Another Burkhan-Leangains Progress Report with Pictures

I suppose the best thing about all of this Paleoishness and conditioning is that though months go by without a lot of progress perceived on my part, it’s gratifying to see it after a year.

And guess what? I weigh exactly the same as I did a year ago, about 180. Here’s what it looked like a year ago, “My Transformation in Photos,” and I was happy with that because it was an improvement on the previous set.

In all of this, I have always taken refuge in the belief that, 1) if this isn’t long term sustainable then I’m just goofing myself and that, 2) if it is long term sustainable then if I’m doing it right the fat will take care of itself in time. Patience. This is not and never has been about quick fat loss. It’s about getting on a life plan you can live with that motivates your genes and your metabolism to just do their natural thing. You didn’t get fat and undesirable overnight (yes, being fat is undesirable, unattractive, debilitating and all Fucked Up — don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise).

On the other hand, for those of us a little older, and, if being ripped style lean is an itch you just have to scratch, then once you get to a nice, sustainable body composition you might want to take it to the next level. That’s what I decided to do and I’d venture that two months ago I pretty much looked like I did a year ago. But no longer.

OK, here’s how it’s going. Bear in mind, the pics from today and a year ago are at the same weight, 180. You can click to get the larger version.

The Today Me
The Today Me

And this was a year ago.

Year Ago Me
Year Ago Me

So there you go. Gains in the gym continue. Right now it looks like the bench is my friend. Gains two weeks in a row after nearly two months of go-nowhere crap. And I’m now exclusively on conventional deadlifts having found that once I got to 255 x 5 on Sumo that it greatly compromised my squats, making me feel — even at 135 warmup weight — that I was doing squats for the first time. So I’m catching up and am at 215 on conventional DL and it’s feeling pretty good. We’ll see how the squats go tomorrow.

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  1. Organic Gabe on June 3, 2010 at 16:14

    Better shape there, Richard. Another 2 months and it will be even better. Keep it up!

  2. mcghee on June 3, 2010 at 14:52

    I don’t see any difference

    • Richard Nikoley on June 3, 2010 at 15:14

      And even if there wasn’t, that’d be fine in the wider scope of things.

    • chris on June 3, 2010 at 17:40

      McGhee is obviously obtuse for effect. Richard has certainly dropped fat and added muscle.

      And it is amazing to those of us who suffered through years of the low fat/whole grain/run-run-run non-sense to now find ourselves in the best shape of our adult lives eating to satiety and working out when it feels right.

      Kudos Richard!

      • Richard Nikoley on June 3, 2010 at 17:47

        Well, I was a bit tempted to question as to whether his eyesight might have been as deficient as his grammar.

      • DML on June 3, 2010 at 19:43

        “I don’t see any difference.”

        “And even there wasn’t, that’d be fine in the wider scope of things.”

        Nice response, Richard. I agree completely.

        And yes, there is a difference; you have clearly “dropped fat and added muscle” as Chris observed.

        Good work! I know we’ve had our differences, but in the big scheme of things, we agree more than disagree –particularly about the importance of sustainable health and weight loss.

  3. Jamie on June 3, 2010 at 15:33

    Richard, I like your comments “yes, being fat is undesirable, unattractive, debilitating and all Fucked Up — don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise”. I really struggle with the way being fat gets justified & rationalised by people who find it easier to try & push for social acceptance than to HTFU and do something about it. Just this morning whilst walking to work listening to the radio, they were reading a list of the advantages of being a fat guy… And I have gone from someone who would fit medium shirts to in a lot of cases having to find/buy extra small as the sizing has been shifted to accommodate people.

    It is refreshing to have ther honesty that you have shown here.

    • megan on June 3, 2010 at 20:34

      I can’t fault people pushing for fat acceptance. How many people are out there are fat and are being told they can become thin by eating less and exercising more, or eating healthy whole grains and doing lots of cardio? Or have tried several diets and only ended up fatter due to diets’ failure to take hormones into account? Or have broken metabolisms due to medications? I think it’s commendable to go against the grain and not hate yourself despite what society is telling you. Especially movements like Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating, which actually attempt to address health while ignoring some of the medical establishment’s more harmful advice.

      Sure, most of us would prefer to be leaner and believe it is more healthy–that’s one of the reasons we eat the way we do. But there is a lot of unnecessary hate out there, and being fat while having confidence and being treated with respect is better than being fat while feeling self-hatred and being treated like crap.

      • megan on June 3, 2010 at 20:35

        Also congratulations to your Richard, great inspiration!

      • Julie on June 4, 2010 at 07:29

        Thanks for addressing this, megan. I think there’s a difference between “Fat Acceptance” meaning “I don’t care if I’m unhealthy- I love being fat and will continue to gain weight.” and “I am capable of loving myself at any size and have a healthy self-esteem as a good starting point to change and gain health”. Most of us don’t need to continue to impose self-hatred upon ourselves, along with others telling us we need to hate ourselves. I personally couldn’t even start to make progress until something changed with my self-esteem.

        It’s a process, and hating yourself isn’t always the impetus for change.

        By the way, I can see improvement, Richard. You are definitely less “rounded” in your current pics, with more muscle definition.

  4. Betsey Ford on June 3, 2010 at 16:02


    You look awesome! you have done a great job! I am quite a little ways behind you. I notice some of the same changes in my body that you have noted throughout your progress. You give me something to look forward to. I mean if I keep living this way I should be ripped and extremely lean like Mark Sisson by the time I am 50. (3.5 years to go). I haven’t lost much weight, but wow am I ever starting to have a prettier shape!

    I have been eating primal and crossfitting since October. Found out I had Celiac and haven’t missed the beer. I have had some alcohol overindulgence issues I am still working on over coming. I have also just landed my self a hernia for which I now await surgery. Eating Primal is easy to me, I don’t even think about it anymore, but the lack of exercise is going to be my biggest hurdle now.

    Keep up the great work and all those fantastic posts! you are an inspiration!


  5. Derek on June 3, 2010 at 16:42


    Long time reader, first time poster. I dig your blog bud. Especially this last article, extremely realistic and motivating at the same time. I’ve been Paleo+Dairy(heavy cream only) for the last 8 months and dropped around 60lbs following the conglomerate of advice from yourself, Dr. Harris, Robb Wolff, and Mark Sisson.

    It is hard for me to gauge my progress as I have not had any progress pictures taken, that is one thing I do regret not doing in the beginning. But people around me notice drastic changes, and I’ve had to keep making new holes in all my belts.

    Just wanted to let you know that you have a lot of readers out there that rarely post, that dig your material. Keep it up!


  6. Brad on June 4, 2010 at 11:00

    please use this garbage for BS Friday:

  7. Sue on June 3, 2010 at 23:57

    You look great but it really is hard to compare it with your before photo. If you took a pic in the same position as the before it would be easier. In the after you are flexing your muscles but not in the before. Regardless you’re a different man to when you started.

  8. Chris on June 4, 2010 at 00:13

    I don’t think they’re hard to compare – there’s a clear increases in leanness. The face shows the change very clearly, but also the torso. Well done Richard, I think you’re doing a great job. “Get lean slow” may sound boring, but it works.

  9. Brett on June 4, 2010 at 02:13

    Nice progress Richard. I can definitely tell that you tightened up in the chest area. I really enjoyed the article. I started this about 6 weeks ago. I was at 5’11 206lbs. I am now at 200lbs and have went down a notch in my belt. I feel better all around. More energy, concentration and I am rarely hungry anymore. I was obsessing over the fact that I haven’t dropped below 200lbs yet, but you hit the nail right on the head. There is no rush with this. In time the weight will come off. This is not a diet for me, it is simply a new way of life. My wife is also doing this with me and she really enjoyed the article. Thanks for the positive words and keep it up. Cheers from Ireland

  10. Glenn on June 4, 2010 at 05:27

    Great work Richard! I think conventional deadlifts are much better for strength building.

  11. Primal Toad on June 4, 2010 at 06:46

    You look great Richard. There is definitely a difference – keep up the great work!

  12. Ned Kock on June 4, 2010 at 09:45

    Richard, the progress is clear, and the photo of you a year ago was pretty good already! I think that persistence is the name of the game, and as you put on more muscle, things get better and better, as long as you persist. Adiponectin goes up, more muscle leads to more growth hormone secretion, and so on.

    As I see these photos I wonder if one of the factors that will help even more with your continuous progress in the next several years is this funny way in which growth hormone varies with age. It seems to go through a trough around age 40, and then trend upwards and remain there for several years:

    • Aaron Blaisdell on June 4, 2010 at 10:46

      Shit, is that’s what is holding me up? My 42nd birthday approaches this October and while I’ve leaned out a lot since going primal about 1.5 years ago, I still have a little tummy that comes and goes depending on how zonked I am from running a household with a toddler and preschooler. I’m looking forward to the increase in growth hormones as I pass further beyond the 40 year old mark.

  13. Jim Arkus on June 4, 2010 at 11:12

    Lookin’ good, man! Nice work!

  14. zach on June 4, 2010 at 12:26

    I’m convinced of the utility of deadlift. When you go up on deadlift, the other core exercises have a strong tendency to go up as well. Also, if one quits going to the gym for awhile, most people loose the most on deadlift. I didn’t do it for 6 months, and lost 150 pounds off the max.

  15. Paul C on June 4, 2010 at 12:57

    Richard, great progress. Keep going.

    Are your squats only compromised within a day or so of the deadlifts, or longer? My own observations have been “don’t do deadlifts the day before a run” as it seems my brain does not talk to my leg muscles properly.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 4, 2010 at 13:06

      Ah, so let me tell you a story, Paul C. I had been warned by my secret consultant that the sumo style of DL might be too much lower body, conventional being more upper focussed.

      Next day — after doing sumo at 255 x 5 and I think 240 x 5 a few days earlier — I new something was wrong when I did some warmup squats at 135. I felt like I was squatting for the first time. More than feeling weak, I felt uncoordinated. So, I basically bagged the squats after 2 awful reps at 215, the first one getting way off balance and dipping a side pretty bad. No actually, I did a couple of sets at 185, but that was probably not a great idea.

      So I reflected on that and then went an did conventional DL only a couple of days later. Felt good, so much so that after a test set at 205 I upped it to 215 for the 2nd set and that went well too.

      Just got back from the gym a while back and while I felt some strain in the lower back, still, I did a few reps at 135, a bit wider stance as I’d worked that out prior with air squats onto a ball. Then I did one at 185, just to feel the weight, felt good, and so exercised for 215 x 7 or 8 and then 205 for 8.

      And my back feel fine.

      My conclusion is that I’m on a better track for continuing progress.

  16. san fran J on June 4, 2010 at 19:18

    yea very good point richard. excess fat is a fucking bitch to get rid of. you have to make adjustments to finally it goes away. shedding excess subcutaneous fat is a slooooooooow process, but just do the little things right every day don’t get sidetracked, and a few months at a time, shrinkage will come.

  17. Austin on June 4, 2010 at 19:53

    Looking good Richard! Most obvious difference is in your face and neck.

  18. spencer on June 6, 2010 at 14:19

    I’m not sure if it’s just the quality of the previous photo, but you look like you’ve shaved off a couple of years. Nice job!

    “If being ripped style lean is an itch you just have to scratch,”
    That’s definitely from leangains, innit?

  19. […] A couple more, here and […]

  20. Mary on July 13, 2010 at 10:16

    Awesome pictures, Richard. You are an inspiration to us all!

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