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70 Pounds In – What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss

*I’m writing this as a resource and guide to answer questions I am frequently asked about my weight Loss. You can share (or come back to) this post with this friendly, easy to remember URL:*

[http://bit.ly/JoshWeightLoss][bit]

# The Story So Far

At the first of this year, 2011, I decided I was done being the fat guy. I have been overweight practically my whole life, and had gotten so fat (350 pounds) that I felt like a handicapped person. I’ve written a few times in depth about my experiences trying to lose weight so far (these are long, but have all the details):

* [I’m Done Being the Fat Guy][tinyscreenfuls]
* [Weight Loss Plateaus – I’m Stuck][tinyscreenfuls 2]
* [Six Months, Fifty Pounds][tinyscreenfuls 3]

Now, in September 2011, I’ve lost almost 70 pounds. I’ve still got a long way to go. My goal weight is 175 pounds, which I should hit next fall if all goes well. I will have lost half of my peak body weight. An entire person. I can’t wait.

# Principles I’ve Learned

## It’s Just Math

> Weight loss (and gain) is simple math. One pound is approximately 3500 calories. If you want to lose weight, you burn more calories than you eat. For example, if you want to lose two pounds a week, you need a 7000 calorie deficit (or 1000 calories per day). Now, measuring what you burn and what you take in is where the effort lies, but in the end, it all comes down to this principle.

## You Know How to Play This Videogame

> I’m a geeky, nerdy type. Nerds like to treat things like a system – once you figure out the inputs, outputs, and rules of the systems, you can make it do what you want. You know how to play that game. Weight loss and taking care of your body is the same way. There are inputs, outputs, and rules. It’s not magic. Hack the system. Make it do your bidding.

## You Can’t Change What You Don’t Measure

> For me, it’s super important to stick to the numbers, and not just guess. I can’t rely on my own mind to keep track of things, because apparently, I lie to myself. :-) And for me, all the numbers, charts, and graphs push the happy buttons in my nerd brain. I’m all about the data.

## It Takes Time

> Last year, I had sort of fit about my weight. I felt like in this day and age, with all the technology and modern medicine we enjoy, I was *owed* some kind of easy solution. I even went to my doctor, determined to get some kind of “fix”. Pills, surgery, magic, I didn’t care. She very patiently defused me, explaining why none of those things work. It still took a while until I was [ready to actually start changing my life][tinyscreenfuls], but that was a lesson I had to learn. The change I wanted would take years of day to day effort and mindfulness. I had to accept that before I could begin.

## Protein is Your Friend

> I know very little about nutrition. I am not an expert. This is only what I’ve learned through my own experience the last several months. Foods that are high in protein – meat, nuts, eggs, etc. – help you feel full longer. It breaks down into fuel for your brain, and you can leave your muscles and the rest of your body to raid your fat reserves for the fuel they need. I’ve become a junky for beef jerky and nuts. I usually have a two ounces of jerky or nuts for breakfast, and I don’t feel hungry until lunch time. It’s very sustaining, and I’m sure it’s good for you in a whole bunch of other ways (like I said, I am not a nutritionist).

## Diet Matters More Than Exercise

> Exercise is important for health, but for weight loss, you’ll get MUCH more bang for your buck reducing your calorie intake. They say that a good rule of thumb for walking/running is that you burn about [100 calories per mile][google] (this varies with your weight, of course). So if your strategy is to eat extra calories and then burn them off with exercise, keep in mind that you’re going to have to walk or run a mile to burn off every 100 calories over your budget you are. For me, at least until I get stronger (and smaller), I’m not focusing on exercise for weight loss. (I *am* exercising more for the other health benefits – mostly walking and soon, cycling).

## Have A Support Team

> You’ve got a group of people in your life that love you, and want to cheer you on. Whether it’s family, Facebook friends, or strangers on an internet community, it helps a **lot** to have people with whom you can share your victories (on and off the scale), and who will cheer you on when you’re stuck (because [that will happen][tinyscreenfuls 2]).

# Tools I Use and Recommend

## [LoseIt][loseit]

> This one is the heart and soul of my weight loss efforts – it’s where I log every single thing I eat (and my exercise, in a round about way – see FitBit below). Available on iPhone or Android, or on the web. It’s free. Has a HUGE database of foods, and it’s easy to enter new ones. But it’s way more than a food journal. It will estimate your daily calorie burn based on your age, sex, and weight, and from there, depending on how much weight you want to lose per week (up to 2 pounds), give you your daily calorie budget. Stick to that, and you’ll lose weight. Period. When you exercise, log that, too, and you’ll get those calories added to your daily budget. It’s got a lot of other great features – syncs automatically with the LoseIt website and multiple devices, great social options for finding friends to cheer you on and encourage you, configurable reminders so you don’t forget to log, etc. There are other trackers out there ([MyFitnessPal][myfitnesspal], [FitDay][fitday], etc.), but this is the one I use and love.

## [FitBit][fitbit]

> A FitBit is a magical little $99 device – a 3-D accelerometer (like in a Wii remote) that measures your steps, and communicates wirelessly (via your computer) to a website to tell you exactly how many steps you’ve taken (and from there, it can extrapolate how many calories you’ve burned). It can also track things like how well you’re sleeping. And the coolest thing is that it integrates with LoseIt to *automatically log your exercise*. Let me say that again. My FitBit *automatically logs any walking, running, or other activity to LoseIt*. It also tells you how many calories you burn per day (rather than making a blanket estimate, like LoseIt et al). Using my FitBit, I was able to fine tune my LoseIt calorie budget (it was being too generous) to a “no real physical activity” day. Now, anything I do above and beyond that baseline gets automatically added to LoseIt as tasty calories, so I can have a bigger meal or extra snack, and still know exactly where I am.

## [RunKeeper][runkeeper]

> If you have an iPhone or Android phone, RunKeeper (free) can use the GPS in it to log any walking, running, or cycling activity you do. It works best outdoors, where you can get good GPS reception. You can program specific playlists (I love to listen to podcasts while I’m walking), and you get a really cool map of your activity, and all kinds of other details. It’s very cool, and lots of runners I know use it. When I start cycling (soon), I intend to use it to log and measure my rides.

## [Daytum][daytum]

> Daytum is a general purpose data logging and display app and web service. You can track anything, fitness related or not. I’m using it to track things like body measurements, blood pressure, etc. It takes a little bit of configuring, but the result graphs are beautiful, and the app is free (there are paid tiers if you want to [track ALL the things][knowyourmeme]).

# The Saga Continues

I feel like I’m merely at the beginning of this change. I’ve got a long way to go before I reach my goal, and what then? The best part about all of this is the worlds that are opening up to me that always seemed out of reach before. I could take up a sport. I could learn how to really enjoy cooking, and making good, healthy meals. Who knows?

I feel better than I have in a decade, or more. I have energy to play with my kids. I’m more optimistic about the future than I’ve ever been. I’m not saying all of that to brag, or to proclaim that “these miraculous changes can be yours if you do exactly what I do!” This is my journey, my life. You have yours. I simply want to share what I’ve learned. Even though I write this stuff mostly for myself, I keep hearing from friends (and strangers!) that something I’ve written about what I’m doing has helped or inspired them. In fact, someone stopped by while I was writing this to tell me exactly that. So I feel doubly blessed – first, with all the benefits of better health and a better life, and second with the possibility that I’ve not only helped myself, but others, too. And that’s pretty cool.

[bit]: http://bit.ly/JoshWeightLoss
[daytum]: http://daytum.com/
[fitbit]: http://www.fitbit.com/
[fitday]: http://fitday.com/
[google]: http://www.google.com/search?q=calories+per+mile
[knowyourmeme]: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/x-all-the-y
[loseit]: http://www.loseit.com/
[myfitnesspal]: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
[runkeeper]: http://runkeeper.com/
[tinyscreenfuls]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/04/im-done-being-the-fat-guy/
[tinyscreenfuls 2]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/04/weight-loss-plateau-im-stuck/
[tinyscreenfuls 3]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/07/six-months-fifty-pounds/

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28 thoughts on “70 Pounds In – What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss

  1. I too am loosing weight and I too am using Loseit, Fitbit and Runkeeper. I’m going from 215 to 175, at 197, and it’s not any easier when your closer to your goal (I’m in the exercise my butt off mode).

    Good luck and keep writing about your experiences.

  2. JoannaK says:

    Congratulations Josh!  You’re making fantastic progress and I really enjoyed this update, especially the “videogame” analogy. Plus, the FitBit gadget sounds pretty cool!  :)

  3. Way to go man, I also am trying to lose weight with Fitbit and Runkeeper. I haven’t lost as much as you but I’m getting there. I have a Gold’s Gym membership and I’m doing a lot of dumbell weightlifting. I’m seeing a lot of muscles building up that I haven’t seen since I was a Security Policeman in the Air Force. While I’m not seeing all that much weight come off, my Tanita scale is showing much lower fat percentage numbers so I must be doing something right.

    Keep it up.

  4. Congratulations on your incredible progress. I’ve been trying to lose weight for a little over a year. I’ve lost 25 pounds but I’ve hit a plateau over the past few months. This post is great inspiration for me to step it up and lost the next 25 pounds to get to my goal weight. I’ve been using LoseIt as well and based on your post, I’m going to look into Fitbit, Runkeeper, and Daytum.

  5. Way to go, Josh! I’m using FitBit but didn’t fully appreciate its integrating with LoseIt. You’re so right; weight loss about a commitment to constant mindfulness and a real desire to change. Thanks for your inspiration and eloquence. I really appreciate the “geek” breakdown of your experience. Good luck, amigo. Keep on, keepin’ on!

  6. Pingback: Again seeking weightlessness. This time I really mean it. « ran dum thots

  7. Josh – very very cool!  

    I’m on a similar journey & can completely back you on the importance of protein – although I have to admit that I’m not being nearly as geeky as you are (RunKeeper – yes. Tracking every mouthful?  Nope – but there’s a reason for that..)

    Also – I’d highly encourage you to find a gym that makes sense for you/your schedule. The 1st one I tried wasn’t – but I’m liking where I’m at now. 6 blocks from my house & the class I’ve been to thus far had regular people kinda like me (as opposed to the lean fitness buffs I saw at former gym.)

  8. Truly inspiring, Josh. Thank you for the detailed information on how you’re accomplishing such an important goal too – it’s a pretty personal thing to put it out there the way that you are. Hats off to you.

  9. Chris Snethen says:

    “Diet matters more than exercise”

    Since July 2009, I’ve lost 170 pounds. People always ask me what my secret is. When I tell them, they immediately respond with “and exercise”. Their heads explode when I tell them I haven’t done a thing as far as exercise, it was 100% diet.

    Now, that said, I’m LOVING exercise these days. The things I can do with my body at 200 pounds that I couldn’t at 370 continue to amaze. I’ve divorced exercise from weight loss. I do it purely to relieve stress and to feel good physically. It drives me a little nuts to hear co-workers justify eating an extra donut by promising to hit the treadmill. To me, that’s setting yourself up for failure.

  10. Pingback: Link: 70 Pounds In – What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss » PigPog

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m so happy for your progress, Josh! I hope it opens lots of doors for you, including enjoying new activities.

  12. Lia says:

    This is so wonderful to hear! I know you have a tough journey ahead, so cement these positive thoughts, feelings and memories in your brain for when the going gets tough. Well done.

  13. I’m late to this post, but I just wanted to say thank you for posting this and for the app recommendations. 10 years ago I dropped 45 pounds on weight watchers (just using the points system and my palm pilot) but now that the weight is back and I’m a much busier person, I didn’t have the commitment to compute or look up the points for everything. 
    LoseIt is exactly what I needed. Simple calories, easy lookup, and great barcode scanning recognition (I seriously haven’t found anything it can’t scan) I’ve been using it since I read this post 6 weeks ago, and I’m down 12 pounds with 12 to go to my first goal.

    I just wanted to say thanks! 

  14. I’m so happy to see someone else say what I’ve been telling everyone ever since I started my own weight loss. Specifically the bit about dieting being far more important than exercise.

    I’m 6’3″ and I was 319.6 pounds 4 months ago. I’m 247.0 today and the weight is still falling off rapidly. I did nothing but pick an arbitrary calorie number (obviously significantly less than the calories I need to maintain my weight with sedentary-level exercise) and stick to it. I never cheated or was tempted to cheat once in the entire four month period.

    It was easy and is still easy. I no longer care about food and actually find eating all these calories I eat every day kind of a pain in the ass.

    I’ve also enjoyed the metrics part of this. Keeping track of caloric intake and daily weight and figuring out patterns and what accelerates losses the most.

    I haven’t pushed protein very hard (though I have considered it and from what I’ve read I think you’re definitely right to). In fact all I do is get lean cuisines/smartones/healthy whatever meals and make sure my calories add up at the end of the day. Undereating is as bad as overeating as you then slow your metabolism and get temporarily trapped at a lower calories/day level.

    I would stuff myself with junk food once a week just to juke the metabolism and keep it burning hot and keep losses fast. But after awhile I started to feel like that wasn’t even necessary so I stopped. (Never really liked the cheat day. Only did it because my analysis showed that it sped things up)

    Now I’m upping my calories by 100/day per week everytime I have a Monday weigh-in at a new 5-pound milestone. Since I started that, I haven’t missed a 5-pound milestone. And since 250 is my milestone for this week, it looks like tomorrow’s weigh in will allow me to add another 100 calories on the daily routine.

    I’ve found rum and diet coke to be the most calorie efficient way to get shmammered during this too.

    Overall this has been a fun and basically effortless task and I am coming away from this with the basic newly gained understanding that losing weight is significantly easier than gaining it. It took me around 7 years to go from being a monster 10k-calories/day 174-pound seemingly anorexic beast to a 320 pound behemoth. And four months (plus a few more) to get back to something close to my original weight.

    I’ll probably get back into running soon if I feel like it. But for the most part the only thing that will change for me is that I get to wear my high school clothes again, of which I have tons. And I’ll just continue being the mathematician and programmer that I’ve always been. Just less prone to heart attack.

    Has this been a million times easier for me than most people because I was always naturally super skinny with a fast metabolism and only recently let myself go? Probably. But whatever. This isn’t as much about gender/age/height/weight/genetics as people think. It’s simple thermodynamics. The energy in/out can’t be juked. You limit your calories per day, then you’re going to lose (maintenance – limit)/3500 pounds per day in the long run (weeks/months). It’s actually more calculus than algebra, since “limit” will change as your weight changes, but that’s a simple integration problem. I did it on day one to figure out what I needed to do and here I am.

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