Month: January 2017

How skipping breakfast helped me see my abs for the first time

How skipping breakfast helped me see my abs for the first time

During most of my youth, I was fat. It was when I went into puberty and gained some height when I started to receive comments like:

“Did you lose weight”, “Wow, you look a lot better than a year ago” etc.

Though I indeed lost size in my waist, I never had the idea that I looked good without a shirt. At around 17 years old, I tried to lead a healthy life by distance running multiple times a week and eating only “healthy” food (fruits, nuts, vegetables), skipping “bad” food (cookies, cake etc.) -I will do an article on the value judgement of food in the future- and eating small meals multiple times a day to stave hunger and keep the internal furnace burning (calories). A couple years later I started resistance training and drinking protein shakes in the hopes of magically getting a more toned physique.

At 25, I was skinnyfat, meaning I looked good with clothes on, but somewhat chubby without. I weighed around 86kg, thinking this was a healthy weight to be at 1.88m. I hadn’t gained any notable strength in the last couple of years. Things needed to change. It was at the start of 2016 when I tried a new strategy in losing weight: skipping breakfast and stop eating after dinner/my evening post-workout meal.

By limiting the window in which to eat food, it becomes a lot easier to restrict calories. The term for this type of lifestyle is called “Intermittent Fasting”. Instead of eating 6 small meals a day, I ate a large lunch (40% calories), a small dinner (20% calories) and a post workout meal in the evening (40%). Instead of eating 2800 calories spread out over 16 hours, I ate 2300 calories in 8 hours. Think about it. By eating a 1.000 calorie meal at noon, I didn’t feel hungry until dinner. My dinner gave me the energy to go balls to the wall during my workouts, while the 1.000 calorie post-workout meal provided an excellent reward for going to the gym and going to bed completely satiated.

The funny thing was, even though I didn’t eat before noon, I never felt hungry in the morning. On the contrary, I saved time by skipping breakfast, most of the time experienced more clarity and became more productive overall. Moreover, it was always the co-workers eating small snacks over the entire workday complaining about hunger all the time. In the rare cases of experiencing hunger, I could stave it off very easily by drinking a cup of coffee or sparkling water. The only challenge is fighting off the people who will comment that it is unhealthy to skip breakfast, even though science already proved this to be bullshit.

One year later, at the 1st of january 2017, I weighed 75kg and could see my top abs, with the contours of the lower ones very much visible for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. In the meantime, I finally squated with my own bodyweight on my back for 5×5 reps, after continually stalling for years trying to lift 60kg.

Though it wasn’t JUST the fasting which helped me attain these results, since I also made sure to eat enough protein (2g/kg body weight) and worked out consistently for 3 days a week + light cardio on the other 4. It did make the weight loss that much easier! If you find you are trying to lose weight to no avail, feel hungry all the time and have the mental clarity of an insane person in the morning: try skipping breakfast. It sure was worthwhile for me.

If you sit all day, it will look like you sit all day

If you sit all day, it will look like you sit all day

I’m not sure where I came across this quote for the first time, but it has been on my mind the entire week. I paraphrase: “If you sit all day, it will look like you sit all day”. Basically this sentence contains two important reminders.

  • If you have a sedentary job like me, you will want to move around as much as possible. All the cliche solutions will suffice. For example by taking a walk during your lunch break. Instead of e-mailing your colleagues, move around in the office. Park your car further away from the office’s front door. I could go on and on.

    The point is, your body will adapt to whatever inputs it gets. If you just sit all day, your body will adjust to being capable of sitting all day in the best way possible. That means that you will be tight in the gym, you will experience more fatigue and pains, and instead of being this chiseled god you will look more like McDonald’s Grimace. This leads into the second reminder:

  • There are no shortcuts in fitness, even though all the inspiring January 1st articles around the internet will want you to believe there are. Silver bullets are always nice, but they just do not exist! Sure, you can do some things more intelligently to save time, but you cannot expect to become fit if you go to the gym for 1,5 hours and be a complete slouch for the other 22,5.

    You are in this for the grind. As I stated above, your body is good at doing one thing: adapting to the stimuli it gets. So get up and get moving. Use the quote as a reminder to become more active every day. Otherwise your body WILL tell you that you are not.

Why diving into a cold ocean is a lesson in stoicism

Why diving into a cold ocean is a lesson in stoicism

What started out as a fun idea about kickstarting the new year has in the meantime become a yearly tradition. Though the Dutch have been eagerly running into cold water on the first of January for at least 50 years, it was just 5 years ago I made my first attempt.

At first glance, there is nothing fun about voluntarily entering water approximately 7 degrees Celcius. Especially when the air temperature is even colder than that. However, since it is a shared experience with close friends, it is not all bad. Furthermore, it does provide a feeling of starting the year off good by facing the fear of the cold water. Because that is essentially where the challenge lies. Every year the closer we get to New Year’s Day the haunting thought of going into the icy water of the North Sea, the more the thought looms in the back of my mind.

Waking up January first, though the alcohol of the night before seems to still be functioning as a sedative, my heart rate is up. The dread sets in while thinking about the task at hand. All reasons for NOT doing the dive are flashing in my mind. The hours leading up to the dive seem like purgatory, but before I know it, I’m standing on a windy, rainy beach, wearing nothing more than swimshorts.

A quick countdown commences before we start sprinting towards the dark green tides. Within moments the water receives our bodies and surrounds us with its freezing embrace. After being submerged the task is done. While being wrapped in a towel back on the beach, the only thing I could think was: that was easy, let’s do this again next year!

And how is this not analogous with nearly every obstacle in life? How often do we get worked up by some challenge for days, only to later think back on the challenge thinking: was this the confrontation I so feared?? Then why does it make sense to comply with these feelings and to let yourself become weary by this mental burden. Though you cannot exert control over external factors such as the water temperature, you can control how you feel about the ordeal. Or like Marcus Aurelius has affirmed: ‘Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been’.

So why make something twice as difficult by letting the hamster in your head run its wheel?