my new year’s resolution: body recomposition

I got six real resolutions, none of which directly impact my training, except that if I can keep them, I’ll be a better athlete and trainee, because I’ll be a better person. Those are between me, my God, and my family.

But I’ve got a seventh resolution, that does impact my training. And so I’ll share it here, and hopefully, my efforts to work on it will help others besides myself. Basically, that one has to do with body recomposition.

A short history is in order. December 2008, I was fat, out of shape, and depressed. I got into CrossFit. I went on the Zone diet. I fooled around with Primal and Paleo eating. I kept a detailed calorie and macronutrient counting food journal. And lo, and behold, I dropped the pounds and got leaner, and stronger, than I’d ever been in my life. CrossFit taught me the importance of lifting heavier than I ever thought I could, and it taught me the importance of working harder. But my food journal and Zone/Paleo dieting taught me I could change the composition of my body.

In January 2009, I weighed 215.5 lbs. The first 20 pounds took almost 4 months to lose. The next 20 pounds came off over the next 9 months. I got to a low weight of around 172 in February of 2010. It’s a long story, but by end of summer 2010 I weighed around 180, by choice. Mainly this came about by relaxing my diet and quitting the food journal. I was putting on lean mass and getting stronger, too, so it was all good. My weight was creeping up towards the end of 2010, but in December, after the Carolina Fitness Challenge 2010 (where I placed 5th in the Master’s Division), I still weighed about 180, and was lean, fit and strong.

The next year, 2011, was a year of letting all this go. I let go of MetCons, partly because I fell in love with weightlifting, and partly because I stopped going to CrossFit, and started training like a weightlifter. I briefly returned to tracking my weight in April to May, 2011. By May, I was up to 195. Then I let go of Paleo starting in Summer 2011. And at the end of the summer, I broke my arm, which was a major bummer for my training and especially for my conditioning. By November, I was well up above 200, and spinning out of control. I decided to start measuring my umbilical region and taking a weight measure every single day. But this didn’t really work, as far as a “weight loss” technique. I didn’t restrict myself in any way, and by the end of December, 2011, I was back up to 210, and had put more than an inch on my umbilical measurement over the course of two months.

Time to take action? Hell yes.

I’ll be 43 years old on January 6th. This is the best possible time to halt my recent slide into mindless eating, gain of unwanted adipose tissue, and a less than ideal body composition. This is now.

The Rules of the Resolution

A lot of the 30 lbs I gained in 2011 is lean mass. In fact, I’d estimate at least 50% of it is lean mass. So, since I’d like to keep all of that lean mass, and gain some more, actually, I’m not looking to lose more than 15 lbs. I just want all of that loss to be fat.

I weighed 210 today. My goal weight is 195.

I know some tricks for losing fat while retaining lean mass. Eat plenty of protein, like 1g-2g per pound of lean mass per day (in my case, I’d say, that’s 175g-350g daily). Keep food quality high. Keep the daily eating window relatively short (i.e. intermittent fasting). Take periodic full day fasts. Strive to keep the body in very slight caloric deficit. Periodically “re-feed” (i.e. cheat). Avoid: wheat and grains, alcohol, sugar, most starches. And, to keep your lean mass: lift heavy weights.

To keep making strength gains while losing weight is difficult; some would say, impossible. But I have done it before, mainly because I was so weak to begin with. I am still, in the relative world of strength athletics, quite weak. So maybe I can continue to experience novice-effect like strength gains while getting leaner. Furthermore, another possibility exists, namely that, if I focus on food quality, good eating habits, eat adequate calories to keep my caloric deficit small, eat smart so as to recover well, and prioritize sleep, I should be able to lean out and get stronger.

And of course I’m going to have to start doing my “conditioning” work again.

My personal, prior experience suggests it will take 3 months or so to lose these fifteen pounds. Twelve weeks.

I am going to give it 12 and a half weeks. Starting from right now, in Week 0, which ends on Saturday. Week 1 will begin on Sunday, January 8th. February 5th begins week 5. March 4th begins week 9. Week 12 ends on March 31st.

I am going to practice intermittent fasting during this entire period, with daily feeding periods of 8-10 hours (i.e. 14 to 16 hours of fasting daily). I am going to have full day fasts every other week, on Thursday (fast begins post breakfast) to Friday (first meal is lunch), in weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.

That, rather than strict paleo or primal eating, will be the primary tool. That and daily weigh-ins and umbilical measures.

Most of my meals will be lower carb, paleo-ish, “primal” meals. But if I want some rice or corn or beans or a little alcohol (wine, bourbon, even beer) or some other non-paleo delicacy I am going to permit it. But I will probably not permit myself to have sugar on most days. (We’ll see if this works).

Also, I’m really not that worried about strictly controlling macronutrient ratios. I don’t think the Zone advocates enough protein for weightlifters, for one. And for another, I want to do this without weighing and measuring every meal. To be clear: the “Zone” changed the way I eat forever. Now I always think of each meal in terms of “what’s my protein, what’s my carb, what’s my fat.” That won’t change. But my diet won’t be Zone in the same respect that it won’t be paleo.

Cheating will be on a 3-6-9 plan. If I lose more than 6 pounds in any two week period, or more than 9 pounds in a three week period, then I will permit myself two cheat meals on a single Saturday or Sunday. In other words, if my weigh in on Saturday AM isn’t more than 6 pounds down from two Saturdays prior, or 9 pounds from three Saturdays prior, then I can’t have my “cheat.” That means that my first possible cheat meal is not until Jan 21st, and then only if I’m down to … whatever is six pounds less than what I weigh in this upcoming Saturday.

Every Sunday, on Weeks 1-13, I will post an update on my progress. Look for it.


  1. These are good goals, but quite rigorous. What if you just kept the process without worrying about the weight?

    I agree that it is possible to do both. Christian Finn has a basic idea: eggs / protein in the morning; salad and protein for lunch, and meat and veggies in the evening. I’m imagining you need about 180-200 grams of protein.

    My own weakness has been sleep (and alcohol). I wonder if even focusing on sleep rather than weight as a goal might incidentally help with the weight loss.

    But this is a great post. Cheers and blessings!

  2. Padre, it’s a good suggestion to keep the process but not worry about the weight. But I don’t think I’ll have trouble meeting the weight goal.

    I could simplify the rules as follows, and, to my mind it would be the same thing:

    1) period of plan is 12 weeks; fat loss goal is 15 lbs (1.25 lbs per week).
    2) fast a full 24-28 hours every other week during plan
    3) fast 14-16 hours (e.g. 6 pm to 8 am) every day
    4) keep to a mostly (70-80%) paleo/primal diet
    5) focus on getting adequate protein
    6) get carbs from whole foods such as veggies and fruit
    7) cheat only on a Saturday or Sunday, and only if I am more than double ahead of goal weight loss.

  3. hey matt. fellow cross-fitter here. we’ve met a time or two at crossfit kids. so i admire the body recomposition endeavor. i have no doubt that you;ll be successful. i’ve been at crossfit for about 18 months and have set strength goals that I plan to attain this year. I adhere to a paleo-ish diet. I’ll go strong for weeks and then a trigger… and i dive into a bag of dove chocolates. (i believe in honesty). so this year is also about exploring the trigger, embracing the moment and choosing something other than food to ease the pain… All that to be said I am plan to follow your progression and learn for your experiments. I am wondering how I calculate the proper about of protein for myself. do I use my current weight or my leaner goal weight? many thanks!

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment! Yes I think you should eat a lot of protein. I would go with 1g per current lean mass, estimated, as a minimum daily. From there, carbs to refuel after exercise or labor, fat for fuel and satiety.

  4. I have come to see the error of my plan was to create too complicated a rule for cheating, so, Rev. was right.

Let me know what you think...