Body Composition: That ‘Last Five Pounds’, and How to Deal With ‘Problem Areas’

This post is an excerpt form my eBook ‘Taking Up Space: a Guide to Escaping the Diet Maze’. If you enjoy this post, be sure to check out the book here.

Almost daily I get a question along the lines of ‘Help! I don’t need to lose any more weight, but I’ve got this (belly/thigh/butt/arm/back) fat that just won’t budge!’.

We all have that ‘last’ bit of stubborn fat that just won’t respond to dieting. The first thing I want you to consider is that maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Our bodies need a little bit of fat reserve to function optimally, and for most of us that last little bit is all in one stubborn spot. For many people it’s the belly. For me, and lots of other women, it’s the hip and thigh area. For some people it’s the arms or upper back. Everyone has ‘that’ spot, and it annoys us, but the reality is that in the vast majority of cases it’s not a health threat, so from a health perspective you can let go of the pressure to lose it.

Doesn’t make it much better from the aesthetics perspective though, right? I hear ya. So today I’m going to talk about body recomposition. Here is exhibit A. Two pictures of me at the same weight, but dramatically different body compositions:

There’s 2+ years between these pics. This is not a fast process! Patience and consistency is key.

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 8.42.32 AM

170 in both pics.

I was actually in pretty good shape in the first picture, I was competing in triathlons and eating a nutrient rich diet and had recently begun weight lifting. But I had just come off 18 months of losing weight, so while my fitness had improved, the calorie deficit I’d been maintaining had prevented me from adding any appreciable muscle mass (you need a calorie surplus to build muscle mass). So the result was a healthy weight but a higher fat-to-lean mass ratio (I have no idea what my body fat percentage was but it was probably in the 22-27% range). I was not unhealthy in any way, so hopefully no one will interpret these images as casting aspersions on my less-lean self, or on anyone who looks like my less-lean self. I had a healthy beautiful body then, as I do now.

In any case, there I was at 160 pounds, a weight that I’m comfortable at, so I stopped losing weight and turned my focus to body recomposition. Building muscle requires a different dietary approach than losing fat does, so I changed the way I was eating. I ate more, lots more. Instead of eating at a calorie deficit with the goal of losing weight, I began eating at maintenance, or even a small calorie surplus. As always, I made sure I was getting plenty of protein (I aim for about 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) and adequate fat, so it was really carbs that I increased to bump up my calorie load (note: I’m not saying that my way is the best or only way (find what works for you), but there a popular mythology that carbs make you fat, and as you can see from looking at the second picture, eating more carbs definitely did NOT make me fatter, in fact, it made me leaner). My weight fluctuated about 5 pounds either way over time, so I wasn’t exactly 160 on the nose every day in between the two photos, and what was probably happening was that my body was very organically cycling between building muscle and burning fat, but the end result was that over time my body mass shifted from fatter to leaner. Fat cells don’t turn into muscle cells, what happens is that as muscles get bigger, fat cells get smaller as your body burns off the fat inside them.

You can see from the pictures that I carry/carried a lot of my fat on my thighs. As I built muscle all over my body, the fat on my thighs burned off, because that is where the fat was. So building up my arm, back and core muscles was just as much a part of making my legs leaner as working my leg muscles was. The message I’m attempting to convey here (however inelegantly) is that you need to work your whole body, not just the body part that bothers you. Bigger biceps means less belly fat. It’s true! Add a pound of muscle to your shoulders, and assuming your weight stays the same, that means there’s a pound less of fat on you, and if your fat is on your belly, that’s where it will come off of.

So how do you know it’s time to stop trying to lose weight and focus instead on body recomposition? Here’s my tips:

1. You’re at, or close to, a healthy weight, even if it’s higher than you wish
2. Your weight loss has stalled and simply won’t budge no matter what you do
3. Your eating habits are solid, you’re getting accurate hunger and satiety signals from your body, and you’re able to eat to your appetite without gaining weight
4. All of your health markers are normal and you feel good

Alternately, here’s some signs you may be at a weight that’s simply unsustainably low, and gaining some lean mass may be of benefit:
1. you’re able to maintain a low weight, but must be overly restrictive with diet
2. you need to do lots of cardio to keep from gaining weight
3. you frequently feel hungry and struggle with compulsive eating
4. you struggle with fatigue
5. you recover slowly from workouts

In both of the above scenarios, shifting your focus away from fat loss, and toward increasing lean mass, may be what your body needs in order to continue making progress.

So how do you do that, you ask? Well, here’s some jumping off points:

1. Eat at LEAST maintenance calories. Finding that target will take some trial and error, but the calculator in my Calorie Primer post can give you a good target window. Keep in mind that if you’ve been undereating or eating at a deficit for a while, you’ll see an initial ~5-10 pound bump in weight almost immediately when you increase your calorie intake, as your body replenishes it’s glycogen and water stores. IT’S NOT FAT, so don’t panic.
2. It’s ok to go over maintenance calories by a few hundred, especially on days after workouts, your body needs the extra calories to build muscle mass.
3. A healthy female body can gain about 2 pounds of lean mass a month under optimal conditions, so if you keep any weight gain around this level you can be confident that you’re gaining mostly lean mass. If you gain more than that, IT’S OK, but more of it will be fat. Again, IT’S OK. Gaining a little fat along with muscle won’t kill you, you can always lose it later (if you want. You may be surprised at how nice that extra fat looks when it’s over a foundation of added muscle!).
4. Get plenty of protein! I generally recommend aiming for 1 gram per pound of your goal body weight, or just 100+ grams a day. Getting protein from real foods is best, but an occasional protein supplement isn’t going to derail you and can help bump up your intake if you’re having trouble getting enough from food alone.
5. Carbs are great! Unless you have an active metabolic condition that necessitates a specific diet (in which case you should be working with a medical professional and not getting your nutrition information from blogs) don’t restrict carbs. They give you energy for workouts, and nutrients and calories your body needs to create new muscle mass. As always, get them from real, whole foods for the most part, but IT’S OK TO HAVE A TREAT now and then.
6. Don’t restrict fat either. Most people do well getting 20-35% of their calories from fat. As with carbs, get it from real, whole foods.
7. EAT EAT EAT, and don’t feel guilty about it. Your body NEEDS fuel to meet your daily obligations, to recover from workouts, and to build new muscle mass. Some days you will feel like all you do is eat. IT’S OK. If you’re feeling piggish, just tell yourself ‘Go Kaleo eats like a linebacker and is lean and healthy’. Enjoy!
8. Experiment until you find what works best for you. I do great on tons of fruit, others go for sweet potatoes or bacon or coconut. There isn’t one right way, and trying to do it someone else’s way will ultimately not be as effective and sustainable as finding YOUR best way. You don’t have to ‘get it right’ on the first day. Pay attention to how your body feels and functions in response to what you eat. Keep a log so you can start to see patterns.
9. LIFT. Do a full body resistance routine at least twice, preferably 3 times a week. Alternately, some people prefer to follow a body part split routine, which is effective as well, but I’ve found to be a little more time consuming. It really is up to you what you prefer. Both styles will give you good results. For more on weight lifting styles and specifics, check out my Taming the Weight Room program.
10. Take regular rest days. Your body needs rest to recover properly. Cardio is fine on off days, but take at least one, preferably two, full rest days a week.
11. Say no to guilt, shame and restriction. Has it worked for you in the past? No? Then you don’t need it.

And last but not least, know that most people are too busy focusing on their own ‘problem areas’ to focus on yours. So don’t kill yourself trying to perfect them. It’s not worth it, you’re valuable and lovable just the way you are.

 

66 thoughts on “Body Composition: That ‘Last Five Pounds’, and How to Deal With ‘Problem Areas’

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  4. My problem: I have lots left over skin on tummy n arms. Need more muscle in thighs and butt!calfs! Allover basically!

    I do: 2 personal training.3-5 zumba. Eat extra quality protein.

    Diagnosed ms 18 yrs ago. Overall Im loosing weight n getting toned! Do i need to be patient? Or what do recommend??

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  8. Love this article and I will definitely be applying the principles once I’ve overcome my problem with binge eating. I would like to ask one question though. A friend of mine has lost around 70lbs over a few years and is in great shape. She lifts heavy but also does a fair bit of cardio (she’s a zumba instructor). Her back, arms and legs are really defined and even her obliques are quite lean but she has a terrible hang up about her stomach. She has never had children but she has told me that when she had weight on she had a lot in her midsection. Her doctor has said that there is no elasticity in her skin and she will never be able to do anything about it. I feel almost as frustrated about it as she does. She eats pretty clean and recently is convinced that her stomach is getting bigger in spite of her increasing the amount of core work she does. Can you offer any suggestions as to what she might try? I have a sneaking suspicion she doesn’t eat enough, particularly when it comes to carbs and I have said that maybe all the core work is making her ab muscles bigger and pushing her stomach out? I would be grateful for any suggestions. Thanks in advance!

  9. great, great post.

    i have done most diets known to mankind and am now most heavily in the paleo camp, so i guess i don’t consider it a diet so much as a lifestyle. or maybe i tell myself that.

    anyway, i appreciate all of your posts here, and on the fb, as i’m a constant spewer of negativity (at myself). i’m 5’6″, weigh around 134 (a 9-or so pound gain from last year at this time where i’d just come through a divorce and was cardio-crazy and then as my son and i changed our diet to gluten free to conquer his celiac … i gained).

    i just started looking at crossfit which was a huge thing for me and haven’t been able to get through the fundamentals yet but am looking forward to getting into heavy lifting. i definitely carry my weight in my lower half (all on the inside of my legs and all the way down, ugh) and it prevents me from life so i’m praying that i can make these slow, sustainable changes and find the happiness that i know exists. i want to feel comfortable in my own skin wearing a bathing suit, shorts, etc. because right now? i do none of it.

    anyway, i vented, but thank you. thank you for being so inspiring!

  10. Thank you for everything in this post. I just hit 30 (ok that might have been a year or two ago) and realized that I was slowly packing on the pounds all in fat. I was very sedentary and didn’t exercise period. I knew I had to change if I wanted to regain basic strength and be healthy and not settle into middle-age pudge. I started two months ago doing 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of interval training circuits, strength and cardio using light dumbbells (I know people advocate heavy weights for women but I just managed to work my way up to 2.5kilo handweights ok lol) and body weight resistance training with HIIT and plyometrics (when I can manage). It’s amazing the results I have gotten in just 2 months without even any major dietary changes (just cutting down portions, cutting out sodas except for the occasional one serving maybe once a week as a treat, and cutting down on sugary/sweet snacks and desserts). Yet the more fit I get, the faster I want results and to lose that last bit of fat hanging out on my belly and thighs. So thank you for posting the fact that the difference between your two photos was TWO YEARS. So I know that I need to be patient. And also for posting that hey, that little bit of fat left doesnt mean I’m not healthy or that I don’t look good. You look great in both your photos. And I know that I look good now and will look good two years from now, whether my progress is as dramatic as yours or even if I stay looking the same as I do now.

  11. First, I just want to say how much I love your blog. You are truly an inspiring person. I love everything you have to say and really enjoy reading your posts. Around 6 months ago, I increased my calories to around 1800-2000 after being stuck in a year long plateau. I have gained about 10 lbs of fat. (I am 5’4″ and now up to 154lbs.) My clothes don’t fit and my body feels jiggly. I work out about 5 days a week (2 days of cardio and 3 days of weight training.) I am really trying to be patient, but I feel like I am heading in the wrong direction. What advice can you (or anybody) give me to stay on track and stay motivated? Is is possible that I completely screwed up my metabolism after a lifetime of dieting? I would really appreciate any comments. I just don’t know what else to do. By the way, I’ve had all blood work, everything is “normal.” My doc says I’m fine, I’ve had 2 kids, my body is designed to store more fat…blah, blah, blah. That is not an answer I am willing to accept. I want to be strong and lean.

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  13. Thank you so much for posting this!! All of what you said is exactly what I’ve been thinking, and seeing your success encourages me that I’m on the right track!

    I’m currently at 33.5% body fat, I’m down to eating about 88% of my TDEE, (I’m trying to decrease that over time), I lift two times a week, and have yoga once a week.

    So far I’ve lost 2.5% body fat, lost 2 lbs of fat and gained 7.5 lbs of lean body mass. I’m liking my progress so far!

    Wow, you are awesome! I love your approach and philosophy – it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking – this is great! It’s also super cool that you have your very own website and do this all yourself. It looks like you really had a dream and followed it to get yourself into a great career and lifestyle – You are an inspiration to me! Wow! :D

    Thanks again!!! <3

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  15. Hi Amber, thank you so much for writing this post, even if I am late in finding it and commenting. I think I’m ready to try body recomposition. I’m 5’2″ and 142 pounds, solidly in the “Overweight” BMI category. But my body seems really happy at this weight, and I’m eating 1800-2000 calories to keep it happy.

    Going over your list of 4 things that indicate you’re ready to stop losing weight, I’m GREAT with all of them except health markers. THYROID, you see. I’m not on meds yet and I actually feel just fine, but my body temperature is stubbornly low, even though I’ve done lots of tinkering with supplements over the last 9 months. Now I’ve also been reading Matt Stone and incorporating lots of his tips.

    Basically, I want to get my body temperature up, improve my metabolism/thyroid, AND gain muscle (and lose fat). Can I do all that with your approach? Will my metabolism and body temperature go up as my lean mass goes up, do you think? I probably need to be cautious about dieting the fat off so my body temps and metabolism don’t drop again … how long should I allow myself to be in calorie deficit during the “cutting” phases?

  16. I’m 4′ 10” and maintaining 99 lbs on 2000-2500 cals a day. Took some time for my body to get used to being properly fed after years of starvation diets (1200 calories is starvation) but now my weight have settled, I’m gaining muscle and losing fat, and most importantly, I’m happy and enjoying my life and my body :) At first it was scary to eat over 1800 calories, but I kept telling myself “Go Kaleo says I gotta eat”, lol. And it worked! My workouts are better, I run faster, I lift heavier, I look better, I feel AMAZING, my sex drive is incredibly high, lol. And I get to bake again, one of my favorite things in the world, which I gave up because I was supposed to eat carbs. Btw, I eat over 200 grams of carbs everyday. I even eat butter, lol!!
    Anyway, I guess I wanna say THANK YOU AMBER, YOU ROCK!!!
    And to everybody else EAT THE FOOD!!!
    :D

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  18. Awesome! Thank you for this info! I have been working to lose those last 5 for some time – mine is in my butt and thigh area. The restrictive diet has been killing me! I have recently amped my weight training. This info confirms what I have been trying to understand ! It’s no fun being hungry all the time and not wanting to workout for lack of energy and motivation! Thank you!!!

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  21. For someone who has Lupus, and it is difficult to commit to exercise, where does one start?? Prednisone (a steroid med for lupus) causes weight gain and many other meds prevent or make it difficult to lose weight. Exercises can cause flare-ups! How can one start realizing results given these challenges.

    • In studies on lupus and other autoimmune conditions, results consistently show that exercise can reduce fatigue, depression and inflammation, and improve quality of life. Start where you are and do what you can. Walking is the best place to start. Commit to 15 minutes 3 times a week and work up. Add in resistance exercises as your strength and energy improve. Just take it slow and steady.

      • i have multiple sclerosis. and i have been powerlifting for 12 years. for autoimmune diet is everything. dial that in and excersise will become much easyer.

  22. I have to tell you, the idea of eating over 2000 calories a day TERRIFIES ME! I’m a life long dieter and life long chubby person, (shocking I know!). It’s going to take a little time to wrap my head around this but I’m so tired of the brain damage I have over every damn thing I eat. I want to find a place where I can eat well, workout and let the rest of it go. I’m not there yet, but this post will nudge me closer in that direction. Thank you for doing what you do.

    • ME TOO! I lost 80lb and try to stay around 1200 calories a day. I’m scared to go over.

      • I hope you can find a way to eat more. Eating 1200 calories a day for the rest of your life sounds AWFUL to me!

      • jesus 1200 is MAINTENANCE for if youre basically in a coma, literally. that isnt smart to stick around 1200 for too long.

          • Well, I get that number from the typical ‘weight loss’ sites, ie fitnesspal, loseit.com I’m 5’1 and weigh 125-130 (I’m 46). I’m outrageously frustrated that I cannot lose a thick layer of fat around my torso! I run 2x wk, lift — what I think is heavy — 2-3x wk. I do ‘cheat’ one day over the weekend, going well over the 1200 I try to maintain M-F. I find myself wanting to regress to super low calories, b/c that’s how I dropped a significant amount of weight (and have kept it off about 18mo)…. ugh

          • Christine, those sites pretty much make those numbers up. Use the calorie counters that Kaleo has in her Calorie Primer post (there’s a link early in this post), that will give you the actual amount science says you need, not the diet sites. You can still use MFP if you like, there’s a setting to re-set your calorie targets (and other macro targets too).

  23. I am trying to build mass and incorporate your suggestions; however, as someone else who doesn’t eat meat, I’m curious how to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight without a lot of protein powder supplements. Today, I’ve already had a whole block of tofu, a whole can of black beans, a head of kale, 3 eggs, some hemp seeds and lots of assorted fruits and veggies and I am nowhere near that much protein. I’ve also been eating a lot of nut butter and tempeh but every night I’ve had to have a protein powder “night cap” to get enough. Any suggestions?

    A few example days would be awesome for fellow vegetarians, thanks!

    PS: my husband may leave me with all the farting from this much tofu and beans, even from this 25-year vegetarian ;)

    • The less animal foods I eat the more I have to supplement. When I don’t include greek yogurt and eggs/egg whites in my diet, I use Garden of Life’s Raw Protein to bump my protein intake.

      • I’m a vegetarian. Right now I am working with a nutritionist but, I am getting enough protein. 1 gram per pound is a great reference but, not the same for everyone. I do eat a lot of eggs/egg whites, protein powder (usually 1 1/2 scoops per day). All foods provide proteins and it’s just not the same for everyone. Your macros need to be calculated by what you do or what your goal is. This was an easy way for me to answer the question “am I getting what I need?”. The answer is yes. I feel fueled and strong :)

  24. Thank you for this incredibly well-written and informative post. I’ve had some misconceptions regarding fat cells and muscle mass, and I simply do not know a way to rid my problem areas (fat arms and back since childhood. I blame genetics).
    I have not started building muscles yet, right now I am focused on lots of cardio and calorie deficit. I started working out my arms with 3lb dumbbells, but my arms seem to get even bigger so I stopped. I wonder if I should keep at working out my arms (only with the dumbbells though, I am intimidated by bench pressing), or if I should get rid of my fat first? I shall do an experiment.

    Again, thank you for writing this!

    • Hey, you should keep working out! You might have noticed your arms get a little bigger, but that just means you are building muscle. The more muscle you have = the more calories you burn.
      So keep doing your cardio, but lift as well–and heavy as you can! Don’t be scared to get huge; if you are eating at a deficit you most definitely will NOT. You’ll just lean out and lose fat, while keeping the muscle you need to look ‘toned’.
      Just my opinion based on my research and doing this myself!

  25. I love this post. This is exactly where I am at. I am done losing weight and restricting food. I want to put on more muscle. It is just so hard to make the mental transition from striving to lose (fat) to now wanting to gain (muscle.) I have been at this place the last year stuck like a truck in a mud pit spinning my wheels.

  26. I really loved this post and your advice. I’ve been at the same weight for about a year now (give or take one or two pounds) so it’s probably a good weight given my eating habits and my exercise. I guess I should focus on recomposition eh?

  27. Thank-You! Thank-You! Thank-You! For your wise words filled with honesty, kindness, respect, intelligence. I have printed your words out to read as needed to remind me that I am beautiful as I am. The only thing I need to focus on is being HEALTHY through self love and self care.

    • Indeed, I firmly believe that treating yourself with love and care will lead to a healthy body!

  28. Thanks for this post, it was perfect and exactly what I needed at this stage of my body-transformation:) Must eat, must lift, must eat, must sleep – all of this while I LOVE of course. The scales are hidden, but you know..my jeans tell me the truth everyday;)

  29. AHHHH best post ever best post EVER! I love YOU and your BLOG and the inspiration YOU give ME!!!!! Thank you girl!

    Can I ask you something? Can you do a post about eating on rest days? I KNOW this is when our muscles grow, but would love to read it from you <3

    • OK, I’ll put on the stack of ‘blog posts I will eventually write’. :)

      I really don’t spend too much mental energy on stuff like this, TBH. I make sure to eat what I burn every day, and some days I go over if I’m extra hungry that day. I don’t think I ever go under, lol. It all works out in the end.

        • I’m sorry for bugging you again, love, but I really value what you have to say.

          I am trying to make gains, so I figured out how many calories I needed based on the calculators you provided. I am going based off of that and then can increase from there if I feel that I need more to see the gains I want.

          When It comes to macro breakdown, I was wondering if you consider vegetables as a carb source?

  30. Thank you so much for your posts! I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and have learned so much.

    One thing, I was wondering if you could help me with is, what is a healthy weight for me? How do I know that I’m at my ideal/healthy weight? Should I even really care what weight I am? I don’t really believe in BMI and those charts, just because our bodies are so different from each others, how can you use ONE chart?

    My “goal” weight was 130-132. I am about 5’6″. I have one of those scales that tell you your body fat % and it generally falls around 20% for me and I’ve been bouncing between 139-149 for months. I believe that when I was below 140, I was doing a lot of cardio and I think I was undereating(I was super busy with school and just didn’t have the time to eat). Right now I’m sitting at 148, which devastates me, because I know most of it, if not all of it is fat. My eating has been off and I cut cardio out almost completely.

    I’m really struggling with my body and my eating at the moment. :/ argh! Your posts keep me motivated and relatively sane through it all though, so thank you! I really appreciate all that you are doing. :)

    • I think the charts can only give a very general range, and there are many people who will be healthy at weights the chart says aren’t optimal. 20% body fat is VERY healthy, so regardless of your weight I think if that’s where your BF is then you’re totally fine!

      I consider my own ‘optimal’ weight the weight at which I can eat to appetite (assuming a generally healthy diet) without gaining weight. For me, that’s right around 160. At this weight I can eat until I’m satisfied, eat when I’m hungry and have some dietary flexibility. When I’ve tried to maintain a lower weight I’ve had to be very diligent and restrictive, and dealt with a lot of hunger and subsequent compulsive thoughts about food. I hope to encourage women to find a weight that allows them similar freedom from negative food-related thoughts and behaviors, even if that weight is a little higher than they think they should be at, know what I mean?

  31. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been stalled, bouncing between 151-155 for what seems like a year. This whole time I’ve been thinking “lose weight, lose weight” because I hate the way my belly jiggles, and hangs over my pants. Thighs are squishy, too. But I am a runner getting into triathlons. I work out quite a bit. Admittedly, the only strength I do is Jillian Ripped DVDs.

    I am 5’7-1/2″ and (now at) 151. I was thinking I wanted to be at 145. No reason, really, for that number. But I was thinking “all my problems will be solved when I get there.” First, that’s probably not true. Second, I’m wondering if my calorie intake is too low and my body is actually holding onto the fat in my tummy and thighs. SO. Maybe I should try maintenance and focus on some strength work instead!

    • Yes! If you’re undereating, your body will hang on to fat stores and burn lean mass for fuel, it’s a really bad cycle to get into. Sounds like you’re at a healthy weight, so I think you’re right on: stop focusing on weight loss, your body is resisting it! Give it the fuel it needs for trainign and building lean mass! (And get some more resistance training in there). :)

  32. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been having a hard time with motivation lately. I’ve lost about 35 pounds in the last 6 months and am having a hard time with belly and thigh fat. I’m close to my target weight and am having trouble putting on muscle! The hardest two things for me are to eat more calories and to take rest days. I’m paranoid the fat will come back but your post has given me motivation and hope again to try to change my diet, keep building muscles and take more time off to let my body recover! It was exactly what I needed today. Thanks!

    • Wow, great job on the weight loss! Most people are pretty squishy after losing a large amount of weight, don’t let it discourage you. It’s the way it is! Now you can de-squishify! :P

      • Im pretty young to be on this, but yeah . im 11, and when I was 9 I tuenrd to a vegetarian, that made me gain about 20 pounds from eating fake meat I dont understand why i made that choice, but i have been loosing weight Started to skateboard, hockey, and alot of other stuff. Ive been eating fruits, nuts and smoothies. I FEEL GREAT .

  33. Your photos are inspiration and your advice is sound. After letting go of “dieting” and eating a “real food” diet with lots of healthy fats and less processed foods, I think I’m ready to recompose my body!

    Thanks for sharing!

  34. Thank-you so much for this post. I think I am at that body recomposition point… it’s been frustrating because you go out and look for info and ask questions and it’s either you have to buy a plan or people assume that you have some disordered thinking, or you are a noob looking to chase yet another program (which yes, I am new to fitness relative to many – and yet not so new that I am looking to leave what is working for me, do a 180 to endlessly chase an ideal or promise given by the industry). I get it that you don’t quit what is working — I get it that small tweaks and experiments are key — I get that as you get close to your particular body’s ideal that the changes come more slowly — I am happy to be patient and enjoy the journey — however there has to be evolotion and progression as with everything. You crawl before you walk… you walk before you run…you run before you fly. I totally get that it takes time, effort, consistancy, dedication, CHANGE.

    So thanks for this post because it helps the people who may be past the beginner phase and have a way they eat dialed in, are EATING without guilt or shame and are quite happy with things as they are yet would like to see MORE – how much more kick ass can they be? Who knows and dang, will be fun to find out or what?!

    Helps to get affirmation I’m moving in the right direction – Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!!

    • There’s so much BS and predatory marketing out there, it makes me want to barf. Glad you see through it, means you’re way ahead of the game! Keep doing the things that are working, tweak the things that aren’t be patient and consistent, and you’ll keep making progress!

  35. I love this…. your candid style of writing is very inspiring and refreshing! I have the opposite problem: I’m very underweight due to a long struggle with Ulcerative Colitis and Adrenal Fatigue. I used to train as a bodybuilder, but my illness caused me take nearly a year off the gym and hence I’ve lost all my muscle, strength, and endurance (and, having UC will make a person not absorb their food, thus this is just not a cool combo). I want to get back into weight lifting, but I’m scared and ashamed at my current state and ability to step into the gym. I’m at least 20-30 pounds underweight, which is a lot for a 5’1 gal. :-(

    In addition, the nutrition aspect always has me perplexed. IDK what to eat to help me gain muscle, how much, and when! I’m vegan and it’s a lot easier to gain muscle eating meat (not that vegans can’t…of course they can. It just takes a lot more planning and effort, both of which I’m sorta lost in how to go about doing this). The “typical bodybuilding diet” just doesn’t translate well into a (mostly raw) vegan diet!

    Any advice? I’m so ashamed at how I look and feel… and the pain of the memories of what I used to be able to do (as well as what my old physique was like) haunts me every day.

    Thanks for the motivating posts

    • Eat carbs! And protein too, but don’t skimp on carbs.

      I’ve never been able to get enough protein from food alone when I’ve been totally vegan, so I rely on supplementation to get it up where I want to be. My go-to’s are Garden of Life’s Raw Protein and Raw Meal. In addition to that, I eat a lot of lentils, greens, tempeh and peanut butter. With the UC I have no idea what you can tolerate though, so experiment!

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