Navigating the Middle: Significant Weight Loss Means Making Some Tough Changes (Part 2 of 3)

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Navigating the Middle: Significant Weight Loss Means Making Some Tough Changes (Part 2 of 3)

Eric Naiman and Paul Antonelli |  July 2, 2017

This blog highlights the questions that Eric and Paul had for each other along Eric's two-year journey to a 176 pound weight loss.

Eric: I know low carb diets are popular but I like eating carbohydrates. Is that the kind of diet I will be on? Also, how restrictive will my diet be?

No. Carbohydrates are not the enemy! Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy you will need to be physically active. Overeating is what has led to your weight gain and I want us to create a sustainable plan. What is going to be very important for us, is educating you on serving sizes and making sure that you are consuming a diet with the proper amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. 

Eric: I know we've decided on a 2500 calorie daily intake. The calorie restricted diets I've seen all seem to be based 1500 calories… is 2500 calories too much?

Having calculated your basal metabolic rate we know that you burn somewhere around 2,500 calories daily, and you are about 200 pounds overweight. You have a lot of stored potential energy in the form of adipose tissue. I want us to create a plan where you can eat a comfortable number of calories daily. This is a calorie goal I'm hoping we can establish and stay with for the rest of your life. 1500 calories a day would be far too limited for a person of your size and I fear that although you might lose weight at the beginning it wouldn't be sustainable.


One of the many benefits of Eric's weight loss was his 
ability to ride theme park attractions that he has
previously been too large to ride.

Eric: I work two jobs and I'm extremely busy. How time consuming is this going to be?

This is about creating a new lifestyle. I want you to work out a comfortable amount for your schedule. Could you commit to being in the gym one hour a day, five times per week?

Eric: Yes, that seems reasonable. Will, I still have a social life or do I just have to sit at home hungry?

It's incredibly important for this process to create a new lifestyle for you. I want you to start molding your social life around activities not meals. Instead of inviting your friends out to the local bar or restaurant, could you meet them for walks around downtown? On days off from the gym can you find other ways to be active?

Eric: Will I feel any lack of energy? When can I expect to have more energy?

At first you are going to notice a drop in energy. You consume a lot of sugar sweetened beverages and you consume too many calories. You are going to feel a temporary lag while your body is getting use to its new normal. Moreover, you may experience withdrawal symptoms from the lack of sugar and caffeine. This is completely normal and will go away after a week or two. Slowly as weeks pass, you will feel more energy as your body becomes stronger and you get more restful sleep. 

Eric: I often see these traditionally popular diet snacks that, although low in calories are high in carbohydrates. Why do you want me to have focus on high protein snack options?

For two important reasons: First, one of the ways that you burn calories is through dietary thermogenesis. Put simply, the hotter your body gets when digesting food, that more calories you ultimately burn. We know that protein requires your body to get the hottest, so if we focus on high protein snacks we should see improved dietary thermogenesis and you will be burning more calories! Second, we know that protein leads to higher levels of satiety, so you will feel satisfied longer and not have the desire to eat more.

Eric: Do I need to take any multi vitamins or other supplements?

I'm a strong believer that you can get everything you need from a diverse diet. With that being said, I would prefer you spend your money on getting good quality food and vary your diet as much as possible. Don't get stuck eating the same thing every day. Try as many different sources of protein and vegetables as you can.

Eric: When is a realistic time frame for me to see changes?

It took 10 years for you to get to this weight. You aren't going to change the way you look or feel in a day, a week or a month. I want you to plan on losing one to two pounds each week, and if we can get 50 pounds off in the first year that's going to be a great accomplishment.

When Eric hit the 100 pound weight loss point he, 
Paul and some friends went on a cruise to celebrate.


Eric: Now that I have lost some weight when will people start to notice changes?

This is a very tough question to answer. People that see you every day will have trouble noticing your weight loss as it's been very gradual. Recognition will come with time and as you purchase new and smaller clothing. But the important thing is that you see and feel the changes and that you don't focus on what others think. With more time, they will notice.

Eric: I just fit on a ride at a theme park that I couldn't fit into when I was heavier! I've noticed that its easier for me to get into airplane seats and walk around tight areas. But I still feel very nervous whenever I'm in those situations. When will these feelings fade?

Research shows that it takes two to three years after you lose a significant amount of weight to be able to see yourself at that lower weight. I often refer to this as "phantom weight." You were at that heavier weight for considerable amount of time, so it's going to take time for you to see yourself as you are. I would encourage you to challenge your perceptions and if you aren't sure if you are going to fit into something than you should certainly try it. You will either fit or have a new goal.

Eric: Are there exercises that can help reduce the fat in certain parts of my body? I'm very unhappy with the weight around my midsection. How many crunches should I do daily?

I get this question from everyone, and the harsh truth is that there's no such thing as spot-based weight reduction. As you slowly lose weight the inches will come off from everywhere. Trust the process and before you know it your mid-section will be flatter. As for the crunches, I would suggest that you don't do any type of focused abdominal exercise this early in your weight loss journey. They won't give you the results you want. Abs are built in the kitchen. Once your body fat becomes much lower you will start to see definition. At that point if you want to start abdominal focused exercises we can add that into your program.

Eric: Prior to meeting you, I had "personal trainers" suggesting I work out two plus hours a day to see results. They had me doing high intensity cardio and things like box jumps. However, your program focused at first with me walking and doing activities in the pool, and then progressively add in strength training as I started to lose the weight. Why did you take that approach?

First, do no harm. When we met you weighed nearly 400 pounds. Honestly, my biggest concern was making sure you didn't hurt yourself. I wanted to create a plan that you felt comfortable with and that you could sustain. We slowly added more exercises as your confidence in the gym and your abilities improved. Frankly, when I see trainers having extremely overweight clients doing HIIT or plyometric-type exercises, I wonder what kind of stress they are unnecessarily putting on their clients' bodies.

Eric: As I have now come to my goal weight, how do I transition from losing weight to maintenance?

Nothing changes! This is a lifestyle! I still expect you to track your calories in the mobile app. I still expect you to go to the gym as you did before. Occasionally you might want to eat an unhealthy meal, just keep tracking your meals. If you go out, have fun but be responsible. Associate yourself with people that live a healthy lifestyle and you will find a balance that works for you.