My Attempt To Answer How I Lost Weight
I ate less food.
Over the last several months, I've been able to reconnect with people again after a couple of years. After their initial shock and surprise that they know who I am, they ask me: "how did you do it?"
I honestly don't know how to answer the question because, even to me, it still is a mystery. This post will collect my thoughts and hopefully provide some answers to those curious.
I remember during my senior year of high school when I realized I had put on so much weight that my clothes no longer fit me, and I needed to buy larger sizes. What I didn't know at that time was that it would be a 25-year battle of self-image, self-loathing, and motivation.
Over that time, I've tried just about everything to lose weight: Atkins, South Beach, Juice cleanses, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, Cabbage, Paleo, Keto, Low Carb, Body For Life, Low Sugar, Calorie counting, Weight lifting, Cardio, Aerobics, Running, etc.
Sometimes I took those efforts seriously, getting down to 280 pounds twice. 280 does not seem like a good number for a 5'11" male who is supposed to weigh under 190 lbs, but when you previously clocked in at 400 lbs or more, it feels incredible. However, I would always gain the weight back.
I learned that diets are not sustainable and surgery doesn't work for everyone. More importantly, I started to understand that programs are designed to make you temporarily lose weight, are unsustainable, or worse for your health than you think.
You would think that being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes would have pushed me to get things under control, but I had convinced myself that no matter what I weighed, I was healthy or that even thin people get sick. I became an expert at evading my efforts.
Anything can be okay in moderation, but not when dieting is so far off course that even moderation is excess. I would eat plateful after plateful, never feeling full or satisfied. I would wake up hungry, despite eating 2500 calories for dinner the night before. I was sick but had convinced myself that I was healthy and that my body was naturally heavy and needed the extra weight.
Before I get to how I lost weight, I want to talk about my love of amusement parks and roller coasters. Around 13, our school went on a field trip to Cedar Point. It wasn't my first time at an amusement park, but this time I finally talked myself into riding a coaster with loops, and after that, I was hooked. Every summer, I would get to a park and ride as many roller coasters as I could. The atmosphere, the heat, the lines, all of it, I loved it.
However, most rides don't cater to larger bodies. I recall countless times feeling dejected after waiting in line for a ride I couldn't fit in. I had to watch my kids enjoy riding coasters from the sidelines. Ultimately, this reality sinking in and watching my wife lose weight the year before finally pushed me towards action.
Most people wish this were where I could say, "I did X," and that was it - end of the post. Typically, my answer to those who ask is, "I ate less." This answer never feels good enough or can even be condescending and rude. So let me try and explain what that means exactly.
I used to love eating at Wendy's. I would order a double (mayo and cheese only), large fries, and a large diet drink (saving calories, of course). Besides the two days' worth of caloric intake in a sitting, the number of addictive chemicals in that meal made me only want it more.
The most important lesson was how addictive food could be. I used to think ice cream and pizza were "bad foods" or salads and veggies were "good." Both things are the same - food. The ingredients make all the difference.
Two brands of peanut butter, with 200 calories/serving, can have completely different ingredients, depending on the amount of sugar and oils added. Removing processed foods from my diet didn't all happen at once. I backed down slowly. I think this is critical - quitting anything this addictive without stepping down is dangerous and fruitless. It tends to lead to severe levels of bounce back.
A triple became a single, and fries became small. I could get the taste without as many calories. Over time, I wanted it less and less. The foods many of us eat, especially diet foods, contain so much stuff that our bodies don't know what to do with them.
The more I eliminated fast foods - frozen meals, dining out, prepackaged foods - the more I lost. Do I still eat junk? Yep. Just so much less often and on a significantly lower amount.
Eat Less Often
I found myself eating around the same time every day, regardless. The first habit I had to break was eating on a schedule, not when I was hungry. This behavior would lead me to eat 4000+ calories daily without thinking. I honestly didn't even know what hunger was anymore.
Searching for what hunger felt like took some time, but I'm not sure how long. It took paying close attention to my body and waiting to eat only when I truly felt hungry. Asking the simple question, "am I hungry" I typically answer no.
Eventually, I could turn this new understanding into a more rigorous fasting approach. I am now able to fast and control intake without the initial struggles.
My initial measurement of success was stepping on a scale 2-3 times a day. Any loss was a win and felt great. Setting weight goals helped - my first was to get under 300 lbs. After that, I used 20-pound increments to not overwhelm myself with taking on too big of a goal.
Recording my weight was a big eye-opener. There was a pattern of loss/gain that I had never noticed before — seeing the pattern and associating that with how I was eating and feeling at the time helped my brain comprehend what was happening. It was something I could repeat now, with consistent results.
I also used roller coasters at a nearby theme park that year as a measurement - starting the season only fitting on a few to ending the year by riding them all. Clothing sizes also became a gauge. Going from 3XL to L and a 56" waist to 36" was a clear indicator that things were working.
While it may seem like a brush-off type of answer, "I eat less food" is the only way I can sum up a year of retraining my mind and body to understand how to feed itself again. The problem with asking me how is I am still in disbelief myself and do not believe I have any level of expertise that will ultimately help.
What I can say is - you will have a different journey. You will find the patterns, habits, and foods that work best for you. If I have learned anything, it is this - no one else will do the work for you. No diet, book, video, class, or anything else will change you. It was not easy, but the extra time I may have with my family makes it worth it.