How I Lost 75 Pounds in 120 Days
Hi! Happy New Year! I was going to wait a while longer to post this, but I see a lot of people making their Resolutions and the time seemed right. I also see a lot of people making fun of Resolutions, putting the whole tradition down as frivolous, and THAT SUCKS, MAN. Don’t do that.
If you want to change yourself for the better, do it. I have, and I’m just some guy with a studio apartment and an asshole cat. And even though I’m not even close to done (the “after pic” below is a work in progress), now could be a good time to show people that change can happen. And it can be fast. AND it can happen, even when very little is going well for you in other parts of your life.
It starts with the desire to change. You can do it. I want to grab your shoulders and shake you right now. You really can do it.
I’ve lost a lot of weight in a short time. That isn’t how people usually lose weight, but it is how everyone WANTS to lose weight. And I can’t blame them. Fast results give you motivation, which leads to more results forever and ever, Amen. Until you plateau, anyway…
Losing 1–2 pounds per week is what’s usually considered safe and sustainable. Through simple arithmetic, you can see I lost, on average, 4.4 pounds every week for the last four months. That’s over four times faster than the standard rate, and twice as fast as an accelerated plan.
Here’s what that looks like.
I don’t know if what I’ve done is entirely good for me. Apparently weight loss of this caliber and speed is dangerous. I know it can often lead to gall stones, but I don’t have a gall bladder, so gall stones: get fucked! You don’t even have a home in me.
I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you I’ve done no harm to myself that I can notice. I’m down to a size 36 waist from a 42, and 34 is knocking at the door. I wore XL or larger for most shirts and jackets, and now I fit comfortably into mediums. My face is thinner; I have a jawline again. I can now run six miles when I used to struggle to jog around the block. Stairs are fine. Women I don’t know smile at me and start conversations. I’m also way less likely to die from cancer, diabetes, and other health issues I’m genetically susceptible to. These are cool things. I like them a lot.
But because I don’t understand what I’ve done to myself, I can’t in good faith tell you to mimic what I’ve done. A lot of what I say will be phrased as advice (lots of “do this” and “you” usage), but that’s because I want to help and I’m all fired up. HOWEVER: Don’t blindly listen to me, seriously. Talk to a doctor or a nutritionist or a personal trainer. Get informed. Make your own educated choices and be safe.
OKAY, several of you have asked me “how I did it.” Sit down with a water, coffee, or tea (Lesson 1: NO drinks with added sugars (there aren’t really more lessons)) and let’s get to it.
FOUR EASY TRICKS I USED TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST. DRUG COMPANIES WILL HATE YOU.
1. I paid (ridiculous) attention to what I ate
For at least a month, pay ridiculously close attention to what you eat. Track every bite that goes into your mouth as accurately as you can. The handful of popcorn matters. The oil you fry your egg with matters. I used an app called Lose It, but I know a lot of people who use My Fitness Pal. They’re both free (with paid versions available), and they seem functionally identical to me. They both include nutritional information for most major food brands and restaurant chains, plus they have barcode scanners. Super cool and futuristic. If you like something else, go nuts!
Weight loss is a numbers game. If you burn more calories (through exercise and, you know, just being alive) than you consume, you’ll lose weight. This part is obvious, but crucial.
The real reason I recommend tracking calories so closely is because most people underestimate the number of calories they consume. I certainly did. Let’s start with an easy example.
I love fast food. Loved it before, love it now. If I go to McDonald’s and order a VERY modest meal — a McDouble with a small fry and a medium Coke — that’s 840 calories, and we haven’t even started with the ketchup, nor have we counted the soda refill for the road.
For my weight, gender, and height, I’m supposed to eat around 1800 calories every day to meet my weight loss goals. You can calculate this number online very easily, but I recommend trying 3–5 services and taking an average. They should all be close.
Anyway, with this one small meal, easily half of my calories are spoken for, probably more. And around half of those (fries, soda) are nutritionally barren.
Yes, fast food is a calorie bomb. Big news! But this also applies to foods that, in moderation, are pretty great for you. Peanut butter? Around 100 calories per tablespoon. Avocados? 160 calories per half, and we’re not talking about guacamole. I picked up a box of Triscuits and some roasted red pepper hummus. How quickly can you eat six Triscuits and two tablespoons of hummus? Probably just a minute or two, right? 200 calories. Tell me you snack for just a minute or two.
Some people hate tracking calories. I love it, and I do it every single day. It gives me control, and in the cases where I can’t count calories easily (read: every restaurant that isn’t a chain (read: good restaurants)), I can make decent enough estimates to stay on track. Even if you stop after a month, you will be more mindful of what you eat.
2. I didn’t neglect strength training
What comes to mind when you think of weight loss? For me, it’s a salad and a treadmill.
Cardio burns a lot of calories. Like all exercises, eventually you get better at it and then you have to work even harder to progress, but at the beginning? Yep, cardio will wreck you. If you’re in poor shape and you can’t run or jog, just walk. It’s okay. The guy next to you huffing like a steam-powered locomotive doesn’t exist. Slowly crank up the incline and the speed every time you’re at the gym. One day you’ll realize you’re jogging and it will be FUCKING COOL.
But this part isn’t about cardio. It’s about weights. This is also the part where my lack of knowledge will really shine through, so I’m going to talk out of my ass about what I think I know.
If you focus heavily on cardio and ignore strength training, apparently your body will consume your lean muscle tissue in addition to fat in order to fuel itself. Anecdotally this seems true, right? What do your die-hard long-distance runner friends look like? All the ones I know are healthy and thin. They look damn fit; I’m not trying to shame anyone here. But they often don’t have much going in the way of muscle definition.
People smarter than me say muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. That’s a pretty sweet deal. You can make your body more efficient (read: you can eat more food) by lifting weights and eating enough protein to keep your muscles fueled? Yes. This is a deal I can get behind.
I spend about 60% of my time in the gym lifting weights, from big, powerful compounds lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench, etc) to smaller isolation exercises. The other 40% I spend doing cardio (treadmill, rowing machine), bodyweight exercises (dips, pushups), and classes like Insanity or whatever else 24 Hour Fitness has going on. I have friends who focus exclusively on body building and power lifting; they do significantly less cardio than I do, sometimes none at all.
I might be doing too much. Maybe I’m killing “muh gainz.” To be honest, I don’t know. But I’m losing fat and I’m not getting weaker, so I’m just going to keep doing this for now.
3. I took a break from things (and people) I love
You know that sad mini-fridge at the movie theatre in the concessions line with the hummus and junk? I’m the guy who hits that up. I watched Rogue One with a tiny packet of jerky, and I felt guilty about the sodium. I drank only water when I watched La La Land, and I cried both because that movie is amazing and because I’ll never be as good looking as Ryan Gosling, even with my diet. Go see La La Land.
When you commit to losing weight, some stuff has to go. And even though my examples so far have been food related, there’s more to it than that.
I play(ed) a shit ton of Dota 2. Thousands of matches and thousands of hours across three years. I still love the game, and I watch it on Twitch when I can, but… reality check. If I play two matches of Dota in one night, and each match lasts about 40–50 minutes, I’m easily spending two hours sitting in a chair. It’s great. The game is fun. It connects me with my close friends. But two hours is enough time to go to the gym, put in a great workout, drive home, and shower.
This isn’t to say you can’t play video games and be fit. That’s nonsense.
When I stopped playing Dota, I lost one of my favorite hobbies along with almost all contact with a handful of people I care for. Even considering just the Bay Area, I live far away from my friends. I work from home, which I enjoy, but I don’t have day-to-day office interactions. Losing weight can be lonely and isolating, and when you do go out with a friend or on a date, and you want some GD popcorn or a cocktail or some other tiny pleasure, you just SHOULDN’T HAVE IT unless you built the event into a cheat night or something like that.
It sucks. It sucks every time, but do it long enough and you’ll look and feel like a million bucks and that DECIDEDLY DOES NOT SUCK.
Another thing: weight loss is about shifting your priorities. Everyone says they want to lose weight to be healthy because, one, that’s smart, and two, come on, who’s actually going to fight you on that one? But if you don’t give a shit about health and you just want to look good naked, that’s totally valid too, and it’s okay to put that desire above your other hobbies or even relationships.
Wow. This didn’t end up where I thought it would. TL;DR: weight loss is hard, and it’s okay and reasonable and probably mandatory to rearrange your priorities in order to accomplish your goals.
4. I used negative experiences as fuel
In April 2016, I hit a bumpy patch in my career. I’ve since stabilized thanks to some wonderful friends and colleagues, but I’m still looking for work.
This is not a joke, by the way. Hit me up if you know of any cool gigs in writing, editing, social media, community management, content marketing, PR, etc. I smell good (right now) and people tend to like me.
Anywho… Story time.
Since April, I had four “sure thing” interviews in a row, or about as close as you could get to a sure thing. Several other interviews too, but these were the really good ones. I had employee recommendations. Some of my interviewers were former colleagues. Most of the gigs I’d learned about before they were listed, and I was a damn near perfect fit on paper.
I didn’t land a single one.
Worse, for two of the gigs, nobody bothered to tell me I didn’t get the job. I found out about one through a friend, who then felt terrible and awkward that I didn’t know.
If 50 people interview for a job and you’re better than 48 of them, it doesn’t matter. When there’s one opening, second place is the same as last place. It didn’t matter that I’d made it so far into the process each and every time. In fact, knowing I’d gotten so close made it feel worse.
I became deeply depressed after the last failure (there was a phone call, at least!), and that’s when I stopped eating.
So yeah, this all started with depression. Right around August if I remember correctly. At the time, my daily caloric requirement to maintain my weight was around 2,700. For at least three weeks (I wish I’d taken better notes), I lived on 500–700 calories a day. When I told people I wasn’t starving myself, I could see their disbelief and their concern.
Truthfully, I wasn’t limiting myself at all. I’d eat until I was full, and then I’d stop. For me, that threshold just happened to be incredibly, dangerously low for a while, and pushing past it once or twice made me feel worse. I pushed away the people who care about me most. This caused what I sometimes fear is irreparable damage. I’m still sorting through the rubble.
Do you know what happens when you omit 10,000+ calories from your diet every week? You lose weight (and energy, and drive, and focus, and willpower). You lose it very, very quickly. I wasn’t just a sad boy; suddenly I’d become a sad boy with BAGGY jeans! I clung to my weight loss like it was one of the only good things happening in my life. Because it was. For me, the best way to combat depression was with daily, measurable progress. It was the only thing that made me feel okay. No matter how much I love writing, writing doesn’t always feel like progress. It’s easy to feel like trash after a day of it. Weight loss isn’t like that. The numbers go down or they don’t.
After the joy of losing weight started to lift my mood a bit, I began to eat about 1,000 calories a day and feel good about it. This happened for another few weeks. I started this whole thing at 287.4 pounds, and in just over a month I’d shed 20 of them. I slowly ate more and more food and lost more and more weight, and now I’m here.
YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS THE END? BONUS ROUND, BOYOS. LET’S TALK FOOD
A lot of you have asked me about what I eat. Let’s start with what I limit the most: sugar, salt, saturated fats, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates.
Looking through my Lose It app, I’m seeing a ton of similar foods logged, usually for the same meals. That’s the thing about eating “clean.” You’re going to eat the same things often. Very often. Get ready for chicken.
Okay, here are some common foods I eat for each meal, plus snacks. I don’t often stick to the usual three-meal schedule, but I’m going to list the foods that way because it’s easier.
2 eggs, fried in olive oil (add chopped mushrooms or peppers) with a slice of whole grain toast and a bit of butter
Oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder. Add honey, peanut butter, berries, a sliced banana, whatever else you got
Evol breakfast sandwiches. These have too much sodium to be ideal, but they are tasty and fast and you could do WAY worse. Dip in a bit of sriracha if you’re feeling feisty
Protein shake and an apple
If we’re being real, it’s almost always 4–6 oz. of protein (chicken, turkey, lean beef), about a fist-sized serving of brown rice, and a cup of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts). Seriously, this is the default meal. It’s boring, but it works
Salads. Go nuts with eggs and lean protein and, obviously, veggies. I can’t eat a salad without a bit of dressing, but I no longer need croutons or cheese to enjoy myself. Progress
Quinoa with spinach, onions, and chicken
Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes. I’m literally just listing fresh fruits
Pistachios, peanuts, or walnuts
Greek yogurt. Get the plain kind (I use 0% Fage), make it less horrible with fruit, honey, peanut butter, or protein powder
Crackers and hummus
SmartPop white cheddar popcorn
Whole grain toast with peanut butter
Hit me up!
I’m @albinoalbert on Twitter, and I like people. Let’s talk.
P.S. If you’re a proper nutritionist, please don’t come in here and “actually” all over the place unless something I said is truly dangerous or egregious. If that’s the case, shoot me a message and let’s talk. Otherwise, this is just me (a self-described idiot) telling people about what worked for me. Thanks :)