What Would You Do to Get Your Pants to Fit like They Used to? Read on to find out how I took 10 steps and lost 20+ lbs in 31 days.

Backstory:

It was October 2015. A typical Monday. I’m not a morning person. I wasn’t looking forward to getting up. I turned off 6 alarms before I did. I grabbed a no-ironing-needed shirt. I grabbed a pair of slacks I rotate through. I shoved my shirt in my pants and tried to fasten them. That’s when the thread ripped. My button went flying across the room. I put on another pair of pants. No big deal, right?

Later, I got my photo back for an autobiography I had to write for work. I had trouble resizing the photo. I hadn’t touched Photoshop since my first semester in college. I didn’t know how to wrap the text around it. So, I asked a coworker to help me out. I walked away for a second. All of a sudden, I heard someone burst out laughing. I came back to my desk. I saw him looking at my photo snickering. He said, “You resized your picture to make yourself look thinner.” Then, it hit me. I had been lying to myself the past few years. I didn’t have a 28in waist anymore, and I wasn’t in college. I was overweight. Up until then, I was in denial. I went home that night, knowing I had to change how I looked and felt about myself. But, how?

I was that guy in school who spent more time in the gym than he did class. Heck. I was on academic probation my freshman and sophomore year of college. I worked at the school gym, was a runner-up in one of the fitness center contests, got a personal training certification, and spent a few years working for a physical therapist. What happened? Well, I moved overseas and taught English, worked for a non-profit doing social work, got in a serious relationship and lost my kid. To say I was shaken up since the loss of my child is an understatement. Did I let myself go because of it? To be honest, I don’t really know. Probably so. I’m just not conscious of it. What I did know is I wanted to do something about the overweight guy who kept staring at me in the mirror. About a month later, I had lost 20.3 lbs and fit back in those pants. These are the steps I took.

Step 1: Count Your Calories — Caloric Restriction (CR):

Figure out how much you take in. You should start by downloading or using a calorie free tracker like MyPlate Calorie Tracker or Calorie Counter — MyFitnessPal. Initially, it’s a hassle, but it’s the best way to figure out where you are. If you don’t know where you are, how are you going to get to where you want to go?

Once you get to a point where you can estimate your calorie intake, it’s time to figure out how much you’re using. I suggest you get a fitness tracker. I got one for free by redeeming my credit card reward points. They can be pricey depending on what you choose ($100+). If you’re not stubborn about brand names, you can find a pretty good one for $50 or less on Amazon.

Next up, it’s time to do a little Math. You’re either going to have to maintain or add to your activity level, and you’re going to have subtract some of those indiscriminate calories you’ve been taking in. I’m talking about those fast food lunches at work, take out dinners, and frozen TV dinners (you’re hiding.). Some of those things have hundreds if not thousands of calories in them.

If you can’t control yourself, it’s time to add in filler foods. Those foods with little to no calories like vegetables, nuts, salads with Balsamic dressing and tuna. Popcorn with olive oil instead of butter is my thing.

Now, it’s time to play with percentages. You need to experiment with a range of 5% to a 50% reduction in calories depending on your goal and your timeframe. I was short on time, so I aimed for a 50% reduction in my calorie intake. If you lean towards cutting more than 20%, I advise you check with your doctor and be cautious when operating heavy machinery, especially cars and forklifts.

Step 2: Learn When to Say When — Intermittent Fasting (IF):

One study suggests fasting is effective when used with calorie restriction and liquid diets. I added intermittent fasting to my weight loss plan. I felt like it complimented the other steps I took. To increase my chance of success, I only did it on weekends. There are various ways to do it. You can do it one day a week, only on the weekends, or every other day. You can, even, do it daily by pushing back your breakfast a few hours. If you can take it, don’t eat until lunch or dinner. Again, be very careful with this. Most likely, you will feel fatigued. It kind of feels similar to you doing a detox, a cleanse, or fasting for religious reasons.

I did the fast to make up for the times I cheated during the week (candy bars). What can I say? I LOVE baked goods. An easy way to push back your meals is to stay up late Friday and Saturday night so you sleep through the morning and wake up in the afternoon. If drinking alcohol is your thing, I recommend you don’t do it the night before, to avoid a hangover, headache, and dehydration.

When you get up, you can either have a protein shake, a meal replacement and/or a fruit smoothie. Have some nuts, peanut butter, veggies, and hummus, or another form of protein as a snack until dinner. That night, you can eat your one meal. Keep in mind doing this is difficult, especially if you’re not used to it. I felt hungry a lot, except when I ate oatmeal or peanuts, and I felt tired all the time. If you can’t hold out cheat and eat something low in calories and high in fiber. The key for me was to stay occupied and do anything and everything I could to take my mind off of wanting to eat more. Drink tea, read a book, take nap, watch a movie, sit outside, go for a walk, you name it.

Step 3: Drink More Liquids — Liquid Diet (LD):

Drink more liquids. I drink green tea every day. It’s rich in catechin. I believe it helped me get a slim waistline. Substituting some of your meals and/or foods with fruit and vegetable smoothies and whey protein drinks like Muscle Milk, or meal replacements can benefit you as well. Make sure you throw some fiber in there so it’s more filling. You know like some nuts or ground up oatmeal. I would have one fruit smoothie a week made up of cranberries, blueberries, pineapple, flax seeds, and a smidge of honey or have protein shake after a workout.

Your body is made up of mostly water. If you drink water with your meal, it can help you get full faster causing you to eat less. Liquid diets have been used in studies to stimulate weight loss in folks. Be sure to take a multivitamin to help you avoid missing out on any vitamins or minerals your body needs. Coconut water is good, too, especially, if you’re not big on Gatorade. To start, you might want to only do a liquid diet on the weekend. That way, you don’t have to worry about feeling weak, passing out, or being tempted by a coworker to grab McDonald’s or something.

Step 4: Change Your Diet — Mediterranean Diet or Anything that Works for You

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Mediterranean diet played a role in my weight loss. My main sources of protein were canned, whole tuna fish. I added more beans, legumes, vegetables, and nuts to my diet. I put olive oil in my morning oatmeal and. I used cinnamon, too;). I put lemon juice in when preparing my lunches (Being more alkaline may do your body some good.). I decreased other meats I ate and focused on fish and chicken. I started eating grains like oatmeal. I, even, used wheat flour to make my own bread. After your workout, consider eating some nuts, peanut butter, hummus, a boiled egg, or some tuna. Taking in more protein, in general, can help you on your way.

Like I said, I was eating a lot of junk before I started to lose weight. I changed by eating oatmeal 5–7 days a week and added nuts to my diet. Peanuts are a cheap and affordable snack. It’s a great source of protein, fiber, and good fats. Adding fiber-rich nuts to your diet can help you keep your waist down. Fruits and vegetables are complex carbs and contain simple sugars. Think of whole grains, brown rice, and root vegetables (carrots and beets). Eating more fiber makes your body’s digestive process more efficient. Try to add more fish, fish oil, olive oil, and nuts to your diet. They’re all great sources of unsaturated fat and omega-three fatty acids. They can help improve your blood circulation and reduce inflammation in your arteries. Try to limit your intake of red meat. Although it tastes good, it contains a lot of saturated fat. Too much of it can lead to heart disease, which killed my grandfather. What can I say? He was a butcher. Good alternative protein sources are beans, lentils, poultry, and fish. I tend to eat black beans. They are great for fighting hypertension and a good source of antioxidants.

Step 5: Move Out the Way — Moderate-Intensity Training (MIT):

This goes back to what I said about monitoring your activity.Get off your butt and take a walk. Do it during your lunch break or any other break you take. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. If the escalator’s your only option, walk up them. Stop driving EVERYWHERE. Get out your car and move your feet.

Use that tracker you picked up to monitor your daily walking in and outdoors. I used mine to track my walking and treadmill workout. I walked 4–5.5 miles a day in my office building. After work, I’d get on the treadmill for an hour, 2–3x a week and do another 4–5 miles. 8–10 miles 2–3x a week plus 4–5 miles the other 3 days a week is 28–50 miles a week.

A marathon is 26.219 miles. Walking 4–5 miles a day, I burnt roughly 400–500 calories. The days I got on the treadmill, I burnt 800–1000 calories. Think about it. I was used to taking in, let’s say 2500–3000 calories a day. I cut eating out for lunch. There at least 800–1000 calories in a fast food meal. That put me at 2000 calories. I walked off another 500 calories. That put me at 1500 calories. I took it a step further and stopped eating dinner. Let’s call that fasting. That put me at roughly 1000 calories, which I got from eating oatmeal for breakfast (1 cup=160 cal), peanuts/almonds (1 oz = 160 cal) for a snack, drinking 2 cups a tea (0 cal) in the morning, and I had 16ozs of two-thirds a cup of jasmine rice (12 oz = 480 cal), one-third leafy greens (4oz = 38cal) and a can of tuna (4oz = 160 cal) for protein. Total that equals 838 calories.

Step 6: Pick Up Your Pace — High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

One study looked at high-intensity (HIIT) versus moderate intensity cardio. They found high-intensity groups lost body fat while the moderate (MIT) group maintained it. What’s that mean? It means I used it shortly after I started working out on the treadmill. Check with your doctor before you do this. Basically, this is like you doing a set of sprints with walking breaks in between. You can do it outside or on a treadmill like me. It boosts your metabolism and extends your body’s ability to burn calories for hours after you’re done with your workout.

It’s great if you have a limited amount of time to dedicate to cardio each week or routine running is not your thing. You can workout 3 days a week for 20-minute spans of time and get great benefits, like slowing down or reversing the aging process. WARNING: be sure you consult your doctor before you do, so you’re clear on risk factors, unique to you. Now, I’m no doctor. If you haven’t done cardio in a while, I’d suggest you start out with moderate intensity training. Better yet, start with walking. Work your way up to jogging. Then, move up to high-intensity training when you feel comfortable or your doctor gives you the okay.

My first week, I was on the treadmill for an hour 5 days straight. The second week, I added in HIIT: 3 days high and 2 days moderate. HIIT is supposed to be done in slow and fast bursts. That was too slow for me, so I modified it a bit. I started off the first 5 minutes at a moderate pace. The second 5, I increased the speed. The last 10 minutes, I increased the speed, incrementally, from 6–7.1 mph. Understand, I’m not telling you to do what I did. What I did was very “risky”. But, it worked for me. What worked for me may not be good for you. It might even be dangerous. Again, run all this past your doctor first. I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a guy who was more than 20 lbs overweight and decided to lose it in a month. That’s it. If you’re able to read and understand what I’m saying to you, you’re capable of making your decisions and taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. If not, STOP reading this, and grow up. Use your brain. Do your homework, and make your own decisions.

Step 7: Pick up Something — Weightlift (Isotonic Exercise):

Do this if you want to maintain your muscle mass and improve your body’s ability to burn its fat. Otherwise, as your body burns up the fat it may move on to using your muscle for fuel. We don’t want that, so increase your protein intake, too. You don’t want to lose the fat and to be weaker too, do you?

Weightlifting played a key role in my weight loss routine. You don’t just want to shed pounds when your aim is to lose weight. You want to keep and/or build lean muscle. If you increase your muscle mass, you will inevitably decrease your body fat percentage. The best way to do that is to add weightlifting to your routine. The more you have, the more it can help you lose excess fat. As you age, if you don’t stay active and lift weights, you WILL experience muscle atrophy. That means your muscles will get weaker and smaller overtime. In other words, you’ll gradually waste away. When folks say they’re old implying they’re weaker because of their age, it’s, not exactly, because they’re old that they’re weaker. It’s because they became inactive and didn’t start or continue to lift weights as they aged. If you look around and pay attention, maybe at your local gym or the neighborhood you’re in, I’m sure you can find an “old” person who’s in better shape than some younger than them. It probably won’t start to become noticeable until you hit your thirties or forties, though.

Anyway, as you get older, you have to start worrying about osteoporosis. That just means you have an increased chance of breaking a bone and slower recovery from an injury if you slip and hurt yourself. Who wants that? I know I don’t, so you take some preemptive measures. Make sure you start and continue to do weight bearing exercises as you age. You’re also more likely to rip, tear, sprain, or strain a muscle, ligament, or tendon. So, stretch for god sakes! I can’t tell you how many times having flexible ankles has saved me from ankle sprains (I’m clumsy and accident prone.). Use it or lose it! That’s all I’m saying.

Step 8: Be an Adult and Act Like a Teenager — Self-Accountability & Fat Shaming:

It’s time you take responsibility for yourself, your actions, how you look, and how you feel. No one’s going to lose the weight for you but you. If you don’t like who you are or who you’ve become, do what I did. Take pictures and fat shame yourself until you’re thin. One study, I looked at, suggested a positive relationship between, regularly, weighing yourself and taking pictures of yourself and long-term weight loss maintenance. As I progressed through my weight loss plan, I took pictures of my belly and the scale. I used the scale at my gym. Then, I picked up a non-digital weight scale to use at home. Taking pictures of my belly made me feel inadequate and ashamed of myself. That helped me to motivate myself and keep going, because I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. Try it. Do it. It’s not like you have to show them to anybody. Who knows. After a few weeks, you might want to show them. Sometimes, it feels good being in the skin you’re in;).

Step 9: Make Friends — Community Support:

Support and encouragement is important, especially, if the people around you are discouraging you or you’re the only person around who seems motivated. Find some support at the gym, an online weight loss forum like Lose It, or tell a close and supportive friend what you’re doing.

If everyone around you, at work and at home, is eating out, eating fast food drenched in saturated fat, full of tasty sodium and processed sugary goodness, it’s going to be VERY hard to lose weight. Now, I don’t know about you, but I LOVE food. If you have to watch and listen to your friends and family eat, smell their food, and say no every time they ask you if you’re sure you don’t want any, the road will be difficult. Someone might even be a major pain and rub your face in it. So, you’re going to need some willpower, but willpower only counts when you’re tired, hungry, emotional, you don’t have it, but you need it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone cheats including me (I have an XL large mushroom pizza every other Sunday.). And, I don’t know about you, but I love all-you-can-eat buffets and 24-hour spots (Vegas. I’m coming for you baby!). It’s the only reason why I want to go to Las Vegas. Sorry. I went off on a tangent there. What I was going to say was, if you’re going to cheat, make sure no one’s looking. If there’s no residue, no one can point at you.

But, seriously, if your goal is to lose weight, one way or another, you’ll have to pay the price. You are responsible for how you look and feel about yourself — no one else is. So, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you have to walk this road alone, you have to be okay with it. If you’re not you’re going to fail, over and over again. Get active, stay active, and keeping track of what you put in your body and what you don’t. It’s key. It was for me.

Step 10: Rinse and Repeat — Change Your Behavior (Lifestyle):

You may not want to hear this, but whether or not you lose the weight you want, more importantly, keep it off is entirely up to you. It comes down to your willingness and commitment to changing your behavior. This means staying committed to a strict regiment, monitoring your weight, and limiting your intake of processed foods, and high-calorie fatty foods. Changing your day-to-day routine is hard as heck! I can’t tell you how many times my coworkers tried to guilt trip me. Sometimes, they’d try to use peer pressure to get me to go to lunch with them. When it comes to sweet and savory foods, especially chocolate, my body CRAVES it. If I have my credit card on me, I wind up buying snacks throughout the day. So now, I leave my card at home so I can’t buy junk food except “special occasions”.

Delicious food is something I will always love! But, there comes a point in time when you cross the line between love and obsession. For me, it’s meant trading in one addiction for another. Be it a healthier one. All the steps I’ve listed are not set in stone. Some may work for you and others may not. You may need to make some modifications to steps so they better suit you. Experiment and explore some if not all the approaches I mentioned.

Sometimes, you may not be in the mood or even want to quit. But if you don’t, you’ll look good and be healthier for it. Plus, you can always cheat, now and then. If you take the steps I’ve mentioned, you can chalk up indulging, once in awhile, to your reward for losing the weight. Boy does it feel GREAT… until you hit that maintenance phase where people stop noticing and commenting, but that’s a discussion for another time if you stick with me.

Follow me at www.thefirstformofwealth.net . Yes, that was .NET! If you have any comments, suggestions, questions, ideas, or criticism I don’t want to hear and you want to share, comment on my blog, Medium, or send me an email: donaldcollins@gmail.com or donaldcollins@thefirstformofwealth.net. I’ll respond eventually…;).

— Donald “DC” Collins