Obesity in the United States has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent decades. There are several factors that contribute to the rise in obesity. Sedentary lifestyles coupled with the consumption of pre packaged processed “convenience” foods seem to be the major contribution factors. If you find that you are obese or would just lie to get leaner these are the two most important factors to consider. I started practicing martial arts in my early teenage years; because of this I have lived an active lifestyle. Yet before I practiced martial arts I was overweight. When I first became involved in martial arts not only did I dive headfirst into training I also began to watch what I ate. Within the 1st 3 months of my training I went from 180lbs to 160lbs. Though I have maintained the same level of activity I did not maintain the same discipline in my diet. During my 20’s I went from a lean 175lbs to at my heaviest 245lbs. The irony is that at my heaviest I was the most active I had ever been. Not only did I train twice a day but I also worked a physical job and taught martial arts at my school. Most people believe that if you are active you can eat whatever you want because you will just “burn it off”, nothing could be further from the truth. Studies have shown that on average with heavy exercise such as jogging, weight lifting or advanced aerobics you burn on average 10 calories per minute. That would mean that in a 1 hour session you burn 600 calories. On average 1 muffin can contain 350 to 550 calories. This would mean if you chose to eat a muffin for breakfast, a food many consider to be healthy, you would need to perform a minimum of 35 minutes of hard exercise to burn it off. So even though I was a disciplined trainer, my lack of discipline in the kitchen caused me to become obese. This is not to argue the lack of importance in exercise, far from being unimportant, exercise should be part of your overall strategy to get in shape.
On the left at my heavist(245lbs) performing at the NFMA grand opening
After some time trying to exercise my weight off while still eating whatever I wanted, I decided to find a meal program that would help me. It took me years of trying to work off the weight and struggling to maintain a 5lbs weight loss before I found the motivation to research deeper into my eating habits and find a program that actually worked for me. Ironically calorie counting worked for me, most exponents of fad diets will tell you that it is the most difficult method in an effort to sell you on their product. In addition to counting calories I also allowed myself a cheat day in which I could eat whatever I wanted. Allowing myself the cheat day increased my will throughout the week when cravings arose I was able to curb them by telling myself “I can’t now but on Friday…”. Another important factor when reducing calories is the frequency of your meals. Reducing calories can send your body into starvation mode which will increase the efficiency at which your body stores fat. To combat this I eat low calorie meals about every 2 hours, this raises my metabolism and increases my body’s fat burning while consuming few calories.
photo of me on 9/5/12(on the right) at 190lbs
Something that surprised me before I began calorie counting was a math equation I found to determine how many calories I had to consume daily in order to maintain my weight. At the time I did this equation I was weighing in somewhere between 235lbs to 240lbs. What I found was I needed to consume somewhere around 5,000 calories a day just to maintain that weight. The equation is as follows
For men 66 + (6.23xweight in pounds) + (12.7xheight in inches) – (6.8x age in years)
For women 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Take the number from above and multiply it by the level of exercise below
1.2 Sedentary lifestyle
1.375 Lightly active
1.55 Moderately active
1.7 Very active
1.9 Extremely active
In order to lose weight you need to take this number which is your base caloric needs per day to maintain weight and subtract 500 calories from your meal plan.
Personal Meal Plan
My current plan is roughly 1500 calories planned in 5 small meals throughout the day. Sometimes I increase it to 1800 depending on how I feel. Before I began this program in March of 2012 I weighed in at 235- 240 lbs and I was able to get my weight down to a strong 190lbs (for a total of 50lbs weight loss) as I am writing this. One of the most common asked questions about my meal plan is if I have enough energy. I currently have more energy throughout the day and am able to train harder and longer, than I was able to when I consumed 5,000 calories per day. Below is what I had to eat yesterday.
Fruit and Yogurt bowl
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen blueberries
½ cup bran cereal
Total calories 293
1 low calorie bun
2 strips turkey bacon
Total calories 307
Grilled Chicken Salad
3oz of grilled chicken breast
3 cups of mixed greens
1 small pear
2 tablespoons of fat free dressing
Total calories 283
1 cup low fat Cottage cheese
1 small apple
Total calories 200
1 power bar
Total Calories 350
Weight loss wasn’t the only motivation for me to start this program. For a few years prior to starting this program I frequently experience migraine headaches. These headaches became so severe I often would vomit and become unable to function for the rest of the day. At first I would get one of these headaches about once a month or less but soon I was experiencing these headaches on an almost daily basis. I had thought of a multitude of reasons that this was happening things like cancer, tumors etc. Some people who knew about these headaches thought I was on drugs. After doing some of my own research on the subject it turns out I was on a drug, that drug was caffeine. During the time I was lax in my eating habits I was consuming large quantities of sweetened and caffeinated beverages. I would sometimes drink up to six cans of soda per day. The migraine headaches were caused by caffeine withdrawals. I found a simple method of kicking the caffeine habit which I had to do before I began my meal plan. The first step was to eliminate the caffeine from what was my diet then. When I would start to feel a headache come on I would fix a small cup of tea and drink it. In this way I was able to slowly reduce the amount of caffeine I was taking in until I no longer needed any at all. With my current meal plan in place I have not experienced a single headache. In addition to solving that problem with the reduction in weight I no longer experience back pain from work and have become more functional as a martial artist.
When people ask me what kung fu is for I usually say that kung fu is a skill set designed to incapacitate an opponent. While it is my unwavering belief that this is true, the motivation to improve this skill set can have many benefits in the other aspects of life. If it wasn’t for my desire to “incapacitate and opponent” I would have never had the motivation to increase my fitness level and by extension my overall health.