25 Pounds Down

I’d like to tell you how I lost the weight and see if maybe it can help you.

How I Gained It

I love programming. Programming is great. I find it engaging, challenging and it satisfies a compulsion in my psyche that requires me to solve problems.

I love building companies. Startups are exciting, difficult, challenging, fun and full of fulfillment.

Put those two things together and something really has to give. For me, it has been my activity level and eating habits. Constant stress, work and mental exhaustion significantly hamper my ability to be disciplined in other areas, as well as take away from the time and energy I would need to do it.

My current company, Outdoorsy.co, is no exception. Over the past couple years working on it, I gained 25 pounds. I swear it snuck up on me. Sneaky fat.

To be honest, I know how it happened. I’m a stress-eater. I munch on goodies while tackling a difficult problem. I get myself a pizza after a hard day. It makes me feel good.

Except when it doesn’t.

Once it really clicked, a few months ago, that I had gained a lot of weight and didn’t really like how I looked in the mirror, or my clothes, it was pretty depressing. Guess what helped me feel better! Food!

Sigh.

Thankfully, I didn’t let that go on for very long. After wallowing for a bit (we all do it, and I’d argue we even need it sometimes), I made the decision that I was going to lose weight.

How I Lost It

I have a philosophy by which I try to live my life: The Three As

  1. Awareness
  2. Acceptance
  3. Action

I became aware that I had gained weight. That it was a problem. I then accepted that it was my problem and I needed to do something about it. And, finally, I decided to take action to correct it.

Here is a step by step guide on how I did it. I’ll also explain why it worked for me, so you can judge whether it will work for you.

  1. Calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
  2. Set a calorie goal based on your TDEE
  3. Pick a target
  4. Track your weight every weekday
  5. Do not eat more than your daily calories on weekdays
  6. Take Saturday and Sunday off

Let’s break it down point by point.

Calculate your TDEE

Total Daily Energy Expenditure is the number of calories you burn in a day just by doing what you normally do. You must have a decent idea of what this number is to set a calorie goal.

To find an approximation of your TDEE, head over to TDEE Calculator. It is an excellent site that gives you a breakdown of your TDEE, as well as a lot of other information about activity levels, macronutrients, etc. It’s easy to use, so I’m not going to give you any kind of guide to it.

When I entered my information at the start of this process, I came out with about 2500 calories. I decided to round it to 2500 for the sake of simplicity.

Cool. We have our daily burn rate.

Keep in mind: it’s gonna suck to eat this few calories for at least a week. It was pretty awful. After the first week, my body adjusted and I found it much easier to stick to. Push through that first week!

Set a calorie goal based on your TDEE

A pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories. Once again, for the sake of simplicity (you’re going to notice a common theme here), we’re going to just do the math.

In order to lose fat, we have to eat less calories than we burn. Our body will consume the calories from our stored fat. That’s what it’s for, after all.

In order to lose 1 pound of fat we must consume 3500 calories less than we burn. Is it exactly that simple? No. Many other factors are involved. I don’t care. Simplicity is key for my approach.

So what does this mean for a calorie goal? Well, I decided that I wanted to eat 500 calories less per day than I burned, but only track it on weekdays. I also know that I’m liable to overshoot that, so I set it to 700 less per day than I burned to give myself some wiggle room.

My target? 1800 Calories Per Day.

Pick a goal

How much do you want to weigh? I, personally, am going for 190. I just hit 199, and that is the first time I’ve been under 200 since I was a teenager.

My goal? 190 pounds.

Track your weight every weekday

Every weekday I weigh myself. I enjoy seeing the numbers drop over time. It feels good and gives me motivation to continue.

I have a personal rule: I do not eat or drink anything until I’ve gone numbers 1 and 2. Once that’s been accomplished (:fanfare:) I weigh myself. That is the best way to get an accurate number.

Get your weight and plug it into Lightweight. Lightweight will also track your daily calories.

Do not eat more than your daily calories on weekdays

The Lightweight app, previously mentioned, makes this super easy. I tried things like MyFitnessPal, etc, and found them complicated. They required a lot of setup, searching, etc, etc. It was awful. It took time and was frustrating. That contributed to me just not doing it.

Lightweight lets you enter your target, and enter an amount of calories you just ate. That’s it. It works for me. When I get food I take a quick look and estimate the number of calories I just ate. Am I 100% accurate? Nope. I’m probably off more often than not. That’s what the 200 calorie headroom is for.

Grab food. Estimate the cals (read the label or do a quick search). Eat. Record. Once you hit 1800, stop. This is really the part that requires the most willpower, but the rest of my approach is designed to require minimal effort and willpower so you will have enough to spare at this critical point.

Stop. Eating. You’re at your limit. Stop.

One very important thing to note, though, is that I only care about calories. If you want to eat 1800 cals of ice cream sandwiches, do it. I don’t give a damn. You can eat whatever you want (up to 1800 cals) and still lose weight. I make no guarantees about nutrition, but I don’t care about that right now either(simplicity!).

Take Saturday and Sunday off

Saturday and Sunday I don’t even open the app. I don’t track my weight. I don’t track my cals.

I don’t go totally nuts and eat 2 pizzas and a cake, either.

I eat what I want, enjoy the hell out of it, and refill my willpower tank. My stomach has shrunk, so I can’t eat massive quantities of food like I used to. I get full much more quickly and feel awful if I overeat, so that’s a good sign to help me moderate.

These two days are critical. Give yourself a break and enjoy the foods you love without worrying about the diet. In fact, this is part of the diet! These two days help you stay on track during the week.

Why It Works For Me

I have a lot going on, just like everyone else. I’m busy, stressed, tired and just don’t have much left to focus on things like dieting and exercising.

So why did this work? Because I didn’t try to do too much at once. I explicitly stated that my only goal is to lose weight. To eat fewer calories than I burn. That’s it.

I didn’t start exercising. I didn’t try to eat better. I didn’t get a food scale. I didn’t count and balance macronutrients. I didn’t try to alter my sleeping habits.

I explicitly did not do those things. If I had tried to make even one of the above changes at the same time as losing weight, I would have failed.

The point is: each day you have a limited amount of mental and emotional energy. A limited amount of willpower. By making a simple, easy to follow set of rules, and only doing one thing, I was able to lose the weight.

The Most Important Part

Do not shame yourself. Ever. You’re gonna fall short some days. There’s been plenty of times where I had a particularly difficult day, made popcorn, grabbed some candy and watched a movie. I overshot my calories that day by a lot. And you know what? That’s ok. As long as you don’t do it often, and you get back on the horse the next day, you’re fine.

Shame is never productive. Self-shame is exceptionally toxic and destructive. Do your best, be honest with yourself and forgive yourself. If you do, you will succeed.

What’s next?

Once I hit 190, I’m going to look at exercise. I want to get myself in shape for hiking and backpacking next spring… but we’ll see how that goes.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully it will help you as it has helped me. My approach certainly won’t be for everyone, but hey... couldn’t hurt!