31 May 9 Lessons I’ve Learned on The Road to Losing 100lbs and Keeping Them Off
From 2009-2011 I lost over 100 lbs.
When people hear that, they always look surprised and say a bunch of nice things. It makes me feel good, but I never share the whole story.
Some background info
Losing 100lbs in two years is pretty remarkable. Even more remarkable is that I’ve managed to keep it off for over 5 years now. Still, it’s not the whole picture.
In 6th grade, I weighed 180 lbs and wore adult sized jeans. Probably a 32/34 x 30, I think. I started gaining weight when I was in 3rd grade and I found food as a way dealing with issues. My parents were going through a nasty divorce, and as the oldest of 3 (now 4 brothers), I felt very responsible. Obviously, at that age I had no idea that I used food this way, that realization only came recently.
I was a quiet, smart, but a very self-conscious kid.
I worried about my weight, I worried about my size, and I worried about my family life. All this worrying made me eat. Then, puberty hit and I got an awesome growth spurt.
The short and chubby 180 lb softy was now a lean football player. I felt really good about my weight. I still ate whatever I liked but the weight was not an issue.
At 17 years old, I had surgery on my shoulder and that sidelined me from any activity for 8 months. I gained over 50 lbs in that time, and the cycle started all over.
I went to college at 230 lbs and gained another 50 over 4 years. Fast food, alcohol, and video games helped. So did my own personal image of who I was and how I felt.
Why did I lose 100 lbs?
The last year of college, I was student teaching at a high school and leading a strength and conditioning class. I had the students doing a timed circuit of squats, push-ups, sprints, and other exercises. It was a normal day. Whiny kids, overcrowded classes, and the occasional fight that needed to broken up.
However, this day was different. The students were extra whiny. The tension in the air was extra thick. One unruly little punk had the audacity to say, “What the hell mister Acuña!? This workout sucks. Why do we have to do it? I bet your fat ass can’t even do it!”
It was a slap in the face.
The kid had held up a metaphorical mirror to me and I saw what he saw. I wasn’t the awesome, oh so cool PE coach I thought they saw. To them, I was unfit, overweight, and someone they did not respect.
From there on everything changed and I learned some valuable lessons along the way. I dove deep into the science of exercise and nutrition. I tried so many diets and training protocols. Eventually, it led me to the psychology of changing habits and a brief stint in working in the behavioral health field (probably one of the best things I could have every experienced in my coaching career).
Since then, I have put together 9 valuable lessons I learned that helped me and others achieve their goals in fitness. More importantly, they’ve helped people achieve THEIR goals. Not the perceived fantasy of super flat abs, bulging biceps, skimpy clothes, and other bullshit marketing tactics that are smeared in our face day in and day out.
These lessons are for the everyday person who is working to be better, busting their ass to see some change, hoping and thriving for success. These are for you:
1. Write Your Own Story
The story we tell ourselves shapes our actions. I’m fat, I’m too skinny, I’ll never succeed, I need to weigh 20 lbs less, I need to look like blank, it’s all bullshit and holding you back. If you truly want to succeed you have to write your very own story and pick what you want. Don’t follow other peoples stories. Pick your own. Commit to it, own it. Only then will you hold yourself accountable and avoid needing others to track your progress.
2. Eat What Works for You
Macros, calories, portions, low carb, high fat it all works. Depending on your energy needs, activity level, health, and probably a bunch of other factors, your diet will be ever changing. To think that one way is the only way is simple minded. It’s like saying you’ll only watch one episode of the Walking Dead and never need another, never have a need to complete the story. Bad example, I’ve never seen the show but I’ve heard great things.
Seriously, though, all diets have 2 things in common:
1. They make you eat less and create an energy deficit (hence the weight loss).
2. They improve the quality of your food by asking you to cut out the crap. It’s amazing how that works right? Cut out the junk food and eat healthy food, then boom…results.
If you want to lose weight, eat in a way that creates an energy deficit (meaning you eat less than you expend) and improves the quality of your foods (i.e veggies > chips), I promise you will lose weight.
Side note: Some folks do need special diets, especially if you are dealing with health issues. These folks should be under medical supervision. This can include bariatric patients, metabolic syndrome patients, chronic inflammation, etc.
3. Train With A Purpose
I’m a big believer in goals. They give us direction, but more importantly, if they are picked correctly, they give us purpose.
Check out this old post where I cover this topic: Do You Train with Purpose or Follow Wishful Thinking?
4. Prioritize and be Responsible for Your Success
Taking responsibility for your own success should be one of your main priorities. I am the son of to immigrant parents. They gave up their lives to come to a new world and raise 4 boys. In doing so, they made a lot of sacrifices.
From them, I learned that nothing is given to you for free. You have to earn it and work for it.
When losing weight, diet pills and fad diets are enticing. They promise fast rewards. Unfortunately, they never deliver. They always come with a price.
True weight loss takes time and requires your effort. More importantly, it requires you to be responsible for every action that you take. Click here for another blog on how taking responsibility helped change my life.
5. Have a Support Team
The people that surround you have the greatest impact on your decisions and habits. I’ve had clients tell me they’ve noticed they eat a certain way when around certain people. They have even noticed that they think differently about themselves and their own actions.
This isn’t a “get rid of your friends” lesson.
It’s more of a, be aware of your surroundings and make wise decisions lesson.
Unfortunately, this may mean little less time at the bar OR catching up at the coffee shop over mocha frappe lotta sugars.
If you truly want to achieve your goals, surround yourself with the people that support them.
6. Pursue Knowledge
I use to write full blown nutrition plans for people. I mean it had all the works in it. Calorie ranges, grocery list, got to snacks, foods to buy, foods to avoid, etc.
And guess what, the people that followed them had great success!
But more people fell off the plan than followed the plan. More people never achieved their goals. More people were disappointed. It was more people that I failed.
Learning about behavioral change strategies and techniques was one of the best things to happen to me. It helped me reshape how I coach people. Strategies like keeping it simple, starting off slow, focusing on the process, meeting someone where they’re at, adjusting on the fly, were big mind shifts for me.
They should be for you too.
Sometimes the next step to unlocking your success is not on what you need to track or cutout. Maybe it’s investing in learning about habit changes (The Power of Habit) or discovering the reasons behind what you do (Start With Why).
It can be a very abstract concept to grasp. Something that I recommend guidance with.
We use Pro Coach (Powered by Precision Nutrition) to help our members with reaching sustainable and lifelong fitness success. Pro Coach is a proven curriculum that guides you through lifestyle changes in mindset, eating, stress management, and other areas of fitness so that you can develop your own personal program.
We bring on 20 people every 6 months and guide them through 3 months at a time of coaching. Currently, we are closed but do have a waiting list.
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7. Follow a Good and Real Mentor
I’m an introvert by nature. I like my alone time and I find great joy in succeeding (Han) solo. However, human nature is to be social. We need community. We need others. Even if it’s a tiny bit.
The greatest accomplishments have always had help. The Wright brothers had each other. Mike Tyson had Don King. Rocky had Mick. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. So on, and so on.
What I am saying is it’s good to work with others. Whether it be a coach, friend, or nemesis. Someone needs to be there to push you to be better. Coach you through your failures and help you realize the lessons.
Check out the time I spent $100 for 60 Minutes with a Coach.
8. Don’t Take Yourself Too Serious, Choose What You Give a F*** About
If the biggest goal in your life is to lose 20 pounds. You need better goals. Seriously. Life is too damn short to be focused on losing weight.
More importantly, weight loss is never linear. It spikes and dips and takes time. To put everything on hold is time wasted.
Don’t get me wrong, I want you to lose the weight. It will happen. But I’ve learned not to focus on it so much that you can’t enjoy cake at your son’s birthday party (true story). I’ve learned that jonesing for a workout because you need to burn calories, is a quick way to piss off friends, family, and loved ones (also a true story).
If your idea of fitness is an all in, never miss, go HAM or go home mentality, then you’re probably on the road to burnoutville.
Sometimes we care so much about something that we stop giving a fuck about things that truly matters. There’s a subtle art to f*** giving, seriously it’s a great book with a matching title, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***.
In it, the author argues that we waste time and effort caring about things that we cannot achieve as fast as we may want to, or something that will not happen, and things that truly don’t make us happy. This prevents us from focusing (a.k.a giving a f***) about things that truly matter. Mostly the simple things like having an able body, relationships, peace and quiet, health, etc.
I highly recommend reading the book.
It’s a great way to gain some perspective into what you take serious, what you’re ignoring, and what you can stop giving a f*** about.
9. Trust the Process and Have a Growth Mindset
The biggest lesson has been to trust the process. It’s easy to get down on yourself when things aren’t going the way you want. It’s hard to have grit and keep doing the things that will bring you success.
Believing that you can improve and will improve is the epitome of a growth mindset. You need this to be successful in anything you do.
Having, or not having, a growth mindset is the biggest determining factor in whether or not you will continue to pursue your goals. The thing about goals is that it takes effort and it takes failures. These lessons I share today have come through many different failures. It’s my growth mindset that has turned them into lessons, and why I share them with you.
The idea that you can improve and be better is what fuels me each morning. It’s the same mindset that helped Arnold Schwarzenegger go from a poor Austrian farm boy into a power politician and mega movie star and world icon. It’s the same mindset that fueled Jamie Foxx to become a world class entertainer after being an orphan child. It’s what fuels world class athletes and high performers. And you can have it too.
It’s not easy, it’s not simple. It will take effort and failures. But you will learn and you will succeed.
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