Like to consider myself as an adventurer which typically means participating in a variety of voyages. Even though I’ve embarked on a few of those over the past few years, there is one recent adventure that does not fall into the ‘voyage’ category. This adventure did not involve traveling much further than to work or the gym. Will admit, at no point in the time it took for this story to play out, did I ever considered it an adventure. However looking back on all that I’ve done and learned the past months, I’m calling it an adventure now.
So you’re probably wondering what is this non-adventure, adventure? Well, I dropped approximately 20lbs of body fat over twelve weeks to prepare for a swimsuit photo-shoot. Probably just as surprised as anybody that I even participated something like this. Never in my life had the thought ever crossed my mind.
The genesis of this undertaking began well over a year and a half ago when I had trainer and bodybuilder, Eric Senter, write me a diet or as I much prefer to call it… a ‘nutrition plan‘. The intention of that ‘nutrition plan’ was to provide proper nourishment for my activity level, in and out of the gym. Even though I was consuming more food under Eric’s plan than previous, the right balance of nutrients had me losing body fat, even though that was not the intention of the diet. By the time the summer of 2017 came about I, unintentionally, had visible abs without changing my training blueprint.
Continuing with Eric’s plan for over a year my level of commitment began to wane around the holidays. At that time, the percentage of nutrition that was from Eric’s plan reached a low of around 50%. Never abandoned the diet, but this so-called ‘slipping’ added roughly 10lbs to my frame and it wasn’t muscle.
When spring started to make an appearance, thoughts of being shirtless on the beach had me thinking; I’d like having those abs again, maybe even more visible than ever. Back on Eric’s Nutrition Plan 100% of the time, fat loss was happening but I knew it was going to take an all-out assault to get leaner than the previous summer. About the same time, the idea of being photographed professionally also came about.
With a new goal in mind, I approached Eric for an upgrade to my diet to get ‘photographic ready’. With only Eric knowing the reason for my ultimate goal, he set in motion a plan for me to shed as much body fat as possible over the coming weeks. The total weight to lose was arbitrary at this point.
Now participating in what normal people call insane eating habits, like counting out almonds to go with my protein shake lunch, it was impossible to hide the fact that I was actively dieting from friends, family, and coworkers. My fellow gym mates didn’t know the reason for my hard-core dieting but they fully comprehended the why… Since we all do crazy shit just because. For all others outside my web of body-conscious gym compatriots, I invented various excuses to cover the true intention for turning down invitations to; go out, or having just a tiny bit of food not part of my diet.
A few weeks into the new diet I was losing about one pound of fat a week, Eric suggested increasing my activity level to supplement the weight training. So every workout was now punctuated with 20 to 30 minutes of walking on the treadmill. If my life of following a regimented diet had not driven me to live somewhat like a hermit, the extra gym time certainly pushed it well into that category.
Even though Eric’s diet consists of six meals a day, the macronutrient distribution and decreased calorie level left me feeling hungry just about every waking moment. Early on in the new diet, my nightly dreams consisted of food. Mostly of pasta actually. Will say it’s amazing how the psyche eventually adapts and accepts this perpetual uncomfortable state as the new norm… Well, most of the time anyhow.
Eric’s diet(s) for me involve plenty of supplements and glad he introduced me to the products of Beverly International from the get-go. Having at least three protein shakes a day I could not have made it, having to choke down something even slightly unpalatable over an over. With the Ultimate Muscle Protein, I looked forward to each and every shake. Sure I was hungry as hell but mostly they were my moments of tasty joy.
As the weeks passed Eric requested a report of my progress the days we saw each other at the gym. Often it was not very a rosy report. Using the scale as my progress meter, movement of the scale would stall for days or I’d be discouraged, fully believing some areas of my body were forever doomed to hold a bit of jiggle, regardless Eric was unaffected by my worry.
Eric asked me to let him know when the photo-shoot was four weeks away and prepared me by saying that life was going to get just a little more uncomfortable… If I thought I was hungry now. With an update to the already updated diet, Eric now had me eating as if prepping for a bodybuilding contest. The right Macronutrient levels became even more critical for systematically shedding body fat as the body is very reluctant to give up those stores when approaching single digit percentages of fat.
Through all this, Eric maintained that I have a single “cheat meal”, of my choice, each week. Was not fond of calling it a cheat meal because I learned it’s a fundamental part of the process and is not “cheating”. Came to prefer the name ‘re-feed’ as that is what it does, gives hungry muscles something to briefly be happy about. Quite often my re-feed got the scale moving again when fat loss became stagnated for several days. Reaching a certain level of leanness it was quite interesting to witness how the body reacts to higher levels of certain macronutrients immediately following a re-feed. On more than one occasion, a morning after first glance in the mirror elicited a very positive DAMN!!!
At roughly one month to go, it was time to start preparing in other ways, beyond the killer diet and exhausting weight training. First order of ‘other business’ was my skin tone. As most know darker skin shows more muscle definition. So, to improve my base tan as much as possible, I took advantage of summertime activities to soak up the sun and supplemented that with the gym’s tanning bed.
Compared to many people I don’t tan very dark or evenly. To kick my tan level up several notches, I did some research and experimenting with self-tanners. My first experiment was with gradual darkening tanners and those seemed to work well. Tried some others that were to be a bit darker/quicker, but it was the gradual tanner that looked fairly natural on me. Did learn though that I had to be careful how often/long I did applications or I could easily end up looking like a Willy Wonka Oompa Loompa (from the first movie)
With a handle on the tanning aspect, it was time to travel down a road though I’d NEVER explore… Getting rid of the body hair! Didn’t have to be told that to show the best definition and to look like the buff models that have a bikini-clad babe under each arm, all visible body parts will need to be void of hair. Getting rid of body hair is NOT a conversation guys have with other guys, but at a gym full of bodybuilders, topics like that are as common as what the weather is doing. Learned the most used approach for hair removal is to just use clippers and a razor. Also learned from the guys that they get help with this process from their wife or girlfriend, and I had neither. Sheepishly I approached a friend to see if SHE!!! Would help. Now that’s a good friend right there!
Not gonna lie… Normally my chest and belly is fairly hairy and it’s been that way since my late teens, so for several days after that first shave, it was quite a shock for me to see a bare midsection in the mirror. Can’t believe I shaved my chest and stomach giving me serious hesitation about this whole thing.
Despite suggestions to start the shaving process early, in order to get the skin accustomed to the razor, only applied that tidbit of info to removing hair from the torso. Decided that I would tackle the extremities just a couple days prior to the shoot because there is absolutely no way hairless arms would have made it past the radar of the girls at work.
With just a couple weeks to go, the constant hunger and low energy at the gym had become a bit formidable. Wasn’t expecting a visit to the grocery store to totally screw with my mentality. Found myself really missing simple things that had been eliminated from my diet long ago. Had to talk myself off the ledge and get the heck out. It’s a serious problem when a jar of peanut butter looks so damn sexy. Just wanted to remove its top right there in the store and lick that luscious creaminess.
The photo-shoot was scheduled for a Monday and with the backdrop being the great outdoors, I took that week off from work to have a range of days to work with just in case the weather didn’t cooperate with plan-A. Just a few days to go, Eric had given me the last vital steps of preparation of what to eat and how much water to take in on each day to make it all come together at the right moment. As I learned from Eric the idea is to make the body pull subcutaneous water into the muscle or to “dry up” as he put it to look as jacked as possible.
Eric also warned me that the final days before the shoot I would look flat as if I had lost several pounds of muscle, but not to panic because it will come around when it needs to. He was right. Even though the stubborn fat I was cursing just a few weeks ago was now long gone, the mirror was not kind to me. A body that had a decade of weight training on it did not resemble that in the mirror. I’ve heard of bodybuilders blowing their whole prep at the last minute and now I see why. Feeling this way can send one to panic eat those foods that I learned first hand can take a guy from Bruce Banner to the Hulk overnight.
If it wasn’t bad enough already… During this flat period, I worked a day in a different building with people that had not seen me in months. Some commenting on my weight loss saying I was getting too skinny. Talk about being tough to hold your shit together and stay the course.
As the final days counted down I kept an eye on the extended weather forecast. To my relief, the forecast kept looking better and better the closer my Monday morning appointment with professional photographer Victor Banta became. Eric told me to forego my workouts for Saturday and Sunday. Now there is a hard pill to swallow, but Eric knows what he’s doing and also figured there isn’t much I can do with the weights now. I either have it or I don’t.
Woke up Monday morning and hesitantly looked in the mirror. YES! Eric’s infusion of the right macronutrients worked wonders, and all I needed to do was follow the remaining directions.
Met Victor early morning at the location of the outdoor backdrop, the Pinckney State Recreation Area, getting there right after the gates opened for the day, to get the early light he likes to work with.
After mapping out a general game plan for the day, it was go time. Ate the remaining items on Eric’s “day of” diet, did some exercises to get a pump going and slathered on a layer of baby oil to every bit of visible skin.
Quickly found this posing for pictures stuff is not easy. Let me tell you right now… If you think models have it easy, think again; holding poses, and making slight adjustments for the right light angle all while trying to create a ‘natural smile’ like your not straining and ready to pass out is DAMN difficult. Imagine this would have been easier If I had a beautiful bikini-clad babe under each arm. I’d like to try that just to see. As the shoot went on the sheen of baby oil was replaced with the patina of sweat.
Victor would occasionally show me pictures on the back of his camera saying; “that’s a good one” Not having my glasses, only had a fuzzy idea of how I looked. Fully trusted his professional opinion the pictures were turning out.
With the day done, Victor said he snapped a couple hundred pics, meaning I would have to wait for him go through the whole lot and gather the ‘good ones’ before I would see the final results. The first time I saw myself all tanned, lean, oiled up, flexing my abs until I was ready to pass out, was along with the rest of the world when Victor posted them on Facebook. In fact, I learned Victor had posted the pictures while on my to the gym, as my phone became besieged with text.
At 53 years old this was, putting it mildly, an interesting journey. Never thought I would get as lean as I’ve ever been in my life and have results put out for the world to see. Will also admit this is the first time I have ever ‘dieted’. Having been through that process now, I fully appreciate the struggles anybody looking to drop body fat goes through. But that’s a whole article on itself.
A HUGE thank you to Eric Senter. [Check out Eric’s website here] Could not have done this without his help. Heck, without Eric there simply would not have been the inspiration to even dream this. Also, need to give a big thank you to professional photographer Victor Banta [Check out Victor’s website here] for the awesome camera work. Learned a lot standing in front of the camera as he did his magic from behind. His knowledge of lighting, setting and getting the right angle was awe-inspiring as he explained why we were making those subtle changes that we were.