A Weight Loss Plan That Works. (or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the gym.)

As you might have noticed, ScienceBlogs picked up a couple of new bloggers recently. Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders moved their blog, Obesity Panacea, over to these parts last week. Their move gives me an opportunity that's way too good to pass up - an excuse to present my latest excuse for a prolonged gap in blogging.

I've been too busy getting thin to post much.

OK, maybe "getting thin" isn't the most accurate description. But it sounds so much nicer than reality - which is more like "becoming merely overweight instead of downright obese". (For starters, it's a much pithier phrase.) The combination of the time I've been putting into weight loss combined with the 45 or so hours I spend without internet access during the course of the work week combined to drastically reduce my available free time. But I'll whine more about that another time.

Anyway...

Two months ago, I said that I'd be joining the ScienceBlogs fitness challenge. In my typical fashion, I then proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it for a week. It's quite possible that things would have stayed as they were for longer, but then an in-house version of The Biggest Loser kicked off at work. That was the little nudge I needed to get up and actually try to make the lifestyle changes needed to drop the weight.

It took some effort, and some substantial research, but I seem to have found a weight loss plan that really works for me. The evidence certainly seems to be pointing in that direction, anyway. Since late January, I've lost slightly over 32 pounds (or 14.5 kg or about two-and-a-quarter stone depending on your measurement system of choice). My BMI has gone from an atrocious 33.4 to a more reasonable (if not actually good) 28.9. My body fat, resting heart rate, abdominal circumference, chin count, and clothing sizes have all also seen corresponding drops.

My energy level is up, I feel better than I have in years, and I owe it all to this extremely simple, amazingly effective weight loss program I discovered:

I'm eating fewer calories, and I'm exercising more.

Seriously, that's it.

I haven't been doing any of the popular diets, haven't been counting carbs, haven't been doing P-90X or any of the other popular workout programs. I've just been eating less, and exercising more. I have been trying to make sure that I'm eating well enough that I'm getting enough protein, but I haven't even been paying that much attention to my fat intake.

The vast majority of my dietary efforts have involved nothing more (or less) than portion control. I'm not eating footlong subs, I'm not value-sizing takeout meals, I'm not slapping enough oily condiments onto my food to lubricate a 1975 Ford Pinto - that kind of thing. Fortunately (or not), my "before" diet was heavy on the Burger King for lunches - it's the closest fast food joint, and I hate wasting time going back and forth to work. In theory, based on what I was eating before I started trying to drop pounds, I could lose 1/2 pound a week just by dropping the onion rings by one size and saying "hold the mayo". I actually scaled back quite a bit more - no mayo, no rings, no fries - but I'm still getting my whoppers. Similarly, I've gone to lower-fat cuts of meat, lighter use of condiments, and healthier breakfast selections. The overall result has been that I've been able to cut a considerable number of calories from my diet without actually having to go the Full Atkins.

But it's the exercise that's probably (almost certainly) made the biggest difference. I went from swimming somewhere between 500 and 1500 meters five times a week to swimming that distance plus getting in at least 45 minutes of cardio per day - at least initially. More recently, I've been shifting my focus more from losing the weight toward getting into a routine that I can maintain that will keep the weight off. I've been working out less - every other day instead of daily - and I've adjusted my diet so that I'm eating just slightly less than the number of calories I need at the weight and activity level I want to maintain. This has slowed the weight loss, but I think it's giving me a better chance at keeping the weight off.

There's one other step I've taken that I think (hope) will help keep the pounds from coming back: I've given away virtually my entire wardrobe. A couple of weeks ago, I hit the point where nothing I'd bought for myself in the last decade fit right - everything had become noticeably oversized. So it went. I'm making due with a very condensed wardrobe at the moment, and I'm not planning to buy more clothes for another few weeks (and, hopefully, pounds). I'm hoping that if any of the new stuff I buy becomes too tight, I'll pay attention and get back to where I need to be - and, since I really don't like shopping for clothes, it might work.

Anyway, that's the long version of where I've been for the month I wasn't blogging: working, and working out. And if I haven't enjoyed every minute of it, I'm sure enjoying the results.

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Good for you, Mike! Glad to see you back blogging, and congratulations on eating better and exercising more!

Since late January, I've lost slightly over 32 pounds (or 14.5 kg or about two-and-a-quarter stone depending ...)

You cannot have been eating at all. That's quite incredible! 5lb/week!

Congratulations!

Congratulations Mike! It's a real job trying to maintain a set weight much less trying to lose it. I think you're on the right track concentrating on a lifestyle change with more exercise rather than a big 'diet' plan of some sort. For myself, I hate going to the gym (too many people, for one thing) and working out, but I hate even more the consequences of not working out.

Good luck and keep at it, Mike.

--dan

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 11 Mar 2010 #permalink

*applause* That's a fantastic result. Brilliant work.

The big step for me recently was to stop buying lunch and to keep sandwich ingredients in the fridge at work, along with some yoghurts (and a small cutting board and knife). So instead of a fatty foccacia from the cafe or a burger, i'll have a roast beef and salad sandwich or similar, quickly made fresh. Both my wallet and my waist are thanking me, and I know exactly what's in my lunch now.

By Charlie B. (not verified) on 13 Mar 2010 #permalink

Get lifting some weights, Mike. Not necessarily a full BB program, just do some bench presses, standing curls and leg presses twice a week or so, with as heavy weight as you safely can, 3 times 8 of each or so. It takes no more than 45 minutes and you can forget the cardio for that day (except for the warm-up of course) it is more or less a time-neutral decision.

It does wonders to weight loss, how you look, how you feel about yourself, what you radiate and so on. I don't know the full scientific reason for it but it works much better than anything else.

Decide on a goal of getting to benching 100kg, and you will see a very different Mike when you get to it (in year if you take some creatine 2 hours before the exercise and a protein shake after it), very different looks but also a very different FEEL - much more confident, and even much happier, I'd dare to say.

Congrats Mike! It sounds like you've taken a very well thought-out approach. It's good to hear that you're aiming for changes that you will be able to sustain over the long-term. Too many people aim for drastic changes, and have to give them up after a few months. On that note, I'll have to slightly disagree with Shenpen - do the types of exercise that you enjoy most. If you want to add in some weight training that's great (although I'm not sure I agree that it's as good or better than cardio), but there's no sense changing a routine that's working for you unless you really want the variety.

Good luck, and I'm looking forward to future updates!

Travis

Great success story, i am very impressed and that although I deal with such experiences on day to day basis. Yes I can't agree more most often it's not the most up to date fad diet which will do the trick but making sustainable changes to your life style and really work towards achieving your goals.

Unfortunately it's hard work, but as you discribe the work is well rewarded and maybe your readers can excuse the missing words after hearing about your success.

Keep going!

I've tried lots of low-fat diets for a couple of years but none of them made me feel satisfied. Although, there are lots of diets,like Atkins diet but it's making me feel weak and unhealthy. But when I tried Medifast Diet,i feel like I'm on the right kind of diet plan. It doesn't make me feel weak.

The caloric intake is around 800-1000 calories.It's a bit pricey, but there are lots of coupons available on the internet http://www.swoopup.com/stores/deals/Medifast-Diet

Even if you don't pay full price.You just have to choose a diet plan which your body reacts positively.No one knows your body better than you do...

Congrats Mike! I love stories like this. Mostly you hear stories about how people lose a lot of weight in a short time, but they usually miss the bit about how they are going to maintain the new weight. You seem to have found a good balance of losing weight and focusing on how you will keep it off. You're a true example. Keep up the good work.