How I Lost 50 Kilograms

Image: Getty Images

I've struggled with my weight for nearly my entire life. I went from being chubby in primary school to overweight in high school to obese in university. At my biggest, I weighed almost 127kg (I'm 168cm tall). Finally, around five years ago, I got a spark of inspiration that ultimately led to me dropping a total of 50kg and counting. Here's how I did it.

Image remixed from Leremy.

First, here the obligatory before and after shots:

Motivation

Losing weight requires an enormous amount of motivation. You're going to have to change your lifestyle and make real sacrifices. It's going to be hard. Motivation will help you continue to justify the changes you've made, and prevent you from slipping back in to old habits.

Funny enough, I actually got my first seed of motivation from pneumonia. I was 126kg at the time. After three horrible, bedridden weeks, I was down to 117kg. It was painful, but it taught me the most important weight loss lesson of all: it's possible.

Like a lot of other kids from my generation, I grew up overweight. When you can't remember a time when you weren't overweight, being fat is a part of your identity. So, as silly as it sounds, I think there was a part of me that believed that weight loss was impossible on some level — or at least that the amount of weight I needed to lose was insurmountable.

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be that. You can lose weight. No matter how messed up your metabolism is (more on that later), no matter how long you've been overweight, it is possible.

Strategies

I'm going to talk about a few of the strategies, diets and other random things that I have tried, because I think people will find them interesting. But I'll give you an easy way out of reading the rest of this article just in case you're already bored. Ready? Here it is.

STOP EATING PROCESSED FOOD. THAT INCLUDES SUGAR, WHEAT PRODUCTS, SUGAR REPLACEMENTS LIKE SUCRALOSE, ASPARTAME AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU'RE THINKING OF THAT MIGHT BE AN EXCEPTION. EXCEPT STEVIA. YOU CAN HAVE STEVIA.

OK, so with that yelling out of the way, here's a bit about my journey.

Briefly on Exercise

I'm going to keep this short. Exercise has never helped me lose weight. For much of the time that I was grossly overweight, I was also extremely physically active, often whitewater kayaking or downhill skiing for several hours, four or five days a week, and continuing to put on fat. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, exercise isn't an effective weight loss strategy for me.

Portion Control

After I lost the pneumonia weight, I was literally terrified that I might put it back on. So I decided to try eating less. I ate all the same things but avoided going back for seconds. I ate pasta, pizza and dessert until I was full but not stuffed. I lost another 10kg or so over a few months. Then it levelled off.

That really is the story of my weight loss effort. Strategies and diets that work for a while and then plateau. Sometimes it's possible to break through a plateau, but other times you need to up your game with better eating.

I tried for another six or so months to break through the portion control plateau. It never happened. I was actually feeling pretty good about where I was though, so I didn't really make much of an effort to progress for a few more months.

Lower Carb Diet

Shortly after moving from Montreal to Vancouver, I started seeing a personal trainer, hoping to accelerate my progress on the scale and in the gym. She had me keep a food journal and immediately picked up on the amount of carbs that I was eating back then. I was vegetarian at the time, and I was eating heaps of bread and pasta. She told me to eat more vegetables and tofu, and watch my carb intake. I lost about 10kg before plateauing hard.

On this diet, I was still eating bread, pasta and sugar — just less of them. After a while, I found it impossible to continue losing weight, so I started looking for other solutions.

Eat to Live

Eat to Live is an all vegan diet designed by Dr Joel Fuhrman. Only fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are allowed; no oils, dairy, sugar or even juices are permitted (that's a bit of an exaggeration, but for our purposes, this is accurate enough). I had very mixed results on Eat to Live. I did lose about 7kg, but I had a very difficult time keeping it off and eating enough food to feel full for more than an hour at a time. I found that I was constantly eating and still feeling hungry.

With that said, I actually know a lot of people who have had great success on ETL, including my ex-girlfriend, who I was living with at the time (so we were eating nearly identically, although my portions were significantly bigger than hers), and my good friend Giles, who actually introduced me to the book. That brings me to another one of my weight loss conclusions.

Everybody's body is different. Some people have amazing success on a diet, while others are incapable of losing weight. I no longer believe that there's one perfect diet out there that suits everybody. Your mileage will vary with every approach.

The only consistent thing I've been able to identify across all my friends and family who've lost weight is avoiding processed foods.

Psoriasis and Acne

An interesting aside here is that ETL led me to discover that it's possible to control psoriasis with diet. The medical community doesn't seem to be aware of this, but I am completely psoriasis-free after years of being covered in it.

At first, I thought that it was the greens that caused my skin to clear up. But since then I've realised that it's a balance of factors. Greens do help, but merely avoiding processed foods is enough to keep me completely psoriasis-free. That being said, I started drinking coffee again a little while ago and noticed that a small amount of psoriasis came back. Upping my intake of greens seems to make it clear up. So it's a bit of a balancing act.

Oh, I'm also extremely prone to acne, but I've found that avoiding high glycemic index foods keeps my face and body completely clear of pimples.

On Vegetarianism

I'm definitely going to get hate mail for this, but here goes anyway. I was vegetarian for most of my weight loss journey. My conclusion was ultimately that vegetarianism made it significantly more difficult to lose weight. Here's why.

At home, cooking my own meals from my own groceries, vegetarianism was perfectly fine. But every time I ate in a restaurant, on the street, or even at a friend's place, my options were nearly invariably some combination of pasta, bread and sugar. I probably have the shittiest metabolism in the world, but when I eat that stuff, I gain weight. Lots of it.

I really enjoy eating in restaurants, which made the whole thing all the more difficult. During the whole time that I was on Eat to Live, I would painstakingly lose three or four kilos by religiously sticking to the diet for a month, then travel to a conference for a week and gain it all back. It was frustrating to say the least, which led me to the very difficult conclusion that I needed to at least try breaking my nearly 10 years of vegetarianism.

My Current Diet

My current diet is really simple: no processed carbs (that includes 'carbless' sugar replacements except stevia). I go through periods where I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, but lately I've mostly been eating meat and fish.

Do I miss chocolate and ice cream? Definitely. But I eat guilt-free bacon or chicken wings whenever I want, and seeing results makes the sacrifice more than worthwhile.

This diet means that when I go out to eat, which I do regularly, I can have a steak without feeling guilty. I tell people that I'm allergic to sugar and flour, which gives me a reasonable excuse for being the pain-in-the-arse guy who has to ask the waiter about the ingredients in every dish on the menu. I'd encourage you to tell similar lies if they help you stick to a diet.

There have been a few periods over the last year and a half where I've started eating bread again and gained back a bunch of weight. In April of this year though, I finally committed to this diet as a more permanent lifestyle and have been ever since. I've dropped around 18kg since then, and I'm not stopping until I can see my abs.

Conclusions

Everybody's body is different. Your friends may have had success with diet X, but you may not. Don't let that discourage you. You'll find something that works.

The best diet is the one that you can stick to, even if the weight loss is slower. If a diet fights against your lifestyle, it's going to be that much harder to maintain. That was my problem with ETL. I love to eat out, and I travel a lot, so I couldn't stick to it. And at the end of the day, I didn't lose weight. The less you have to change your lifestyle to accomplish your goals, the better your chances of success.

You can lose weight, still enjoy the food you eat, and even go out to restaurants while you do it. Obviously, you won't be able to eat everything you're eating now, because if you could you'd already be thin. But it'll be a sacrifice worth making. The best thing you've ever done.

How to Lose 100 Pounds [Asian Efficiency]

James Golick is a software engineer, entrepreneur and speaker. In his spare time, he likes to play golf and snowboard. Follow him on Twitter @jamesgolick.


This story has been updated since its original publication.


Comments

    Nice work James! I recently embarked on weight loss program myself, after years of being told I was clinically overweight, I've lost nearly 15kg in three months and can't believe how just a few simple changes in diet can have such a dramatic effect.

    Sounds like you have chanced your eating style to eventually find yourself paleo. We evolved over time to eat natural unprocessed foods. Sugar, grains, vegetable oils, and modern fake food have only been in our diet for .5% of our evolution.
    Well done on not giving up. So many do.

    Awesome job man. I may have missed it in the article, but how long did it take for you to lose 50kg?

    I never reply on posts. But... Respect man. Hope you'll keep it up.

    Great article, Could you possibly touch on why you allow yourself STEVIA but not sucralose or aspartame? I've read articles saying that all fake sugars trick the body into expecting carbohydrates but because they never arrive you get hungrier.. making it hard to control your eating.. is this the reason?

      Stevia is not a fake sugar, it is a naturally sweet herb.

        Still falls under the category of calorie free sugar substitutes (which I call fake sugar) .

        I was simply wondering if there were any reasons the Stevia extract should be chosen over artificial sweeteners other than the usual "it's natural mannnn, so its good for the body"...just because it was derived from a natural source doesn't mean that it's better for the body than synthetically derived sweeteners... there has to be proof :)

    I'm always interested in articles like this. I find it fascinating how different our bodies are and how they can respond in such varied ways to diet and exercise (or lack thereof). Well done James. I wish you all the best at maintaining your new weight.

    Well done mate. Sounds like your final approach is akin to the Paleo diet.

    Great to read. I don't think you should lie when you eat out though.

      My sister is a vegan and you have to lie if you want to be taken seriously. Someone will try to tell you the bread has no cheese in it if they know you're a vegan, but if they think its going to kill you they won't. And to my sister, eating animal biproducts would kill her.

    thank you for sharing your story.
    i guess the key is that lifestyle changes you can live with are the most effective form of weight loss.

    How I lost 50 kg

    Consumed less energy than I expended for the amount of time it took to lose 50 kg

      Except not all calories are equal. Studies prove that for an equal amount of consumed calories and energy expenditure, people eating non processed foods, avoiding sugar and grains, and simply eating just vegetables, seeds, nuts and animals burn more body fat while maintaining or increasing lean mass than those who don't.

        Speaking as someone who went from 85kg (not super huge, but still) to my current 68kg, I can safely say that all of these 'rules' people impose on themselves to lose weight (dairy free, gluten free, protein rich, paleo, pescetarianism, etc) simply don't work - well they do, until you stop following those rules, which unless you're going to stick to them for the rest of your life, you will.

        Simply eat healthily (and it's not complicated - "what type of calories?" "how many calories") - just have a sandwich and a piece of fruit or a carrot for lunch, it's not rocket science, and exercise for 30 minutes a day.

        A healthy lifestyle can be simplified and summarised in a small pamphlet - if there's a whole book on it, it doesn't work.

        Lots of different foods affect the body in lots of ways. I said that's how you lose 50 kg.

      Yeah this comment just ignores the article. What you're saying is standard accepted theory, that it's all about calories. Well that's not necessarily correct science.

    To reduce acne; many people can get good results by cutting most (not all) dairy out of your diet. I've had it my whole life, but now when I get an outbreak I can generally trace it back to a week of having far too much coffee or a multi-day cheese binge.

    Nice work James. I too have lost a chunk of weight, 71kgs to be exact. What would be interesting is for you to publish some medical results if that is not too personal. What is your Blood Pressure like? Cholesterol? etc.. etc..

    Guys,

    Read this book! http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307272702

    This is what I have been doing and have lost 10KG so far and I have never had to go hungry.
    Its is what the article says. No carbs and sugars. Plenty of meat and leafy veg!

    Best thing I have ever done!

    On the vegetarianism, lots of red meat and white meat is found to help lose weight with most people (see the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet). Meat has high amounts protein, which keeps you fuller for longer than carbs or fat. I've lost 20 kgs on high meat diets and would be starving myself without it.

      keep in mind, while meat has high amounts of protein, it's not the only thing that does.

      Also in the CSIRO diet book they admit that they didn't really examine vegetarian diets. Was it that they just couldn't be bothered or were they getting some money from the meat and dairy industries for their research!? I would have preferred to see a more balanced approach than just re-iterating the status quo with some evidence to support it. Some people swear by meat diets and some by vegetarian diets, which supports James's observation that different things work for different people.

    Another important thing is water. Yo u need to consume enough of it. I drink a glass of water first thing I get up in the morning. It does not matter whether you are going on a diet or not, you should do this.

      well said vincenzo. one great way to use water is to cut down on snacking. If you think you're hungry, have a glass of water. At least half the time, you'll find you're not hungry anymore. If you are, well, go eat.

        That's because most people don't know the difference between thirst and hunger.

        So they generally get food and drink when all they need is the drink.

    Way to go mate. I went from 106 (shameful for my height) to 93-ish in 6 months, by walking 30 mins every morning and cutting out processed foods (including, ironically, avoiding anything 'diet'). Feel fantastic and amazed how easy it was.

      Diet and Fat free are both cons. It generally means they shifted stuff elsewhere. I remember being shown a yogurt that had suddenly gone 99% fat free. It's sugar had gone up and was 200KJ worse than the non fat free alternative.

      Stuff having fat in them is rather irrelevant. Since at the end of the day it's still energy and if you burn 1000 calories a day. Whether those 1000 were entirely composed of fat or something else is irrelevant.

      I mean the only truly diet stuff is like Coke Zero and Pepsi max. That have so little calories in them that you can drink heaps of them without any major issue.

      Cutting out the processed stuff works because most of it isn't really that filling and even if it is it generally makes you hungry sooner than you should have been anyway.

    Great article....
    Weight loss essentially comes down to 70% diet and 30% exercise and integrating this into your normal lifestyle.

    For what it's worth, I've also switched to a predominantly Paleo diet - no rice, pasta, bread etc. Pretty easy to maintain as a lifestyle choice.

    Awesome story - thanks! I think it's important that people don't regurgitate their beliefs about the exercise component without researching. Current research indicates that exercise plays a very small role in weight loss. Google it, but don't believe any random website article - ensure that it's research-based.

    Nice work James. Well done. I too was overweight for my entire life but about 3 years ago lost around 40kgs and have kept it off.

    The key to weight loss is definitely eating right. You are right on the money there. What I found in my experience though is that there was more to regular exercise than as a way of burning calories. It gave me a sense of physical well being that affected my life in really positive ways. I think that I now deal with my emotions better (not that I was an emotional roller coaster before or anything), I feel more focused/motivated most of the time and on days that I work out I find that bad food is just so much easier to resist. The mind and the body is connected. Who would've thought? :-)

    Great article.

    I've eaten fatty foods like Mcdonalds quite regularly. I just eat two larger meals, rather than three and I've lost 5Kg in 2 months. Down from 75kg if your wondering.

    Well done. 50kg is quite an amazing amount of weight to lose! I was overweight all through primary school and half of high school. Somewhere through puberty though, my metabolism completely sped up, and I managed to lose 15kg from an illness which was somewhat fortunate (although it's not usual and definitely not recommended!), so I love that I'm able to maintain a normal weight, and I put a lot of effort into maintaining weight and staying healthy even though I put in zero effort to actually lose weight.

    McDonalds is still a goer for me though. And chocolate. My doctor doesn't know how I'm able to eat so much of it and not gain weight.

    Congrats. Losing weight is the first step. Keeping it off for a year is the next. Once you've done that your habits should be well enough changed.

    I didn't read the article 'cause I'm in a rush, but I hope you find your kilographs or whatever.

    Congratulations on losing so much weight and not giving up!!! It's personal success stories like these where I draw inspiration to refocus on myself and attempt to lose weight.

    Lost a tonne of weight and became a hipster.

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