on weight loss and being healthier

Back in November, I realized that I needed to make a change.  I’ve always been a big guy, but I was now the huge guy, and I was sick of it.  Since then, I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds (99.5 at the moment).  I realized that someone else may be able to learn from my experiences, and so I figured I’d write up some of my findings in the off-chance that it can help someone.  For those that are lazy like me, here is the TL;DR of my key points:

  • You have to actually want to lose weight.  It is a simple thing to do, but it is by no means easy.  It takes real commitment.
  • A successful diet is not a temporary fix.  It is a lifestyle change.
  • It’s okay if you stray from your diet once in a while.  The key to making it work is to get back on as soon as possible.
  • Exercise is hard, it’s boring, and overall it kinda sucks.  Make it fun by playing something (play catch with a football, play basketball, anything like that)
  • Weight loss at its core is simple.  It’s calories in minus calories out.

You have to want to lose weight

Losing weight is hard.  Food tastes good, and exercise sucks.  If losing weight were easy, fat people wouldn’t exist.  I think one of the reasons that my diet has been successful is that I understood this from the start.  I knew that this would be hard, I knew it would take a lot of work, and I knew at first it would be straight up hell.  It turns out that it wasn’t quite hell, but it sure was difficult.  Knowing and understanding this gives you a leg up already, over people that think “oh this is easy! I just wont eat cake anymore”.   Acknowledging how hard it is will help you ensure that you actually want to lose weight, and are willing to fight through it.  If you’re reading this and thinking ‘screw that, it sounds hard’ then maybe you really don’t want to lose weight.  And if you don’t want to badly enough, you won’t do it.

It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix

One of the problems that people have with diets is that they’ll successfully lose a bunch of weight, and then think ‘ALRIGHT now I’m done, I can do whatever I want’.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true.  If you go back to doing whatever you want and not watching what you eat, you will gain weight back.  The fix for this?  Realize that you’re not just going on a temporary diet.  You’re changing your lifestyle for the better.  You will need to continue to eat healthy, you will need to continue to exercise.  The good news, is that you can be way less strict once you reach your goal, you just have to make sure to keep up the lifestyle to a certain degree.  When you reach your goal, maybe you only have to go to the gym 3 times a week instead of 5.  The point is, that you do still have to go to the gym/exercise, and you do still need to watch what you eat.

You can cheat every once in a while

The difference between a successful diet and a failed diet is simple.  It’s not whether or not you stray from your diet, because everyone does sometimes.  The difference is how quickly you get back on the diet.  If you mess up your diet on Friday, and think ‘well I already ruined it, I’ll start over on Monday’, you are much more likely to fail.  If you mess up lunch on Friday and think ‘I’ll get back on for dinner’, you are that much more likely to succeed.  It’s a simple tip, but it is definitely easier said than done.  Also if you do go off your diet, go to the gym again.  Take a 15 minute walk.  Do something to make up for it.

Exercise sucks.  Make it fun and/or find a way to make yourself do it.

There’s a bunch of different ways to do this.  Find someone to play catch with.  Play basketball.  One thing that I did to make sure I exercised and didn’t hate it was made sure that I always had something to watch.  The first few months I only let myself watch TV while I was exercising.  This was also when I was about 3 seasons into Doctor Who.  You can’t just not watch like 3 episodes at a time of that.  Needless to say, I got a lot of exercise that month.  Another thing I do to make it fun is make it a competition.  I got a FitBit (a glorified pedometer), and I have a bit of a competition with one of my coworkers.  I’ll be tired and not want to go to the gym one day, and then think ‘well, if I don’t go, Matt might.  I can’t let him win!” and then I’ll end up going.

Weight loss = Calories In – Calories Out

It’s pretty simple, really.  That said, you still shouldn’t eat 2000 calories of nothing but twinkies in a day and expect to be healthier too.  But remembering this simple formula will help you get back on track if you stray.  Say you had too much ice cream, well, now you either need to go work off that extra 300 calories, or have 300 fewer calories than normal for dinner.  As long as you’ve got a caloric deficit, you’re losing weight.  I’ve found that trying to eat around 2000-2200 calories in a day works best for me.

Random Tips/Tricks

  • Use ground turkey instead of ground beef whenever possible
  • Use wheat pasta instead of white pasta
  • If you want to go even lower calories, use spaghetti squash instead of pasta (it’s like 20% of the calories)
  • Snacks are good.  Fruit makes for good snacks.
  • Find a routine and stick to it.
  • Fish is very low calorie and generally easy to make

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One Comment

  1. Michael Hall July 16, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    Great write up, I love that this is written just like a blog about some open source software, rather than some uplifting motivational junk. In that same vein, I’ll add my own personal experiences to it:

    1) Vegetable taste good. They may not be a flavor that you crave, but unless they’re ruined by the cook they don’t taste bad. Enjoy them for the flavor that they have, and don’t think of them as a necessary evil or penance for your ice cream earlier.

    2) Your enjoyment of what you eat is directly proportional to *time* you spend eating it, not the *quantity* that you consume. A small portion of ice cream tastes just as good as a large portion, and if you slow down and take smaller bites, it will last just as long.

    3) Cook your own meals. I’ve found that I’m less hungry and consume less when I’m the one who prepared it. Also cooking is fun, which shifts part of your enjoyment of food into the cooking or if instead of the consumption.

    4) Cook from scratch. I’m not saying go crazy and paleo-diet or anything, but have you looked at the number of ingredients in a loaf of pre-made white bread? I learned how to make my own bread that has only 5 ingredients, and one of them is water. Also it makes killer grilled cheese and french toast.

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