Weight Loss

Weight Loss Update July 2018 (/w before and after picture)

Hey everyone, I’m a little late adding this, I just got back from vacation yesterday. I’m happy to report that I’ve hit my goal weight and I’m doing losing weight for now. My plan of having more days at maintenance and fewer in a deficit worked, and I maintained a deficit of 428 calories per day on average for the month. Ideally I would have liked it to be a bit higher, but the extra 72 calories per day would only amount to about half a lb extra of weight loss.

It’s a bit strange to be done after having been losing weight constantly since January of 2016, and I find it very difficult to eat maintenance calories. Some days I struggle getting enough in, other days I go a bit over because I end up eating things I probably shouldn’t.

My habits, shopping list and meal plans are so tuned into eating at roughly a 500 calorie deficit now that I have to think about adding in extra calories, mostly in the form of more healthy fats. Towards the end of my diet I ended up cutting out more fat than I did carbs, so I’ve been eating roughly half of the daily fats that I should.

Since I was making up about half the deficit or so from activity towards the end this is a bit easier than anticipated though. I just cut out a lot of my daily walking, and set my pedometer for 8000 steps per day instead of 10000. I lost 1.72 kg (3.7 lbs) in July and reached 77.3 kg, which was 300 grams of my goal weight but close enough.

July Weight Loss Statistics

I ended July with an estimated 67.75 kg of lean mass, with 9.55 kg of fat mass, which puts me at 12.3%. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but since I can’t get a DEXA scan or something more accurate it’s good enough to let me track the trend. My initial goal was to get to 10% but I’ve decided to call it quits for now and focus on gaining some lean muscle mass instead. I’m at a point in my weight loss where adding 1 kg of muscle does a lot more for my body composition than losing another kg of fat.

I ended July 300 grams (0.8 lbs) higher than my set goal weight, but I decided that it was close enough and to move on from this first 30 month phase. I think what did the most to help me maintain the deficit in July was that a lot of it came from extra activity instead of cutting back on food. I was eating about 2700 calories a day on average throughout July, but I was burning an average of 3017 calories every day. This was something that I picked up from a Stan Efferding interview, where he said that he prefers to increase activity before cutting back on calories.

I also switched off the bodybuilding push/pull/legs split I’d been doing for 3 months to a lower volume full body program to maintain muscle, but without expending a lot of calories through metabolic training in the weight room. What I learned from this is to always adapt your volume to your diet. It’s pretty easy to handle a higher volume program when you’re eating at maintenance than when you’re in a steep deficit.

Summing Up The Weight Loss

I’ve been on a weight loss journey for many years now starting when I was about 25, 10 years ago. I’ve lost and regained a lot of weight in my life but I’m happy to say that I’m final normal weight with a BMI of 23.29. One of the major lessons for me is that I can actually control my weight, I just had to make a lot of small changes in my lifestyle, and do a lot of inner work to fix many of the habits that lead to me putting on the weight. On my journey I’ve lost 49.6% of my body weight (I round that to 50% if anyone asks), for a total loss of 76 kg (167 lbs). This was a very rough journey and it took a long time, I could have been a lot faster in theory, but even now, knowing all that I know I’m not sure if I could do it faster if I was starting today.

The one thing I’m sure of is that I would be better with taking progress pictures from day one. I took them for the last year, but it would have been fun to have them for the entire weight loss journey.

Going forward I’m going to stay at maintenance calories for a while, probably at least 1 – 2 months to see what happens with my weight. I’ve been in a deficit for so long that I’m not really sure what will happen once I start eating normally again over time. I’m also going to stick with tracking my weight and staying on top of my calories to maintain the good habits I’ve developed during my weight loss. I once read that the people who do not regain the lost weight are the people who stay vigilant with their weight and stick with their good habits.

I switched my weight lifting program to a bodybuilding style push/pull routine, I’m aiming for a weekly volume of 90 – 120 reps for larger muscle groups (chest, back, legs) and 30 – 60 reps for smaller muscle groups (shoulders, arms), I would add calves to the small muscle groups but I have massive former fat boy calves so I don’t need to work my calves any more. I’m using a 3 x 8 – 12 set-rep scheme with 60 second rests mostly focused on the big compound movements. So far in August I’m in roughly a 30 calorie surplus per day, most of which was my birthday cake.

As a final note on the weight loss, It’s customary to post a before/after picture, so here is me at 25 years old at 337 lbs, and me at 35 years old at 170 lbs.

 

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3 Simple Things

This morning I was thinking about the different habits I have now compared to the habits I used to have. The idea of a diet is temporary, it’s something we do for a time to get a result. Want to lose 5 lbs? Go on a diet, lose the 5 lbs, then go back to your old habits and gain them back.

It was difficult for me to change my lifestyle, because a lot of my habits, or default behavior if you prefer that were things that made me gain weight. The three habits that I’m going to write about in this post, are 3 easy to do things that most people will be able to do and that will give you more control.

Eliminate Liquid Calories

I used to be a big consumer of soda, I started with a glass or two in the morning, plus maybe an energy drink. I had soda with every meal, and between meals. I pretty much never drank water. This was not only an expensive habit, but on a “good day” I would consume almost 600 calories, and on a bad day up to 1800 calories from just soda.

If I was being “healthy” I would drink apple juice or sweet tea instead, but those can have even more calories. Now, I still buy Coca Cola Zero, or Sprite Zero on occasion as a treat, but the majority of what I drink is pure water and coffee.

This little change reduced my caloric intake by enough calories to lose about 0.5 kg/1 lb every week.

Meal Planning

I started meal planning in about March 2016. Before I started planning out my meals, I would have to throw away a lot of food because I bought it and it went bad, but even worse I was at the mercy of “what looks good”. I would go to the grocery store 1 – 3 times a day, buy whatever I wanted at that moment and finish most of it.

This meant that when I was shopping for my breakfast, I would grab whatever smelled the best, usually baked goods and an energy drink. When I was shopping for my lunch I would grab whatever was fast and easy to save time on my lunch break. When I was shopping for my dinner, I would grab whatever took the least possible effort to prepare and tasted the best, so usually a frozen pizza.

Going to the grocery store every day also meant that I had 3 times a day where I could buy candy or chocolate to snack on.

Usually what I do now is set aside 1 hour on Thursday night (I shop Friday after work), and plan the 3 main meals every day until lunch on the coming Friday. I’ll enter them all into My Fitness Pal and adjust them so that I’m on track for my calorie and macro-nutrient targets.

I also make sure to buy some healthier, lower calorie snacks, like yogurt, fruit and carrots, to bridge the gap between the estimated calories in my fitness pal and the actual calories I should eat that day based on the fitbit adjustment.

The 10 Minute Walk

This is a new habit that I used to replace the 3 x 1 – 2 hour brisk walks I used to do for cardio, and that I stole from a bodybuilder named Stan Efferding. After every meal, I get up and do a brisk 10 – 20 minute walk. On most days I used to get 5 – 6000 steps in Fitbit, after using the 10 minute walk, I get around 12.000 and this burns enough calories that I don’t need to set aside the 1 – 2 hours 3 x a week to do cardio.

It’s low impact, easy, and something just about everyone can do regardless of fitness level. It also helps with digestion and insulin sensitivity.

Weight Loss Update: April 2018

April was an interesting month, weight loss wise. I changed my workout program from a full body program highly focused on compound lifts and low reps (5×5 and 3×3) to a push/pull/legs split with more isolation and using a 3×12 rep scheme. I’ve kept some of the heavy load exercises in the program, so I’ll still do heavy deadlifts, squats and bench press every two to three weeks but most of my work is done at around 60% of 1 rep max, instead of 80% or more of 1 rep max. This change in program was due to me getting bored with my full body program after a full 12 months of the same program, but also because I wanted to focus on building more mass over strength.

I also tinkered a bit with my macros. As I said in my March summary, I was on a 30/30/40 macro split (carbs/fat/protein) and tapering my deficit down from 500 to about 350. This was the plan until I experienced some pretty bad gastrointestinal issues about halfway through the month and decided to try changing it up. I’ve always felt the best on fairly low carb macro planning, usually between 20 and 50 grams per day. However, this time I decided to go all out and try zero-carb for the last 10 days on the month.

While I’ve done sub-20 grams of carbs before, also known as “ultra-low carb” I’d never done zero carb before. So, on the 20th of April I embarked on 10 days of nothing but water, coffee, red meat, eggs, butter and a little bit of cheese, with very good results. I’m going to write a dedicated post on it, but in short, my GI issues cleared up in about 3 days, I saw no change in energy levels, and the weight started dropping again. (more…)

Crash Diets

I like the moniker that these diets get, because not only do they tend to crash your weight into the ground, you usually crash and burn when you go on them too. The sales arguments are tempting, “Lose 30 lbs in 30 days”, “Lose 10 lbs in 10 days”, and appeals our urge to fix problems fast. The truth about them is that they are inherently unsustainable and all work off the same principles. As regular readers will know, I track every morsel of food that goes in my mouth, my daily calorie expenditure and my weight every single day. I also do refeeds once in a while, and I’m familiar with the mechanisms that make you drop “5 lbs in 5 days” or the like.

The picture on the left is an excerpt from my January log, right after I came off a 2 week full diet break for Christmas. As you can see, the first of January I weighed in at 89,10 kg (196 lbs), and the morning on the 8th of January I weighed in at 86 kg (189 lbs), this was a loss of 3,1 kg (7 lbs) in 7 days. If I calculate this into calories, it would require a deficit of 24500 calories.

The reality of my 7 lbs in 7 days is simple. Prior to my diet break I weighed in at 84 kg (185 lbs) in a glycogen depleted state, with very little stomach contents, and dehydrated. During Christmas, much like most people do, I ate and drank a large amount of food, filling up my glycogen stores to the max (adding 400 – 600 g of sugar + 1500 – 2000 grams of water). On New Years eve, I had a large turkey dinner with a lot of sodium, a lot of beer, desserts and various other things, that made sure my body was stuffed with glycogen, my stomach contents were full, I was retaining water (from the sodium and alcohol). This pushed my weight up to a peak of 89 kg, when realistically my weight was closer to 87 kg (my 3 day average was 87,5 and 6 day average 86,6).

I didn’t actually eat a calorie surplus of almost 40.000 calories for those 14 days. Meaning an intake of 2500 (my average daily energy expenditure) +2800 per day, making my total calorie intake for 2 weeks an average of 5300 calories per day. I ate a surplus of about 14000 calories, meaning 1000 per day for those 2 weeks. The rest was water and stomach contents. So my massive 5 kg weight gain was 2 kilo (5 lbs) of actual weight, and the rest was just water and stomach contents.

This week was the same case. I decided to have a cheat meal or two during the weekend, where I consumed drastically more calories than I normally do, to the tune of eating 5000 calories on Friday and 3000 calories on Saturday. The first column here is my calories consumed, the second column is my weight. As you can see, i went from 4 days weighing in at a stable 80,2 kg (176,8 lbs) to 83 kg (183 lb) over night.

I do admit that Friday and Saturday had some binge-eating aspects to them. More specifically, I wasn’t planning on eating that full 450g (1 lb) of peanuts and I was planning on a couple of beers, not 8, and the fact that my mother had made cheesecake was completely unplanned. However, I made sure I tracked everything I ate during my cheat, even in an inebriated state. My Fitbit was also in it’s normal position around my left arm, as I used it to raise pint after pint.

This means I have very good data on the entire cheat including calories burned. The first column here are my calories burned from my FITBIT, the second my intake according to My Fitness Pal. Over the course of the weekend, I ate a surplus of 2266 calories on Friday, which was my only calorie surplus that weekend. This would mean a maximum weight gain if it’s all fat of 0,29 kg (0,64 lbs), not a big deal. The weight gain on the other hand, was 2.8 kg (6,17 lbs)

This means that 2,51 kg (5,5 lbs) are unexplained by the food, but they are easily explained by glycogen and carbohydrate. Since my normal diet is lower than 50g of carbs every day, my muscles and liver are completely out of sugar. An adult weighing 70 kg (154 lbs) can store, 100 – 120 grams of glycogen in their liver and roughly 400 grams in their muscles.  This is a total of about 500 grams. Each gram is bound to 3 – 4 grams of water. The total weight of this is 1500 grams to 2000 grams of water plus 500 grams of glycogen, for a total of 2 – 2,5 kg (4,4 – 5,5 lbs) weight gain.

A crash diet works in the same way that my rapid weight loss does. When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, and your carbohydrate intake, your body depletes your glycogen stores and releases the water causing a rapid weight loss. When you start eating normally again, your glycogen stores refill and the water comes back. From this perspective on the 13th, I was at my glycogen depleted weight, the average of the 17th and 18th is my real weight.

Weight Loss Update: February 2018

As of the morning of February 28th 2018, I’ve reached a new low of 80,9 kg (179 lbs), putting me 0,9 kg (2 lbs) short of my next weight milestone of 80 kg (176 lbs). This means that since I started this last leg of my weight loss journey, I’ve lost 9 kg (20 lbs) in total, that is more likely 7 – 7,5 kg (15 – 16 lbs), considering water and glycogen. I’m happy to say that my lifts have been going up in the weight room since new years, so I’m pretty sure that the fat vs lean mass calculations are on point. On February 28th, I have a BMI of 24,4 and my 6 day average body weight is 81,9 kg (180 lbs), which is roughly on target based on my tracked calories in and out.

February started out very challenging because I had to attend a 3 day corporate retreat, and that always means more food and alcohol, plus that I won’t be able to track the calories of every meal accurately. It also means that I had to shuffle around my training schedule. I compensated for the over-indulgence at the retreat by doing extra cardio in sub-zero temperatures and eating less in the 3 days following it. It’s not optimal, but it doesn’t seem to have done any damage.

I’ve increased the weight lifted on the Bench press, Squat, Overhead Press and Barbell Row. My calculated 1 rep max for these lifts after 10 months of training, is 77 kg (169 lbs) for the bench press, 103 kg (227 lbs) for the squat, 60 kg (132 lbs) for the standing overhead press and 100 kg (220 lbs) for bent over barbell rows.

I’ve seen good progress on my lifts in these 10 months, despite being in a severe caloric deficit for the whole period, and I’m getting very exited, but a little nervous about doing my first “bulk” sometime in April or May. I feel like I have full control over my weight and to some degree my body composition at this point, but the idea of eating in a surplus on purpose after losing 45 kg (100 lbs) in the last 24 months, and 77 kg (170 lbs) in total, is a bit scary.

February Weight Loss Statistics

I had the same 750 daily calorie deficit goal as I did for January, this was a bit of a challenge this month, because I had to attend a 3 day corporate retreat where I was unable to track calories accurately. Usually I prepare all my meals from scratch because this gives me control over what I put in my body and how much of it, when dining out I have no way of knowing if a steak was cooked in 5 g of butter or 50 g of butter. I guesstimated the calorie intake for each day at 3500 including alcohol just to be on the safe side. I also made sure to cut calories back extra in the days after I got back home and added some extra cardio.

The overall deficit was down to 774 calories for February compared to 877 calories per day for January, this was mostly because of the 3 days with little to no control over my food, and where I also had some alcohol. My 6 day average around the weigh in for February was 81,85 kg (180 lbs) and my first of March weight was 81,6 kg (179,8), which puts me well within the range of my goal for the month.

I burned a total of 73847 calories this month according to Fitbit, tracked a total of 52178 calories in MyfitnessPal, for a deficit of 21669 calories for the month. This is lower than January both because the February deficit was 100 calories less every day than my January deficit, but also because February has 3 fewer days.  Overall, the deficit difference didn’t make a major impact, if my February deficit was the same as my January deficit I would have lost 3,19 kg (7 lbs) instead of 2,81 kg (6,1 lbs).

My body fat based on the Navy Body Fat calculator is 19%, I’m starting to see some muscle definition mostly in my forearms, shoulders and legs, but I’m still carrying a bit of subcutaneous fat in my problem areas. I’m hoping most of that disappears when I get down to 15 – 16% at the end of March. My waistline went down from 94 cm (37 inches) to 90 cm (35,4 inches) and  I had to punch new holes in the belts I bought last year.

My goal for March is to maintain a daily deficit of 850 calories per day, for a total deficit for the month of 26350 calories, and this should bring me down to 78,5 kg (173 lbs), at 15 – 16% body fat, by the end of the month.

I’m noticing that maintaining this level of deficit is more draining than the 1000 calories per day deficit was last year, I have a bit less energy and my mind is on food a lot. I think this is because as my body fat percentage is going down, my body is noticing that it’s gigantic store of adipose energy is emptying out. I’ve made some changes to my eating schedule to try and get around it. Instead of eating a large main meal totally about 1000 – 1200 calories, and a lunch of about 350 – 450 calories, I’ve reduced my main meal to between 800 calories and 900 calories, and have a snack either in the morning or during the afternoon.

 

Weight Loss Update: January 2018

The 31st of January marked the end of my first month of weight-loss for 2018. While my fat loss goal is less ambitious this year than in previous years, since I have a lot less to lose, I’m still supposed to go from 89 kg (196 lbs.) on January first, down to 77 kg (170 lbs) in the first 3 months of the year, for a total loss of 12 kg (26,5 lbs.), meaning a loss per month of 4 kg (8,8 lbs.). I’m teetering on the upper edge of healthy BMI, depending on whether I’m using the regular BMI calculator or the adjusted BMI calculator.

Unlike earlier years when I had so much fat to lose that I could just cut calories and let the weight drop, I’ve entered a recompositioning phase where my goal is to maintain, or ideally build more lean mass, while reducing body fat. This is one of the things that I did wrong during the first 5 – 6 months of 2017, I just let my weight drop down from 106 kg (234 lbs) to 86 kg (190 lbs), hitting a year low of 83 kg (183 lbs), without lifting weights for the first 5 months of the year, so I ended up with a very bad body composition at my year low. I pretty much looked like a smaller version of the same fat f*ck.

Towards the end of last year, I decided to eat at maintenance and focus on adding some lean mass back. I’ve always tried to maintain a major weight loss for 3 – 6 months after reaching my year goal to give myself a break, and my body time to adjust. I haven’t done all this work only to end up with loose skin or similar problems towards the end. I’m also focusing on maintaining good habits, even during diet breaks.

In 2016 and 2017 my goal was fat loss, in 2018 my goal is to maintain or ideally add more lean mass, while reducing body fat percentage. For this reason I’ve recalibrated my diet to include extra protein, and I’m running a less aggressive deficit than I was for the fat-loss period of 2017.

January Statistics

I had a planned deficit of 750 calories every day for January, this coincided nicely with my plans for an alcohol free month after Christmas. It’s always easier to maintain a solid deficit without alcohol in the picture. I’m happy to say that I was a little bit over the planned 750 calorie deficit for the month. This was somewhat unintentional, but I didn’t bother adjusting on a few days when I went greatly over. As I’ve spent a long time in deficits, I’ve found that it’s better to err on the conservative side, to allow some leeway for those days when you have less control over your intake.

I had to do some travelling for work, and it included dinner with some co-workers at a fancy restaurant, where I had no real way of tracking the calories in the food accurately. On the side of this text, you can see the summary table from part of my weight loss spreadsheet. The starting weight is the 6 day average of the first 6 days of January. The theoretical deficit takes the average for how many days have passed in a month and multiplies it with the number of days in the month, giving me a total deficit if I maintain the same average deficit, the total loss in kg for the month and the estimated end weight for the month. I’m 150 grams over what the theoretical deficit says I should be as of this morning.

I lost exactly 3,5 kg (7,7 lbs) during the month. I started with a body fat percentage of 24,8% and ended with a body fat percentage of 21,8%. My goal for January when I set it on the first of the month was 86 kg. This was a 3 kg loss, as I weighed in at a weight of 89 kg (196 lbs) on the first. This was a result of a heavy party night on New Years eve, along with a big meal, so I’m guessing the 87,75 was more accurate. A funny thing about alcohol and food is that, you usually weigh less the day after a night of heavy drinking because of dehydration, but your body rebounds on day two, so you get a little extra back. I’ve had my weight vary as much as 5 kg (11 lbs) between day of the drink, day after the drink, second day after the drink.

If I maintain the same amount of lean mass, and lose the planned 3,14 kg (6,9 lbs) of fat in February, I should be about 18,7% body fat when I write my next update. Weighing in at 81,4 kg (179,4 lbs) with a total fat mass of 15,14 kg (33,3 lbs).

 

 

Portion Creep

My grandmother had to move into a retirement home recently, and when we cleaned out her house I inherited a lovely vintage dining set. Despite my focus on eating healthy, body composition and weight training goals, I still love cooking, hosting parties and food. In normalizing my relationship with food, I’ve learned that I can still enjoy those foods I love. I can still have wine, beer or other drinks, just not as often and in massive portions.

This is why I laughed a little inside when I saw the size of the “dinner plates” in the vintage set compared to my every-day plates. My regular dinner plates are 12 inches in diameter, they were a gift from a family member when I moved houses a while back. These vintage plates are only 9 inches in diameter. When I think back to some of the rules of eating at my house growing up, we always had enough food, cooked from scratch, but when I moved out, my portions also increased.

I didn’t know how to cook back then, so I would buy a lot of ready packaged meals and many of them were for 2 people, but I would eat the whole thing. I used to say “The serving size is the container”, which explains how I got up to over 300 lbs at my heaviest. When I added in drinking soda with every meal because I thought water tasted boring and a constant snacking habit, on top of being a movie and gaming nerd who hardly moved, of course I got fat.

What is a Correct Portion Size?

I used to trust everyone else to dictate what the “right” portion size was, if I picked up a meal at a restaurant or fast food place, I assumed they did the job of making sure it was the right portion for me to eat. After all, their job is to prepare a meal for the customer, so I made the easy assumption that it was the correct size meal. The trouble for the various chefs and restaurateurs out there is simple, every customer is different. You can easily calculate your TDEE using a calculator such as this one and you’ll notice what only struck me years into my weight loss journey while out for a family dinner. My mother is 5 ft 2 (158 cm) tall, and was about 110 lbs (50 kg) for most of my childhood. I’m 6 ft 1 (185 cm) tall and was about 250 lbs (113 kg) at the time. Her TDEE was about 1300 calories per day, mine was 2382 calories per day.

For her, portion sizes at restaurants were always too big, to me they were always too small. It is impossible to adapt portion sizes to each individual when making a standard product. This is why most nutritional information has a caveat like “Based on a 2000 calorie a day diet” or something similar. I lacked the ability to intuitively eat the right amount, I was inactive, always chubby before blowing up into human planet size, and always overate by between 200 and 500 calories per day on average. My little brother on the other hand was always very active, always thin, and even struggled to put on enough weight, because when he ate as much as he felt he should be eating, he underate by a few hundred calories a day.

I think there may be people out there who naturally eat just the right amount and have stable weights, but I think more of us fall into either the category that I’m in, or the one that my brother is in, overeater or undereater. Even after years of training myself with portion sizes, it’s very easy for me to default to overeating a few hundred calories every single day. I noticed it when I went on a 2 month diet break towards the end of 2017, where I determined that I was not going to track accurately. I still tracked my calories but I didn’t use my digital scale.

You can see from the table on the left, that based on my tracking, I should have lost 0,65 kg (1,4 lbs) in September and another 1,18 kg (2,6 lbs) in October, but I gained 3,96 kg (8,7 lbs). 1 – 2 kg (2 – 5 lbs) is most likely water and glycogen from increasing carbs, but the rest is actual weight gain.

If 2 kg is fat gain, that means I thought I was in a 250 – 300 calorie deficit every day, but I was actually in a a 300 – 400 calorie daily surplus.  This was while tracking calories and food in MyFitnessPal, just not weighing everything on a digital scale, so imagine the damage if I hadn’t tracked at all.

A correct portion size is pretty easy, it is the number of calories you should eat per day according to your TDEE, divided among the number of meals and snacks you eat every day. I like to have a big dinner, never eat breakfast, have a snack before workouts and eat a light lunch, so at the moment I’m eating 1500 calories a day, 450 at lunch, 800 – 1050 at dinner, and set away 250 for my snack on workout days. It’s impossible to decide on this visually, but I can calculate it with my app and trusty digital scale.