How I Experimented My Way To Losing 45 Kilograms

How I Experimented My Way to Losing 100 Pounds

I have lost more than 45kg since last September, and I have many mixed emotions about it. You would think that I'd be proud of the hard work that went into this change, but there's more to it than that.

Picture: Michael D. Brown/Shutterstock

I'm annoyed at myself for getting to 140kg in the first place. I'm frustrated with the lack of understanding that we have around nutrition, exercise, and health. I'm the same person now as I was then. I'm not a better person. I didn't do anything impressive to get fit again. I just made some choices. I'm trying hard to not be tough on myself for how I was back then, nor be impressed with myself for some success in getting a bit healthier.

The change in my appearance has caused some people to ask "How did you lose the weight?" People tend to wait for the answer "diet and exercise", and that could be it. What I have found though is that there's a difference between knowing "these are the changes that I made that brought me this outcome" and "these changes had the following effects in my body, which brought me this outcome". Cause and effect, causation and correlation, they are touchy beasts.

What do I mean by that? Well, first, here are the actions I took to get healthier. I started to mindfully consume for nutrition — sadly, for the first time in my life. Before then I consumed for pleasure/laziness.

I Started With What I Was Consuming

How I Experimented My Way to Losing 100 Pounds
  • Drink water. (Yup, before that, I'd persuaded myself that I "didn't like water.") Stop drinking soda and foofy drinks. Substitute frappacinos with an espresso or a black coffee.
  • Eat a high protein diet. (Yay omelettes for breakfast!)
  • Eat vegetables. I really didn't before. Now I love cooking up veggies in some olive oil. I mean that — I truly enjoy the taste. This has been key: enjoyment over suffering.
  • Stay away from sugar.
  • Stay away from wheat/gluten (Note: It isn't that I think you should rush to the gluten free aisle of Whole Foods. I'm generally wary about "X Free" as I then immediately research what was added in to keep the taste. For example, fat free normally means an addition of sugar and refined crap. Ditto for gluten free. This is a good commentary/warning for gluten folks.)

Within two weeks I lost 9kg. This was key. I couldn't look at this data and not realise that I had been truly poisoning myself. It was the kick-start that I needed to keep on going. There is nothing more motivating than progress.

I purposefully didn't start exercising yet. I wanted to change one thing at a time. In the back of my mind I had tricked myself into believing "if I exercise I can eat anything… just burn those calories!" With that belief, all I needed to do was exercise, but at my size exercise wasn't fun, and so no changes were occurring. Two weeks in, I now knew that "you can't exercise your way out of a bad diet", or maybe more correctly: changing the diet is incredibly key and it was working that way around.

I started to notice many side effects to the change, well beyond appearance:

  • Mentally I was so much happier, my mood changed, and I was able to deal with other things so much better.
  • I didn't notice, but I was internally inflamed all the time. I would have coughs that wouldn't go away for months. I was running the car on high RPM constantly and it was killing me. I was pre-diabetic at this point and my insulin resistance was high.
  • My skin started to change (no more rough patches).
  • Other physical effects that I won't go into now :)

The Tipping Point

What was the tipping point? I don't really know. A few things came together at once. I was starting to worry about not having the chance to see any potential grandkids, or even worse, leaving behind loved ones sooner than that. This thought wasn't due to an illness or anything though, so I don't quite know why the thought was surfacing more and more often. Maybe it was just a natural phenomenon of age?

I listened to a book called "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes in the car ride to and from work. This book did two things: One, it made me re-think the "wisdom" of the food pyramid, "low fat" diets, and nutrition vs exercise. Two, it got me really mad about what stemmed out of the Nixon administration where scientists made the wrong choice (in my opinion), setting up the flawed version of science that lead to the "fat is evil" mess up that's screwed people for decades now.

It's one thing to feel like people are making poor choices on their own accord (another debate surrounding free will can be had here!), but when you see people being told something that you think is wrong, and seeing them suffer because of it, then you get really angry. "Fat Chance" by Robert Lustig hit this home too as he pushed against sugar (where Gary pushes against carbs in general). Too many people think that "fat people are lazy" and get the cause and effect the wrong way around.

All of this added up to me making the most important step of my recent journey (which my wife Emily loves to tease me about, calling it my renaissance [read: mid life crisis]). I gave this all that two week chance. If I could say anything to someone who also wants to make a change, it would be to give change a chance. Try something for two weeks and give it your all. If you slip, don't worry — get up and try again. Don't get bogged down in choosing a diet and falling into the paradox of choice. Just pick a plan and stick to it.

As much as I want to share some of these feelings and help people, I also know all too well how a change has to be self-motivational. Intrinsic. My family had tried to have me change my ways for some time, but ironically if I think deeply about it, it may have partially stopped me from making the change. I didn't want to do it for someone to say "see I knew you could do it!" Very sad and self destructive.

I Changed When I Ate

How I Experimented My Way to Losing 100 Pounds

As well as what I was eating, I started to notice that there was a large change in when. I prescribed to the "listen to your body, and eat when it's hungry, not because it's a certain time" routine. In the past my diet was mainly carbs, and I was always hungry. I wouldn't have one slice of pizza — I would absent-mindedly swallow a pie. I would trick myself to think "you are thirsty! you need a Dr Pepper!" when I was craving the sugar. Now that I had re-balanced to a protein diet, I found that I wasn't regularly that hungry at all. I would rarely eat past 6pm, and my dinner would be a small meal. I hadn't planned it, but I had started to intermittently fast.

I got into this more after watching a show via BBC by Dr Michael Mosely, and reading his book "Fast Diet". I experimented by doing a fast, and was shocked to find that it wasn't hard! I expected it to be crazy hard and that my body would be shouting at me to EAT DARN YOU. Instead, I started to enjoy the senses of feeling a little hungry, but then having the hunger pass.

I Changed My Mindset

It turns out the biggest gift that I have been given through all of this is the change in mindset that occurred with the success. I realised that, if I can make this change, what else could I do? At the same time I started to be concerned that I was rarely present and in the moment. I was always thinking about this, that, and the other. The next meeting. Tomorrows plans. Anything but what was going on in the moment. Was I an automaton moving through life?This triggered a memory of when I saw Jon Kabat-Zinn give a talk at Google on Mindfulness, Stress Reduction and Healing.

I started to study and practice, and quickly learned how friggin' hard it is to be mindful. This mindfulness started to help me with my nutrition too. I started to enjoy abstinence and appreciated that I was strong enough to own this. It seemed like there is an exception almost every day. Someone's birthday. A holiday. "Come on, just one!" I was just at a baby shower where I decided to enjoy the fact that I wasn't having the cake. Instead of fighting it, enjoy it. This was a turning point.

Another technique that helped was a psychological one. I would pretend to take a photo of the food and visualise it as a photo rather than food to consume right there. In my studies, I kept reading about how being mindful of the food that you are about to eat is a large part of the battle. Taking a photo of the food that you are about to consume has a massive effect, as it acts to bring you into that moment. Doing this and/or documenting your consumption is statistically better than going on any diet.

I really despise the word diet too. From the beginning I made it my mission to create a lifestyle not a diet. This isn't a crash course. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin talks about the difference between resolutions and goals. You keep a resolution vs. obtaining and finishing a goal. I don't want to finish. I want to keep going. Baby steps.

I kept getting more meta. First body, then mind, and next up was mindset. I quickly saw that I had created a fixed mindset for myself. If you shared a new food that I hadn't tried I would think "I may not like it, so naaaah why try!" This happened throughout my life. I would default to no. How sad when I hear that out loud!

I Started Exercising

There came a time where I had shown myself the power of nutrition and I wanted to get strong with exercise. I used to love sports. Cricket, football (soccer), tennis, you name it. My fixed mindset had turned this all off though, and I was excited to get back in shape to turn it back on.

I always disliked running. Too much of that discomfort. Too "boring."So, I decided that I wanted to give myself a month to see what I could do. I started slowly. First, I went on long walks. Then I got into the run - walk - run routine. I remember the first time that I managed to run all the way around the block. It felt great! Fast forward a little more and I had my first mile in, and it quickly moved on from there.

I thought that I needed to trick myself, and would listen to podcasts and music while running — anything not to think about the discomfort. I found that the first mile was always the hardest as the muscles and my body warmed up. I talked to a neighbour and friend who was a professional runne, and once she said that the first mile was always like that, I accepted it. When I start out now I prepare myself, and I know that in a few minutes my body will kick in, understand what I am asking of it, and it will get going.

Next I blended the worlds of meditation and running by reading Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham. I went out for a run without anything but myself. No phone or technology. I really enjoyed it! Between the meditation exercises and being in my own head, I had my best run ever. Since then I haven't touched technology for a run. I missed out on some time where I wasn't tracking my runs (I had been using Nike+ Running on my phone), but I then got a Nike+ SportsWatch and I use that to get the data. I also use the Withings scale, and it's great to be able to jump on it almost daily and see the tracking.

I Changed My Sleep Habits

Another piece of the puzzle is sleep. Most of us don't get enough quality sleep. I'm the kind of person who likes to fall asleep to the TV, but I lost that habit due to my wife not allowing it. I tend to do a lot of work at night though (some of my best work in fact) but that screen light would keep me up for a long time. I started to build a routine by doing things like: run, take a warm bath, read a book. This would knock me out every time and I would sleep hard.

I use an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle that you put on the bed and it detects vibrations to know when to wake you up (not in deep sleep if it can help it). This actually worked pretty well for me, but it does have a fatal flaw. I don't sleep alone. Not only does it sometimes think Emily is me, but I often have one little kid jumping into my bed in the middle of the night. So it's far from a perfect solution. I know that sleep is key to health, and I am far from optimising it.

I Had Support

How I Experimented My Way to Losing 100 Pounds

I couldn't have done this without the support of family and friends. There has been an out-pouring of love and I have learned so much from people. You quickly see how many others have been — and are on — the same journey. My wife kindly never complains when I go out for a run at night when part of us would love to just sit and chat more. She doesn't complain when I make some concoction in the kitchen. I also can't believe that she never complained about how I used to be. The people that truly love you come out strong when you go through this. They aren't shocked to see a "new you" because they know that it's one and the same.

One friend told me his story, where he'd lost 40kg and put 23kg back on. I had to ask what caused the reversal, as I wanted to learn from that. He said that one day he moved house, and after a tiring day of moving boxes he stopped in at McDonald's. Fast forward a month later and he had gone there pretty much every day. It's that easy. I am so glad that he passed that on as it helps me be mindful of the long path ahead.

There is much more that I would love to talk about, but I've gone on too long already. Although I don't know which of the myriad of changes I made lead to the improvements that I've seen, that doesn't mean that I won't keep trying the experiments and measuring.

How I Have Lost Over 100 Pounds and Don't Know How [Medium]


Dion Almaer is a technologist, engineer and human dev aggregator. Follow him on Twitter @dalmaer.


Comments

    BREAKING NEWS STORY,
    a change of life style is how you lose weight, diets are temporary....

    More news at 11

    I have never understood why so many people are so ignorant about such a basic damn thing.
    You need to eat better than you previously were and forever (unless you want to put it back on) and if you exercise too you get even better results.

    It is quite literally that simple, it works for everyone. Not a single person in the world "can't lose weight" unless it is medical i.e. thyroid or something.

    So I guess my point is why is it every other week someone shouting about how they lost weight by exercising and diet changes in their lifestyle and how it made them happier and better than ever. This is common knowledge, it isn't some closely guarded secret kept from the fatties.
    Why do we need to keep hearing about it, even the author stated he doesn't consider it a big thing. It really isn't, it's like praising a murder when they stop killing or an addict who decides after nearly dying to get clean. It was their choice to go down that road in the first place, they aren't doing anything special.

    *Worth noting that I have both been overweight as a kid (which i lost in grade 12 once I had the means to change things for myself) and have experienced addiction.

      It's because, if you noted the point of the article, that people *don't* know better.

      I peaked at about 130kg last year, sitting just over 90 for the past 6 months, and all I did was pull back on drinking every weekend and cut back on the size of my lunch meals -- where are the diets on that? There are none, as people are all caught up in the fad diets, rather than what they actually need to change.

        I was just about to make a similar reply to kingpotato.

        I think the "better" is the contentious part.

        I recently lost about 20 kilos and did so very easily. Essentially on the Atkins diet. All protein, very little carbs. I didn't (purposefully) restrict quantity or portions, although some days I would only have one meal due to not being hungry. I did increase my exercise, but even so I wasn't exercising excessively - a 90 min walk every other day, or something like that.

        Then my situation changed, and I relaxed on the diet and the weight came back + another 10 to 20%.

        I tried to return to the Atkins diet and I've just not seen the results this time.

        I don't think we do know how to lose weight.

        I thought I knew. I thought Atkins was the answer for me. But the second time round it's not working. So it looks like it's not.

        Who knew about wheat being bad for us?

        I've only known about carbs being the enemy for the last couple of years or so.

        Who knows about low fat foods being bad for us? Even when we know it's hard to comprehend and easy to justify purchasing a low fat yoghurt.

        I think the writer of this article only knows better because he's gone through the process and seems to have identified some things that have worked for him, for now. That might change, and it might not be the same for all of us.

          I don't know about wheat being bad for us.

          Wheat is bad for people with celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

          Which is a very very small subset of the population.

          Last edited 14/08/13 10:06 am

            See, this is where things get confused.

            Right now I do not know if wheat is bad for us (the majority of people) or not.

              Yeah good point. It's a sea of confusion and conflicting messaging.

                Yep. And then people pile in and say people are fat because they don't do simple things that we all know work - and are thereby at fault.

                Well, no. We don't know. We're told different things all the freakin time.

                Every time we're shown "a better" way, it immediately gets refuted.

                  Sorry but that's an excuse and the fact you tried the Atkins diet shows you are into fads not nutrition. The OP replaced pies and soft drink and hamburgers with water and regular servings of vegetables. He then started exercising. That's not rocket science and will work for anyone.

                  @Kato

                  I'm sorry. Meat and vegetables aren't nutritious? This is your argument is it?

                  And The Atkins diet is a fad is it? People have only recently started eating high protein diets have they? So that isn't something that dates backs centuries?

                  And what exactly was I excusing?

                  Are you suggesting that there isn't conflicting advice?

                  I'm pretty sure that the OP / article writer recommends no wheat, and a nutrition science graduate says there's no issue with wheat. That seems pretty conflicting to me.

                If your interested here's what I've gathered over the last few months.

                Grain/Wheat is a carbohydrate. When you eat it, your blood sugar levels rise. To counter the excess energy flowing through your blood you body primes up some insulin to lower you blood sugar level (this is the sugar crash).

                Research suggest that while your body is burning it's energy from sugar in the blood stream it is not capable of burning fat stores as a primary food source. So diet's recommend cutting back on carbs to allow your body burn it's fat stores as a primary source of fuel.

                tl:dr - Wheat while not bad, raises blood sugar and insulin, stopping your body from burning fat as it's primary energy source.

                I'm not a biologist or a nutritionist, but that's how's it seems to me. Anyone feel free to chirp in.

                  Per my comment below. Try older wheats like einkorn that don't have that effect on blood sugar

              There isn't a single "wheat" to consider. In my lifetime it's been altered more than in most of human history. Living overseas in Europe and North America I found it easier to buy flour from older (pre- green revolution dwarf wheat) varieties from only fifty years ago right back to spelt or einkorn, but in Australia the choices are far more limited, possibly because of the homogenising effect of the AWB. Older varieties are higher in protein and considered (in some circles) to have less impact on your metabolism and appetite. It may be that people who point the finger at gluten at wheat are looking at the wrong culprit.

              Likewise there isn't a single "carbs" to consider. Our body doesn't process them all as simple compounds of carbon hydrogen and oxygen. We process them as largely unique and complex chemicals, not pure elements. We're organisms not furnaces.

      Because it's HARD.

      It's simple, yes, but also hard.

      That's why "quick fix" diets are so popular. Why countless people have dust-collecting "miracle" exercise machines under their beds. Why people try the Atkins, the South Beach, the Cabbage Soup diet. Because they're looking for something easy and fast, because doing it this way, the lasting way, is hard.

      This kind of major lifestyle shift involves breaking the habits of decades in order to build new ones (which are often built around effort rather than reward), ignoring a great deal of pressure from the advertising that surrounds us, and developing one's self-control to levels that most ordinary people don't have.

      And, the hardest thing of all, you have to be in the right place, mentally, to start it and maintain it.

      Dion pointed out, friends and family had been pushing him to do exactly these things for years, but that put him off trying. And without the right kind of mindset, you can try, not see fantastic results immediately, and give up, because it feels like a lot of effort for nothing. There's a million roadblocks in the path.

      The reason why people like Dion should keep shouting about how they've changed their lives and they're so much happier, is to help people find that mindset. To show them that it is hard, but it is possible, and to give them the motivation to try.

      Because someone saying "it isn't easy, but you learn all these interesting things about yourself, and it all gets better, and you actually end up ENJOYING bits you never thought you'd like" is more likely to make someone decide "you know what, I might be able to do that", than any number of people shouting "god, it's so simple! wtf is wrong with you fatties that you can't figure this out??"

    Carbs are not the enemy. Carbs are fantastic. Especially for athletic super heroes who get it done errday!

    As a nutrition science graduate I'm ecstatic that society is starting to move past the terrible popular nutrition advice of the 80s and 90s (low fat diets), but I think an 'all carbs are evil' mentality is just the same mistake pointed at a different target.

    I am unfamiliar with Prof Lustig's work but his emphasis on sugar seems like a better angle than Gary Taube's books.

    I don't approve of terms like 'toxic sugar' and as an athlete I often consume pure sugar, but the key point is that I do this for a very well thought out purpose. There is no doubt that the average sedentary individual is consuming way too much sugar.

    Last edited 14/08/13 10:04 am

      Especially for athletic super heroes who get it done errday!

      I think that's the point.. Most people are not athletic super heroes.. The sheer amount of refined carbohydrate foods that our society consume says there's something wrong with the way kids are taught about food.

      As a nutrition science graduate, you should know that carbohydrates become fat when not burned as energy. In an average sedentary individual (read: not an athletic super hero), this would include all the other "fantastic" carbs you mention.

      So I don't really understand what you're trying to say other than "I'm an athlete, therefore I can eat carbs and everyone else is wrong"..

        I'm guessing you didn't read my last paragraph where I make the exact point you felt the need to make.

        If you had have read my entire post and especially my last paragraph you would have realised my point is that as an athlete I can eat lots of carbs and justify pure sugar, and that my needs are not the same as others who can not justify my eating patterns.

        Even sedentary individuals need some amount of carbs (the majority of our energy use goes towards running our brains and vital functions) though so carbs are never evil in any circumstance. Excess carbs are. Like I said. In my original post. That's what the TERRIBLE nutrition advice of the 80s and 90s was all about.

        Last edited 15/08/13 3:04 pm

    Good read.. This has helped me a little more as I am stuck floating around the 82kg mark and can't seem to get below that, but this has given me ideas.
    I wasn't happy with my weight so I got a fitbit and logged my food into the myfitnesspal app. I exercised a bit with no results but 2 weeks later after logging everything I looked back on the information and saw where I was really going wrong. Especially when logging my food, I got a lot better understanding on what was bad and what was ok. But then I got tricked by 'if you eat too few calories, the body will go into flight or fight mode'. So I'm still learning about it all. How true that is I don't know because the people that are telling me this are also still over weight or its from the Internet (not always reliable)

    People can say its easy for them and they don't understand why other people can't do it. There might be a common ground with humans where we are all able to loose weight but its also heavily dependant on a persons understanding and the 'information' they are around - the one thing that is vastly diffirent to everyone else.

      "How true that is I don't know because the people that are telling me this are also still over weight or its from the Internet (not always reliable)"

      I just want to make the point that information in regards to weight loss from published authors, food manufacturers, government health departments, doctors, scientists is not always reliable.

      I think there's nothing particularly unreliable about information from the internet in this regard.

      I've actually started watching some weight loss, portion control videos on youtube and some are pretty inspiring.

      Been doing the fast diet (for the general health benefits) once a week for three months. I stuck to doing it once a week as I wasn't looking to lose weight, but have still lost five kilos. A good option if you find intermittent fasting do-able.

    why would you exclude gluten unless you are legitimately allergic to it?
    see a fucking doctor or a dietary specialist and get tested before you exclude entire food groups.

      Because refined carbohydrates are the main contributor to weight gain. Wheat, grains, processed sugars.. Most of the developed world still think our diet should consist mainly of breads and cereals when these carbohydrates, combined with the minimal exercise most people do, turns straight into fat.

        Gluten and carbohydrates are not the same thing and the low carboyhydrate arguments are different to the cut out gluten arguments (which are more based on an idea that a digestive intolerance to gluten is a common thing).

        Gluten is a protein composite found in foods derived from wheat. These foods happen to be high carbohydrate foods for the most part.

        Refined carbohydrates are problematic in a sedentary persons diet because they are more quickly broken down leading to a quick rush of glucose which causes an insulin spike. This temporarily retards the burning of body fat as fuel and also doesn't last long as energy (the high then crash feeling). A body that is constantly consuming these types of foods through various feedback mechanims develops insulin resistance which means your body produces more insulin to deal with this intake of glucose. That has negative consequences in terms of health and body fat levels.

        An insulin spike is quite useful (it triggers various growth factors that assist with muscle protein synthesis and muscle refueling) post exercise but when the body is constantly producing insulin it's not great.

        That's why as an athlete I consume basically straight glucose after working out but also why this is not a great idea all the time nor a great idea for sedentary individuals.

        This is also a great example why dietitians advice is often geared towards responding to various dietary ailments (like type 2 diabetes and heart disease) rather than the 'optimal diet'. From a health perspective mass messaging reflects our societal dietary health issues which also contributes to confusion as to what an optimal diet should be.

        Last edited 16/08/13 4:01 pm

    Ive lost around 12-18kg since i gave up soft drink and doing Aqua-Aerobics 4 times a week back in april also started riding my bike for trips down to the shops and to the pool instead of driving (about 5km all most days). Started at 130kg and am trying to get back down to 80kg which is my personal idea weight which is still well within my bmi range.

    While i still only eat 2 meals a day, my sleep pattern has gone back to normal of going getting 8 hours of sleep each day

    Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    I have lost 10 kg recently bringing me down to my supposedly ideal weight with one simple rule.

    "Stop eating crap!"

    no diet, no exercise, no other changes what so ever.

    To everyone commenting on this post who has or is tackling it - good for you. Go for it & well done.

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