Two years ago, I stepped on the scale and found myself weighing 235 lbs. As someone with a 5’6″ frame, this was unacceptable. My waist was 40 inches. I found myself starting to wear XL shirts and they were getting tight. My suit no longer fit. My feet hurt all the time, and I had to start seeing a chiropractor for chronic back pain.
A year ago I stepped on the scale and weighed 175 lbs.
Here’s how I lost 60 lbs:
1) I stopped drinking completely.
The first step, and maybe 10 lbs, came from going from a bottle of wine per day to zero. This gave me the willpower and motivation for the next step.
2) I started making most of my meals.
I was eating out three times per day, most days. Breakfast was a burrito made by a rotating list of restaurants in the morning. Lunch was a hamburger or burrito. Dinner was chilaquiles or a large pasta dish from a restaurant.
Making my own meals allowed me to figure out how much food I needed and prepare that. I switched to eggs, chicken sausage, and an English muffin in the morning, a salad with chicken breast for lunch, and salmon with broccoli for dinner.
I could avoid ranch dressings, too much butter and oil, and massive portion sizes.
2b) I stopped eating meals provided by my office.
Inevitably, these ‘meals’ are pizza, include a cookie and a soda, and there are plenty of leftovers (read: seconds and thirds).
I won’t lie: it’s hard to do. It’s hard to keep the fridge at home stocked. It’s hard to make breakfast when you feel like sleeping a little more. It’s hard to turn down free food that everyone else is eating.
Following these two steps got my weight down to around 200-210.
3) I started following, at least approximately, a Nutritarian diet.
The TL;DR version of this diet is: eat unprocessed food, consisting mostly of leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and nuts/seeds. Avoid meat all animal protein if possible, although a couple of eggs and servings (ahem: 3 oz) of fish per week is acceptable. More information in Dr. Fuhhman’s book The End of Dieting and on What is Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Diet?
My breakfast went to oatmeal with fruits, my lunch to a large salad, and my dinner to homemade vegetable soups.
This got me down to around 180-190.
4) I stopped drinking soda
This is really part of 3, but it was super important. I was drinking 3-4 Dr. Peppers per day. I would wake up in the morning and drink one.
By replacing the soda with tea, I’ve cut out hundreds of empty calories per day and helped reduce my susceptibility to Diabetes.
5) I exercised consistently
I’ve always exercised. When I was near my heaviest, I remember a friend saying that of all of his friends, I exercised the most.
The difference is that I didn’t exercise consistently. In the last two years, I’ve made an effort to run 5 times a week and visit the gym 3 times a week, every week. Don’t go for a month and then skip it for a month; don’t run once on Saturday and then not again for a couple of weeks. I listen to my body and slow down when I need to, but exercise is a core part of my life.
In addition, a visit to the gym is not an excuse for more food, for a treat. I’m already overeating; I don’t need more. I build my treats into my week as cheats.
6) I started Intermittent Fasting
Hard in the beginning, I truly think that this has given me an edge. In the version I follow, I try not to eat until 12-1pm most days, and I stop eating by 8-9pm. There are other versions which have you skipping whole days during the week, or you can adjust your feeding window to fit your life.
I no longer need to waste time in the morning eating breakfast, and I’m mentally sharp and ready to work before lunch. I don’t have a problem exercising before I’ve eaten. I generally snack all day, and now I can continue to snack, but I just don’t have as much time to snack as I used to.
IF allowed me to get down to 175 lbs.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice I got to 175 a year ago. Since then, I haven’t plateaued. I’ve actually gained and lost weight. I did this by forgetting my principles: drinking soda, eating out too often, and allowing myself to slip into eating meals that don’t promote excellent nutrition.
I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since high school, twenty years ago. Some people question whether I need to lose more, but I think it’s a worthy goal to have excellent health and excellent nutrition.
Here’s how I’m going to lose the next 20 lbs:
1) Map my meals in advance
For the most part, I eat the same meals every day. I haven’t found that I can naturally regulate how much food I eat – I have to count my calories. First, I calculated my TDEE. I used FreeDieting’s Calorie Calculator, but there are a zillion out there. Importantly, this is just an estimate. If I don’t have the energy to exercise, I’ll bump my goal. If I’m not losing weight, I’ll lower my goal.
A lot of people on the internet recommend MyFitnessPal to count calories. I think it’s wonderful, if it works for you, but it doesn’t work for me. It’s too tedious. Too often my meals vary by one ingredient. It’s too hard to get out my phone and enter a meal when I’m sitting down to do it.
Instead, I’ve put together a simple spreadsheet listing the foods I eat regularly, different variations of the meals I eat regularly. Most importantly, I’ve made several combinations of my meals so I can tell what I need to eat a day. It allows me to know how much I can snack during the day if I have my standard oatmeal breakfast and a variation of my standard stir fry dinner.
2) Exercise for weight loss, not performance
In the last couple of years, I’ve trained for a marathon and several half marathons. I’ve attempted to increase my lifts at the gym. I’ve trained to hike mountains.
All of this was hard work, but it wasn’t optimized for weight loss. Training for a marathon actually makes me more hungry, and less able to resist cravings. Lifting heavier weights requires eating a calorie surplus. Doing too much cardio encourages my body to store fat and cannibalize muscle.
Instead, I’m going to start focusing on weight loss. At the gym, I’m going to aim for not consistency, maintaining my lifts if I can, and not getting injured. On the track, I’m going to focus on short sprinting sessions (HIIT), rather than long endurance sessions. And while backpacking, I’m going to be careful not to overeat – hiking 10 miles is not an excuse to blow out my diet!
Most importantly, I’m going to focus on not overdoing it. If my body needs a day off, I’ll take it. If I missed a workout, I won’t try to double up on the next day. I’m in this for the long haul, not for the race coming up.
3) Drink plenty of water!
Since I stopped drinking soda, I’ve been drinking tea like a madman. While this helped me curb my habit, I’ve also noticed that occasionally I get ridiculous cravings for carbohydrates and candy (specifically cookie dough). I believe, and several people have backed this up for me, that I am chronically dehydrated. Despite the green tea I have hooked up to my veins, I don’t get enough water. Green tea is a diuretic. Solution: drink water first thing in the morning, and keep a full bottle on my desk at all times.
Did I miss anything? Have you lost a lot of weight and have a tip to share? I’d love to hear it.