Saturday, February 23, 2013

Losing Weight … how difficult is it really?

Pretty fricken difficult, for anyone who has ever tried and failed (and everyone has unless they have the world’s most anal gene set – and I am quite aware that some do.)

I have been writing at very wide (get it? Smile) intervals about my own journey. My epiphany came last February, right about this time in fact, and I chugged along nicely until I stalled at the end of November. I held my ground with stable weight throughout December, despite enjoying a diet holiday, so to speak. But then things went south in January and I lost focus completely. I also lost my relationship in mid-January and spent another couple of weeks trying to regain my focus in all things.

And then it happened. What I call “the switch” was finally set to ON again in my brain and my ability to eat reasonably returned. I find that, when I am in that mental zone, I am able to resist the guilty pleasures, despite watching my boys chowing down constantly on crap less than perfect food.

So here is the current state of things …


I’m not quite ready to come clean as to the actual numbers, but the total loss was around 73 pounds from peak to valley and you can see clearly the plateau in December and the very brutal January, followed by a pretty decent February …

The two downward trending lines are what the graph would look like if I lost exactly 2 pounds per week from each of the two peaks in the graph. Of course, that never happens in such uniform fashion, but my trend has always been right around that amount. Because that’s just how my body likes to work. I am never going to win a fight against my natural tendencies, so I have to go with it. The reason why I start and stay a bit below the actual trend ling a lot of the time is obvious once you think about it. The first week or so on any diet includes the massive “water weight” purge, which generally comes from (a) cutting back on the volume of food – and thus the volume of salt in your diet, and (b) improving the quality of foods, often by changing from processed foods to fresh foods – again reducing the volume of salt in your diet.

That means that you drop a lot of weight quickly, which is of course very helpfully reinforcing, and then you start losing at the pace determined by your net calorie intake. Look at the second peak on this graph (it is missing on the actual line because I have smoothed the line a bit, but it is definitely there) and see how the drop is dramatic for a while and then levels off for a bit, and begins dropping again right on this line.

There is no magic involved. I can easily explain this by looking at my analysis page for the last month.


You can see that I was very steady for a while, and then slowly allowed myself to eat more and more … bit by bit (bite by bite?) That led to a plateau, which I decided to break by taking a short diet holiday. The red days are days where I exceeded my diet. I already blogged about the Saturday where I had two meals, one was a pancake breakfast that was not all that large, and the other was 3 slices of wonderful pizza from a local branch of the best chain in town. And that was enough to brutalize the day (how many of you reading this eat like that every day and then wonder why you slowly put on weight? The graph above makes the answer rather obvious.)

I have lost significant weight a few times in my life, but never with the level of education I have on the subject today. I understand that nutrients matter a lot, and you should be getting these from plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruits (but watch the sugar.) And that lean meats are an important source of protein. And that spreading meals out works for some, but a few larger meals works for others. And both strategies work for me, depending on the day. And that structured meals like shakes and bars (the ones with little to no sugar in them, and most do not fit that category) can be a godsend for those of us with stressful jobs and long hours.

I also understand that regular exercise makes a lot of difference to your health and well-being, but in and of itself does little to nothing to contribute to your weight loss (surprised?) because you would have to exercise for 2 to 4 hours at high intensity to work off a small pizza, and how many of you are willing to do that? The answer is less than 1% of you.

And in the end what I understand most is that, more than any other factor, calories in minus calories out determines your ultimate success and eating less is the fastest and easiest way to affect that balance.

The second big secret is to measure what you are eating and to log those calories so that you have a continuous reinforcement of your progress. I measure everything I eat and I weight myself every day. This is not necessarily the method that would work for everyone, especially people who cannot relax about the inevitable plateaus … but if plat your weight on a graph, and you religiously count your calories (as I do on, then you will see without fail that you are progressing. However slowly … remember that speed is not your friend. Lose it too fast and it will come back, there is more than enough research to document that fact as an axiom.

So if you got to this point and you are wondering how to get this far for yourself … let me offer a few ideas:

  • Consider tracking your progress at a site like
  • Consider eating a few structured meals a day to take the pressure off of meal prep
    • I like Atkins light meal bars – my current fave is the Caramel Double Chocolate Crunch bar
    • I have the odd protein shake as well, which is a source of high protein and low sugar, mainly coming from the 1% milk I use – but you can use Almond Breeze to lower the sugar even further
  • Consider walking half an hour every day just to keep things moving … you would be surprised how well that works to keep your metabolism running smoothly
  • Consider lifting weights, which builds muscle and raises your overall metabolism, besides making you stronger
  • Consider weighing yourself every day and plotting that on a graph in a program like Excel

Some or all of these tips will work for you. But if you don’t feel like exercising right now, don’t let that stop you from changing the way you eat, and certainly don’t let that stop you from starting down the path by logging yout calories etc. Truth be told, I have not been back to the gym since July 2012, nor have I gone walking in that time. I do remove the snow and do other work around the house, but I am sedentary most of the time, working at my desk. Losing weight still works because I let the daily analysis I get from Calorie Count guide me. You can too …

Note: I am not affiliated in any way with … there are many such sites out there. Find one you like and use it regularly. You will be glad you did.