A Simple Diet and Workout Plan Helped Me Lose 26 Pounds and Get Ripped

Michael Feig

From Men's Health

Not too long ago, I was eating fast food for pretty much every meal: McDonald's for breakfast, Jack in the Box for lunch, Burger King for dinner and sometimes Taco Bell for the Fourth meal. That was a typical day. Long story short, I wasn’t taking care of myself—nor had ever taken care of my body and my health.

One evening, I happened to run into an ex-girlfriend of mine. She came up to say hello, and she sort of placed her hand on my belly. I don’t know why she did that, but she did, and I felt so embarrassed and disgusted with myself. The next day was the first day of my fitness journey, and it hasn't stopped since. Yes, the initial inspiration might have been a little superficial, but it was enough to get me started, which led me to fall in love with getting fitter, stronger and healthier.

At first, though, I made all the classic mistakes: My calories were way too low, and I was overtraining. I was doing nearly two hours of cardio and strength training 5 to 6 days a week. This approach wasn't working for me, and was in no way sustainable.

Photo credit: Michael Feig
Photo credit: Michael Feig

I knew something had to change, so I eventually simplified everything. I realized that I didn't need to kill myself in the gym or starve myself to get into great shape. I crafted a nutrition plan that included the foods I loved and truly enjoyed, all while keeping my calories just below maintenance. And I focused mainly on compound lifts, like bench press, deadlifts, pulls ups, shoulder presses, and supplemented them with isolation movements like bicep curls and tricep extensions. I didn't really get too fancy with my workouts. I would jazz things up and change things around sometimes out of boredom, just to try new things and keep things fresh. I realized that being in a calorie deficit always proved fat loss results. Whatever regimen you decide to follow, it's all about consistency.

I know from experience: Getting into peak physical condition took me about 10 years—I was making so many mistakes at first. I would lose a little fat, gain a little muscle, fall off the wagon, try it again, but nothing ever stuck. This most recent fat loss journey is definitely my most notable. I was really able to lock in my diet and see it through instead of cutting it short like I had in the past. I had enough muscle, so I was looking to get my body fat down as low as possible in 16 weeks.

I started off at 180 pounds and ended up at 154—so, 26 pounds of fat burned, minimizing as much muscle loss as possible. I felt like I had finally accomplished what I had been attempting for so many years. But the craziest part was that this was the easiest time I ever had dieting. I was truly enjoying the process.

The most difficult part was the last four weeks. I was tapering my calories down from the beginning. I started with a small 250-calorie deficit at first, then increased the deficit every couple of weeks or so based on progress. Because of metabolic adaptations, I was approaching a 1,000 calorie deficit toward the end. This had an effect on my energy levels, so working out became a struggle. Luckily, I only had to endure that for the last four weeks, as opposed to trying to sustain that kind of deficit for four months, which is what I always tried to do in the past—and what I see so many people doing now. But those last four weeks are where I saw some of the coolest changes in my body. I was going from being in good shape to getting ripped.

My arms were the first part of me to look really good. I may have gained a little size at first, but they no doubt appeared bigger simply because there was no fat on them anymore and my muscle was popping through. My chest also took on a much more square shape, and I'm pretty sure I smiled ear to ear when I realized I didn't have man boobs anymore. Personally, though, I think my biggest accomplishment was seeing my abs. I never had even close to a six pack before in my life. I would still like to develop them further because I neglected them most of my life and feel that's a place I can still improve.

Now, partly because of the changes I've made in myself and how much I've learned, I’ve decided to share that knowledge with others. I became certified as a weight loss specialist, nutrition coach, and personal trainer through NASM, all in addition to my acting career. I've been able to take others through the journey as well, which is nice. I’ve had people left and right letting me know how inspired they are by my transformation, which just inspires me right back. It's cool to show people that it is possible no matter where you're starting from.

And wherever that might be, it’s key that you don't over complicate the process. Be patient. Include foods and ingredients that keep your calories low enough, but that you truly enjoy. My dieting trifecta includes meals that are low calorie, high volume—filling—and delicious. You're golden if you can get those three things working together. And don't stress about whether you're doing the right workouts, just keep going. Keep learning and getting better. It's all just part of the journey.

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