I’ve had numerous queries on the order of, “How the heck are you dropping all of that weight?”
Therefore, I will give you a rough summary of The Diana Method For Losing Fat and Building Muscle and Shrinking the Ass. Otherwise known as TDMFLFABMASTA, or the Damn Falafal Ab Master… er…Okay, maybe it will come to be known as something else.
First, a few basic concepts and nuggets of information. No, I’m not a certified trainer or anything like that, but I’ve been lifting weights (albeit with some long interruptions) for almost 22 years. I’m also an information junkie and tend to read anything and everything I can get my hands on about whatever I’m involve d with. (You should have SEEN how much I read about breastfeeding…) I’ve also had the very good fortune to have had personal trainers as regular workout partners, which tends to give quite a bit of information by sheer osmosis. However, all of the information presented in this entry is simply what I’ve gleaned and picked up and what I have discovered to work for me. Most of it is backed up by studies and science, but I’m not going to dig up citations for you. Google it yourself.
CHAPTER ONE: THE THREE BASICS
Basic #1 EATING: No, a calorie is NOT a calorie. It is vitally important that you feed your body properly and sufficiently and efficiently when attempting to lose fat. Sure, you can drop some weight in the short term with a low or no carb diet, but it’s going to cost you in the long term. You have to feed your body to convince it to let go of the stored fat. That means eating clean, of enough food, with approximately a 40/40/20 split of carbs/protein/fat.
Now, that being said, I do tend to cycle my carbs, i.e. I’ll go one or two days with keeping my carbs below 60-80, then go back up to 150-200 carbs once or twice a week. However, those carbs are good quality complex carbs, e.g. sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain bread, and lots and lots of veggies. (I actually don’t count vegetables in my carb count, since they are so fiber-iffic. So, I let myself eat unlimited vegetables (except for corn, which is a bit too starchy to eat too much of.))
Protein is CRUCIAL. You’re going to be doing a fair amount of exercise on the TDMFLF… er, my plan, which means that you’re going to be replacing muscle with fat, which means that you have to give your body something to build the muscle out of. And, that muscular construction material is Protein. Chicken, Tuna, Turkey, Fish, Beef, Soy, Whey, Milk, Cheese… your options are darn near unlimited. If you’re trying to put on muscle, you should strive for a minimum of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Easiest way to increase your protein intake without eating three cows a day is by supplementing with protein powders. There are a jillion varieties on the market these days, and some taste like shit and others taste… er… well, like slightly more expensive shit. The trick is to add cold water (or milk, though that can sometimes make the shakes really foam up), shake them up like crazy so you don’t get chunks, and then chug the stuff as fast as you can stomach it. I add about a packet of splenda per scoop of protein powder, and I find that really improves on the palatabililty. I also add about half a scoop of vanilla protein powder to my oatmeal in the morning, which is extremely palatable, and makes up for the fact that I’m not eating the pre-sweetened flavored oatmeal. (I’ll go into my specific diet more later on in this entry.)
Fat is also vital, despite what you learned in the 80s. You NEED fat to keep your innards running properly and to keep your hair, skin, and nails looking decent. But try and keep your fats to the good quality unsaturated kinds. Olive oil, peanut butter, nuts (especially walnuts or almonds) are all great for you, but the occasional dollop of saturated fat won’t kill you. Keep your fat intake to about 20% of your total.
Basic #2 EXERCISE: You have to challenge your body if you want it to change. If you walk around the block every day for ten years, then, yes, you will have a body that is physically fit enough to walk around the block. But, if you want to become more fit, or if you want to reshape your body, then you need to test yourself, and do more. Walk faster or farther. Mix it up and bicycle instead. Run or jog. Then when you adapt to that, change it again. Increase your intensity or duration.
But, here’s the thing: You absolutely have to include resistance training in your workout. (And this is Basic #3 WEIGHTS) If you do nothing but cardio, you’re going to end up with skinnier flab. You also will have a harder time holding onto any muscle that you may already have, because your body is going to think it can take from that muscle to feed itself to get through the cardio and diet. You have to convince your body that it can’t take from your muscle, and you do that by using that muscle. Plus, muscle burns fat. Swear to god, but it’s true. It weighs about three times more, but it uses up about nine times as many calories as the same amount of fat. And it doesn’t jiggle.
But, once again, you have to challenge your body. If you can do three sets of fifteen reps of your cute little three pound dumbbells without even the slightest bit of straining, you are totally wasting your time. You should use weights that are heavy enough to make you strain on the last couple of reps of your last set. When that gets easy, go up in weight. There is absolutely no such thing as “toning” a muscle. You’re either building it or you’re not. And, trust me, you don’t have to worry about “Getting Bulky.” It takes massive amounts of incredibly hard work and excellent nutrition to put on the kind of muscle that you might see in even an amateur bodybuilding contest. And, it takes chemical intervention to get the kind of muscle that you might see in a pro bodybuilding show.
CHAPTER TWO: MY TRICKS
I’m lazy, and so I try to do things that will cause me to expend the least amount of energy. I’m also stubborn and determined to lose this damn weight, so I try to find the most efficient and effective ways to exercise so that I get the most bang for my buck.
First trick is cardio first thing in the morning. Yep, get up early and get sweating before you have anything to eat. Studies have shown that you can burn up to 300% more fat by doing your cardio in the morning. The reason for this is that you are already somewhat glycogen-depleted from not eating all night long, which means that your body has to burn fat to fuel itself for this workout. I can usually force myself to get up at some ungodly hour perhaps three times a week. I have a stationary bike at the house, and I read the newspaper, flip through magazines, or do the daily crossword puzzle until my 30-45 minutes is up.
Second trick is to never let myself get too hungry (if at all.) I eat breakfast at about 5:30-6am, then a midmorning snack at 9:30ish, then lunch at noon, then some sort of small meal/snack at 3:30ish, then a protein shake right after I workout (chug that thing down!), then a more decent meal around 7pm or so, and then sometimes a very small protein snack before bed. It sounds like I must be eating a ton of food, which I am, but it’s not a ton of calories because I try to keep it all really clean.
Third trick is a nasty thing called HIIT, or High Intensity interval Training. According to numerous studies, HIIT results in nine times as much fat loss as regular steady-state cardio. I used to do an hour of cardio after my weight training–half an hour on the elliptical, and then half an hour on the stationary bike. Then I read about HIIT, and I can finish that up in about 20 minutes. You can do HIIT on just about any piece of cardio equipment (that includes plain old running shoes.) Warm up for a couple of minutes at a pace that is slightly lower than what you would use for normal cardio, then up the intensity and the speed to just slightly below as hard and as fast as you can possibly go for 30 seconds, then drop it down to your warmup pace for 2 minutes. Do that eight times. It will fry you. After you’ve been doing it a while, reduce the amount of rest time you have to 90 seconds or a minute. If you get bored doing cardio (Me! Me!) this is the routine for you.
Fourth trick is to do your cardio after your weight training, not before. Just as your body is glycogen-depleted in the morning, it is also slightly glycogen-depleted after a weight workout because you’ve already burned a good deal of it out. This gives you a bit of a headstart on getting into the fat burning zone. Cardio before your workout will just wear you out and keep you from having a decent training day. (3-5 minutes on a cardio machine is fine before weight training as a warmup, but any more than that is going to be counterproductive.)
Fifth trick is to eat your carbs early and taper them off throughout the day. If you eat carbs before bed anything “unburned” will get converted to fat when you sleep. I’ve heard the “no carbs eight hours before bed” rule, but for me that’s 2pm, which is asking a bit much. So, I try to reduce my carbs around 5 or 6pm.
Sixth trick is Rest. Rest yourself from working out and from dieting. Set aside one day that is your “free” day. Don’t work out. Don’t lift weights. Don’t do cardio. And, eat without keeping track of what you’re eating. I hesitate to say, “Eat normally,” because I kinda hate the thought that “normal” eating involves eating junk and fat and sugar, etc. However, I would like to emphasize that a free-eating day does NOT mean that you can go totally nuts and eat a dozen donuts, a whole pizza, three chocolate shakes, and a Big Mac. But you can have a hamburger and fries, or a few slices of pizza, or maybe a frosty beverage or three. If you let yourself relax once a week, then it’s a lot easier to stay sane for the rest of the week. Plus, your body needs time to recover and heal and recharge.
Seventh trick is what I call Small Steps. Do little things that cause you to expend more energy. Don’t take the closest parking space. Take the stairs. I’m lucky enough to have a coworker who is pregnant and wants to walk during our lunch hour, and so everyday I get two miles of walking in. It’s not cardio as far as exertion level (though we walk at a pretty good clip), and I don’t get out of breath, but it’s just a bit more motion in my day. It also keeps me nicely charged up during that time when I usually just want to take a nap.
CHAPTER THREE: MY ROUTINE AND DIET
My cardio: Three times a week (or so) I set my alarm for 0430 (UGH!) and get up and do about 45 minutes on the stationary bike. Every weekday at lunch (weather and work permitting) I walk around the jail twice which equals two miles. After work I go to the gym, and after my workout I do cardio. Usually. It’s actually only about four times a week that I end up doing cardio after weights. I don’t do cardio after I train legs, and I also skip cardio if I did cardio the day before AND I did cardio that morning–especially since I started doing the HIIT after my workouts since it is so much more intense. I do like to do morning cardio on the morning after I do HIIT since it supposedly really keeps the metabolism revved up.
Weight training: I do a four day split on bodyparts.
Chest and Triceps
Shoulders and Abs
Back and Biceps
I’ll usually do ab training on other days besides shoulder day, but that’s the day that I really pound them and use lots of resistance. Life and Circumstances usually cause me to have a rest day or so within that four day split, so I mostly end up training a bodypart every sixth day. Sundays I do no weight training.
1/2 cup of eggbeaters with 1/4 cup of lowfat shredded cheese. Maybe some salsa for a bit of flavor. Glass of skim milk.
1/2 to 1 cup of plain oatmeal, cooked in skim milk, mixed with one packet of splenda and half a scoop of vanilla protein powder. Handful of dried blueberries thrown in sometimes for more flavor.
1/2 cup or so of fat-free cottage cheese mixed with raspberry jello mix and some low-carb or lite fruit salad.
1/4 cup of almonds
A couple of pieces of fruit
Half a protein bar
Big Bowl of veggies. Either steamed broccoli with lots of fake butter and salt, or Green Giant vegetable and cheese mix, or canned beans if I’m really desperate.
2 medium chicken breasts. (Hint: I hate to cook, so I buy the big bags of pre-cooked chicken breasts that Tyson makes. Sams sells them for about $10-$12 a bag, and I usually get the teriyaki or the honey mustard flavors. Yeah, there’s some sugar, but having some flavor keeps me sane.)
Sometimes I’ll cook up a sweet potato too, with fake butter and splenda
Same as morning snack OR tuna & crackers (I love the ready-to-go snack packs that have everything in them.)
Protein shake (usually Isopure, though I sometimes vary it up a bit) with about 50g of protein
Chicken, or catfish, or salmon, or steak, or whatever piece of meat I feel like eating. Add some veggies.
Maybe a little bit of chicken… really depends on my mood and my hunger level. I tend to skip this one a lot.
The most important supplement is Protein. After that is a good multivitamin. After that I usually take a fish oil capsule, and a CLA (conjugated lineolic acid) capsule. Before and after my weight workouts I take glutamine. And… that’s about it. I don’t go too nuts with supplements.
CHAPTER FOUR: ACCOUNTABILITY AND BOOKKEEPING
I’m not saying that you have to post your pictures and progress on the internet, but it really really does help if you know that someone else is keeping track of what you are doing. If you are somewhat new to working out and weight training, I highly highly urge you to scrape together the money to hire a personal trainer, even if it’s for just one month. If you learn how to do the stuff RIGHT, then it will be easier later on, plus it will help combat the nerves of going into a gym full of strangers. But pay for that month ahead of time, to keep you from bailing after one or two sessions.
And track your progress! Get someone to take pictures of you when you first start–front, back, and both sides. Then get someone to take pictures of you every three or four weeks. Wear the same swimsuit in all of your progress pictures. Seeing the change in those pictures was HUGE motivaton for me to keep going with this. You really can’t see progress the same way just looking at yourself in the mirror. Track measurements too. Seeing total inches lost is great motivation as well.
And weigh yourself every day, first thing in the morning, after going potty and before eating. Studies have shown that people who weigh every day tend to lose weight and keep it off more successfully than those who only weigh once a week or sporadically. I know that when I was packig the pounds on I stopped weighing myself because it was getting depressing. But I still kept packing the pounds on even though I couldn’t see the scale.
And, finally, either invest in a fat monitor or find someone who has one. The numbers on the scale are very deceiving and can be depressing. There were a few weeks then the weight didn’t budge or went up, and it was only seeing that the bodyfat was going down that kept me going.
I am quite sure that there will be people who will find something to attack about this system/routine/method whatever that I have described above. I really don’t care, because this has obviously worked quite well for me. Losing fat and getting into shape is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But then, getting fat doesn’t happen overnight either. It took me a long time to get this fat, and the only reason it’s coming off as (relatively) quickly as it is is because I’m really putting a lot into it. This will work just as well at about half the intensity, and the weight loss will be about half as fast.