Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How I Lost 20 Pounds


In June 2015, I was freed up from some major obligations and had an opportunity to pursue a number of goals that I had been putting off for a while. One of these was to drop my weight from 165 to 145. This article looks back and summarizes this process.

Why Did I Want To Lose Weight?

Some people have asked why I wanted to lose so much weight when I was "thin" to begin with. At 165 pounds, I was at the top of my recommended BMI range. So I was actually borderline from being "overweight". I had also been gaining about a pound a year over the past 10 years, so things were going in the wrong direction. In addition, I found that working out was not rewarding for me, as any results were buried under a thin layer of flab. Finally, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

How Did I Lose the Weight?

Phase I - 165 to 155

Losing the first 10 pounds was actually the easier part. I was able to do this in about 6 weeks during June and early July. Here are the principles and strategies that I used at this stage:

  • Diet vs. Exercise - I knew that for me, controlling my diet was going to be much more effective than exercise. I personally find it much easier to stop stuffing my mouth with food than to exercise. The fact that I need to run for 20 minutes to work off a single donut makes it an easy decision for me to just not eat the donut in the first place. So I decided to focus exclusively on the eating side of the equation
  • Smaller Bites - This is the lynchpin of the strategy. Studies have shown that taking smaller bites can make you feel full with less consumption. I took this very seriously, and started to take almost micro bites. I would make a 300 calorie cheeseburger into an entire meal by taking 50 bites. I would cut a small piece of steak into 40 pieces. And so on.
  • Half Portions - This went along with the small bites. When placing a portion on my plate, I would simply imagine the portion that I would have taken before, and take exactly half of that. For example, instead of 2 slices of pizza, I would have one (but it would be the same number of bites, or more, than I was taking before). Did I skip going to the Asian buffet restaurant? Nope, I simply took 1.5 plates of food instead of 3.
  • No caloried drinks - I gave up alcohol and any other drinks with calories. Only drank diet soda or water.
  • Planning - Did I ever get hungry eating half of what I ate before? Honestly, no. I would always plan what my next meal was going to be, so I did not break down and resort to snacks. Since I knew what time my next food was coming, I simply did not consider snacking or eating before then. If I felt hungry at 4:00, and dinner was at 6:00, I would just tell myself to work 2 more hours and then I could eat.
  • Foods - Did I replace my diet with all vegetables and granola? Absolutely not. I ate the same things as before, just half as much of it.

Phase II - 155 to 145

Losing the second 10 pounds was harder than the first, and took about 3 months from July to October. Here are the principles and strategies that I used at this stage:

  • Technology - I began using a mobile app called LoseIt! You tell it your target weight and enter all the food you eat. It gives you a calorie limit for the day and tracks that you are staying below the limit. This was helpful because it turned my diet into a habit that I could maintain over time. I was actually able to eat much more than I was during Phase I, yet know that I would still continue to lose weight (though not as quickly). The app also held me accountable by sharing my results with friends. And it lets you eat more whenever you exercise - bonus!
  • Fundamental Rule - My fundamental rule of weight loss is the following: Imagine how a person at your target weight would eat, and start eating like that person. I was at 155 pounds and wanted to get to 145. Starving myself would only be a short-term solution. What I needed was to eat like a 145 pound person would eat. And the app helped me do that.
  • Avoid Extinction Bursts - There were some periods where I was doing everything right and not losing weight for several days or weeks. The temptation was to have an extinction burst and give up. Understanding the psychology of this allowed me to persevere and stick to the plan until the weight started coming off again.
  • Learn Your Pitfall Foods - I discovered in this phase that there were certain foods I liked that were just very high-calorie. To name a few - spaghetti, rice, and mozzarella cheese. I just need to be aware that when eating these, I need to take really small portions (or just skip them). For example, I found that for the calories in 1 cup of rice, I could eat 7 cups of broccoli. So I would grab lots of broccoli and just a little bit of rice.

That's all I did! I honestly feel that most people can do this using the strategies that I outlined above. If you have other ideas that you think might work for you, let me know and I can give you my opinion about it based on the experiences I had.


At 9:27 AM, Blogger BrianM said...

Great job!

At 9:27 AM, Blogger BrianM said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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