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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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Six Months, Fifty Pounds

On July 2, 2011, I weighed myself, like I do every morning since I started [trying to be healthy and lose weight](http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/04/im-done-being-the-fat-guy/), and I weighed 300 pounds. Six months earlier, at the start of the year, I weighed 350 pounds. Six months, fifty pounds. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but I have a long way to go still. 115 more pounds until my goal, which I should hit by summer of next year. But this feels like a milestone, so here’s some of what I’ve learned in the last six months.

## Mindfulness and Quantification

I don’t consider myself “on a diet”. I’m not. I just eat. But I am mindful of what I eat. I record and quantify it. Recording all this data about myself (everything I eat, my daily weight, along with daily blood pressure and heart rate) pushes the happy button in my nerd brain. I can totally understand the [quantified self movement](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantified_Self “Lifelog – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”). I want to get a [Fitbit](http://www.fitbit.com/ “Fitbit”) device to track my daily activity and sleep, especially now that it integrates with [Lose It](http://loseit.com), the app/site I use to keep track of everything.

## Habits

I’ve been doing this long enough now that I have a feel for how many calories I should be eating each day, and if I had to, I think I could continue without explicitly logging all my food and activity. I’m not going to stop logging, since as I mentioned, I find it fun. It’s like a game now. But I think I’ve started to retrain away years of bad habits. And that feels like real progress.

## Bending Over

I can bend over and pick things up off the floor now, and breathe at the same time. I can tie my shoelaces. There are a whole bunch of other changes I’ve noticed with my body. I won’t detail them all here. But the best of all is that I feel better than I have in at least a decade. I have more energy. I don’t hurt when I stand up or walk for more than a few minutes. I actually feel good when I go for a walk. Walking used to be torture, and forget about anything more strenuous than that. I still don’t do much more than walking, but hey. Progress.

## Protein is Your Friend

I never really paid much attention to nutrition before. As in, what function things like protein, fat, and carbs have. I knew the basics, like carbs get turned into stored fat, etc. And I’m still no expert. But one thing I have learned is that protein is awesome. When I eat a lot of protein for breakfast (an egg, some jerky), I don’t feel hungry until at least lunch time. And protein is fuel for your brain. I’m sure this is incorrect in at least three different ways, but sometimes I figure if I can keep my brain fueled with protein, the rest of my body can fend for itself, and raid my ample fat stores for energy.

## Clothes

All my pants (cargos) are waist size 48. If I’m not wearing a belt cinched really tight, they drop straight to my ankles. Sorry for the mental picture. They don’t sag, they’re not baggy – they fall straight off. I need to get some new pants, but since I’m “in transition” to my destination weight, I don’t want to spend a lot on new clothes, so I’m going to hang on as long as I can. The other nice thing is that I can fit into shirts that I haven’t been able to wear in a while. I have many geeky t-shirts that have been hanging in my closet since I outgrew them that now have the added benefit of being vintage geeky when I wear them. And I look much better in a t-shirt too. Not as much “tenting” at the bottom, where my belly bulges.

## Onward

I’ve still got a **long** way to go. I’ve set my goal weight at 185, which is what I weighed when I came home from two years in Brasil as a missionary, when I was the most healthy and fit I’ve ever been in my life. Then, I wasn’t even trying – my daily routine of walking about 15km a day, and eating mostly beans and rice took care of changing my flabby self into something resembling a fit human being. I had muscle definition. I had a flat stomach. I don’t want to be a model or anything. I just want to be healthy and fit. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, sympathy, suggestions, and support. It means more than you know. Hopefully I’ll be posting another milestone update soon.

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