Over the years, the wrong people have been telling me how to lose weight, when the answer was in my pants the whole time.
I have been overweight my entire adult life. I’ve tried many ways to lose weight, but it never got anywhere. Even if the method wasn’t torturous, the results were fleeting… or worse, I would end up even fatter a couple weeks later.
I got suckered by impressive before/after shots. Most of the time, these people are already athletes or personal trainers who GET FAT, only to lose that weight again just to show fatsos like me that it is possible. It’s easy! It just takes discipline, hard work, and whatever they are selling, of course! They hide the fact that their bodies want to rubber band back into the previously hard and cut version, that their fatness was just an artificially induced, short-term thing, whereas my body keeps wanting to revert to its native state of roundness and softness.
Then there are people that have won the genetic lottery and tell me how to stay thin if you are predisposed to being rail thin. They have big smiles and tight outfits. And of course, they are selling something also.
Then there are just the people that did surgeries or had personal trainers/dietitians monitor them (because they were sponsored) and have all these other tools available to make themselves thin, and they are usually selling the most stuff.
They all lie.
Which is fine, we live in a giant marketplace. But for me, it was always discouraging because I would watch these people and then think, oh, this is not for me. I am not like them, so I cannot succeed.
I just want to put a story out there that worked for me – a lifelong fatso, who is still overweight, but not as overweight, after losing 35 pounds in 8 months. It is not a perfect journey, but it seems like it’s sticking… and it’s just a dusting of torture, depending on your willpower.
STEP 1 – I started measuring everything.
I had accidentally opened my fitness app on my phone a handful of times. It automatically counted steps, which was kind of neat. How did it know? Then I realized there was a calorie counting thing in it. And a blood pressure thing. Lots of things.
Just out of curiosity I plugged in some of my meals. The results made my head explode. Costco chocolate muffins… I could eat 2-3 in one sitting as a SNACK. That’s 1400-2100 calories. That is a DAY’s worth of calories.
But let me back up. The premise of weight loss is actually pretty simple:
CALORIES IN need to be less than CALORIES OUT.
CALORIES IN is food and drinks. CALORIES OUT is whatever the body uses in activity. Turns out on average, a person burns about 2000 calories a day from “regular” activity and sleeping. So to lose weight, you just need to eat less than 2000 calories in a day. That means… if I can get through the day on 2 Costco muffins… then I win.
So I dusted off the scale. And started inputting my weight 3 times a day: As soon as I woke up (lowest), lunchtime, and just before bed (highest).
I set a calorie target of 1700 a day, which would lead to about 2-3 pounds of weight loss a week. It was an aggressive plan, but I was impatient. I was going to Guam, and I wanted to show off my slightly less rounded, shirtless, hairy body to the horrified onlookers in Guam. I wanted to lose 30 pounds in 3 months.
STEP 2 – I got used to being hungry.
I could not stop cheating. My meals were getting smaller, and I was always hungry, so I would respond by EATING MORE. And I would try to compensate by taking more steps… but then I stopped inputting my food because who can take 5000 steps at 11pm?!! Anyway… it was a dark time.
So, I ended up fasting. I tried not eating after 6 pm. I tried skipping breakfast. I tried not eating one day a week. This helped in 2 ways: I was getting used to the feeling of hunger, and it was training my body to eat a little less.
Plus, I noticed this phenomenon: I could fall asleep super hungry… and then when I woke up, I was not hungry at all. The conclusion I came to is that my body ate itself at night! It was an awesome and somewhat disgusting thought (and probably grossly inaccurate, but I cannot bother to look up the science of it). I assume that in the absence of food, my body has no choice but to eat the ample fat in my system. So I gave myself a psychological goal. Try to go to bed hungry. It’s a good thing. I guess.
When I got back to my plan, it was a bit easier to take. I set a schedule for myself to skip breakfast and not eat after 6, and I was driven to be hungry when I got to sleep.
STEP – 3 I got plenty of sleep.
An unexpected side benefit of my hunger plan was that I would get so hungry… I would end up sleeping earlier every day. And it turns out that sleeping is really good for you.
You actually burn a lot of calories while you sleep. And there are lots of other benefits, like not being conscious to stuff your face with potato chips.
STEP – 4 I let myself cheat sometimes.
Despite all the training I did, on and off, I had to give myself little goals to shoot for. Usually, I would let myself go to a buffet once a week, or eat a pizza. That would push me forward to the weekend. However, as time went on… I would notice little shifts. I would look at the calorie count for a slice of pizza… and it would pain me. That would cause me to start cheating in slightly different ways. I started getting more economical… seeing how creative I could get with the calories. Grapes had surprisingly few calories (on my app), so I would stuff my face with green grapes. It became a science of how many low-calorie chunks of matter could I jam in my belly to feel full? Fruits and veggies were great with making me feel full without guilt. My appetite started to shift…. It’s blasphemous to admit but, I don’t want to go to buffets anymore… for every meal. I don’t have the capacity anymore. I think it’s a combo of age and the diet, but yeah, I can’t get my money’s worth at the buffet anymore. Now my cheating is just a slice of pizza instead of a whole one. The one cheat I enjoy that devastates my diet? A Popeye’s family meal. Luckily, there isn’t a Popeye’s nearby, so it can be a rare gift I give myself when I want to reverse a month of dieting. It’s probably the single greatest reason it took me 8 months instead of 4.
STEP 5 – I bend but don’t break.
There have been 2 stints where I just sort of quit tracking. My weight would shift up 10 pounds… I would feel guilty. It would be hard to open the app up again to see how many days had passed. I didn’t want to see how the line shot up. I wouldn’t want to start again. But I had to remind myself… no one is looking at this app but me. It’s all in my head. And it’s ok. I forgave myself. I would remember that for the first time in my life, my blood pressure is normal. And I have months of momentum that can start the ball rolling again, and see my weight tick down, down, up, down, up… but mostly down.
I would remember the perverse thrill of taking a giant poop and losing 2 pounds instantly. Once I got to a point where I had some momentum… it really helped. I am at 35 pounds and counting. I want to lose 10 more pounds before I treat myself to a Dim Sum buffet. Assuming I will even want it by the time it happens.
At any rate, that was my loose process. The only other thing is to take stock in the little victories. My weight popped up and down through the week. I would get upset with my body. I’d be like, HEY! I ate fewer calories today than yesterday… and my weight went up?!! What gives?!! I wish it were as simple as losing a set amount every day, but the body is a complex thing, and weight goes up and down from moment to moment. However, sticking to the plan has shown me that it does trend down at a predictable rate.
It’s 8 months later, and my wedding ring is slipping off my finger. I almost have the confidence to get it resized. I just need to let myself have a few more Popeye’s meals first.