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How to Lose 20 Pounds the Right Way (My Journey to 180 Pounds)

Ever set a goal to lose 20 pounds? Or maybe even 50 or more?  Until last year, I hadn’t ever really done that.  I’ve been pretty active all my life, playing lots of sports and skiing/snowboarding in the winter.  In high school, I started weight lifting, and I played football in college, so I never really set weight loss goals.  I was mostly trying to gain weight for football season.

After college, things changed.  It was harder to play sports when there wasn’t a dorm room full of other guys at my disposal.  It was harder to go to the gym because I wasn’t used to working all day.  In college, a small group of us would be hanging around the dorms and then at about 4pm, we’d head down to the gym and spend 2 hours there working our tails off until dinner.  Then we’d go load up on tons of food.  Now, I was working during the day and was feeling pretty exhausted by 5 or 5:30 at night.  Sometimes I’d make it to the gym, but I probably only got there once or twice a week for a while.  And then not at all.

Trying the 4 Hour Body

After a couple years, I started to feel like I was getting out of shape.  I had recently finished reading the 4 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris and discovered his next book in the serious, the 4 Hour Body.  So, Rachael and I decided to give it try.  I read the book, and Rachael and I built ourselves a list of guidelines and rules that we took from the book.  We weren’t going to the gym, but we were doing a little bit of running at the time.  Basically, it was just changing our diet.

The general guidelines and rules were:

Sunday through Friday:

  • No carbs
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, etc.)
  • No sugar
  • No fruit

It was pretty much eggs, egg whites, meats, vegetables and beans.  It was very restricted for 6 days per week.

Then on Saturday, we could go nuts.  Anything was fair game.  Here were some of our favorites:

  • Doughnuts
  • Pizza
  • Baked goods like scones and muffins
  • Soda
  • Cheese

So after doing this for just a month and half, I actually saw some pretty great results.  Check out the photos below (front, side and back shots).

Spencer Before and After Slow Carb Diet


Spencer Slow Carb Diet Before and After Side

Spencer Slow Carb Diet Before and After Back


This was without lifting or doing much in the way of physical exercise!  I was pretty pumped!  If I kept going, I think I may have achieved 6-pac status in another few months.

However, that was the problem.  I couldn’t keep going.  Sunday through Friday became awful days, which was sad because that is the majority of the week.  I felt tired, and I felt like I was always waiting for Saturday.  Meals were boring, and I felt hungry a lot.  It was challenging trying to figure out what I was going to eat and planning ahead for it.  And then on Saturdays, I felt like I had to eat everything under the sun because I wouldn’t get to eat “the good stuff” for another week.  I often felt sick at the end of the day because of the amount of calories I consumed.

At the end of the day, this process worked for me in terms of seeing results in my body composition, but it wasn’t sustainable.  I couldn’t do this forever.

“Winging It”

About a year later, Rachael and I were engaged and we wanted to get in the best shape of our lives for our wedding.  We decided that we’d do the 4 Hour Body again, but this time we’d also have a weight training routine to go along with it and we made a few modifications to the eating schedule.  We wanted to get some easy protein after our workouts, so we allowed for protein bars (usually Mint Builder Bars or Lenny and Larry’s Muscle Brownies).  These alone actually made Sunday through Friday much better.  After a workout, I could get some carbs and some chocolate in me via the protein bar.  We were each working out about four or five days a week – an hour long weight workout. (Here’s our Workout Plan). We also added in some sprint workouts to supplement.

We did this for about 9 months leading up to the wedding, and I have to say that we both felt like we were in the best shape of our lives, which was an awesome feeling.

But it still didn’t feel sustainable, and I felt like we were just guessing.

Changing the System

After Rachael and I got married, we moved to our house and Rachael started a new job with long hours.  We weren’t making it to the gym very often and we pretty much ate whatever we wanted.  We played ourselves for awhile buying whole wheat crackers, whole wheat pasta, and having smoothies for breakfast everyday.  So at the start of  2014, I set a goal to lose 20 pounds.  I was 200 pounds which was up about 10 or 12 pounds from my wedding weight.  The reason I set the goal at 20 was kind of arbitrary.  Rachael and I love to play volleyball in the summer and we play in a lot of doubles tournaments (2 vs. 2 grass volleyball).  I figured if I was 20 pounds lighter, it would be like jumping without holding two 10 pound dumbbells.  By this logic, I figured my vertical would increase and would make me a better player.

During college over one summer, Rachael and I had completed the 12 week program called “I Want Six Pack Abs.”  It worked well for us keeping us in shape on the off season for volleyball and football. We didn’t eat any differently but we completed all the workouts and sprint workouts on the website. We started this program again in January 2014 to get ourselves working out everyday. We started eating healthier but not making too many dietary changes.  This got us going. We got back into the habit of going to the gym everyday and we saw muscle building where we had stored some “post-wedding” fat.  However, this was only a 12 week program and so it ended the first week of March

About that time, I was introduced to a book, called Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto.  I devoured the book.  It was everything I had been looking for.  Tom lays out fitness and dieting in such a complete and simple way.  It made complete sense to me, and it seemed sustainable.

So, by March, Rachael and I had started one of Tom’s 4 day per week weight lifting routines and started tracking our calories.  Tom has some sample meal plans in the book, so we modeled ours off of those and made adjustments as necessary.  There wasn’t anything extreme in the book and nothing was really “off limits”.  Obviously certain foods are super high in calories, so it makes sense to avoid them.  However, it was and is all about calories in, calories out.

Here’s a sample day:

  • Breakfast: Egg Bake (eggs, egg whites, mushrooms, Canadian bacon)
  • Morning Snack: Protein Shake
  • Lunch: Salad with Chicken or Chipotle Bowl
  • Afternoon Snack: Apple, Veggie Chips and/or a Quest Protein Bar
  • Dinner: Turkey Burgers (no bun) and asparagus
  • Dessert: Small number of chocolate covered acai berries

As long as you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in, you’ll start shedding fat.  What made this process different was that it became our system.  It wasn’t something we were going to try for 3 or 6 months.  We wanted to change our eating habits and our workout routines for life. We wanted something that pushed us in the gym and with our eating habits but also something that was sustainable and didn’t take over our entire lives.

After just 10 months, I hit my goal of 180 pounds.  I weighed myself nearly every day (Rachael would say that it was definitely every day).  As we moved along, I lost about 1/2 of a pound per week.





It was steady.  It was healthy.  It was sustainable.

Did we make mistakes?  Sure, we did.  We’d have a weekend where we visited family and we ate pretty poorly.  Thanksgiving happened.  Someone had a birthday…with cake and ice cream.  But these were blips on the radar.  They weren’t the norm in our weekly eating routine, so they didn’t affect our overall progress.  Plus, we were building muscle so we could consume more calories occasionally.

Looking back at the last 10 months, I have to say it was the easiest 20 pounds I’ve ever lost.  It was slow, but I was okay with that.  I wasn’t trying to lose 10 pounds in 10 days or anything like that.  At the end of the day, I was really just looking for a new system.

Some of you may be wondering, what about Rachael? Did she lose 20 pounds too? Rachael decided that she did not want to weigh herself in the beginning and compare her weight. Instead, she just wanted to build more muscle and lose fat and be able to see the results on her body, not in a number on the scale that can fluctuate. I am sure that any females out there can understand the pressure that comes with the number. Rachael has seen great results as well. She has lost fat in tough spots like her hips, legs, and butt.  She has seen muscle growth and muscle tone throughout her body. And no, we don’t know whether she has actually gained or lost weight as far as the number goes.  But she can for sure say that her clothes fit looser than they did when we started.

We’d love to hear from you.  Do you set weight goals or workout goals?  Do you have a system or are those just temporary goals?  Leave a comment below.

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