview next? Will you be the person with the amazing transformation story to tell? Only you can make that happen.
And when you do… I’ll be here expecting your email.