In January, I had one of those “Oh. Dear. Lord.” moments when a friend of mine tagged me on facebook in a pic they had taken of me at the bar.
I could not believe how disgustingly fat I had become. It pushed me to throw myself hard core into weight loss mode. Health concerns aside, I would prefer that women not find me physically repellant. 😉
Over the next 6 months, I managed to shed 55 pounds. I went from 247lbs down to 192lbs. Here’s a before and after comparison. Excuse the shirtless selfies.
I am not done losing, and still have a lot of work to do on getting in shape. I have actually lost a few more pounds since the after shot in the side-by-side, but you can see there is a fairly drastic difference. And several of my friends have told me that the pictures just don’t do justice to the change compared to seeing me in person.
I’ve had a lot of friends ask me for advice, so I figured I would just write a blog post. Below are a few lessons that I’ve learned from the experience.
- Weight loss is a math problem. It’s all about calories burned versus calories consumed. Ignore any of the fluff you hear about magical foods, diets, or supplements. A pound of fat is approx 3,500 cal. If you want to lose a pound of fat (you will lose more than a pound of weight for every pound of fat due to water loss), you have to consume 3,500 calories less than you burn over a given period of time. Calorie tracking is the only reliable way to lose a large amount of weight. Everything else is just bullshit gimmicks. I highly recommend the myfitnesspal app. It has been amazingly helpful for me.
- You don’t have to spend hours slaving at the gym to lose weight. While exercise can help, by burning additional calories and also by increasing metabolically active lean mass thereby raising your BMR, it is by no means a necessity. I started out doing cardio pretty heavily, but then basically stopped during the first 30 days. I continued to lose weight at a rate of about 2lb/week, even with my sedentary lifestyle and spending zero hours at the gym.
- You cannot out-exercise a terrible diet. By terrible diet I mean a massive caloric surplus. Note that I’m only talking about losing a lot of weight here. People who are already in pretty good shape can probably shed a few pounds by upping their workout routine. If you’re consuming 3,500cal/day (which I was) and in the obese BMI range (which I was), forget it.
- You don’t have to eat healthy to lose weight. A healthy diet is by no means a bad thing, but it is a thing that takes a lot of effort to do. I’m a lazy bachelor, I have no desire to spend hours preparing food or planning out my meals a week in advance. There is no need to sit around eating kale and granola all day whilst annoyingly preaching the virtues of veganism to your friends. Fortunately, it isn’t even a little necessary for weight loss. My diet still consists of fast food, delivery, and fine dining. You DO have to make sane choices when it comes to portion size and what you choose to order. Whatever you eat, just make sure you maintain a caloric deficit and you’ll lose weight.
- You should avoid simple carbs (sugars) AND artificial sweeteners. While it is tempting to consume these as long as you have room in your caloric budget, it is a bad idea. Both of them cause insulin spikes which will lead to hunger afterward, making you more likely to reach for snacks and blow your caloric budget. Yes, artificial sweeteners cause an insulin spike. The science is out there if you google around a bit. Sorry, the diet soft drinks have to go too. Just get used to drinking good ol’ plain water, it’s better for you and will make your life and budgeting far easier anyway.
- Protein is your best friend. Primarily because protein leaves you feeling sated longer than the other macronutrients. It also requires more energy to digest protein (the thermic effect). This somewhat offsets the calories you’re consuming. Lots of protein will also help keep your body from breaking down a lot of muscle for energy during caloric deficits.
- Dietary fat is not evil. Your body needs fats. Seriously. The old medical demonization of fat is starting to fall apart in the face of modern scientific testing. We’re now discovering that simple carbs are FAR worse for you than fat. Which is unfortunate, because during the “fat is evil” days, most low-fat processed foods had a crap ton of sugars added to them to make them palatable. And now almost everything Americans eat has sugars added.
- Even good, more complex carbs should be limited. Your body needs some carbs, so don’t avoid them completely. However, carb heavy foods tend to be extremely calorically dense and don’t tend to make you feel full for very long. Both protein and fat will leave you feeling sated longer.
- Weigh yourself daily, preferably with a cloud connected scale. I personally love the Withings smart scales. I recommend weighing yourself first thing in the morning. Before you drink or eat anything, but after you hit the head. This will give you the most consistent readings day over day because you are weighing in at your most dehydrated point. Water weight won’t be creating as much variance. Weighing in daily with cloud based trending and charts will help you get a handle on what’s working and what isn’t. It is also nice to be able to look at a visual representation of your progress, it helps keep you motivated. As you lose weight, you can look back and see how far you’ve come and be proud of yourself. As an aside, I also recommend taking a picture every 5lbs or so, so you can look at how much you’ve changed over time. It is incredibly motivating.
- Alcohol is evil. Yeah, I know, it sucks. I still drink, but I limit it to one or two weekend nights a week. And I try to stick to just wine, or water and straight up shots. Beer is particularly bad. If you go out drinking every weekend, you can count on losing some ground on your Monday morning weigh ins. I have just accepted this because I’m a single guy, love karaoke, and don’t like sitting around at home alone on the weekends.
- Every once in awhile, ignore all of the above! You need to occasionally spoil yourself and eat and drink your fill of whatever you want. When you’re on a multiple month journey of weight loss, you need to take a break from the rigorous calorie tracking and avoidance of tasty things. You’re more likely to stick with your diet if you can take a break and have fun now and again.
Of course, it goes without saying that all of the above points are just my thoughts and opinions. I am a computer nerd, NOT a dietician or doctor. 😉