Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Losing Weight, When You're Lazy (January 13)

"Play to your strengths" is the advice given to Harry Potter during the Triwizard Tournament, and it's invaluable insight is applicable not just to facing dragons in a magical school.

When I set out to improve my health last summer, I knew it would take more than some kind of amazing burst of willpower. I was going to have to change some of my habits, and try to control my worst impulses, like the one to eat an entire pizza in one sitting. I didn't buy any expensive supplements or go on a strict nutrition plan. I didn't count calories, or even consider any individual food as being off limits.

What I did end up doing, starting in July of 2015, was make a commitment to eating less, and to exercising more. In making that commitment, I had a few things I liked doing built-in to my schedule to jump start my new diet and lifestyle. The biggest thing I did was to start biking to and from work every day, about 7 km each direction, unless it was pouring rain.

Really, the only other major change I made was to purchase Soylent, the food replacement I've talked about to death here, and eat only that at work. I know that I tend to eat when I'm bored, and so I would bring snacks to work and eat them throughout the day, even if I wasn't particularly hungry. By replacing that snack food with Soylent, which fills me up but which I did not crave, I was able to consume a lot less calories during the day.

Since food wasn't around, I didn't feel any strong urge to eat, and if I did, Soylent would be there to fill me up. I started losing around two pounds a week on average, but I started to notice a pattern developing. During the week, I would lose about 4-6 pounds, and then Friday through Sunday, I would gain back about 2-4 of that. My weight loss came in cycles, because as I mentioned, I have no willpower, and so I wasn't afraid to have a few slices of pizza when hanging out with friends.
The secret to weight loss: math, patterns, and patience.
After a couple of months of this pattern, where I would bike 4-5 times per week, play sports, and walk, my appetite, my waistline, and my stomach all shrank substantially. And through all of this, I never really had any strong cravings for food that I didn't satisfy. When I did snack, I was less likely to indulge as much, mainly because I just wasn't as hungry.

That's not to say I didn't get hungry. Another important part of this lifestyle was learning that it's OK to be hungry sometimes without eating. I started treating hydration more seriously, and my hunger lessened in kind. In total, from the end of August (after my honeymoon) to the beginning of December, I lost about 35 pounds.

If you look in detail at my progress, weighing myself every single day from August 20, 2015 to January 13, 2016, I have lost a total of 98 pounds in the 89 days I lost weight. On the remaining days, I gained a total of 64 pounds over 57 days. In that time, I've learned that eating a bunch of snack food, or just too much in general, like I did on many of those 57 "gain" days, is absolutely not worth the work I put in on the 89 "loss" days

I am currently better, but far from perfect, at deciding when I've had enough. I still enjoy cookies, candy, pizza, delivery, chips, cheese, meat, etc., but I know a lot better how my body is going to react to those foods, and how much I eat will affect me.

Now, it's the middle of winter, and I can't bike all over the place (also, my bike was stolen back in October :( ), but I am doing exercise where I can to keep up with food, and managing my intake better.

With the tracking system I've set up for myself, which I talk about here, I know that I can aim to weigh less today than I did yesterday, and less this week than I did the last, and I will be able to lose weight. It's all about finding what works for you, and playing to your strengths. Stay healthy :)

If you want to get a copy of the spreadsheet I've been using, let me know and I can make a clean copy available for download. I have been using the wireless Withings scale to track my weight and body fat percentage, if you want to check it out, I would strongly recommend it (full disclosure: if you use that link, I do get a commission) and it's been a big help to me. I have also been using the Withings Health Mate app, which is free, and IFTTT to make keeping track of my weight in a spreadsheet unbelievably simple.

You can do it, it's all a matter of finding your own path.