Today marks the one year anniversary of when I got serious about wanting to lose weight. As many people have noticed and asked the same “how did you do it” questions, I figured this would be a good time to cover that in a decent amount of detail. This post will be kind of long.
First lets cover the tools I’ve used to help me be successful, and then I will tell you how I used each of them achieve this weight loss.
- Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto (affiliate link) – A fantastic book that explains more than just how to lose weight but how to build muscle and burn fat. It goes into the science without being hard to understand and spends a good deal on the why before getting into the specifics of how.
- Fitbit One (affiliate link) – A fitness tracker device with wireless syncing to computers and some of the more popular smartphones (iPhones & several Android devices). Tracks steps, mileage, floors climbed, activity level, and most importantly, calories burned. The Fitbit website also allows you to track your food and syncs with services such as MyFitnessPal, allowing you to track not only the burned calories but your intake as well.
- Fitbit Aria Scale (affiliate link) – I didn’t purchase this until over 2 months into my weight loss journey, but afterwards I regretted not doing so. It tracks your weight and your body fat percentage. Knowing your body fat percentage is important in understanding your overall health level as it ties into your BMI number which is what doctors use to determine if your obese or not.
- MyFitnessPal – Tracks food and fitness activities. Requires manual input but their food database beats out the one on Fitbit’s website considerably. I use it to track food only.
- Runkeeper – Smartphone app (iPhone and Android) that tracks several types of fitness activities using GPS. Easy to use and easy to see a log of your activities.
- Gorilla Workout – Another smartphone application used for daily body weight workouts. Contains 4 levels for those with different fitness abilities and has around 30 “workout of the day” (WOD) for each level.
That’s it. That’s all the things I used. And here’s how it looks in graph form:
Now lets get into the specifics.
Firstly, I purchased a Fitbit One, at the time Fitbit didn’t make an armband like they do now (the Force and the Flex, also affiliate links). Once I had this, I clipped it on and got a feel for how it worked, soon after that I started entering my food into the Fitbit website. Just doing these two things helped me get a fantastic understanding of how much junk I was putting into my body and how inactive I was as a whole. There was nothing more eye opening than seeing, daily, how many calories I was burning versus how many I was taking in. Activity burns calories and seeing how inactive I was showed me how much extra calories I was taking in. This encouraged me to start taking walks during the day.
I started taking one walk a day. And I thought this was good. They weren’t long walks, and they didn’t take me very far. At least not at first. But eventually I saw the activity number go up and started seeing the number of burned calories go up as well. Then I added some of my colleagues to Fitbit so I could see their steps, and that’s when I was hit with a big realization.
I wasn’t doing enough. Not even a little bit.
I at the time I was averaging maybe 5,000 steps a day. My friends were more in the 10,000 to 12,000 range. Big eye opener. Also, I don’t like being in last place so I started adding a second walk every day. Eventually working my way up to the default Fitbit goal of 10,000 daily steps.
I also started watching what I eat. Not necessarily cutting the junk food, but watching how much of it I took in. I started reading nutrition labels to see calorie and carb counts. I wasn’t cutting carbs, I was trying to reduce and increase my protein intake (in the book, you learn that protein helps you build muscle which helps burn fat). At this point I started seriously logging my food (initially with the Fitbit website, eventually moving to using MyFitnessPal). This allowed me see how many calories I was burning versus eating. So, I pledged to always burn more calories than I ate. It didn’t matter if I burned 50 more calories or 500 as long as I burned more than I took in. The only way to burn fat is to ensure that your body uses the fat stored on you instead of the energy you take in with food, burning more calories than you take in helps this.
A funny thing happened as I did all this. My body eventually started telling me it wanted to run instead of walk. I didn’t start running seriously until almost 2 months after I started walking two to three times a day. Once I started running I noticed that my average paces were better than when I had tried to just start running the past. I also felt better and didn’t feel as much pain from the runs because I had built up to running rather than just going out there and running. I’ve also stuck with it far longer than I had in the past.
My daily goals had be these:
- Burn more calories than I take in, and do that by…
- Control the number of calories going in, meaning eat smaller meals. Don’t super size the fast food, eat a sandwich at the office instead of going out, and snack better
- Be more active, hit the step goal, do extra activity to better ensure we achieve goal 1
This was (and still is) my “fitness philosophy” for the first 4 months or so. Once I got under 200 pounds, I added muscle building exercises to my routine. I experimented with a few things before landing on the Gorilla Workout app. It took some time, but eventually I finished level one. The reason I did this is because building muscle helps burn fat, and in case you haven’t figure it out yet, this was my primary goal. Sure I want to see the weight number go down, but I also wanted to become more fit and that is not done with weight loss alone. But I didn’t want to do too much at once, so I built up to doing things. There was a natural progression of:
- Track base food intake and base activity level
- Do one walk a day
- Do two walks a day
- Start running
- Start doing muscle building
I didn’t do all of this at once, I started simple and added things as I got into a nice routine. This allowed me to stick with things longer than I ever had before and stay (mostly) on track. With the addition of the Gorilla Workout something else started to happen. My weight loss slowed a bit but my body fat percentage went down as I replaced the weight from fat with the weight from muscle (which is a much healthier way of having a heavier weight).
Like “Burn the Fat…” says, whenever you start working towards being healthier and more fit, you do eventually hit a plateau. Unfortunately, I’m in one right now. I’ve been hovering around 178 mark for a couple of months now, but I also haven’t been doing as much exercising. I’m still running almost daily but I’ve put off the strength building and being crazy about what I eat. I’m still burning more calories than I take in most days but it’s not in the 300-700 range I was doing when I was on a hot streak.
While I’m unhappy that I’ve been in a rut lately, I’m not being a downer about it either. I’ve lost 42 pounds, I did it it without drastic changes to what I eat, and I’m much healthier now than I was at this time last year. And that’s a huge win. No, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m so much closer than I was when I started that it hasen’t seemed impossible for a long time now. My plan is to eventually get back on track and lose the last 20 pounds and get my body fat percentage where I want it. And if I do one before the other I’m still going to consider it a huge win. I’ll keep going until I’m done.
If you’ve been looking to lose weight, I highly recommend starting small. You will definitely need to track your food intake and the amount of calories you burn. You’re going to have to exercise (at least a little), but if you can get your diet in check, that’s 3/4 of the battle. You can do it. I did. You just have to start small. Begin with setting small goals and build on those achievements. Start with losing five pounds, then work on the next 5. Repeat until you’ve met your goal. Build up to running, don’t just go out there and start running. Walk first. Don’t try to do all these different things. Make small changes and once you’ve established a change as routine, add another small change. Even the tiniest progressions are still progress.
Get out there. Do it.