This is me at the start of my training and weight loss journey:
This is me after losing 65 to 70 pounds:
And here is how I looked a couple of years later:
So, how did I do it? More importantly, what did I learn from my skinny fat transformation, and what mistakes did I make along the way?
Read on because I’ll be breaking it all down today.
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Let’s Back Up a Bit
I was an active kid and enjoyed spending my days outside playing sports. But, as I entered my teenage years, I became sedentary and got really into gaming.
At that point in my life, I spent most of my days at the computer playing Assasin’s Creed, World of Warcraft, and such. I also had a big appetite and topped the scale at close to 250 lbs before I was even seventeen.
At some point, I decided I needed to make a change, so I made an effort to control my food intake, which helped me lose some weight.
My real transformation began when I was seventeen. I don’t remember how much I weighed then, but I got serious about fitness and started exercising six days per week: three jogging sessions and three workouts at the gym.
I kept up that pace for six or seven months and combined my training with a ‘clean’ diet. By the second month, I had made great progress and enjoyed the process, so I began writing down the foods I ate each day.
A while after that, I started calculating my calories by hand––a habit I maintained for the next few years. MyFitnessPal was always there, but I just didn’t feel the urge to switch. Sure, calculating my calories was a bit more challenging, but I enjoyed the process.
The First Milestone: Successful Weight Loss
The first milestone on my fitness journey was when I went from 240 to 170 pounds in about six to seven months.
Don’t get me wrong. Losing almost 70 pounds was a tremendous achievement for me, and I felt on top of the world. I was thin for the first time in over five years, and I loved how lighter I was on my feet.
Unfortunately, despite the six grueling months and excellent weight loss results, I began to dislike how I looked. Sure, I was slimmer, but I wasn’t ripped. I still had a layer of fat covering my body and lacked any muscle definition––no abs, no bicep veins, and no defined chest muscles.
So, being the stubborn person I am and having already invested a lot of time and energy into the process, I returned to the drawing board. It took me a while, but I began recognizing my mistakes, which allowed me to go down a new path.
The Second Milestone: Skinny Fat Transformation
The second milestone on my fitness journey was when I built muscle and reduced my body fat percentage further. Doing so resulted in a decent physique I could proudly display on the beach.
More importantly, it was the first time I genuinely liked how my body looked. I largely got rid of the fat on my chest and stomach, and a bit of lower back fluff couldn’t bother me.
Reaching the second milestone took considerably longer, which is expected because muscle growth occurs much more slowly than fat loss. You can go on a restrictive diet and shed a lot of weight in mere weeks, but building real muscle takes years.
I’m not sure exactly how long my skinny fat transformation took, but it was probably a year and a half at least.
Related article: The 3 Skinny Fat Categories (Find Out Which One You Fall Into)
So, How Did I Do It All, And What Did I Learn?
I’ve shared a bit of my process above, and I don’t want to repeat myself, so I will try only to share the relevant details.
1. Resistance Training
I began weight training from day one and did three sessions per week. My workout split consisted of:
- Arm workout
- Chest and shoulders workout
- Back and abs workout
I initially subscribed to the idea that running would take care of my leg development. Boy, was I wrong. I had my first leg day after months of gym training, and I remember feeling sore for a solid week. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs for a few days.
I didn’t train optimally at first, and I probably made many mistakes I wasn’t aware of at the time. But, by sticking with the process and consuming as much information as I could, I began to understand things like:
- Training frequency, volume, and intensity
- Proper exercise selection
- How to structure workouts
- Deload/recovery weeks
- Progressive overload
There wasn’t a single “Aha!” moment. Instead, I learned things little by little and gradually collected the missing pieces of the puzzle.
2. Less Cardio
During the first six to seven months of my fitness journey, I ran three times per week, gradually increasing the duration. I began with four rounds of 2.5-minute runs and progressively worked up to (I believe) 15-minute rounds before giving up on cardio and solely focusing on weight training.
After the initial period, I didn’t do nearly as much cardio as before. I did a couple of weekly sessions of 20 to 30 minutes at most, never pushing myself too hard.
The only exception was when I focused on fat loss. I temporarily bumped my cardio duration for a few weeks to boost my calorie expenditure and enjoy a bit more food.
My cardio training typically consisted of treadmill jogging, incline walking, or cycling.
3. Progress Tracking
There was a period in my life when I meticulously tracked my progress as if I was going to step on a bodybuilding stage. Looking back at the time, I probably didn’t have to be so strict with the process, but I’m glad I put in the effort.
Like most people, I started by monitoring my body weight. I weighed myself every morning, writing down the value to 0.1 of a kilogram. Calculating my averages helped me gauge how things were going, whether I focused on gaining or losing weight.
After a while, I started writing down my workouts in an Evernote app. I recorded:
- The focus of each workout (e.g., back, chest, etc.)
- The exercises I did
- The weight I lifted
- How many reps I got
I also started tracking circumference measures and took progress photos once a month. The process was more enjoyable during fat loss periods because I could see more progress.
These progress tracking metrics gave me insight into how things were going and if I was on the right track with my skinny fat transformation. I still made plenty of mistakes and wasted time, but I felt more confident and didn’t doubt myself as I would have.
4. Counting Calories and Tracking Protein
I started my weight loss journey like most people: trying to eat as ‘clean’ as possible. A few weeks into my journey, I picked up the habit of writing down what I ate. I wasn’t too specific, but that was my first experience with food logging, and I enjoyed it.
As time passed, I learned about tracking calories, so I began doing that, too. I calculated my intake and shot for around 2,200 calories per day. I don’t know why I picked that number, but it felt right.
Some time after that, I also started tracking my protein intake and shot for the standard recommendation of one gram per pound of body weight.
I kept the same process for a few years and learned not to obsess over every calorie or gram of protein. Being consistent is far better than trying to be perfect.
What Mistakes Did I Make Along The Way?
1. Not Emphasizing Weight Training From the Start
My biggest mistake was that I didn’t focus on weight training from the start. I trained with weights three times per week, but I made numerous mistakes, including:
- Not tracking my workouts
- Not focusing on progressive overload
- Not taking the time to learn the core barbell lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, etc.)
- Not having a dedicated day for training legs
Had I done mostly weight training from the start, I would have probably lost more fat and ended up much leaner at 170 lbs.
2. Not Tracking My Calorie Intake and Undereating
The second crucial mistake I made was not tracking my calories. Instead, I initially followed the clean eating approach, believing it was the key to weight loss success.
I ended up undereating severely and losing weight more quickly than I should have. My guess is that I also missed out on some body recomposition progress (simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss) due to the aggressive calorie deficit.
The good news is that I eventually started tracking my nutrition, which played a significant role in my skinny fat transformation.
3. Wasting too Much Time and Effort on Cardio
Cardio is by no means bad. It brings many health benefits, and I still remember the post-run high I felt for hours after my sessions ended.
Unfortunately, doing as much cardio as I did was a mistake and likely contributed to my skinny fat physique.
If I had done a bit of cardio but emphasized weight training, I would have likely lost more fat and retained more muscle.
There you have it: my skinny fat transformation. I hope it’s been helpful, at least in some small ways.
Like most people, I learned as I went, which naturally led to mistakes, wasted time, and frustrations.
But, by sticking with the process and learning from my mistakes, I could go from overweight to skinny fat to fit. Sure, it took a long time, but I’m still proud of my goals, and I hope my journey helps you avoid mistakes, stay motivated, and reach your goals quicker.
Drop a comment letting me know what you think and if you have any questions.