How I lost 120 lbs. and have been able to keep it off
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional. Everything I've written here is from my own personal experience and should not be used as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.
I subscribe to Scott Adams' blog and his Diet Science in 2014 post caught my eye as it had a lot of good advice about things that don't work when trying to lose weight; however, it only had a couple of suggestions for things that do work. I thought it might be helpful for others to share some of the things that have worked for me. I don't want any praise or complements; I'm mostly just embarrassed that I weighed as much as I did. I'm glad that I was fortunate enough to have the support of friends, family, and coworkers as I lost the weight and that I was able to find a way to keep it off.
I've always been 'big'; however, I gained a lot of weight after high school. I devoted most of my time to studying in college and work and I didn't take any time to exercise. I always knew I needed to lose some weight, but before I knew it, my weight had gotten out of hand and I weighed 317 lbs.
I started losing weight in July of 2011 when my company moved into an office that had showers. I only remember because we played in a Mudd Volleyball Tournament for the March of Dimes shortly after we started and I have some pictures with dates. Fortunately a couple of good friends / coworkers were excited that they could run and hike before work and they didn't mind taking it slow / easy with me. We tried to run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we would hike Mt. Sanitas every Tuesday / Thursday. We started REALLY slow at first. I don't think we even ran a half a mile (and we only 'ran' for a few minutes of the half mile). One of my coworkers had a "Couch to 5K" plan with intervals that encouraged us to run for short periods and then walk for longer periods at first and I tried to stick to those as best I could. Eventually I was able to run my first half marathon and have run several since (I thought I was going to die for the first one, but really it's not that bad; just make sure to drink and eat enough during the race). I also only made it half way up Mt. Sanitas the first time we tried (truthfully I'm not sure if we even made it that far). I failed to make it to the top several times ; however, eventually I did make it to the top. I think it took something like an hour and a half just to make it to the top (now I can do the entire loop in an hour or less if it's not too crowded). I started losing two or three pounds most weeks. Some weeks I would gain some of it back; it was especially discouraging when I would gain a couple of weeks in a row, even if I worked hard and ate reasonably but I kept with it. I ended up losing around 100 lbs. that first year. The last 20 lbs. were the hardest to lose as it took me another year or so to lose them. Now I usually am able to keep my weight between 195 and 205 lbs which is at the heavy edge of "normal" on the BMI chart for my height. The following is a list of things that worked well for me:
Find a good workout partner
It always helped motivate me to get out of bed knowing that someone was going to be waiting on me. It was also nice having someone to talk to during the runs and hikes. If you have a friend that is already working out just to work out / lose weight, chances are they'd love to have you join them (it might be different if they're training for a certain goal).
Find something you like doing
At the very least, find something you don't HATE doing. I always enjoy talking with my coworkers about their families and discussing some of the cool stuff we are working on when we run. I also enjoy hiking, especially the parts where we were able to run down. Currently I play a lot of volleyball and don't run and hike as much because volleyball's more fun for me; however, I still am trying to run a race each month with one of the former coworkers that I started running with.
Find a schedule that works for you and stick with it
For me, it was mornings before work. If I saved the workout for after work, it wouldn't happen; I'd always have something come up that was more important and I'd talk myself out of doing the workout. At that time, running and hiking in the morning were part of my daily routine; I had to workout so that I could shower before work in the morning.
If you don't feel like working out, go through the motions anyway
Sometimes you're sore or feeling a little under the weather and don't feel like you can work out. Go ahead and put on your workout clothes, go to the gym or trailhead, and do your warm-up anyway... Most of the time you'll feel well enough to workout at least a little bit. If not, you still keep your schedule / routine and it's not as hard to get back into it after you've been out for a couple of days.
Don't weigh yourself every day; unless you're getting paid to work out and have a nutritionist and a personal trainer, your weight is going to fluctuate and it's normal to gain a few pounds some weeks, even if you've been working hard and eating well. Don't worry about how slow you are or how few calories you burnt; whatever you are doing is healthier than just sitting around on the couch. As long as you are consistently burning more calories than you are eating, you should start to lose some weight.
Set little goals
Interval training is a great way for runners to stay focused. If you're hiking or just walking, set goals like "I'm going to go to that tree without stopping" or "I'm going to take this many steps without stopping". Little by little you'll build your endurance. Sign up for races you know you can do; even if you will have to walk part of the way; you'll surprise yourself sometimes.
Most people are not going to start a diet and stick with it for the rest of their lives. Eat a moderate, well balanced meals that you still enjoy when you're cooking for yourself or when you're ordering at a restaurant. Don't worry about it if your office buys pizza, your sister takes you out for ice cream, or you're home for the holidays and your mom has made her famous chocolate chip cookies. Have one or two slices and enjoy it; don't obsess over it.
Use cheap mental tricks
The one that I liked the best was to use smaller dishes; you would be surprised how easy it is to trick yourself into eating proper proportions with smaller dishes.
Drink lots of water
I like to drink a Nalgene bottle of water before lunch, before supper, and before bed every day. Don't drink pop or sports drinks if you can help it.
Have healthy snacks
I've never found myself craving an apple, banana, oranges, celery, carrots, etc. If you find yourself hungry at night or between meals, you're either hungry enough to have the healthy snacks or you aren't.
Above all, do what works for you
Some people enjoy running on the treadmill and listening to music or watching T.V.; I feel like a hamster. Some people enjoy lifting weight; it's mind numbing to me (to be fair though, I haven't tried it with a partner and I don't really know what I'm doing). Some people like a lot of attention and getting compliments from everyone; it always just made me feel self-conscious. Some people do really well on diets; I like to eat and would rather work twice as hard if it means I can have meat and potatoes and maybe a little bit of ice cream ;-)
If you're trying to lose some weight, I wish you the best of luck. It's not easy and it takes time; however, it's really nice to feel relatively comfortable on a bus / airplane or in front of a mirror / camera. If you're significantly overweight like I was, understand it's going to take many years; however, it's not at all impossible.