Holy shit, dude!

How I accidentally lost 50 pounds in 8 months

Let me start by making it perfectly clear that I have no background to talk about health-related things with any real authority.

I haven’t wanted to write about weight loss before, as I technically have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve certainly shared bit of gnar on Instagram related to #shrinkingjeffrey and and its precursor, having my left hip replaced in December 2012.

In 2013, I managed to go from 240-ish pounds to 185-190 pounds in about 8 months and have kept it off since. I wish I could tell you how it works, but I don’t really know for sure. I do get asked “How?” a lot, and my usual answer is: “I stopped eating like an asshole.” That is the truth, but there’s a little more to it.

December 3, 2012, I weighed 240-ish pounds when I went in for surgery. The first few weeks after, I was basically laying around, watching movies, and consuming a lot of painkillers (as directed). I was still using a cane to help me get around the first time I could stand on a scale without holding on to anything.

220 pounds.

Now, I’ve had surgery before, and have lost weight due to it, so this wasn’t a shock. However, this time I wanted to be protective of it. The goal was to not gain the 20-ish back. I certainly could have stood to lose a few pounds, so I wasn’t about to pass-up this free-bee.

A few years before the surgery, “The 4-Hour Body” came out and almost my entire office where I worked followed the diet for a while. I lost almost 30 pounds in something like 6 weeks. As soon as I stopped following the diet, I gained all the weight back and then some.

This is not a comment on Tim’s book at all; I can take responsibility for what I choose to eat. In fact, I did learn learn something really key: I can lose weight pretty quickly by avoiding carbs.

I wanted to protect the 20-ish pound weight loss, so I came up with a plan based loosely on what I learned from 4-Hour Body, but I also with a sense of reality that I felt I could abide by.

It went something like this:

  • Don’t drink calories—unless it’s really worth it.
  • Don’t drink any “Diet” soda or anything with HFCS and/or chemicals (like Sugar-Free Red Bull).
  • Drink lots of water (which I did anyway).
  • Avoid all carbs—unless it’s really worth it.
  • I do not care if sugars are carbs, I’m going to eat fruit, and I require sugar in coffee.
  • Get data on steps and weight every day.

“Really worth it” is defined as “something not worth passing up (subject to sobriety-driven judgement).” Examples of “really worth it” include any type of food from a really great restaurant, whiskey, or the banana bread my wife makes that’s amazing.

I made no exceptions to the “Really worth it” rule. As much as possible. By setting a bar of what’s “really worth it”, it became very simple to make decisions about what to eat. If that meant that sometimes I felt a little hungry due to limited options, it was still way better than the alternative feeling (more on that later).

I got a FitBit scale so I could get daily data in the same fashion that I was tracking how much I moved around and I used Lift to keep me on task with my goals.

I didn’t really care about the data to optimize anything. I just wanted to keep track. If I had extra time, I walked around the block rather than cutting through. Nothing routine, just opportunistic. I just figured, every little bit counted—especially because I was counting.

My daily step goal was 5,000 and I usually missed it a couple times a week. About 3,000 of them were just walking around at work or to-and-from my car. I weighed-in every morning.

Oh yeah, and there was this gigantic advantage I had in being able to stay disciplined with my diet, and it had little to do with losing weight. What I discovered was the more I avoided carbs, the more predictably I digested food. Over time, this eliminated a long-standing, learned psychological need to be constantly aware of where a restroom is. This was a side effect of my “frankenguts,” which I’ve written/talked about ad-nauseum, but basically, this felt like the last piece to the puzzle. Mystery solved.

I accidentally found a way to feel normal after nearly 10 years of trying to figure out how. The weight loss turned out to be a very fortunate side-effect.

This isn’t a “how-to.” All I know is this: I stopped eating carbs as a way to lose weight, and the net result was that I effectively learned how to regain my freedom.

I wasn’t always a such a homebody. It’s a learned behavior. Being home just became most comfortable for me. Suddenly, in changing the way I ate, I was able to start shedding not just pounds, but the anxieties manifested by not being at home.

I wanted to understand what was going on, so I spent some time experimenting with consuming carbs regularly again. As a result, everything went back to the way it used to be—that feeling of being tethered to the closest restroom.

Over the last decade, I had learned to live life assuming the identity of a homebody who couldn’t help but be a bit overweight because food is totally awesome. This broke my brain a little bit. That’s getting better too.

I was always a naturally skinny kid. I was that tall and lanky dude in high school who loved food, and could eat everything without consequence.

That’s how I lived until I was 21, when UC (and subsequent surgeries) really messed-up my metabolism. This used to afford me the luxury of never worrying about what I ate. Effectively overnight, it became “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips” (thanks for that one, Ben).

It’s funny to think that almost everyone sees me looking different, when I finally feel normal. Because it’s been so long, almost no one I know now sees my weight loss as returning to normal. It tends to prompt:

“Are you OK?”

Nearly all the people I know from long enough ago, who know this is my normal, are scattered across the country. I usually only get to see them once or twice a year. When I first see them again, it tends to prompt:

“Holy shit, dude!”