This is my story of what steps I took to go from 195 to 145 pounds. Most of it was pretty hard and every fall I seem to gain back 10-20 pounds. As I delayed writing this post it let me live through a few years of gaining and losing weight and what worked some years did not work every year. I mainly delayed because I know a lot of people struggle with weight and I have 2 daughters and I don’t want them to think that they need to lose weight or promote any unhealthy eating habits. I have also heard about the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting causing people to lose muscle and then gain the weight back and all of that is beyond my expertise so take this for some tips that helped me and use at your own risk. I am also not a doctor, nutritionist or in any way qualified to give advice except I found some things that have helped me be successful so I wanted to share them in case they help someone else out.
Here is a video that adds some extra stories behind some of these points as this article was already getting pretty long 🙂
Start tracking your weight
As a finance person I love numbers, trends and trying to understand what is the most important things to focus on. When I first started I would weigh myself around 15 times a day. I was curious how much my weight changed throughout the day, how much it changed after a run, big lunch, or going potty, or chugging a Nalgene of water. After I had some idea of how much my weight changed throughout the day I simplified to weighing myself once in the morning when I first wake up and then once in the evening. I found the evening weigh in helped me stay a little more accountable to what I consumed In the evening. Then I switched to only weighing in the morning and eventually once I was at my target weight to only tracking my weight every Monday morning. All of these change were over months after I got a feel for what moved my weight. Water / Dehydration can have a major impact on weight so after I understood that I tried to keep my water consistent and you will see under strategies later that filling up on water is a good long term strategy. I also kept strength and exercise consistent or even increased to promote losing fat and not muscle.
For the tracker I used a “note” in my iphone where I would list the newest date at the top and put my weight. I added the time if applicable and any notes to help me track such as ate 4th of july cupcakes.
Create forecasts and highlights for how you can lose weight
You can not move beyond step 1 until you have a proven method that works for your body of how you can lose weight. What can you consume and how much exercise is needed? After tracking what moves your weight up and down you need a formula that you can try to follow and create a forecast for how much weight you should lose. Ann example might be to eat 2 servings of cheerios, 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of milk, drank only water the rest of the day, and ate 2 servings of salad and not other sugar so I should expect to lose 1 pound. Then the next day you step on the scale and see if your formula or forecast worked. If it didn’t come close then you can think back to what you might have done differently and try to investigate if there is something else you need to change. One great example is I found out that if I ate the cheerios without milk or less milk it helped me lose more weight. This discovery was on accident as I would work away from home and just eat cheerios out of a zip lock bag and then started working from home more and adding more milk and have not as good results. I would have a great day working out and only eating cereal and would expect to lose 1 pound and then would check my weight and would only lose 0.3 pounds or something less than I expected and when I looked back at what I ate / drank the only difference was the amount of milk I drank.
What you eat is way more important than the amount of exercise
This one was a shocker for me. I love to work out and I love to eat. I thought I could have the best of both worlds but what I quickly realized when tracking my weight is that I could have days where I ran 10 miles and would still gain weight because I ate like crap and I could lose weight on days when I didn’t exercise at all. I know that muscle weighs more but these changes over a few days are not related to muscle gain or loss. There is a myth that you lose weight through exercise – when I first lost my weight I had multiple people see me at the pool and make comments that I looked great and they needed to start working out more and get back into shape. This is what the exercise and food marketers of the world want you to think.
Sugar is the worst
I have 3 small kids and my wife and oldest daughter, Jen both love to bake cake and cookies. So with multiple kids birthday parties every weekend, cakes at night and unlimited snacks around the house it was so easy to find ways to eat too much sugar. I was also wildly misinformed about what things were not good for me. Gatorade was a great example – I would go for a run and sometimes would eat Gatorade chews on the run and come home and drink two 12 oz Gatorade’s because they were cold and tasted awesome. Through some great marketing I thought I was replenishing my body but really I was consuming 100% of my daily sugar in a 1 hour period and probably completely canceling out the positive weight loss impacts of any workout I did.
Alcohol is the Enemy
I don’t think I could have lost weight if I was still drinking alcohol. When I first stopped drinking I craved more sugar and substituted root beer, milk shakes and other drinks. After a few weeks my sugar leveled off and my weight started to drop. Then I got curious and reduced my sugar and my weight just fell off. I talked to other people who lost weight and a lot had a similar story of starting with alcohol. When you drink alcohol you end up eating more calories due to lower inhibitions, getting the munchies or hungover, and I think it actually makes you not get as full. Like all things just try the temporary experiment and see if it helps at all.
Weekends vs Weekdays
For me it was way easier to lose weight on weekdays when I had a set schedule of school for the kids and work for me. On the weekends we were traveling, celebrating, or just rewarding myself from a hard week. When I was losing weight a typical formula might be lose ~ 1 pound a day Mon – Thur = minus 4 pounds and then gain 2 pounds on the weekends for a net lose of 2 pounds for the week. It is also very easy for me to see how if I wasn’t being healthy during the week it is easy for my weight to creep up a little bit each week. I think my conclusions for this observation is that I need to be super healthy during the week to absorb any unhealthy weekend choices and to see the value in trying to have a weekend where I say no to seconds / deserts and get to fully recognize my hard work over the week and not gaining most of it back on one night.
It’s a marathon and not a sprint
I ran marathons before but when I was losing weight I did not run any organized races due to covid and a busy life with kids. But the old analogy of pacing myself and trying for long term success was very important. It is still crazy to me that I can do everything perfect and lose 1 pound in a day but I can make a few wrong choices and eat a huge steak and dessert and gain 2 pounds in a day. It highlights the need for consistency.
It’s not sustainable / have a goal
I think another trap to fall into is to not try some of these changes because you like dessert, cheeseburgers or hate to work out. Once I lost the weight and hit my target I went back to eating “normal”. I continued to track my weight and saw how vacations, holidays, and weekends impacted my weight but for long periods of time I didn’t really eat as healthy. It also helped me to have a date in mind when I wanted to hit a certain weight so that I could use that date for extra motivation. I never understood cheat days but I have heard that it has helped a lot of people and it helps to reset metabolism. For me it was better to have a period of 1 or 2 months where I made a lot of effort to eat healthy and lose weight and then go back to a lifestyle where my weight stayed about the same.
Sushi, Sparking Water and Restaurant Salads
I always thought if I ate Sushi that I was being healthy. I do not fully understand why but when I eat Sushi I always seem to gain at least 1 pound. I am not sure if it is the soy sauce that causes me to retain water, or if it is because I over eat because mentally think I am eating healthy or mentally I feel like rice and small pieces of fish are not going to fill me up. I noticed similar things for getting salads at mod market, Panera or other salad type places – I would seem to gain at least a pound. I think part of the salad issue is that they add dressings, chicken, etc. All restaurants want it to taste good above all else so even if the ingredients are healthy they will add more things than what you need. Sparkling water is also a mystery – I am not sure what the “Naturally essenced”, other hidden ingredients, or maybe just the carbonation but I noticed that when I drink sparking instead of regular water I don’t lose as much weight or may even gain wait. I see that it shows 0 calories on most brands but I also noticed that there are lots of diet cokes that are also 0 calories and while I could realize that diet coke was bad it took me a little while longer to figure out that sparking water may not be as good for me. All of this said I still assume that Sushi, Sparkling Water, and Salads are a much healthier alternative than milk shakes, steaks, cheeseburgers and they may even be healthy for you but in my experience if your goal is to lose weight then I would eat the smallest portion of them that you can. ci
The main point here is as you are tracking your weight you will probably find some things you think are healthy but are not helping you lose weight. I think you should continue eating them long term and they are probably “healthier” but they may not be helping your weigth loss.
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are the best (For Me)
I pretty much grew up never eating salads or vegetables – it did not taste as good as steaks, cheeseburgers, pizza, etc. If you google what is healthy or what foods are best it usually comes up with fruits and vegetables or things that are from the fresh section of the grocery. I hear a lot of people talking about plant based diets and also hear that animal protein is the best protein you can get and try to stay away from diet fads but I do know that eating more fruits, vegetables and nuts helped me lose weight. When I was losing the most weight I was eating mostly cheerios, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, and 50/50 salad mix and all kinds of nuts. Sometimes I would mix the fruit and salad to make green smoothies, and sometimes I would eat cheerios for all of my meals a day. I am sure these are not healthy long term but for a busy day I know they are healthier than fast food or eating easy comfort food.
Stages of change
I think the stages of change is important to point out for any change you want to make to your lifestyle. You can google it and find more info but for me it basically worked like this – every spring when I try to shed my winter weight I go through it and it sounds something like – I want to lose some weight but I am I am not fully committed to it yet = I am in the contemplation or preparation stage. I am still going to eat dessert or just eat salad once a week or really not try that hard. Then after a few weeks of not making any progress then I am finally ready for the action stage. I am finally ready to make the sacrifices and go for consistent eating less and more healthy foods.
Before and After
I gave a talk once and mentioned weight loss as a topic and someone asked for some before and after pictures. I don’t have any great ones as I was not taking pictures with the hope to show off my weight loss but you will be able to see the difference and I think you can also see it in my face so I included a family pic to verfity the timeline becasue in the 3rd pic I am holding out 3rd kiddo who was not even born in the first 2 photos – I was always skeptical of before and after pics as there was no way to establish timeline and the after pic could have really been a before pic.
Intuitive eating, Ozempic, intermittent fasting, and other fads
All of the fads and things out there are one of the reason I struggled to write this. I know that what worked for me diet wise will probably not work for everyone and people feel very strongly about what they believe is best. I didn’t do any of these fads but did more a crowd source of googling best foods for weight loss, healthiest foods and doing a lot of trial and error. I would say do and try what makes sense to you and for me calories made the most sense as it was a math formula I could try to follow.
I think its valuable to look at some of your habits – for instance one of mine was to finish all of my kids leftovers. I for some reason didn’t want it to go to waste. This along with lots of other evolutionalry things in our body serve a purpose but if you are trying to lose weight it is probably not helpful.
You can do it!
I think my goal is for you to have read this and to start tracking your weight and seeing if you can make some changes. My second goal is for you not to become obsessed about your weight but to experiment with how eating healthier impacts your weight and maybe your mood, sleep, energy etc.
It was empowering to see the pounds come off for me and to fit back into the shorts I had from high school although they had pleats in them and my wife said they were out of style – it still felt good. Previously when I tried to put on these shorts I had the buttons pulled off because they were too tight and had to have my mother in law sew them back on – but now they fit 😊 I think for about every 10 pounds I lost I went down one size – so from size 36 to size 32 for 50 pounds. I also felt better and that I could run faster and jump higher. As I was losing weight the first time our middle kid weighed about 45 pounds and I would do push ups with him on my back and I could feel how much harder it was and could feel glad that I wasn’t carrying that weight around any more.