May 2015 Update: My weight loss has totaled 35 pounds. I now weigh 165 lbs. Thank you everyone for your comments, well wishes and best of luck to you with your own health. Thanks also to Slashdot for sharing this post with their community; it’s received nearly 40,000 page views. Since I wrote this, I received a brain tumor diagnosis (unrelated to the weight loss) and will be focusing on my treatment path for a while. The health improvements from my weight loss will serve me well as I move forward.

My Weight Loss Story

Over the past nine months, I’ve lost 30 pounds and counting. It’s taken discipline and commitment but I’ve never felt uncomfortable or experienced significant periods of hunger. I feel tremendously better in my body. My blood pressure’s dropped from 135s/90s (pre-hypertension) to 110-125/70-80. My total cholesterol has dropped from 186 to 144 (and LDL from 134 to 85). I’ve learned so much through this process that I’d like to share this with others.

Obesity is epidemic, most Americans struggle with it. The CDC reports that 69% of adult Americans are overweight or obese. The average weight for men rose ‘dramatically’ from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002; women went from 140.2 pounds to 164.3 pounds. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in our country. If you’re in the tech industry like me, you’re likely at greater risk due to the sedentary nature of our job. But, Nielsen reports that even average Americans spend 11 hours per day in front of a screen.

In 2011, I injured my knee and spent a year trying to rehabilitate. Finally, I chose to have surgery at the end of 2012. I couldn’t run for nearly two years and I gradually put on weight.

Here’s what I looked like before in July 2014 at 200 pounds and after in March 2015 at 170 pounds:

My weight loss before after and final

I thought I was 15 pounds overweight for my build. The most surprising part of this experience was slowly discovering that I’d been 30 possibly 40 pounds heavier than an optimal weight. I mirrored that CDC study.

I’ve literally turned back the clock in pounds between fifteen and twenty years. And, I did so without any running. Here’s a fun chart of my weight through adulthood based on drivers licenses and older workout sheets I managed to find:

Weight Loss By Year

Weight By Year

I briefly hit 169 back in 2011 during a difficult breakup. But, I haven’t remained at that weight since somewhere between 1995 and 2000.

How I Lost The Weight

In 2014, I purchased a Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Scale and began recording my weight each morning. That’s how I know I’d reached 200.1 pounds in July 2014.

In September 2014, I met with a nutritionist and began actively trying to lose weight. I was 197.3 pounds. For about a year, my blood pressure had reached borderline hypertension regularly testing above 135 / 90. I was taking naturopathic supplements to reduce it.

Weight Loss Since July 2014

Weight Loss Since July 2014

I began tracking my calorie intake using MyFitnessPal (the iOS app is very efficient at this, the website is not). In addition to knowing the calorie counts and protein levels of most common foods, it allows you to scan barcodes as well. It works incredibly well and is easy to make a habit of.

I’ve largely been a healthy eater and completely vegetarian for many years, but I’d been eating more than I need. I began by instituting a daily calorie limit of 1,850. It felt like a lot less than I’d been eating and at first, it was a bit of an adjustment but I was never uncomfortable.

Gradually, I rediscovered the occasional, normal sensation of hunger that I’d lost to the rule of snacking before you get hungry.

It’s important to eat sufficient protein to encourage your body to focus on burning fat and not muscle. My daily protein goal was 100 grams. It also helps to workout on a slightly empty stomach to target fat burning.

My workouts for most of this entire period consisted of some muscle strengthening (PT rehab, mostly) and low impact mellow cardio (elliptical, spin, real stairs, et al.) workouts between 25 and 45 minutes, generally 30-35 minutes. I was typically at the gym four to six days a week with some breaks when I traveled. I only practiced yoga intermittently in order to focus on my cardio at the gym.

After about a month, I weighed 191.6 pounds. I wanted to progress a bit faster, so working with my nutritionist, I cut my calorie count to 1,700 calories. I’ll describe how I did this in a healthy manner below.

By January 1st, 2014, I weighed 180.4 pounds. I’d made tremendous progress but I was still carrying significant body fat, approximately 18%; and I could see it in the mirror.

I began to flexibly aim for 1,600 calories per day. During January, I averaged between 1,650 and 1,700 calories daily with some lower days. It was definitely a bit of a challenge to carefully monitor my food limits during the day but again I was never uncomfortable or experiencing even moderate hunger. Typically, I’d eat 450 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 650 in the evening.

Daily Calorie Count on Weight Loss Path

Daily Calorie Count

As your body fat comes down, it takes less food to maintain your weight. As you approach your goals, your weight loss will slow down and become more difficult. I began adding gradually more intensive speed intervals to my cardio routines e.g. 2 minute slow, 1 minute fast, et al.

By mid-February, I weighed about 175.8 pounds. I was feeling tremendously empowered and skillful. At this point, I made a personal choice to keep going and to accelerate my efforts. I don’t recommend this for others but I felt comfortable lowering my calorie threshold to 1,500 calories. That’s about 450 calories for breakfast and lunch and 600 in the evening. Doing this took great focus and discipline. I continued to aim for 100 grams of protein daily.

Daily Protein Consumption on Weight Loss Path

Daily Protein Consumption

Again, the only reason I was able to succeed doing this is because I had gradually been reducing my food intake over eight months. Each step down was a small incremental step which my body felt ready for. There’s no way I would have succeeded beginning with a 1,600 calorie daily goal.

In early March, I also increased my cardio time to between 45 minutes or an hour on most days.  It took longer than I expected but I finally reached 169 pounds in mid-March. Even at 1,500 calories, I’ve never felt an increased struggle or added hunger — mostly, I’ve felt great.

Over time, my body fat went from a high of 21% down to a low of 12.5%:

Body Fat Towards Weight Loss

Body Fat Reduction

How I Reduced My Calorie Count for Optimal Weight Loss

It helps greatly if you are willing to eat similar foods day to day that are easy to track, at least for breakfast. My go-to breakfast was the highest protein (10g) Kind Bar (Almond Walnut Macadamia)aria weight scale (200 cal), a Fage 2% yoghurt (150 cal), an apple (70-85 calories)  and a tall nonfat latte (100 cal). The repetitive routine helps you stick to your daily calorie counts and it allows your body to “acclimate” to a certain amount of food per meal.

daily-food example thumbIt doesn’t matter as much if your calorie counts are exact as much as it matters that you count what you eat consistently. Check out a food log from my typical day.

In order to reduce the amount of calories, I began gradually substituting lower calorie replacements:

  • My tall nonfat latte (100 cal), became a short nonfat latte (70 cal) which became a tall Americano (15 cals) and eventually an espresso (6 calories). It turns out that I prefer the intense taste of short lattes and espresso.
  • My Fage 2% (150 cal) transitioned to a Fage 0% (100 cal)

I also greatly reduced the frequency of high calorie beverages I’d grown used to drinking. For me, that meant giving up Kombucha (150 calories in some cases), Coconut Water (100 calories) and even Greens Juice (50 cals). Instead, I’d have water, sparkling water and Diet Coke. I haven’t had much beer during this time. My favorite, stout, can have up to 200 calories. Instead, I have red wine a few days a week (120 cals). In the future I’ll drink more schooners and less pints.

Surprisingly, I stopped making smoothies – in general, these packed too many calories for my daily budget. To ensure I kept up my protein intake, I supplemented many days with Whey Protein and Skim Almond Milk using a shaker cup. This was quick and easy to prepare and about 120 cals combined.

Instead of eating a whole bar of dark chocolate (420 cals), I’d literally have 2-3 squares each night (50-75 cals). It became surprisingly soothing to have a bit of chocolate.

I began drinking tea nightly, hearty tea. My favorite is Traditional Medicinals Licorice Root tea (0 cals) or tea to help me sleep like Bedtime Yogi Tea. Tea is a great substitute for late night snacking.

Carrots and celery are your friend. You can eat a lot of them without piling on the calories, though celery is better in this regard.

Instead of eating a whole medium pizza, I learned to eat 1-2 slices (depending on the meal). I learned that tortilla chips and rice are the enemy. I ate very small amounts of them generally and only a few french fries here and there.

Occasionally, I had a few bites of other people’s desserts but for the most part, I’ve had no muffins or baked goods since last summer.

While I initially ate a lot of prepared deli food at my coop, I gradually realized that the amount of oils they use in preparation created artificially high calorie counts that I needed to avoid.

I actually eat out a lot so would often have a pita plate with humous or a black bean burger with a salad – often with a glass of wine. This would mostly fit into my 600 calorie dinner limit. As I lowered my calorie count to 1,600 and then 1,500, I began to occasionally repeat my breakfast at lunch – or have a small vegetarian burrito or a single slice of pizza with yoghurt and carrots or celery.

I probably have leaned a bit more on caffeine throughout this period. I’ve frequently had an afternoon coffee, which isn’t typical for me. I expect to wean myself off of this gradually. Stimulants suppress your appetite and an afternoon latte or espresso felt like a personal treat in an otherwise regimented diet.

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What Else I Learned

People initially began to notice my weight loss after about eight to ten pounds but much more frequently after 25 pounds. Over time, the folks at the gym (both staff and members) began to root me on which provided a great boost (thanks Zum!) After 15 pounds, my pants began to fall down without a belt.

As my weight’s come down, my blood pressure returned to near normal ranges of 110 – 125 / 70 – 80 and my pulse dropped from 80s to 60s. I reduced my body fat from 21% to 12.5%. My total cholesterol has dropped from 186 to 144 (and LDL from 134 to 85).

Counting calories and reducing the calorie thresholds gradually over time was key to my success. I never tracked workout calories in MyFitnessPal because I think that makes it too easy to cheat yourself and eat more. I didn’t use a FitBit to track my workouts either.

My workouts were never hard core but as my weight loss increased it became easier and easier to increase their intensity. Climbing steps became easier as well. Taking 30 pounds off my knee for the rest of my life will be incredibly helpful long term.

Because I’ve lost the weight gradually over time (about one to one and a half pounds weekly), I’ve acclimated my metabolism to my exercise and diet routine. However, I plan to continue counting calories for some time. When I’m ready to normalize my eating, I’ll increase my calorie threshold, first to 1,650 and stay there for some time to ensure I’m not gaining back weight. Then, if that works well, I’ll return to 1,700 and 1,750. I don’t expect to be able to go higher than that and stay below 170 pounds.

My nutritionist recommends setting an ideal weight range e.g. 168-172 rather than having an exact weight. If I notice my weight creep upwards, it’s time to return to more careful calorie counting and exercise.

The Most Important Lesson

hhh-cover

One of my yoga teachers, Sarahjoy Marsh, recently authored Hunger, Hope, and Healing: A Yoga Approach to Reclaiming Your Relationship to Your Body and Food. I’ve trained with Marsh for yoga the past several years. She’s was an inspiration to me, helped me heal and grow personally and influenced my path and my writing.

Hunger, Hope and Healing is oriented to help people heal their relationship with food.

Over the past few years, I’ve completed more than 600 hours of yoga teacher training. This, counseling and my yoga training with Marsh has really helped me become a more resilient, positive person. Many people have a hyperactive inner-critic. Certainly, I’m not immune to negative feelings such as shame but I no longer beat myself up psychologically. I’m kind, gentle and supportive with myself. I’m quick to remind myself that I’m human and it’s always okay to have faults, imperfections and vulnerabilities — and to make mistakes.

This foundation of psychological health made it easy for me to approach weight loss with an entirely positive frame of mind. I never felt there was anything wrong with me. On days where I ate a bit much or gained back a few pounds, it was nothing more than a step in the process — it had no emotional meaning packed into it. I never felt that cutting calories was an act of self-denial or punishment. I never blamed myself for missteps or taking a day or two off from the gym.

Upon reflection, this was an essential part of my sustained focus for the past eight months. If you venture down this path, I’d encourage you to integrate counseling (and perhaps yoga) into your plan.

If you’re facing the challenge of being overweight or obese — or disordered eating, I hope you find something in this post that is inspiring or helpful. I know how difficult a struggle it is. It’s taken me much longer than I ever expected. Take a long term view e.g. six months or twelve months. The rewards are worth it. I truly wish you the best.

Please feel free to share your experience.

If you enjoyed my essay, please consider joining Patreon as one of my supporters to support future essays. Or, share this essay with your friends on social media. Thank you.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest. Try scheduling a meeting with his new startup Meeting Planner (https://meetingplanner.io), simpler, faster scheduling for work or play and read his series about building it). Follow @reifman on Twitter.

62 Comments

  1. Gregory Heller March 22, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Jeff, Why did you choose iFitnessPal rather than the calorie counting/tracking feature of the fitbit app?

    Reply

    1. I didn’t do a thorough review but MFP seemed to have more extensive foods I use than Fitbit.

      Reply

  2. whycantibeanon March 24, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Exactly what part here is the “hacking”? All I see is sensationalistic terminology. Nothing of what you’re doing is a “hack”; just basic caloric restriction and some old-fashioned put-down-the-fork. Seriously…

    Reply

  3. Great article. Thanks for sharing your path to success. Good luck with your long term maintenance goals.

    Reply

  4. Exercise
    is great but it won’t lose you weight.
    Most of the energy we use is used to keep our core temperature up. It’s the price we pay for being mammals.

    Reply

    1. I thought death was the price we pay for being mammals.

      Reply

      1. It’s the price we pay for being alive.

        Reply

  5. Not surprised that naturopathic remedies weren’t working, since they’re nonsense.

    Reply

    1. Actually the product is called Carditone and it did lower my blood pressure when used daily. But now I’m off of it and my BP is normal.

      Reply

      1. Yes, the placebo effect is powerful.

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  6. SO much wasted effort with all that “cardio”. Look up the James Steele youtube videos “No such thing as cardio” and Doug MaGuff’s presentation at the 21 convention a few years back. He gets into the biochemistry and it’s fascinating stuff.

    If you want to lose weight, start doing Crossfit style metcons. Those suckers work and cause a great “afterburn” effect which is the gift that keeps on giving.

    Reply

    1. Fair enough – but I’m still not back from my knee surgery – so I had to do low impact.

      Reply

  7. Congratulations on your weight loss Jeff. Most people don’t realize that weight loss / weight maintenance needs to be part of your lifestyle and takes quite a bit of time and effort.
    I’m curious, what’s your height? That helps put your weight loss in perspective.

    Reply

    1. Hi Doug, thanks. I’m 5’9″ (my first girlfriend swore I was 5’8.75″ but she was clearly wrong.)

      Reply

  8. Congrats on your weight loss! One thing I’ve learned though – don’t be too hung up on your weight. It’s not that great of an indicator of how you’re progressing. I use measurements – waist, shoulders, chest, thigh, and bicep. Tracking those allows me to not worry so much about what the scale says and focus more on how my body is reshaping itself.

    Reply

  9. I did it almost the same way except that I opt for 1200/cals a day during the week and “splurge” on the weekends going up to 1800-2500/day. I’ve been doing this for over a year now.

    Over time I dropped 80 lbs, and still keeping it off and losing some. My blood pressure also went down to the sub – 120/80 range (the lower number has gone down to 75, which is optimal).

    I don’t stick to low-fat things since I mostly switched to the paleo diet with a slight modification. I very rarely eat anything with a starch in it.

    What I did do is completely stop all diet sodas (check out the research on why they are bad for you), and reduced my intake of sugar – except stevia. I especially stay away from high fructose corn syrup. You find that crap in everything now a days.

    Like you I found repetition the success to watching calories (except on the weekends when I allow myself to lighten up a bit). I like the Myfitness pal app…it is so easy!

    Anyway good luck!

    Reply

    1. Thanks for sharing Chance. Interesting approach. It probably allows you to have more of a social life on weekends!

      Reply

    2. This is a great option. I don’t have specific days, but I allow myself periodic splurges, but most days keep the calorie count low. I think this is a thing missing from a lot of diet programs. People need to feel like they’re not in some long-term struggle/punishment. Keep most meals sane and allow for the occasional splurge and it feels a lot less like a restriction.

      Reply

  10. Thanks Steve. I’m actually still at 1500 and feel great. I even enjoyed a bit of wine and chocolate last night. I’ll be back up to 1650 or 1700 next month.

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  11. I basically did the same thing, though with less alimentary regimen. I went from 220 to 170 over 18 months. Losing it very slowly while gradually changing my diet (I eliminated most meat and all added sugar) and continuing a daily workout (3 mile run every morning, 5-6 days a week), plus a weekly 90 minute workout and yoga, gave my body the chance to efficiently adapt without serious hunger pangs.

    Reply

  12. Thanks for sharing Tim. That’s awesome. Congratulations! Yeah, one of the reasons I kept going after I met my 185 goal was that I realized I could be healthier still and I never wanted to go through this intensive a process again … so I thought I’d do this once (hopefully).

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  13. If you want the sample daily diet – here’s the correct link: http://c2.jeffreifman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/daily-food-example.gif. I’ll fix the link above when traffic dies down.

    Reply

    1. Sorry, I’d have to disagree on this being a good diet. Maybe it reduced your calories and thus your weight but much more important is the quality of food. You can lose weight and still be unhealthy. For example, processed protein bars, store bought burritos (I assume prepackaged and processed, same with the burger), Almond breeze milk (definitely processed and of poor quality) are far from healthy. Counting calories is the wrong way to approach it (and harder really since you have to keep track of everything you eat). Just focus on eating the right foods, mainly whole foods not processed. Right there you cut out all the crap like refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, etc. Obviously counting calories is a modern concept and definitely wasn’t practiced by any other culture I’m aware of before the 20th century (or even before our generation). At the same time all these degenerative diseases weren’t an issue prior to the 20th century but became an issue as the industrial revolution and food production took hold. So it’s all in the quality of the food. I highly recommend the Weston A Price foundation and reading his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

      Reply

      1. Todd, obviously that’s a snapshot of one day over eight months. If you can get your weight down 30 pounds and gradually move further to a whole foods diet – you’re much healthier than you were before. The cholesterol and BP #’s back this up. I view this period as a transitional phase from my overweight self to a healthier baseline. I’m also vegetarian – for an American, I have a much healthier diet than average – though still perhaps not ideal as you say.

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        1. Yes I agree with you that it’s better to do it gradual than not at all. I guess I was just trying to make the point that calories really don’t matter. It’s the quality and what type of foods your eating. I just got the idea from the post that it was all about calories in/out, which yes will eventually help to lose weight (but even with that there is more to it). I’m pretty convinced (from much research and personal experience) that it’s all about the quality/type of foods we eat, not how much, for both weight and health. So not trying to attack your post or the food chart just throwing in my views. Though I guess we will disagree over the cholesterol, though a lot of research shows dietary cholesterol is not harmful and in fact is beneficial (and it looks like the DGA is finally going to back off of the whole cholesterol misconception for it’s new guidelines). But just my thoughts based on my research. Good to see you got the results you wanted and if you feel better now even better.

          Reply

  14. Thanks everyone for the positive comments. I have another story out this week which I hope you’ll check out – it’s on dating in Seattle after the tech boom: http://jeffreifman.com/2015/03/22/peepless-in-seattle-dating-friendship-and-the-seattle-freeze-after-forty/

    Reply

  15. Nice work Jeff. I had a similar experience with a similar amount of weight loss. Since then I’ve transitioned to what I term the high turnover diet. Lots of exercise and lots of food (3500 calories). I have a hard time restricting calories but don’t have a hard time finding exercise that I like to do a lot of. In the long run, lots of exercise may be harder on the body (see recent articles on running and mortality). Just throwing this out so people can see that there are two ways to approach maintaining a healthy weight and finding one that works for them is key. For me exercise is the key. For others it might be diet (not that I couldn’t benefit from a better diet).

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  16. you looked better before, imo…apart for the belly 🙂

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    1. see note above … 🙂 and thanks for your lack of any tact.

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  17. Counting calories, calorie restriction, etc. are not the keys to losing weight and being healthy. Of course you will eventually lose weight if you burn more than you take in, but it’s not always healthy and it’s much easier to do it just by eating right. I lost 50 lbs in 4 months without changing anything I was doing with exercise. I’ve always been active and play sports like soccer, do body weight workouts, etc. But I was on the SAD (Standard American Diet) but then I switched to eating whole foods from local farms and cutting out processed foods. Read many books/resources and realized that fat (even saturate fat) and cholesterol are actually great for you (in fact your body prefers to burn fat, not sugar/carbs) as long as it’s from naturally occuring healthy sources (grass fed beef for example). Also, cholesterol is a vital nutrient which our bodies keep at a needed level and eating dietary cholesterol does not affect your cholesterol level (more important indicators are possibly others like LDL-P). A great resource on proper nutrition is westonaprice.org, it was his book that got me started on really eating correctly.

    Reply

    1. hi todd, yes, absolutely: in another post i mention the guy who developed the “bulletproof diet”, again he discovered that it’s carbohdyrates (complex and simple) that are the real problem for us. he describes how to transition over, as if you try to cut out sugar and carbs straight away (because your body is LITERALLY addicted to them, as are the parasites that are helping generate the cravings by releasing chemicals into your bloodstream), basically you need to overload on fat (butter and good oils like coconut, keep the hell away from vegetable oil for goodness sake!) for about 2 days. that blasts your body’s dependence on sugar and from there you can transition to more sane levels of fat intake… which happens to taste nice! eating right doesn’t mean eat bland boring food! 🙂

      Reply

  18. I added a corrected link in the comments – scan up/down.

    Reply

  19. I’d recommend ditching the diet coke. All the latest research suggests that they’re worse for weight loss than regular coke. In fact, just ditch sodas. They’re horrible for your body. Surely you can find something sufficiently satisfying, even if it’s not as convenient. I drink tons of tea. I consume about 2 sodas a year now. I used to average 2 diet cokes a day. I don’t miss it at all.
    The biggest problem with the American diet (after processed foods & sugar) is portion size. Everyone’s gotten used to super-sizing everything. If you adapt to smaller portions, your body adapts pretty quickly and those smaller portions soon become as satisfying as the big portions used to and the big portions soon become uncomfortable.

    Reply

    1. can i just emphasise what fred says here, *the* absolute worst worst thing to consume is the artificial sweeteners. they have the horrible side-effect of convincing your body it’s receiving carbohydrates, but then *doesn’t deliver*. so you get the worst of all worlds. one of the power-drinks deliberately has real sugar, i forget which one it is.

      Reply

  20. Too bad you weren’t measuring HRV. If in the end your stress level is higher, I think you’re worse off.

    Reply

    1. worse off, as in “causing yourself dis-ease” and therefore end up dying early but being less weight? yeah i can see how that would suck 🙂 being less obtuse, tam, you’re absolutely right. but as i understand it there is more. the secondary purpose of fat is to shunt an overload of toxins, temporarily, that your liver and other organs cannot cope with. that *includes* toxins caused by anxiety and stress, as well as environmental ones – it’s quite involved. but, basically one of *the* worst things that you can do to yourself whilst dieting is go “omg omg i broke my target, stress, stress”. so yes, jeff, the yoga – and just being… relaxed about the process, and setting a goal which automatically gives you something to get the endorphins up as you achieve it, *that’s* part of why you succeeded. it was the whole package, *not* just the calorie reduction. jeff, btw, part of the success that you had was down to the reduction in carbohydrates, and also the introduction of the coffee. yes, really! look up the guy behind “the bulletproof diet”. he was… severely ill, exhausted, but wealthy enough to go off and find ways to “fix” the problem before it literally killed him. he explored meditation, yoga, low-fat diets, everything, and then one day, in a tibetan monastery, he was given this coffee with yak butter. the effect was… startling 🙂 so that was the start of his journey: a discovery that the right kind of fat and oil is very very good for you, and that coffee also has extraordinary benefits. from there he found that by using some very expensive equipment – far more costly than what you used – he discovered that it was carbohydrates (all of them) that were killing him. even eating butter where the cows have been grain-fed instead of grass-fed made a difference. so, looking at what you did – the diet you came up with – you can see “i stopped eating rice and corn chips and fries”. all of them carbohydrates. and espresso. coffee again. so i think *by accident* you ended up (through the calorie reduction) with a reduced intake of carbohydrates. something you might want to take a look at, if you want some food with a bit more taste. but make sure it’s grass-fed cows for the milk or butter you eat, ok!

      Reply

  21. The link to “my food log from a typical day” appears to be dead. Is it the same as the graphic beside it?

    Reply

    1. see fixed link in comments. I don’t want to update the page with the slashdot traffic coming in – it’s been huge volume today.

      Reply

  22. Well done! I think I stumbled on some of the same helpful tricks.

    Here’s what I did to lose 25lbs or so, slowly in about 4 months. The “hack” in my case was to reverse most common nutrition advice: I chose high-fat, low-carb and less exercise. As for tracking diet, I had to keep it simple for myself by focusing mostly on reducing carbs (50-75 grams a day) and substituting whatever I felt could keep me from getting hungry, namely fats, both “healthy” and “unhealthy”. Lots more bacon, cheese, full-fat yogurt in my diet now, but also avocado, coconut milk, and salmon.That helped not only physiologically, but psychologically, I’m sure. I did do an early reality check that my calories intake seemed sensible after the diet switch (about 1800). Like you said, keeping a very similar day-to-day diet helps build habits that stick.

    Other tricks that worked for you, also worked for me. I eliminated the nighttime snacks and replaced with herbal tea. Big win there. Light stretching / yoga in the morning *before* breakfast to build the fasting “muscle” too (13-14 hours daily). One day per week I push breakfast until 10am (16-17 hours). I read about the Fast-5 or 5-2 fasting regimes, and this was my very watered down version that was workable for me. No other real exercise during this period while recovering from sciatica. The running will return later this spring when it warms up outside.

    I had similar blood biometrics results after trying a couple years to improve things through adding healthy fats alone: LDL down 20%, HDL up 30%, total chl down 10%, triglycerides down 30%.

    I think the diet changes and reasonable fasting worked so well together, I credit both with allowing me to break some 20-year long habits.

    Thanks for posting!

    Reply

  23. Rayoph Lightman March 25, 2015 at 8:50 am

    From your photos, you look much younger and healthier before the weight loss. A year ago you seemed to look in your thirties. But now you look old, like in your early fifties.
    But then looks can be deceptive. Your inner health has improved as evidenced by your improved BP and cholesterol.

    To get younger looks, I would advise you to eat a lot more anti-oxidant and vitamin rich fruits and vegetables. From your mentioned diet, it looks like you have not been eating enough fresh raw fruits and vegetables daily. I would recommend guavas, pomegrenates, strawberries, papayas, and dark grapes.

    Also your face looks weak and tired because there is not enough blood flow to it. You need to do more yoga poses and exercises that will improve blood circulation to your head i.e. Shirasana (headstand), Saravanagasana (shoulder stand), Suryanamaskara (sun salutation). The last pose, Suryanamaskara or sun salutation, is really a series of poses done in one go.

    Reply

    1. Rayoph Lightman March 25, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Hey sorry, didn’t mean to offend or hurt you in any way in my previous post. I read back my own post and it sounds a little mean, heh.

      I am in fact very much inspired by your efforts and want to do more for my own health. I need to be more disciplined in my eating and sleeping times instead of solely focusing on daily yoga and jogging.

      Reply

      1. Thanks for commenting – I’ve been working pretty hard and staying up late writing … see http://jeffreifman.com/peepless-in-seattle/ … the earlier summer pic was also a particularly good one 🙂

        Reply

  24. Actually, you just saying much the same thing I did, but with a little more political correctness :^) However, exercise does not speed up our metabolism, this is a bit of a myth. Todd (below) seems to have the right idea.

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  25. Thank you for assisting me to get motivated to get back into better fitness!

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  26. Just as a technical point of clarification, the idea of calories in vs calories out is correct, it’s just a restatement of the second law of thermodynamics. The subtlety is that “calories in” can affect the “calories out”.

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    1. Yes, basically what I was getting at, in addition to other variables that can affect calories out. Thanks.

      Reply

  27. Hi John, my weight loss definitely plateaued a couple of times. I stayed with my calorie count, tried increasing the intensity of my workout – adding more intervals, and tried not eating several hours before working out. Also eating dinner earlier and not eating again til morning can help too. Be patient. Take the long view. Good luck!

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  28. Awesome article Jeff and congratulations on achieving this, seems like so many folks fall short when they try to loose weight. All the details are awesome.

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  29. Awesome, thanks for sharing!

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  30. Thanks for posting this. It motivated me to change my eating and I’m really seeing results–5 lbs over three weeks (I’m targeting 20 over the summer). I’m not keeping track of the calories (yet) but just trying to change my habits into choices. I really was snacking like crazy. Thanks again and I wish you continued success.

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  31. Your story is inspiring and informational. I’m on the same track but it’s easy to lose sight and reading your story has infused me with a new charge. Thank you and best of luck!

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  32. Hey Jeff:

    I’ve recently moved to Seattle and spent most of my morning reading your blog, from dating to socio economic conditions of DT to now weight loss, I’m impressed. I went from 228 to 128 over three years. I think the exercise was the easiest part of it all, but the rewiring of brain in terms of eating, as well as overcoming the psychological effects of obesity where the hardest. You’ve captured that here. Thanks for such a real write.

    – @macala_wright:disqus

    Reply

    1. Congratulations Macala! That’s a pretty amazing and transformative change. Thanks for the kinds words.

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      1. Thanks for replying Jeff, now I’m going to fan girl out like “OMG, one of my favorite writers actually responded….”

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        1. Funny 🙂 btw – my yoga teachers book may appeal to people you meet facing similar health challenges: http://jeffreifman.com/2015/02/21/hunger-hope-healing-yoga-approach-reclaiming-relationship-body-food/

          Reply

  33. Nice work! I love how you still ate chocolate and drank wine. I’ve learned that what works best for me is not eliminating anything from my diet, but eating certains things less often and in smaller quantities. I’ve learned that one spoonful of ice cream is about 99% as satisfying as a big bowl of ice cream.

    Reply

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