The Learning Project: Lessons Learned

Well, the final results are in. Not bad. 18.4 lbs down over the course of the semester ( I started at 226). I wanted to get to 205, but I am well on my way.

Well this is it. It has been a wild ride. When I first started this project, I thought it would be a linear sequence of events. 1) Follow a diet 2) Select a workout regimen 3) Track results. Simple right? As it turns out, this learning project was not quite  as straightforward as I originally thought

My earlier blog post focused on learning I had acquired reading a some blogs I found online ( most notably Tim Ferriss). It was this foray into the world of blogging that I learned the tenants of the Slow Carb Diet (SCD).  This was a good start because it got me thinking about my diet and caused me to explore options for a resistance training regime.There were two problems with my approach to this project in the early going, 1) My posts were quite focused on what I was doing as opposed to what I was learning and 2) Upon reflection, my goals could have been more specific. More on that later.

My second blog post was my first attempt a “vlogging.” I must admit that there was a steep learning curve here. Unfortunately it had little to do with health and fitness and more to do with how to actually produce a YouTube video. I learned to set up an account and how to record a video on my ancient laptop.

More importantly I learned that the process of blogging (or in this case vlogging) was a very intimidating process for me. It really did take me out of my comfort zone. It was a good learning experience. I’m a fairly introverted person. I learned that in the early going, this tenancy I got the idea to try a video of myself after watching An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. I really identified with Dr. Wesch’s quote ” It feels like everybody is watching and yet nobody is there.” It was a bit of a surreal knowing that I would be inviting other people into this learning experience with me. An even stranger experience is watching these videos a second time. I’m watching myself reflect on my learning experience, which caused me to re-reflect on that experience. I hope that this makes sense. What I have learned from this experience is that perhaps YouTube could be a powerful  tool for engaging in self-reflection.

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My next post outlined the initial resistance training program that I began at the gym in my workplace. It didn’t take me long to realize that consulting the internet on resistance training was like drinking water from a fire hose.


Source: GIPHY

I decided to consult a trainer that works in the gym. He met with me and helped me develop a resistance training program that was based on compound lifts involving major muscle groups divided into a upper and lower body split routine. This was valuable because is showed me how to incorporate training into my life. I was able to train in the weight room four days a week on my lunch break. This was not as simple as it sounds as the gym is not located in the same building as my office. What I learned was in order to successfully incorporate this regimen into my work life, I had to manage my time more effectively and become far more organized (for example ensuring I had a change of clothes handy and a few easy lunch choices ready to go).

It also taught me the importance of going to the gym with intention. Knowing that I had a time limit of 45 minutes caused me to focus and get in and out within my time limit. This was a big change because in my 20’s going to the gym was much more of a social experience for me. There was no time for socializing this time around. It was a bit of an adjustment but eventually learned to enjoy the solitude of putting in my ear buds, shutting off my brain and moving heavy things.

This post also marked my first foray with using my fitness pal. At first I found it helpful. It acted as a hub for solid health and fitness information and it caused me to be more mindful about what I was eating. However, there came a point where I realized that I could get too focused on tracking my intake. The lesson I learned here was that technology can be helpful to a point. I actually found I had more success with weight loss when I focused less on tracking and more eating foods that promoted weight loss in a way that worked for me. I hope this makes sense.

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My next post served as more of an update than anything. It was marked with some frustration for me because at this time I was not seeing sustained success in terms of weight loss despite having a training plan and diet. As the semester progressed, the demands on my time increased. I needed to alter my approach. The truth was what I was doing wasn’t working.

In the post Every Little Bit Counts, I started to experiment with body weight exercises (push ups to be precise). I learned about the concept of greasing the groove . I didn’t know it at the time but this was going to be a major step forward in helping me to successfully incorporate physical training into my work day in a way that was meaningful and did not place extra demands on my shrinking reserves of time. This protocol allowed me to look at strength as a skill . That is something you get better at by practicing it. Learning this caused a major shift in what I was thinking. It sounds dumb but I started to look at training as a way to practice being strong as opposed to something I was doing to lose weight. This actually ended up being a major shift in how I was viewing the physical training component of this learning project. In retrospect, I hadn’t started to really put it all together. That would come soon enough.

My next post (Intensity, Interval Training, Body weight Exercises: What I have Learned) marked the point in this project where the lights really turned on. Here is the Cole’s Notes version of what I learned:

1) Intensity is a key factor in physical activity for weight loss.

2) Interval training is a great way to bump up intensity and shorten workout times

3) ” Intense” is different for everyone.

I was going about this all wrong. Here I was slugging it out in the gym lifting weights at a moderate level of intensity when I could have been cutting my training time down and boosting my ability to burn fat. I learned that I needed to get clear on what I wanted out of this process. I initially started out wanting to lose fat and gain lean mass . That was too much. I was going to have to pick one goal here. I chose to go with losing fat. This was another valuable lesson. Get specific with your goals to help you guide your behavior! It is embarrassing typing that. I’m a nurse, I help client’s come up with goals all the time. Yet here I was doing a weight training program to promote muscle growth and wondering why I wasn’t losing weight! My behavior didn’t match my goal. This was when things started to come together for me.

Source: GIPHY

The Bodyweight Training app was an example of how technology could help me engage in more effective and meaningful training for the purpose of fat loss. It allowed  me to develop a personalized interval training program that I could do anywhere with no equipment.

Image result for bodyweight training app


I had mentioned interval training in my earlier posts the cold hard truth is, I obviously wasn’t doing it right. This app changed that. Using it allowed me to increase my intensity and decrease my workout time significantly ( I was training in the gym 45 minutes 4 times a week. This changed to 20 minutes of effective interval training 2 to 3 times a week). This small change got me back on track towards losing weight again.

My post Nutritional Additional helped me to demonstrate a deeper level of learning regarding using the SCD for fat loss, learning how to make cheat days work for me and allowed me to reflect on my experience of using a Facebook support group dedicated to people using the SCD for fat loss. Here is a summary of what I learned :

1. The SCD does offer a variety of whole protein rich foods that can promote fat loss. However, I found the amount of beans and legumes prescribed to be a bit much.

2. Once a week cheat days were not my cup of tea. I learned that I would be better off planning one cheat meal a week. This would allow the benefits of the cheat day in a much more controlled fashion, without the wheels completely falling off.

3. Swapping out starches and simple carbohydrates is an easy way to manage overall carbohydrate intake and increase dietary fiber.

4. Not all social media learning communities are created equal. I gained appreciation for the supportive nature of our Google Plus community as a result of my foray into the world of Facebook groups dedicated to the SCD.

Now for the secret weapon. In my post Protein a Great Whey to Lose Fat? I learned how effective whey protein can be as a supplement to help me lose fat. I was able to learn the difference between 3 common protein supplements ( whey concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate) Here is a summary of points that I learned from the post:

1. Whey is an excellent means of supplementing your diet with extra protein.

2. If your goal is fat loss, the type of protein you select doesn’t really matter. So pick one that is cost-effective and has little side effects.

3. A shaker bottle is portable and means you can have snack or meal pretty much anywhere. I usually mix mine with coconut milk.

Protein helps rev up your metabolism, fills you up and can help curb sugar cravings it also helps to build lean muscle . If your goal is reduction in body fat whey protein can help.

Finally I shared an easy way to prepare chicken that I picked up from a Buzzfeed video. Although I did touch on food preparation in my first post , I felt this was a good example of how social media ( I should mention this showed up on my Facebook feed) helped me to learn an effective method for preparing chicken ( which is was key to my diet).

So there you have it. A summary of the learning I underwent as a result of this project. I apologize for the length. It took longer than expected. I have enjoyed this journey. It really came together in the last 5 weeks or so. I went from being stuck at the 214 to 216 mark to 207.6 lbs as of Monday. I wanted to get to 205, but I’ll take this!  All the best!

Source: GIPHY





6 thoughts on “The Learning Project: Lessons Learned

  1. Congratulations Matt!! An impressive accomplishment for a semester’s worth of work!! I’ve enjoyed seeing your fitness journey unfold and have also learned a lot myself from your posts on fitness and nutrition! It can be super overwhelming to search the internet for anything related to these topics so I’m glad you found things that work and solid information to back up your learning! I’ve definitely been tapping into a couple of your finds😄! All the best in your continued journey!!


  2. I loved your project! Followed along and learned a little!
    I enjoy fitness, and workout pretty regular with a decent meal plan each day, but I have never gotten into the nuts and bolts of it. I’m big into Shakeology, that isn’t about to change, but your protein post was quite intriguing to me.
    Great work- I know what you mean about posting the video- not a comfortable thing for me either- it’s bad enough to hear my voice, let alone have my face out there!


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