Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Weight Loss: An Update and Discussion of Diet Changes

The following is an update to the post that I published on September 1 of last year [1].  I will not be discussing any specific studies as this is post is a discussion of my informal self-experiments.

At the time of my previous post on my weight, I was 178 pounds following a three month period in which I lost 12 pounds.  My weight steadied for several weeks, but continued tweaks eventually led to more weight loss, another plateau, and then one more final loss.  I'm currently at 170 lbs.  Let's review some photos:

My heaviest point: 201 lbs. (I'm not sure of when, but it was several years ago)

July, 2011: 181 lbs.

August 17, 2011: 178 lbs.

March 8, 2012: 170 lbs.

As you can see, I got a new phone and stopped cutting my hair.  On a serious note, I'm not contracting my muscles or "sucking in my gut" in any of these photos (although I probably should have in my 201 lb. photo!) - these photos are honest representations on how I looked during each of the four days.

Overall, I'm 31 lbs. less than my heaviest weight and 20 lbs. less than when my weight loss really got started last May.  The important question here is, "why?"  Perhaps my experiments can help you.  Here's what I did:

The Diet Changes That Led to My Weight Loss

I'm focusing on my diet because exercise has stayed pretty constant: I strength train each half of my body, twice per week, in separate workouts for a total time of about 80-90 minutes.  I hike or play basketball once per week and go for long walks about twice per week.

The following is what I did with my diet, broken down by weight changes.  As you will see, there wasn't one change that I can pin my fat loss to:

  • 201 to 190 lbs: Simply put, I stopped eating crap.  Getting to 201 lbs. featured regular ice cream, chips, smoothies, and cake.  I cut that down to once per week.
  • 190 to 186 lbs: Eliminated processed foods, cheese, and the weekly dessert from my regular diet.  Processed foods that I commonly ate were protein shakes and processed meats.
  • 186 to mid 170s: A bunch of changes occurred here.  I changed the majority of my diet from natural proteins (red meat, fish, eggs, and poultry) to fruits and vegetables - in other words, vegetables/fruits became the largest portion on my plates, and I started eating more vegetables/fruits when not satiated from a meal.  This change also included another major change from me: consuming a diet of no fruit to a diet filled with fruit.  Also, I started eating fish daily and cut down my red meat intake to about three times per week (just to be clear, I don't think red meat from organically-raised, grass-fed cows is unhealthy at all - I made this change out of a desire to eat more fish).  Finally, I stopped eating nuts as part of my regular diet.  
  • Mid 170s to high 170s: A failed experiment: I tried sticking with the vegetables, fruits, and natural proteins that I usually eat, with a change to consuming less fat and more carbohydrates.  I cut out red meat, fatty chicken, eggs, and minimized olive oil for a week in which I replaced those calories with additional fruits and very lean fish and chicken.  I didn't have much confidence in this experiment going in, but I was curious to see what would happen.  I gained a few pounds (likely from water), felt bloated, and the worst part was that I felt like crap: often fatigued and hungry every two hours.
  • Back to mid 170s: Undoing all the changes I made in the previous paragraph.
  • Mid 170s to 170 lbs: I made two changes based on research that I have been reading the past few months.  The first was to increase protein intake.  Prior to this change, I ate eggs, red meat, poultry, or fish with every meal and did not concern my self with any specific protein goal.  I then started to make a concerted effort to hit a protein goal that sometimes required an extra protein meal later in the day.  My second research-based idea was increasing fiber intake.  I basically doubled my fiber intake.  I will detail the specific recommendations that I follow, the underlying mechanisms, and the food changes that I made to increase protein and fiber through posts that are coming soon.  
Using the Scale
A non-diet factor that I attribute my success to is weighing myself every day.  I detailed my strategy in a previous post [2], but to summarize, I weigh myself every morning in expectation of seeing my weight fall into a four or five-pound range.  This served as a measure of damage control and accountability, and it has really helped with weight maintenance.  I know that exceeding the peak of my range means that my diet has been poor for a few days, and therefore I have to respond by acting more responsibly in the present.  Due to this system, I am able to maintain my ideal weight range [169-173].

I know that weighing oneself so frequently can make people neurotic, but that's why I stress weight range as opposed to just one weight.  It's natural for the body to fluctuate with hydration changes and people should make themselves crazy because they consumed a lot of salt, fruit, or water the night before.

Hopefully some of my weight loss and maintenance strategies can help you.  Feel free to comment with your own weight loss experiments.


Kevin P. said...

Nice Job man. Writing what you did at each step of your experiment is great. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Princess Dieter aka Mir said...

Such an interesting post about your experimentation. And you look GREAT. Very hot. :D I wouldn't think you need to lose a single other pound.

Christian said...

Incredible transformation. Well thought out and documented. It is tangible results like these that people need to see in order to have a healthy lifestyle become an option for them. Well done!!

Unknown said...

Nice Post