Hacking My Weight

How I Gained 100 lbs Over Six Years and Lost It in Six Months

In my younger years, I played baseball and loved to be outside. I ran around Munster, Indiana like a lunatic and started my own lawn-mowing business for the (mostly elderly) folks that lived within a 1/2 mile radius. I was very active.

But everything changed when I got a job at 19 programming video games. I felt I had something to prove. I did nothing except sit in front of the computer screen. I didn’t drink alcohol until I was about 23, but I ate terribly. I’d go through 3-4 Coke’s or Mountain Dew’s in a day and eat a full breakfast, lunch and dinner with plenty of snacks in between; usually at my computer.

By the time I was 25 years old, I had a lot of success in my career. I was a lead programmer at Double Helix. But I weighed 250 lbs. That’s 113 kilograms. My jean size was 44 inches. Note, I am 5'11"tall.

(Oh dear god, I can’t believe I’m going to post this..)

At my first video game job. About 225 lbs.

Phase 1 - Desperation

I can’t say what switch flipped in my head, but I remember a (now lost) photo of me and my little brother Jason. I dwarfed him, not in height because he’s sadly an inch taller than me, but in width. I was shocked. I had to lose the weight.

My trick was all about creating rewards. I would turn everything I wanted to do into a reward for exercising. For example, almost every single night I would watch two reruns of Seinfeld. But it was only allowed if I went running first. The only thing that couldn’t be a reward was food.

About 215 lbs.

I literally wore t-shirts and gym shorts every single day, including to work. This way, I could jog or do exercise at a moment’s notice comfortably.

Three months later, I was 195 lbs. That’s 55 pounds lost in three months. Or 0.6 lbs per day. Or negative 2100 calories per day. Most physicians will say that’s not possible without starving. Well, that’s basically true. I would usually start the day off with a yogurt or banana, have 8-10 slices of turkey and some vegetables for lunch, and finish the evening with a yogurt and some Fiber One cereal sprinkled over it. I also ran every evening for about 30-45 minutes. By “ran” I really mean that I walked with the occasional burst of jogging. Eventually, that turned into full on running.

To summarize the three months:

  1. Severe deficit of calories. Generally 600-800 intake per day. No alcohol.
  2. Cardio every day. At least ~30 minutes burst jogging.
  3. Random bits of exercise throughout the day whenever possible. 7 pairs of gym shorts and t-shirts recommended.

Phase 2 - Obsession

This weight got me through the next year comfortably. I was still cautious about what I ate, and slowly declined down to about 190 lbs. But then I picked up a copy of The Abs Diet, and everything changed again. My friend Ben Cureton and I made a pact. I was to get down to 165 lbs, and he would get down to 190. As fast as humanly possible. In three months.

I ran almost every morning, we went to the gym almost every night and we pre-planned our exercises. I remember one night I went to the gym at midnight and returned at 5AM. In hindsight, I might have been a little obsessed. We kept each other honest. We were inspired by the likes of Ronnie Coleman. I read Arnold’s book, which I referred to as “The Bible,” twice cover-to-cover.

170 lbs. Please pardon the ridiculousness of this photo.

I didn’t stay in the gym for more than 55 minutes, 15 of which were spent on cardio and the remaining 40 weight training. Mostly everything revolved around the bench press, squats and dead lifts.

This time, instead of starving myself, I took a very balanced approach. Low-carb and I ate five portioned meals per day. For my snacks, I ate Myoplex bars. I remember sitting them next to me at my keyboard and I would count the minutes until I could eat it.

I took the same reward approach. Except this time, my reward was generally healthy food. There was nothing better than steak and broccoli after a workout. I would literally go out to eat with friends and get more vegetables for “desert”.

Three months later, I discovered I could comfortably wear size small t-shirts from Express and American Apparel and my jean size was 30 inches. I weighed 155 lbs.

155 lbs. And a cat.

To summarize:

  1. Planned weight-lifting 45 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
  2. Cardio 30-45 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
  3. Balanced, low-carb diet, 5 meals per day. About 1800-2000 calories daily.
  4. A partner to keep you honest at the gym.

Phase 3 - Maintenance

This is probably the hardest phase of them all. Especially while working at places like Google that offer free food. But I managed to hover between 155-165 for about four years.

Today I weigh around 180 lbs. But I don’t look like I did when I was coming down from 255 because of the muscle gained from Phase 2. Nevertheless, as my father would say: “Time to hit it and get it!” Indeed.

My personal ideal weight and new target is 170. And ~10 lbs just doesn’t seem so difficult now.

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