His name is Shrinking Leon. Since he started at a place very close to where I did, I wanted to pick his brain to find some of his secrets. He started following 4HB before the book even came out, which made it even more interesting to me.
His is a great story of how you don’t have to worry if you’re not always 100% perfect, but persistence is the key and definitely pays off. I know everyone will find something beneficial in this interview, and I’m pretty much just pasting it here. So without further ado, here’s the FMF interview with Shrinking Leon:
1. Leon, you started and succeeded the 4HB diet long before any of the rest of us even knew about it. Most of us learned about it from the book. What did you find that inspired you to start following The 4-Hour Body?
Back in March 2009, I was browsing the internet for ideas on what type of diet I should follow and I knew that eating low carb with lots of meats and vegetables and avoiding refined sugar and flour were the key elements to losing weight. I don’t quite remember how I stumbled upon Tim’s site for the first time, but I remember reading it for a long time, reading the comments and reading the details of the diet again. It looked simple enough to follow for a sustainable period of time, and the idea of eating beans to fill me up sounded good enough for me. I had already started an exercise routine about a week or so before I visited Tim’s page, and I was looking for ideas on how to keep full when I cut refined sugar and flour. I said “I’m starting this Monday,” went to the grocery store the Sunday before and stocked up on frozen vegetables, chicken, and canned beans, and Tupperware.
I previously went on a Low-carb diet in college based on things I learned in The South Beach Diet and Body for Life. The idea of a Cheat day came from Body for Life and the idea of a sustainable low-carb diet came from my readings of South Beach and Sugar Busters. I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was a teenager, and have gone back and forth between eating healthy and eating bad, so I knew I had a good idea of what would work for me for losing the weight.
2. How strictly did you follow the protocol between being 348 and now? In other words, what percentage might you say you were following the plan exactly to get your results?
I’d say I’m about 75% strict. I’ll tell anyone that no one is going to be perfect 100% of the time. My weight loss slowed down last year when I had a death in the family and being stressed out trying to finish Grad school. There were times when I went anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 month eating whatever the hell I wanted or eating two “slow-carb” meals and eating badly the rest of the day, totally defeating the purpose of this lifestyle change in the first place. Also, during the holidays, forget it! However, I am pretty good about bouncing back and getting back on the program. Again, what made this work for me in the first place is its simplicity.
The so-called “trigger” foods are another thing I’m learning to clamp down on. Almonds are a great snack, but not if you eat them too much!
While I haven’t taken the PAGG stack, I will admit that I have taken supplements loaded with caffeine before, but mainly for energy purposes when I’m at the gym. I don’t advocate people buying supplements and think they’ll automatically lose weight just by taking the pills alone. This takes lots of work and being very careful about your diet and how much you exercise. No so-called ‘magic-pill’ will help you.
3. One thing that seems to discourage a lot of people after a month or two of big changes is a plateau or even a slight reversal. Did you experience this as well? If so, how did you overcome the plateaus?
Yes, I have experienced plenty of plateaus. I feel that all of 2010 was one extended plateau for me. I kept gaining and losing the same 15-20 pounds, and something would sidetrack and distract me and all of a sudden, I’m shoving crappy food down my throat again. The cycle went on unless I was REALLY strict. One of the best ways to help me overcome my plateau was to not have a cheat day for 14 days OR just have one cheat meal on my pig-out day helped too. Even on my cheat days, I learned to try and cut down on the junk food and sweets. I’m not always perfect, but I learned not to overeat too much on those days because I feel bloated and sick the rest of the day. I change my exercise routine every now and then to keep my body guessing. I also learned to steam my vegetables instead of sautéing them in olive oil like I usually do. However, I still do use olive oil to cook meat and for my breakfast. Cutting down on trigger foods and increasing the quantity of your slow-carb meals helps too.
I have managed to beat my plateau this year by adhering to the diet a lot better than last year and I managed to lose about 35 pounds so far after I came back home (after visiting family) for the holidays.
4. Something I even have a hard time wrapping my head around still is the food quantity. One of the things that attracted me to the plan was that I could eat until full every time and still lose weight. Did you find you had to eat more than you expected, or did you count calories and just eat what was on the allowed list?
Yes, that surprised me as well. I don’t mind eating an entire chicken breast for a meal, but I do feel full and satisfied when I’m through. I eat about ½ a cup of beans per meal too. I eat about 1 ½-2 cups of vegetables for each meal. I’m not an obsessed calorie-counter, but I am really careful when I eat out.
5. Guys that are as big as us (I’m still 290) didn’t get fat because we had good eating habits. What was the hardest bad eating habit you had to break in order to get the amazing results you have had since 2008?
I have the worst sweet tooth – candy bars, cheesecake, pie, peanut-butter cups, you name it. I also like French-fries and dinner rolls too. I know my first few cheat days, I REALLY pigged out on those, but after awhile it came to a point where I have a craving for something, it usually subsides by the weekends and I don’t eat as many sweets as I used to. Usually.
6. The book stresses the MED and 45 mins of exercise per week. Did you find that to be true? What is your exercise regimen in a typical week?
To be honest, no. I’m an endomorph, Tim is not. For an endomorphic body type, doing lots of cardio is important as well as strength training. I exercise at least 4-5 days a week for about an hour. My routine is usually 30 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training on my workout days and 30 minutes of strength training 3 days a week. In general, I take every 3 days off to let my body rest and recuperate. There are days when I run an extra 15-20 minutes on an elliptical and do no strength training at all. However, I am trying to be VERY careful about not overtraining, not to mention overeating after an exercise routine.
7. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before adopting the 4HB lifestyle that would have made it easier?
How refined sugar can really affect my mood and how I feel. Or that exercise on my terms can actually be fun.
8. What are you most proud of now that you’ve had such great success in your weight loss?
I don’t have to go to the “Big Man” section of the store anymore. I can climb stairs with ease, I don’t take up much room on an airplane seat anymore, people who have noticed my loss telling me that I’ve inspired them or how proud they are of me for keeping up with it. I feel a lot more confident, and I have a lot more energy and stamina than I used to. I get a lot more attention from women too.
9. Many of us have been on the program since the book came out in December, and some have just started. We’re always looking for more advice on what to do to maximize results. What’s your best advice to those of us in the middle of this thing?
Just keep on pushing in spite of what other people say. I know there have been a lot of experts and “armchair quarterbacks” on the Internet and in real life who are critical of the plan. The 4HB lifestyle has worked for me and a lot of other people, but everyone’s body isn’t going to react the same way and you have to find what works for you in your weight loss journey. If you do give in to cravings and splurges, just remember if you do give in once in awhile, that’s okay as long as you don’t TOTALLY give up. Dust yourself off and get back on the wagon ASAP. I have plans to lose 50-60 more pounds this year if I can help it. I’ll be 30 later this year and I want to be below 200 pounds for the first time as an adult. It won’t be easy, but I figure if I’ve lost the last 100 pounds on this diet, what’s a few more? LOL…
10. What is your favorite cheat-day splurge?
It’s a tossup between Oreo Cookies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Leon, thank you so much once again for your interview!