I’ve been slightly overweight pretty much all my life (80–95kg / 175–210lbs with 175cm / 5ft 8in). I’ve lost weight three times so far.
The first time I lost weight was in 7th grade, during summer break. I was playing a MMORPG non-stop and pretty much forgot to eat. I’m not sure how much weight I lost then, but it all happened in a few weeks and it took a toll — I got stretch marks that won’t heal. Losing much weight in a short time is not a very bright idea apparently.
This was in my 2nd year at university. It wasn’t exactly planned, but I’ve been able to consistently eat just slightly less than what my body wanted for ~2 months, and I’ve lost roughly 10kg in the process. This felt great — every night I would go sleep feeling very slightly hungry, and that was it. Looking back, this all happened by chance, and I couldn’t do it at a later time — I would starve for a couple of days then start overeating.
This time it was very deliberate and it turned out great. In December 2015 I’ve started tracking calories and exercising (gym and cycling). In May 2016 (~6 months later) I’ve lost 13kg in what feels like a very sustainable way. Namely:
- I wasn’t counting on exercise helping me lose weight — it’s all about the diet. Exercise is there just to get fit and feel well.
- No food restrictions whatsoever. No calorie number restrictions either. Just had to make sure I track everything and be honest with myself.
- The calorie counts didn’t have to be accurate. Firstly, a lot of times there’s no good way to accurately measure, and secondly, as long as I would provide a very generous count, I would always eat less — which was the actual goal. For example, if I had a coffee, I would count that as 140 calories, which is way more than the reality (a bit of milk and a sugar cube), but at the end of the day if the count was at 1900, I would be extremely sure that I ate at most 1900 calories, which was the goal. In fact, if I’ve had a lot of food in a single day, I’d just suck it up and add a single 2000–3000–4000 calories item, instead of trying to split it up.
- The count doesn’t reflect calories wasted — some days I’d burn 2000 calories and eat 2500. The count goes up, when I would actually undereat by a large margin. This was not a problem since I just wanted an upper ceiling for the count.
- Instead of using a calorie tracker app, I’ve rolled my own spreadsheet on Google Drive, that I’ve fine tuned over time. This was great because I got both desktop and mobile versions out of the box. The main components are the sheet where I input my calories — the first column is the date, the second is the total for that day, and the rest are individual items.
The second component is a graph that shows 7 and 30 day rolling averages — I’ve found that individual day graphs don’t show much and are too hard to understand.
- Unfortunately I haven’t recorded any weight measurements in the process, but the bulk of the weight loss (10kg) happened between January and March.
- 7 and 30 day averages are good indicators for my eating patterns, but still not perfect. For example, if I consistently eat 2500 calories during the weekend and 1800 calories during the week for a few weeks, the 7 day average stabilizes at 2000 — which is not correct, as it should reflect the fact that during the weekends I eat more. Maybe a decaying average where as you go back into the past, the counts influence the average less and less would be a better solution.
- In time I’ve started changing my diet for a few reasons: firstly, the count would “shame” me into trading higher calorie foods (desserts, sodas, alcohol, etc.) for lower calorie ones (yogurt, cereals, sparkling water). Secondly, as I ate less and less, my body started punishing me for overeating — every time I ate more than usual, I would sleep terribly and regret it the next morning.
- As I started doing more exercise, I would need to eat a lot more (well, duh).
- After losing weight, I have trouble sleeping: with a fat padding, I’d sleep on fat. Now I sleep on muscles, organs, bones and nerves. A lot of times I’d wake up with something hurting because I slept on it.
Now I consider it mission accomplished and I’m stopping the count, because it’s giving me no benefit anymore — also since I have to eat more because I’m doing more exercise, I don’t want the graph to “shame” me into eating less than what I actually need.
This was a great way of losing weight, and I’m pretty sure I can sustain it, since I’ve started craving for different foods, and I never felt like I was starving or that I was “on a diet”.