So, five minutes ago I weighed in at 227.6 which puts me exactly 100lbs down from Jan 2019. I started 73 weeks ago but have only been doing this seriously for 55 weeks (over which I am down 89.2lbs or 1.63 per week)
I will try to (semi-briefly) show some stats and summarize the big lessons that I hope might be helpful.
So I kinda loafed for the first 18 weeks (lost 10.8lbs) but then I started to keep track of everything and kick things into gear.
Starting from 316.8 mid May 2019 here are the stats:
1st 26 weeks. 79 Workouts (just over 3 a week) consisting of like 20 minutes cardio and 4 weight exercises @ 3 sets each. 2017 calories averaged per day.
I lost 52.8lbs
Lesson – When you’re big, a relatively moderate amount of effort is going to lead to results. And this is with a 45 year old metabolism. If I had been 25 I’d have lost even more.
2nd 26 weeks. 117 workouts (4.5 per week). 1970 calories averaged per day.
I lost 33.2lbs
Lesson – Once the “easy” loses are taken care of, this is a big fight. I ate 8500 fewer calories, worked out 48% more and lost 37% fewer lbs per week. Which, of course makes sense, I was not using calories to maintain 52.8 extra lbs of weight.
Some general thoughts.
Weigh everything. Packages are often over filled. The protein bar says 260 calories for 68g but it probably weights 69-72g. So I weigh them in package and mark them with a sharpie as to their actual weight so I can accurately add the calories. This may seem minor but it def adds up if you eat a lot of something regularly. I found this out when I decided to weigh a 390 calorie mini can of pringles I was having as a treat and found that the can contained 440 calories by weight. An extra 5-10-50 calories may not seem huge but it adds up if you eat a lot of single serving packaged stuff.
Create your own calorie count bible that makes it easy (or use one of the million calorie counting apps). So, for example, I eat a lot of roast veggies. I know by heart that green beans are 31 calories for 100g. I also know that 1/3 tbsp is 40 calories of olive oil. Knowing that means I reduce the pain in the butt that is calorie counting when I weigh out 100g of green beans to roast and can immediately add 71 calories to the tally. So I have a word document that has the calories per gram (easier to multiply odd numbers that way) of all the foods I regularly eat.
You almost certainly have to accept that success means making 90% of your own meals. It kinda is what it is. That 800 calorie restaurant burger is probably 900 or 1000 calories when served (calorie counts are based on a perfect burger submitted to a lab for testing, when actually cooked for you it is generally going to be higher calorie because they aren’t weighing the mayo they put on). It is going to be very very hard to succeed at this if somebody else is making your food. The reason things in restaurants are more delicious than when you make them is fat. Butter and oil make things tasty.
Make goals that are not binary (i.e. pass/fail). I have a grading system based on calories. So 1700 is an A, 1700-1850 is a B and so on. My goal is to average a B+. The idea is pretty straightforward. Create a system that allows for “bad” days but which encourages you to limit how bad they are. So I could get to my goal with a bunch of combinations. 1 A and 6 B’s will do it. So will 3 A’s and 4 C’s. So will 4 A’s a B, C and an F. I also have a grade called an X which is like getting a 0. 6 A’s and an X is a narrow fail. (i.e. you cannot pass a week with an X no matter how good the other six days are. Avoiding big calorie days is a big tenet of the system. BUT if you do need to have an X, you have to know you need a perfect week otherwise and the week before or the week after needs to be a good one as well.)
The logic is simple. Limit damage. If I am sitting here at 8pm and hungry and I’ve eaten 1700 calories, I have to choose how bad I am going to fall. 150 calories drops me to a B, 300 drops me to a C, 500 drops to a D, 1000 to an F and over a 1000 drop is an X. If I didn’t have these specific calories I would have much more of a “screw it I’ve failed” mentality and eat worse.
5) Revise your goals say every three, four or six months. My “A” has not changed as of yet (1700 calories) but a B sure has. It started 1700-2000 calories, then went 1700-1900 and now it is 1700-1850 (where it will remain for 23 more weeks and then change again…it will become either 1650-1800 or 1700-1800 I have not decided yet if I am going to lower my A yet).
6) Make goals based on your own psyche and what you are achieving. Let’s pick workouts. My goal is to average 3.5 workouts per week. To me this is a reasonably achievable goal. 2 would be too easy and lead to fewer workouts, 5 is too many. If you are the kind of person who gets discouraged easily then maybe 2 is a good goal (or if you have no history of working out or hate it), if you are a high achiever who is going to be more driven by an impossible goal then maybe 5 works. You have to find whatever sweet spot there is for you that makes you want to hit the goal (i.e. be hard) but not slack off if you’ve hit the goal by Wednesday and lie on the couch for 4 days (i.e. be too easy). Further, change your goals based on what you are actually doing. If you’re working out 5 days a week for like four months, having a goal of 3 per week isn’t doing you any good. My theory is that a good goal is one you should juuust fail to meet or juuuust succeed in making. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s a goal.
7) I think it would be generally helpful to have a goal that is specific and not centered around just losing weight. This is going to be really hard for lots of people but I think “running a 5K” is a much better goal than “I want to be thinner” on average. For me, I want to do a big hike late next year and I need to be waaay fitter and lighter than I am today. When I do 25 flight stair climb(s) (I can only manage 1 so far). I am motivated to that because I know that hiking in mountains isn’t going to be possible without it. I am not sure I could motivate myself to schlep up and down flights of stairs if I didn’t have a specific goal in mind. (note: This does mean that when you achieve the goal, you need to pick a new one as it would be way too easy to be “yep, I climbed Kilimanjaro now I can eat Doritos”. )
The reason for this is simple. If you want to lose weight to say meet somebody romantically that’s fine but there are no guarantees that losing 100lbs is going to magically make the person of your dreams come into your life. Are you stacking the odds in your favor? Absolutely. But something specific that is achievable through weight loss (that you actually care about) is going to be a better motivator on down days. I have always dreamed of seeing Mount Everest in person and doing the Everest base camp hike has been a dream for a long time. Giving myself three years to get fit and do it has been really beneficial on down days. It is always in the back of my mind that if I cannot get under 200lbs by the end of this year, I can’t even think about doing the hike at the end of next.
8) Give exercise a chance but if you’re not enjoying it then find something else. I have a history of gymming and lifting weights is something I really enjoy. I get bored of cardio but 20 minutes is long enough to have some impact but short enough that I can get through it. Lunges are great exercises. I hate lunges. So I don’t do them. Better to do a sub-optimal workout than no workout. So I have consciously chosen things I like (shoulder press, bench press, rows, biking) that cover the major muscle groups and avoid things I hate (like burpees) because I am just not going to do them. But you have to give something a legit chance.
9) You are, sadly, likely going to have issues with people in your life. Some of my friends have been very supportive, others less so. My own mother (on zoom) was like “It’s a pandemic, just eat” because, to her, my succeeding shines a light on her own weight failures. Pre pandemic I was talking camping plans for the summer and my buddy was talking about all the high calorie food he wanted to bring and was actually upset with me for saying that I was going to bring some salmon and such. I hope you are lucky and everyone in your life is supportive but it has taken a long time for people to understand this is what it is. I went socially distance biking with my friend yesterday and he suggested we pick up junk take out on the way home and, for the first time, he accepted it without argument when I said I’d grab lunch at home because I wanted to hit 100lbs down today and couldn’t have any junk.
Enough rambling, I hope any of this is helpful. I have 52.6 to go and today is chest/back so I gotta get on that! 🙂
If a 327.6lb middle aged fat guy can do this, so can you! The day I started I could barely walk up two flights of stairs without puffing for 10 minutes. The other day I got up 25 flights without a break (granted, my legs felt like jello and I was puffing like mad but 1,000,000% progress).
EDIT: Just adding some stuff
10) I tolerate steamed broccoli. I LOVE roast broccoli. This is always going to work better if you can figure out foods you enjoy and work with those confines. Steamed broccoli is def lower calorie than roast (i.e because of the olive oil) but making every meal a chore is going to kill your motivation. I make a rice bowl of roast broccoli, roast green beans, and extra lean ground beef that clocks in at 685 calories and makes for a delicious dinner. Cut the rice in half and it is 555, eliminate it and it’s 425. Don’t force yourself to eat celery if you hate celery, it never works.
11) Calorie counting gets easier. I doubt I look at my calorie bible even once a week at this point. I know what salmon, extra lean ground beef, the veggies I like etc… are calorie wise by heart. It’s a pain in the butt to start with to be sure but most of us cook the same things frequently. I don’t need to know how many calories a kiwi has because I don’t eat kiwi fruit. I would start with a list of things you use on a daily basis and go from there. Dry pasta is like 300 calories for 85 grams. I didn’t even look that up. So, take heart, that what seems like a huge mountain is a lot of work to get going but once you’re in the thick of it, it becomes second nature.
12) This is a biggie. You have to get to the point of accepting that this is your new normal. There is no “I am going to lose X lbs and then go back to eating “normally”. That “normally” got us to where we are today. This is a biiig change and it’s permanent if you want to succeed. 1700 was a huge deficit when I started. At 175lbs (my goal) it’s my BMR. i.e. My maintanence calories is likely to be 2000 calories per day at 175lbs with continued working out regularly. So eventually my grading scale will likely be slightly rejigged with a goal of 0pts a week and an average of 2000 calories. There will never be a day when averaging 2500+ calories a day is my routine. Not if I want to stay at 175 (when I get there).
13) Watch how your thin friends eat. You’ve probably heard the “fast metabolism” stuff and (to a degree) it’s a thing. But dollars to doughnuts your thin friends have a higher level of activity and lower overall calories. Nobody (and I mean nobody) can sit on the couch eating endless bags of Doritos and say thin. It’s not possible. Watch what they eat and I bet their lunch was tiny or they start their day with a five mile run or what not. Genetics play a role, absolutely, and you def want to make sure you don’t permanently lower your metabolism with too big a deficit (I lost like 90lbs on 1994 calories a day average…never going below 1700 (all my A’s are 1680-1699 calories) and only hitting 1700 45% of the time…i.e. more than half of all days were 1850 calories or more…BUT (and this is big) only 2/365 days had more than 3000 calories)…so my losses were far more about having a loooot of really solid days and virtually eliminating bad days than being perfect all the time.
14) Always look forward. As the numbers grow it is really tempting to ease up. In my case I have gone from 5XL t-shirts to 2XL t-shirts. I am delighted at that fact. BUT I do have to think “2XL is still 2XL”. Do you see what I mean? Take dating. If I go on a date tomorrow, that person never met 327.6lbs Alex…so me looking better than that guy doesn’t give me much in the way of benefits because current Alex is 227.6 and wears 2XL clothes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of yourself for progress and definitely does not mean you beat yourself up over it (there clearly huge benefits to being 227 over 327 so even if I never lose another pound I am better off) BUT you should keep focus on the goal. Being less fat isn’t my personal goal. Being fit is. So it’s nice to put on an old 5XL t-shirt and go “wow” but I also keep an XL shirt to remind me that I don’t fit into that one yet.
Here is my Year 1 spreadsheet…just to give you an idea of what it looks like…the workouts will prob not make a lot of sense without knowing the meaning (I had to change the symbols and goals after the pandemic closed my gym)…but it gives you an idea of what I track. The grey untracked blob mid-year is when I was out of the country for four weeks.
I see somebody(s) gilded the post…I didn’t get an email notification so cannot respond/thank you personally…I am glad people have found this helpful. It’s a looong grind (as you know) and anything I can do to make it a tiny bit easier makes me happy.