My Weight Gain & Weight Loss Journey

September 9th, 2015.

I had just broken up with my long-term girlfriend — A break-up that was long overdue (which is a completely different story). I developed many good habits while dating her and working out was one of them. So after we broke up, my habit of working out and eating right stopped. It was around this time that I started gaining a ton of weight. 20 lbs to be exact. Now you might think “Oh Kevin, it’s only 20 lbs! There are lots of people who’ve gained considerably more weight!”. True. But to put things in perspective, I’m 5’4. I’m short. So gaining 20 lbs of fat caused a considerable change in my body composition. See, gaining weight as a short person is pretty easy. Gaining weight as a tall person is hard. But losing weight as a short person? It’s equivalent to the tall guys who can’t gain weight. I started out at a stocky 145 lbs on September 9th, 2015 on my 5’4 frame and ended up at 165 lbs by January 26th, 2016. That was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

Here comes that really, really bad photo of me.

Holy shit. Here I am at 165 lbs of “skinny-fat”. My stomach bulged, but you can still make out some ribs.

How did I get here? I didn’t even notice my weight gain until around New Year’s Eve when an old friend of mine had noticed that I had gained weight around my stomach (I’m talking about you Gary L!). It sucked. And it wasn’t until about a month later that I decided to change my bad habits. How could I let this happen?

It wasn’t until the end of January that I realized that weight gain creeps up on you. You don’t see it coming until you look at old pictures or an old friend notices the changes. You hear stories about friends, family and even strangers on reddit talking about how weight gain creeps up on you, but you can never really comprehend it. You never actually know what it’s like to gain weight and not notice it. I mean, gaining 20 lbs in 5 months? That’s 4 lbs a month — 1 lb a week. Hardly noticeable with the naked eye, right? At least, not noticeable unless you step on a scale every day (which I didn’t).

This sudden realization that I was skinny-fat got me back into lifting and eating properly after not doing so for almost half a year. Half a year! I’m emphasizing this because this is all it takes to screw up.

So I started out at “X” amount of calories (because I didn’t know how many I was eating before I started my lifestyle change) to 2400 calories in the first month of February, trying to gain back some muscle and strength that I lost in those 5 months. By March, I had gone down to 2200 calories. By mid April I had one of the worst colds I’ve had in my life, being sick for most of the month. I couldn’t lift, but I kept up with my diet. After all, if I couldn’t succeed in one thing, then I better not fail at the other, right? I had gone down to 1900 calories this month. By May, I got over the cold and started lifting again. I had gone down to 1700 calories at the beginning of this month until the end of June. And now finally, at the start of July I went down to my lowest caloric intake at 1500.

What did I achieve?

I went down from 165 lbs to 150 lbs. 15 lbs of fat gone. And I can be almost 100% sure that it was mostly fat simply because I didn’t lose any strength during my cut… I actually gained strength. I credit this to the fact that I took 150 g of protein every day (1 g of protein per 1 lb of my goal body weight) and my new girlfriend who cooked for me according to my macros.

But I wanted to lose more fat. I wanted to get back to my starting weight in September of 2015 at 145 lbs, but I didn’t want to cut out more calories (I love food too much to cut down that much). My solution? Hitting the treadmill. I didn’t do any cardio until the start of July. And even then, it was only twice a week for about 15 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) each session. Reason being, I didn’t want to lose all of my gainz. I was paranoid about it. I’m sure you’ve heard before that “cardio kills gainz”. Hell, I believed it. And I still sort of do. Whatever the facts may be, I stood by my twice-a-week HIIT schedule.

It was also at this time that I found Kinobody and learned about intermittent fasting. A lot of people think this guy is a scammer, but what he says about intermittent fasting is legit. In all honesty, I’m not sure why people think it’s bullshit. It’s literally just moving all of your caloric intake to one big dinner. That’s it. What this does is it makes you limit yourself in food-intake because you get full. I ate huge dinners including burgers, fries, steaks, spaghetti, etc., just as long as everything fit my macros (IIFYM). Of course, throughout the day you just drink coffee to stave off hunger — which was a lot easier than it sounds. I never felt too tired or “hangry” (hungry + angry).

So basically, I took Intermittent Fasting (IF) and If-It-Fits-Your-Macros (IIFYM) as my strategy for dieting for the month of July with a maximum caloric intake of 1500 calories. If my dinner didn’t have enough protein, I just took a 60 g protein shake at night. At first I was constantly calculating my macros (Carbs, Fats and Proteins) but as time went on, I only counted protein. The rest didn’t matter to me. Needless to say, life became a lot easier with this diet.

By the beginning of August, I was back down to 145 lbs. It’s now August 30th, and I’ve maintained this weight while getting stronger. That being said, it’s probably best to show you how far I’ve come with my lifts.

These were my starting and current lifts:

  • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: 50 lbs x 12 reps to 85 lbs x 6 reps
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 115 lbs x 12 reps to 165 lbs x 6 reps
  • Flat Barbell Bench Press: 135 lbs x 12 reps to 180 lbs x 4 reps
  • Pull Ups: 12 reps to 20 reps
  • Weighted Chin Ups: 0 lbs to 60 lbs x 6 reps
  • Lat Pull Down: 100 lbs x 8 reps to 185 lbs x 6 reps
  • Dumbbell Rows: 45 lbs x 12 reps to 85 lbs x 6 reps
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 45 lbs x 12 reps to 65 lbs x 5 reps
  • Deadlift: 135 lbs x 5 reps to 225 lbs x 5 reps
  • Squat: 135 lbs x 5 reps to 185 lbs x 5 reps

I had injured my lower back the year before and didn’t do any deadlifts or barbell squats until after my cold in April. I did, however, do a ton of leg presses, leg curls, leg extensions and calf raises.

All of this while cutting calories. It’s incredible how far “noobie gainz” can get you even while you’re cutting. So if you’re fat and want to build muscle, cut first while doing a power lifting routine. You’re going to gain muscle even while you cut as a beginner. That being said, you’ll notice that my starting lifts had high reps and as time passed by, my lifts started going to the medium range in reps. The reason why this is is because I gradually shifted to a strength training routine.

My workout routine was a variation of Layne Norton’s PHAT. If you don’t know what that is, a quick Google search will get you to it.

My workout looked like this:

Monday — Rest/Cardio Day
Tuesday — Back & Shoulders Day 
Wednesday — Chest & Arms Day
Thursday — Lower Body “Deadlift” Day
Friday — Rest/Cardio Day
Saturday — Upper Body Day
Sunday — Lower Body “Squat” Day

NOTE: I didn’t do any cardio until mid July. Also… I tend to not do the “Arms” portion of “Chest & Arms Day”. It’s just boring. Bicep curls and tricep extensions just aren’t my thing. That being said, I have 14.5 inch arms at a height of 5'4. My arms got to this size from lifting very heavy flat dumbbell bench presses and very heavy weighted chin ups. I’ll have a more detailed post about my workout routine during those 7 months as well as my current routine in the near future.

Here’s what I look like after 7 months of proper diet and exercise:

This picture was taken on August 4th, 2016 at around 145 lbs. There’s still some work needed, but I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. I’ll probably post another update in the months to come.

It’s now September 5th, 2016. During the month of August, I’ve maintained my weight of 145 lbs as a sort of “re-composition” month to experiment and see how my body will react to not doing cardio while progressively overloading my lifts. So far, it doesn’t look like I’ve lost muscle (since my strength is still continuing to improve) or gained fat. I fluctuate between 144-146 lbs now, so I’m not too sure if it’s all water weight or if I’m actually losing fat and gaining muscle. Time will tell, however.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of my progress so far.

January 26th, 2016 -> August 4th, 2016 -> September 4th, 2016

You probably can’t tell the difference, but I’ve realized my arms and shoulders look leaner.

My goal this month until December is to be more aggressive with my cardio. I’ll also be doing a more powerlifting-oriented routine. Hopefully by December, I’ll have lost another 5 lbs of fat while building more muscle.

There are a lot of things I’ve learned in the last 8 months concerning fitness. The most important thing I’ve learned is that consistency is key. It’s not about being motivated to make changes in your life (because motivation comes and goes), it’s the baby-steps that lead to good habits and maintaining those good habits.

Thanks for reading!