Escaping The Fat Genes
Written by: Alex Peterson
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
-George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists
From where I started, where I am now, and what I’ve learned along the way. Writing about myself has always been difficult, as I’ve always been an advocate of humility. But with that said, I’ll do my best to bypass the boring parts and make this a somewhat entertaining read. I’ll attempt to shed some light on my diet and training history in an effort to give you a small taste of the haphazard philosophizing I partake in. Please forgive any mindless ranting.
I thought I had rid the Earth of such pictures but fortunately for hilarity’s sake this one survived. That’s this guy…in all his glory at 12 or something like that, I can’t even say exactly when. For a long time I thought I couldn’t escape the “fat genes” no matter what I did. So much for that.
Fast-forward to high-school. Grew a foot after freshman year and came out of total hopelessness. I won’t go as far as to say I was a good athlete in high school, but I was respectable in the sports I played. I did a little bit of lifting here and there but I never had an organized program or any legitimate goals. In retrospect I was downright weak for my size and overall still pretty chubby. Seems like despite constant involvement in athletics I just couldn’t escape the fat genes.
Now on to college where I went on to play baseball my first two years while living in the dorms. I remember thinking how it was such a blessing to have the cafeteria conveniently located in the same building where I roomed. Luck of the draw right? I remember strength testing in the fall, and not being able to complete a single pullup or dip. Despite year-round baseball I miraculously managed to put on 10 pounds. Not a good 10 pounds. I guess all-you-can-eat cafeteria food combined with copious amounts of booze is a bad idea for those looking to get in shape? Who’d have thought. Freshman beware
A few years into college experience, I was home stuffing my face with all the delicacies that accompany Christmas dinner when my cousin introduced me to crossfit and the paleo diet. I didn’t necessarily implement either of these right away, but it did make me think about the way I was approaching my health and fitness. I got back to school, and decided to get serious about losing weight and getting in shape. Over the next 4 months I proceeded to lose 15 pounds. How did I do this you might ask?!? By joining the fanny-pack toting crowd and pushing myself to damn near rhabdomyolysis with a steady combination of the following factors:
Training: Bicep curls, leg-presses, plus whatever the hell else I felt like doing 5 days a week. Oh and don’t forget the steady-state cardio that’s “essential” for proper cardiovascular health and fat-loss.
Diet: Steep Calorie-Restriction, 5-6 small meals a day, and protein shakes
I somehow lost the weight, but it was an experience I’d rather forget. I constantly suffered from overtraining and all of the negative side-effects associated with it. I barely had the energy to get through the day, let alone exercise, and I was constantly prone to binge-eating. Ah good times with entire boxes of cereal. I felt like shit, but hey, I looked good! I became obsessed with losing “the last 5 pounds” which was the bane of my existence. I drove myself into further calorie restriction and pushed myself even more, despite my body screaming at me for a break. Eventually, I did break. I felt weak and defeated. I most likely had the testosterone levels of a Ken doll. It was time for a change in thinking.
Enter the Paleo phenomenon. I began to pay strict attention to my nutrition in combination with a 3 day strength program involving compound movements with heavy squatting, pressing, and pulling. I quit counting calories, balancing macronutrients, and timing my meals. I ate when I was hungry and until I was full regardless of how many meals that entailed. In fact, most days I ended up eating 2-3 meals because I was rarely hungry, yet I seemed to have endless energy. The result? An added 15 lbs of muscle mass and a significant improvement in body composition in 4 short months. I’ve since added ten more pounds to that, which I’ve maintained effortlessly. As a result the kid who couldn’t complete a single dip or pullup now has some pretty solid strength numbers:
- 37 bodyweight dips
- 16 strict pull-ups
- A 1270 Crossfit Football total
- 6’2’’ 210 pounds
Robb and others in the Paleo community helped develop my unquenchable thirst for knowledge regarding nutrition and fitness. I can’t thank them enough for all that they do. Their dedication has inspired me to help others have the same success I’ve had by focusing on nutrition and performance. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than helping others reach their performance goals. I only hope that I can give as much back to the paleo community as it’s given me. You can check out the website I started at: www.wholemusclegains.com
I know I’ve beaten this dead horse, but I’ll say it again. The best advice I can give to anyone looking to improve their body composition is to focus on performance. For a long time I was obsessed with aesthetics. It was an infuriatingly unsuccessful period in my training, and in the end it just created additional stress. Develop some solid performance goals and the rest will fall in place.