I realize that sounds like a late night infomercial, but it was literally the goal I wrote down a few months ago. After a decade of horrible nutrition and inconsistent exercise, I was fat and experiencing a number of concerning health issues. I set an incredibly ambitious goal that required changing the way I eat, exercise, and go about my day. The results speak for themselves.
✅ Visible 6 Pack in 6 Weeks
✅ Less than 12% Body Fat in 90 days
✅ 90 days of keto (went for 100 days)
A Decade of Horrible Nutrition
If you run a business or work in the startup world, I'm sure you’re well aware of how work tends to spillover into nights and weekends. For the last 10 years, I fell into this trap of postponing healthy life decisions due to work. First during law school, then as I reinvented my career, and again as I founded subsequent businesses. I kept using the same excuse. “Just two more crazy weeks and then I’ll have time to get healthy,” I'd tell myself. Or, “I’ll get in shape this summer but it’s December now so I can wait a few more months.”
It’s easy to put workouts on the back burner until your schedule opens up. There's just one problem. Your schedule is never going to just open up. You have to proactively put it on your calendar. The same thing goes for nutrition. If you're working crazy hours, there's not a lot of time for grocery shopping, meal prep, or learning new healthy recipes. It also doesn't help that most fast, on-the-go food options are high processed and poisonous to your long term health.
Long Term Consequences
Within the last few years, there was a point where I didn't even want to look at myself in the mirror with my shirt off. I'd been incredibly fit in high school and college with six pack abs, but that chiseled frame was now buried by fat. It was depressing to think about what I'd lost.
The problems went deeper than my new dad-bod-aesthetic. There were other concerning health issues that I shouldn't have been having as a 33 year old. My resting heart rate and blood pressure were high. I often felt stiff and swollen when getting up each morning. Plus my energy levels seemed to dip up and down throughout the day. I knew I needed to make some drastic changes right away.
It's really difficult to change long-term habits. Taking those first few steps towards change can be overwhelming. You need to have a compelling reason for WHY you're tackling this goal. Otherwise, you won't ever get off the couch. I drew strength from two powerful motivators:
(1) My son is at the age where he emulates everything I do. Until recently, my actions were basically endorsing fast food, high sugar, sloth, and many of the other problems that are contributing to America's obesity epidemic. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and if I don't demonstrate healthy living with my actions, how could I expect him to make smart choices? If I changed my diet, lifted weights regularly, and applied extreme discipline to my health goals, I could exemplify the sort of traits I want to instill in my son. There are far too many beer obsessed, drive-thru eaters with dad bods.
(2) Non-stop news around the Coronavirus got me thinking more about my own mortality and forced me to take a serious inventory of my own health. I wanted to kick that virus's ass if I caught it, and my body wasn't exactly ready to go to war with a super virus. Spoiler Alert: I actually caught COVID-19 in July.
Lock-in a New Habits with Cold Showers
The first few days of any lifestyle change are going to be hard. It's going to be uncomfortable. Any time you take shower, turn it to the coldest setting possible. Aside from being exhilarating and waking you up, the cold shower trick is great for getting your mind ready for discomfort. This is a small action, but it's a way of reminding yourself that you're okay being uncomfortable. Your mind and body will be primed for continuing with your new habit. Keep up the cold showers for the first 10 days and you'll be off to a great start! (inspired by this ImpossibleHQ post)
The Power of Goal Setting
I'm a big believer in setting goals. When I set goals I expect to achieve them, even when those goals are extremely ambitious. I've never set a specific, measurable goal and failed to achieve it. After so many false starts these last few years with getting my health on track, I didn't want to set an arbitrary physical goal and fail to reach it. If I was going to do turn my health around, I needed to get highly specific and create milestones for tracking progress towards my objective.
I created an overarching goal called, "6 week 6 pack." I know, it sounds like something you'd buy on an infomercial right? This was just the kind of health target I could get excited about. Now, it was time to create a plan for reaching it.
My favorite goal tracking tool is Roam Research. I adopted something Nat Eliason does with goal setting where he breaks down large goals into projects to keep things manageable. You set a deadline for each of these smaller project and as you finish each, you're making progress towards your goal.
I created four projects that would help me reach my goal: (1) Keto Research, (2) a 90 Day Keto Journal, (3) 50 Workouts in 90 days, and regular (4) Body Fat Check-ins.
Research the Keto Diet
Going into this, I understood that my diet would be the most critical factor in determining my success. In the past I'd done some intermittent fasting and periodic low carb to know that this works for my body. Initially I was going to adopt a strict carnivore diet, but I decided that might not be as attainable for this first big nutrition overall. Instead, I settled on similar approach - keto.
As I figuring out my nutrition plan, I realized I didn't know very much about how keto worked or even what foods were considered keto friendly. I gave myself one day to research and learn as much as I could about adopting a keto diet.
90 Days of Keto Journal
I had a suspicion that it would get difficult to stay consistent with this new diet. Cutting out carbs, fruit, and all sugar for 90 days was going to be difficult. To stay consistent, I committed to writing every day about the journey. Each day I journaled on what I ate, how I felt, and my actual ketone levels. This was critical for keeping me disciplined throughout the entire period.
I journaled directly in Roam every day and wrote an entry for 76 out of the 90 day period. Not bad!
50 Workouts in 90 Days
I needed to get back into the gym and lift heavy weights to build muscle and boost my basal metabolic rate. HIIT was also an important part of my fat burning plan. To reach the lean physique I was after, I wanted to make sure I was prepared to put in the work 4 days each week. This amounted to 50 workouts for the 90 day period.
Below 12% Body Fat
I was starting at 18.8% body fat and needed to lose about 7% to reach this goal. I could've set this to 14% body fat, but I didn't want to just see the faint outline of abs. Since I was going after the abs I had in college, I knew I needed to go sub 12% to get there. This was going to be an extremely difficult target and regular check-ins where I got my body fat and measurements taken would be key to staying on track. The following are my progress and notes from each check-in.
June 25th Check-in
- Lost 6 pounds and 1% body fast
- Body Fat: 17.2%
- Weight: 179 pounds
- Notes: Need to get consistent with workouts and HIIT in July
July 30th Check-in
- Body Fat: 15.2%
- Weight: 174 pounds
- Notes: Had fitness and body fat assessment upon joining new gym. Trainer used calipers which tend to have a margin of error. Down 2% in 5 weeks. With only 32 days remaining, I need to focus on heavy resistance training and building muscle.
August 12th Check-in
- Body Fat: 12.3%
- Weight: 178 pounds
- Notes: Measurements taken using body scanner. Appear to have gained back some muscle mass. I don't think I dropped 2.9% body fat in two weeks. I wonder if those calipers two weeks ago were high or if this is measuring low.
September 1st Final Check-in
- Body Fat: 10.6%
- Weight: 180 pounds
- Notes: It seems like this device is measuring body fat lower than it actually is, but I still feel great about this because there's plenty of margin for error where this remains under 12%.
Over the course of this 90 day health experiment, getting ripped was only a bonus. The biggest reward is that every single one of the negative health symptoms I'd been experiencing went away. There were other problems I hadn't even realized I'd had until I changed my diet. Once I stopped relying on a steady stream of carbs and my body became fat-adapted, I noticed my thinking became much clearer. I never had bouts of brain fog or sudden feelings of fatigue. Everything just felt more consistent.
I never planned to go further than 90 days, but without really noticing I managed to go a full 100 without any cheat days. Last weekend I had friends in town for labor day, so I decided to break the streak and indulge with sweets and carbs from Friday through Sunday. After just a few days, I was noticing brain fog and the old glucose rollercoaster of energy ups and downs. I was ready to kick the carbs and get back into fat burning mode for Monday. For now, I think I keep going keto.
Check out my post Keto Skeptic to Zealot if you're on the fence about this whole keto thing. I'll take you through a deeper dive and offer recommendations and tips for those who are just starting out.