For those of you who know we well, or knew me during the years of 2000-2005 probably know that I have lost of a lot of weight. Since my heaviest in 2002/3 I have continuously been losing weight – which is a delta of 74 pounds from my current weight to my heaviest weight (on a side note, I am not sure of the exact date since I didn’t own a scale until later in my journey so I am using the highest number I can recall from a doctor visit). And since my weight has gone up and done, I am sure I have probably lost close to 200 pounds since 2003, but I didn’t always keep track so I just don’t know.
When people first find out that I lost so much weight the next question is almost always – “How?”
And the answer is rather complicated actually – since I tried pretty much everything (well except the shake weight, because I think it is a bit too bawdy and you have to draw the line somewhere).
Why Lose Weight?
Before I go into the gory details of my diet and weight loss journey, let me give you a little bit of a back story on my motivations (since with any goal it helps to have a clear idea of why and the drivers that push you towards it, no?).
Growing up I was actually pretty thin. It was only when I went to college and I could eat whatever I wanted that my diet became Lucky Charms, hotdogs and bubblegum ice cream. When I went to work, I subscribed into the “hacker” culture (somehow I had to quench my deep desire to fit into something) and I started drinking tons of mountain dew (not diet). I also continued my healthy diet of pizza, macaroni and cheese, and candy.
I am not sure if it was my lack of proper nutrition or my sedentary lifestyle, but regardless of the cause I was sick all the time. I felt like I always had the flu. I didn’t sleep well. I went to doctor at least once a month for something. It sucked. I was so unhealthy.
In 2003 my tonsils got infected and swelled up to the point they were collapsing on my throat and blocking my airways when I slept – and this meant that I had to sleep with a machine until I could have surgery to get my tonsils out. Right after Christmas I had the procedure and I barely remember the 3 weeks afterward – it was a blur.
If you spend 3 weeks with no food and liquid Vicodin the result is weight loss. Although it sucks a ton so I wouldn’t recommend it (in fact they say this surgery is more painful than childbirth). When I went back to work a bunch of guys commented on how good I looked (I actually don’t know how much weight I lost since I didn’t have a scale, but none of my pants fit). As someone who desperately wanted a husband, or even a steady boyfriend, this sort of male attention was exciting. I was on to something.
Afterwards I gained any weight I had lost back (the coconut cream pie and grilled cheese was too tempting after almost a month of no food) but my desire to attract the attention of the opposite sex drove me to start making some changes.
The Weight Loss Experiments
This was the first thing I tried. And it worked pretty well. I ate hot dogs, those Aidell sausages, eggs and vegetables. I also started exercising. I would walk a few blocks and eventually got up to running a few miles.
After a while though, my weight plateaued. I think it was that I was eating lots of Atkin’s brand sugar-free chocolates so it was time to try something new.
Next I tried the South Beach Diet – I went to the bookstore and bought all the books and started making up recipes. The problem with this diet though was that it was such a pain in the ass to get the portions of carbs/fat/protein at every meal.
Hiring a Trainer
Since I wanted to start lifting weights and I managed to get a great deal with a personal trainer I started going twice per week to get some professional help. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time so this was a big expense for me and I was determined to make it work. He gave me a meal plan that involved “eating clean” and consisted of boiled chicken breast, oatmeal, green beans, sweet potatoes, brown rice and sometimes steak. During this period I ate so much chicken that to this day I still can’t eat big pieces of chicken (in fact now I am mostly vegetarian).
One good thing about this plan though was that I made all my meals for the whole week twice a week. It sure simplified things and totally ended my going out to lunch habit.
After building up my athletic prowess I decided I want to complete an Ironman triathlon. I never did the full Ironman, but I did a half-Ironman, a double century bike ride, and a handful of half-marathons. None of these really helped me lose weight, but I did build up my endurance and muscle tone.
After all this training I actually started to crave exercise and now workout pretty much every single day – I just don’t feel normal without it.
Food Delivery Service
Then I tried this food delivery service. It was expensive! I think it was somewhere between $30-40 per day so I stopped going to my trainer and did this instead. It only lasted two months because I just couldn’t afford it at the time. Plus the food was only so-so, and when I didn’t want to eat it I would just buy other food anyway. To be honest, I really wouldn’t recommend these services if you are a really picky eater (which I am). It is just too hard because even if you say no mayo, mustard, cooked onions, and beans and you think it represents all the things you don’t like – you will end up with cooked peppers (which are also not appetizing) and then not want to eat this super pricey food.
One of my internet friends was doing this diet for her wedding so I decided to do it with her. Even though it is totally weird, it was the diet I liked best. I loved the tomato soup and the fruit. Plus it was kind of fun having each day be so different. I only lasted on it a few weeks though, and even though I lost quite a bit of weight at first only a few actually stayed off.
The Method that Worked
All of this dieting and exercise craziness spanned about 2-3 years. And then finally I moved to the method that actually allowed me to lose and keep my weight off and is the method I advocate to anyone else looking to lost weight. Here is what worked for me:
- Weigh yourself everyday – write it down (I still do this)
- Work out regularly (Try for 6 days per week of at least 30 minutes – now I do 45-60 most days. Working out just needs to be walking don’t overdo it.)
- Write down what you eat
- Make sure that your calories in (food) is less than your calories out (daily calorie burn + exercise) — that is calories in < calories out
- Be consistent – it is a lifestyle change, not a diet.
I was really scientific about it all too. I actually weighed all my food with a scale and for those of you who are curious I have attached a spreadsheet below that is one I used to track my food. These days I use LoseIt and a Fitbit to track my progress in these areas.
diet-workbook-2005 (excel spreadsheet)
I should add that in addition from going from a size 16 to a size 4, the other great thing about this journey was that I rarely get sick (knock on wood) and I am in better health and have more energy that I ever did before.
If you are trying to lose weight and struggling just know that you are not alone. You can do it. Self-discipline is a like a muscle and the more you exercise it the easier it will be to stick with your plans in all areas of your life (don’t believe me? Read this post – building self-discipline is one of the best things you can do for yourself).
Comments? Other suggestions or ideas? Please leave them in the comments!