My fitness journey

As of the beginning of this year, I've started to work out and lose weight. Some of you asked me what my regime looks like so I thought it would be good to write a blog post about it.


First some quick before/after so you get a sense of what I've done so far.

This was me in January of 2020 at around 108 kg (238 lbs):

Me, as January 2019

This is me as of right now at around 84 kg (185 lbs):

Me, as of right now

My diet started around mid-December in 2020. So it took me about six months to lose most of this weight. You might notice the end is going up again. I'll talk about that later.



If you've been trying to lose weight before you might feel overwhelmed by all the information you can find, especially on YouTube. But don't be blinded by all the woo-woo fitness advice. In the end, it's quite simple: it's calories in vs calories out, so you need to be in a calorie deficit. In other words, in order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than what your body needs.

I've lost weight before, also around 25 kg (55 lbs). But over the years I gained it all back. If you've ever done a diet, you're very likely to be in the same boat. I've heard various numbers, but it seems the vast majority of people who go on a diet regain all of their weight back in a few years. Some gain even more.

Most of us don't eat at maintenance, we eat at a caloric surplus. The reason is very simple: food is ubiquitous, especially delicious foods. And the food industry generally doesn't try to optimize for low calorie foods, but for foods that taste great and the highly palatable foods just tend to have more calories.

As a result, it shouldn't really be surprising that if you follow diets only temporarily and then revert back to previous eating habits, you end up regaining all that weight.

When I started this time, I was very well aware of that. My plan was as follows:

  1. Do some temporary diet to lose weight. Ideally, relatively quickly. I was already running for a few months again and running with less weight is obviously more enjoyable.

  2. In parallel, build a plan to make the weight loss permanent. Even with regular workouts that means lowering the overall caloric intake.

  3. Workout. When I was a teenager, I was quite fit. I did karate, swimming, and a ton of biking (because I didn't have a car yet). In my twenties, I pretty much focused on my career and stopped working out entirely. About 10 years ago, I got into running and I've been doing this on and off for a while. Running burns a ton of calories, so part of my strategy was incorporating a regular workout into the overall regime.

Some diet to lose weight (Nutrisystem)

I wanted something dead simple to lose weight. I wasn't keen on tracking calories of the food I'm eating right now, because I'm doing a combination of cooking and eating out and in both cases the food was varying so much that it would be a pain trying to track it all.

So I was looking for some food service that would send me food. With that, I was quickly able to find Nutrisystem. Following my usual approach of not relying on marketing material, I went to YouTube and watched reviews. The key takeaways:

  1. Nutrisystem provides you with four types of foods. You get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (twice daily). Each time you eat, you pick an item from the group.

  2. All items have bar codes and can be tracked with MyFitnessPal. That is extremely convenient and one of the primary reasons why I chose them.

  3. It's portion control with an aggressive deficit. My maintenance is about 2,500 calories, and they provided me with ~1,200 calories. With Nutrisystem you're supposed to supplement yourself with vegetables and fruits, but let's face it: most of us are too lazy for that.

  4. The food is OK. It's not terrible, but it's still far from great. The nice thing is that it's brain dead easy to prepare: oven or microwave. Some food is ready to eat as-is.

I ended up using Nutrisystem for about three months. Did it work? Yes. But I was often hungry, which I didn't mind too much because I knew I wouldn't be doing Nutrisystem forever. But regardless of what I eat, I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain it if the feeling of hungriness would be with me all the time. Eventually, I'd be "hangry" enough that I'd end up with a big binge.

Making it stick (The Circle Diet)

Since I was already used to cooking, I was in the beginning just googling for "healthy food" recipes. But it quickly became clear that healthy doesn't necessarily mean that you don't gain weight. Also, a lot of the recipes were part of some overall diet plans, like a vegan diet, keto diet, or no carb diets. I didn't like the idea of removing entire food groups because I knew that (1) I enjoy eating them way too much and (2) I need to find an eating habit that still allows me to go out with friends where I can pretty much eat whatever I want.

At the same time, I was also looking into weight lifting. I don't just want to be lean, I also want to have some muscle. Not hercules, but maybe Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Apparently everyone wants to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

By doing so I came across this fella Greg Doucette. At first, I found his style somewhat off putting (loud & shrill) but after watching a few videos I was hooked on the information he provided. Yes, he promotes his own stuff like every other fitness YouTuber, but he also provides solid and easy to understand information on weight loss and working out.

His approach to weight loss intrigued me: you should only do diets that you can sustain for the rest of your life. And he focuses on low calorie-dense foods. And of course protein, because it makes you more satiated. You're probably thinking brocoli, rice and chicken but you'd be wrong: it includes french toast, pizza, and home made Skor protein bars. The photo also shows cauliflower rice with chicken, but only because I happen to really like it 😊


Turns out Greg also has a cookbook so I bought that. And yes, at $149 it's not cheap but it's full of recipes. You probably won't like them all, but in reality you only need to find a few dozen that you really enjoy eating to have a solid backbone for your day-to-day eating habits. In my case, it's not even that many.

I eat the french toast almost every morning. Greg prepares them in bulk, but screw that. I rather spend the 10 minutes every morning and have them fresh because taste wise it makes a huge difference. For lunch, dinners, and snacks I often do his wraps. The flat bread for the wraps can also be used to make delicious pizza. "But Immo, that's not pizza." I know, but that's not the point. The diet provides you with food options that are 80% as tasty as the food you're craving but have a calorie profile that doesn't break the bank. For example, the pizza has about 300 calories and the french toast has about 370. But in contrast to Nutrisystem these are meals that will make me satisfied. Not stuffed, but satisfied.

The book also covers snacks. Among the most simple ones is just popcorn, but you need to buy the right one. It's about 200 calories for entire the bag (not all kernels pop).

When I buy stuff, I try to find zero calorie options, especially when it comes to drinks. Don't drink your calories. It's way too easy to consume a lot of calories in liquid form. If you're currently drinking a lot of regular coke, just switching to diet coke will likely drastically reduce your intake. I tend to avoid pre-sweetened stuff and add Splenda as needed. And if you like milk, have a look at cashew milk. I think it's among the more neutral milk flavors but it's only 25 calories for a cup. That goes a long way to help with my coffee, tea, and shake needs.

How do you know how many calories you need? You don't. There are online calculators that give you an idea, but they are all just that: ideas. In the end, you can't track calories or exercise with a super high degree of accuracy. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't. I found it super useful to track everything I eat so that I can get an idea how many calories are in the foods I eat. This also includes measuring the food itself, especially oils and condiments which tend to be very calorie dense.

But the most important thing to measure is your own weight. I bought a smart scale because I was sick and tired of manually entering my weight in all my fitness apps. I used the Garmin Index scale until I recently lost it. Now I have the Garmin Index S2, which was a solid upgrade anyway.

Working out

As I said earlier, I've picked up running about ten years ago. Since I'm a fan of gadgets, I eventually also bought a Garmin running watch to monitor my heart rate. What's nice with Garmin is their Garmin Connect website. It allows you to analyze and catalog all your runs and also sync it with other social media sites, such as Strava. They also have training plans (such as 5k, 10k, half, full) in various levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). You can just pick a plan and a start date (or a finish date, in case you want to prepare for a race) and they schedule it. Typically, these plans go between 12 and 16 weeks.

The cool thing is that those plans sync with your watch and/or favorite calendar, telling you what you need to do. For simple runs, such as "run for 30 minutes" all you need is the plan, but for structured workouts, such as intervals, I really like that the watch can tell me what to do, when to do it, and give me feedback as I'm doing it. For example, when doing intervals the workout might look like this:

  1. 10 min warmup
  2. Run for 5 min in heart rate zone 4
  3. Jog for 1 min in heart rate zone 2
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 four times
  5. 10 min cool down

The watch will inform me when one part ends and another starts. It will also tell me whether I'm hitting my heart rate or my pace goal.

I found having a structured training plan that's going on for months keeps me more motivated and engaged because I know missing one workout will make the next workout that much harder because they are all progressive. Right now, I'm following the full marathon intermediate plan, which has me workout 5 times a week.

Did I get fitter? For sure. One commonly accepted measurement of cardiovascular fitness is VO2 max. In my case it has improved quite a bit since I started last year. According to Garmin:

Your VO2 Max is in the top 5% for your age and gender.

Still not an athlete, but I am fit, which was the goal.

VO2 Max chart

So when I decided to start lifting weights I was looking for something structured as well. I didn't just wanna go to the gym and do whatever because I was pretty certain that this would result in (1) an ineffective workout and (2) me losing interest. I have tried a personal trainer before (did it for a few years even). But the problem is that it's expensive and I only went twice a week for 30 minutes, which isn't enough volume to produce sufficient results. Also, I found that this forced self-accountability which makes it easier to stay motivated and stick to the plan.

When researching, I found Fitbod which is a mobile app for weight lifting. The app allows you to keep track of the exercises you did, including how many sets and reps and what weight you used. Based on that (and based on other information you provided when setting it up) the app can then determine which muscles are fatigued and propose exercises the next time you go. However, that's not how I roll. I ended up creating my own two workout routines that I do alternatingly.

I only use the app to keep track during the workout and also to remind me what I did last time. That's important because the goal of weight training is usually to do progressive overload, so that the muscle is damaged in order to grow. Knowing how many sets and reps you did last time helps. I tend to increase reps or sets, then bump the weight while dropping reps and then increase reps and/or sets again. Has worked fairly well so far.

Here is what I currently do:



However, since this is the workout I cooked up for myself, a few days ago I decided to purchase a custom training plan. I haven't received it yet, but I'm looking forward to see what this will do for my training. My expectation is that it will diversify my training a bit and make it more balanced. For example, I currently don't have a pulling motion for my back and I don't train legs at all. The latter is deliberate (I'm already running), but I probably should do some amount of leg training.

Set backs

Earlier, you probably noticed the spike at the end:


That's not me having a binge eating relapse, that's called life. We remodelled our place which resulted in us moving to a separate place. Due to not having my regular kitchen and gym I fell of the wagon. I ended up not paying attention to calories, nor was I able to make my regular food and take out took over. Also, I somehow managed to lose my scale which resulted in me not even tracking my weight.

That is completely normal. Life will always happen and long term goals like getting into shape don't happen on straight lines. When this happens, the important thing is to not be deterred. Instead, dust yourself off and get back on the wagon. Yes, I gained some weight, but that's OK and easy to fix again with some amount of discipline and patience.


I've lost 24 kg so far. My goal is to see whether I can have a visible six pack. I have very little fat on arms and legs, so I'm unlucky in that this would require to get my body fat to 10-12%. Right now I am at 21%. I have no idea whether I'm able to stay that lean or if the hunger will push be back to around 20%. Health wise, my current figure is more than sufficient and I'm confident I could maintain that. But now I really want to know what I can do, so we'll see 😊

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