• Andrew Johnston

LosING 19lbs NOT Running

Updated: Aug 24

Hello Friends, while I LOVE running, I was recently reminded of the cliche that we can’t outrun a crappy diet! When it comes to weight loss and overall fitness, I re-discovered that the body doesn't give a damned how many miles you log each week or if you run ultramarathons--if you engage in culinary debauchery like I did, you will gain weight and perform poorly.


Here is the other thing: this expereinced really humbled me and reminded me that we must constantly maintain a "learner's mindset" and be ready to jettison paradigms that no longer serve us....even if we have been following those paradigms for years (e.g. you must eat breakfast early, you should eat small meals all day, diet doesn't matter when you run 40 miles per week)


A REALLY Stupid Accident


I broke my ankle on April 14. No, it wasn’t on North Table Mesa outrunning a mountain lion, it was from a dumbass freak fall at home. That’s right, at home. I am slowly WALKING again with a promise from the doc I can run again by December.



Making a LOT of Lemonade


You know that other cliché, when life send you lemons, make lemonade? Well since I was unable to run, I decided to experiment with diet and strength training (calisthenics). Since April 14 I have lost 19 pounds, have developed muscles, and for the first time in my life, can see my abs. More importantly.....I feel stronger then I ever have in my entire life. My cognitive and emotional well being are also greatly improved. As a result I feel more productive and more hopeful for the future despite all the typical crap happening for a guy who is 53 years old.


Below are actions that worked for me that I would like to pass on that MIGHT work for you.


Quick dosclaimer: to avoid a lot of hate mail, as people can be REALLY dogmatic when it comes to diet and exercise, these are things that worked for ME. I say pick and choose the things I did that sound logical, huddle with your doctor, and TRY it out for yourself! Afterall, no two human beings are the same so there really is no ONE WAY when it comes to choosing the right diet / exercise plan for peak performance....you just gotta get out and try things.


Here’s the thing, once I discovered the key drivers that lead to losing weight, I realized they’re actually pretty SIMPLE. They are just not always easy to DO. As always...it comes down to DISCIPLINE and CONSISTENCY. Again, these are things that worked for ME so please experiment on your own and see what works.


Alright, here is what I did:


1. Delay Breakfast. My first meal was typically around 11 AM and it was almost always high quality eggs and meat that I purchase from Sprouts Market. Meals like bacon and eggs gave me the protein that I needed and also satiated me so I could avoid snacking. This action and action #2 below were the biggest contributors in dropping the pounds as I believe it best enabled the daily consistent caloric deficit to lose the weight. I know intermittent fasting is a buzz word but there is merit to it in my experience. I recognize bad cholesterol is a concern thus I will be adding oatmeal and fewer fatty meals soon.


2. Minimize Eating Window. After my 11am meal, I would often eat an apple with peanut butter around 2pm. Dinner would be around 6pm and would often include high quality chicken and vegetables. Nothing to eat after my 6pm dinner.

3. Minimize Carbs / Focus on Protein. I never measured or aimed at specific numbers but instead made sure every meal was planned first around protein (often high quality chicken). I made sure every meal had some salad and fruit too. I did not go zero carb. Just enhanced quality.


4. Minimize Snacking / Sugar. I would have the occasional “cheat” meal or dessert but I indulged 10% of the time at most. I cut out completely crappy snacks. My grocery bill sure became cheaper too!


5. Minimize Alcohol. Like with sugar and snacks, I indulged 10% of the time at most.


6. Strength Training. Since I was unable to go to the gym, I simply did calisthenics at home (push-ups, pull ups and crunches). I would set a goal of 50 to 100 per day per exercise and then try and do more throughout the day after the goal was met. I did this five days per week.


7. Crunch Sprints. Each morning, I would go out and briskly walk on my crutches for about 20 to 30 minutes for cardio and mental medicine.


8. Weigh in on Monday AM. Nothing like personal pride to keep you accountable! In order to prevent myself from cratering my weekly improvments my engaging in culinary debauchery over the weekend I forced myself to weigh in on Monday mornings immeidately upon waking. This accountability system really helped.


Observations:

1. The saying “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” is true in my experience. Losing weight is almost entirely a function of a healthy diet and is not influenced as much as you would think by exercise—especially cardio. I hate to say it but exercise actually has minimal affect when it comes to weight loss ( in my experience) as compared to cleaning up the diet.


2. There is minimal room for cheating as it pertains to diet. The difference between gaining weight and losing weight is razor thin. A slice of cake or candy bar can wipe out your gains for the day. No matter what approach you take to losing weight, YOU MUST BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU TAKE IN


3. Going to bed SLIGHTLY hungry each night was an indicator I was on track for the necessary daily caloric deficit to lose weight. Again, I believe there is merit in intermittent fasting based on my experience. Narrowing the eating window was the single biggest driver in losing weight.


4. Strength training seemed to increase my metabolism far more than cardio work. Running 30 to 40 miles a week did very little for losing weight while focusing on diet protein and strength training produced enormous gains. 

Benefits I Observed:

1. Better emotional stability and overall mood ( some people may disagree!! )

2. Better cognitive function

3. More energy

4. Need for less sleep ( I used to need 7-8 hours, I can now get by on around 6). But that may be from not running 30 miles per week!


Again, these are things I observed that seemed to work for me. In no way am I advocating any type of diet or exercise regimen, I say talk to your doctor and find out what works for you.


I look forward to running ultras in 2023 again..... but I will approach this sport differently for sure with this new found knowledge.


I hope this experience helps those of you who are looking to enhance your running and your overall health. Just as importantly, I hope this experience helps inspire you to open your mind, toss out tired-out paradgims, and discover new horizons.


Happy running friends.


Andrew











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