I was thin as a kid and remained that way through my 20’s. Okay, I did have “thunder thighs” and always had “junk in my trunk” but never had a real problem with being overweight until I was diagnosed with cancer and had to receive radiation treatments that affected my thyroid – not enough to make me need medication, but enough to slow my metabolism to the point that I started gaining weight eating exactly the same amounts as I always had. Combine that with passing thirty years old (I was 33 years old when I was diagnosed with the big “C”), the time in most of our lives where we spend more time sitting at our jobs than playing handball in the park, plus the fact that I love to cook and eat – and the result was my ballooning from 142lbs, the weight that I always was as an adult, before my cancer, to a beached whale-like 183lbs! I knew I had to do something!
The problem that I faced was that I was basically a thin person my whole life, so I had no idea how to lose weight. I always had a big appetite and no matter what I ate, I never seemed to put on any weight. Suddenly, within a year of my last radiation treatment, I had not only re-gained the forty pounds that I had lost from the direct effects of the treatments themselves, but I had also “acquired” and additional ten pounds. I thought, okay, I’m not in my 20’s anymore; I can deal with being 152lbs. plus I was just glad for being alive and surviving my cancer, but then I got on the scale and I was 162lbs… then 172lbs… then 182lbs… YIKES! Even worse than the numbers, was looking in the mirror and seeing an ugly, fat stranger staring back at me… wait a minute, is that me… am I somewhere inside that ugly, fat stranger? It reminded me of Fat Bastard, “Get in my bel-ly!” Even scarier – had I become Fat Bastard?! I decided to do something – I couldn’t stand looking at that stranger in the mirror any longer.
It took me five years of experimenting with every diet method under the sun – pills (ephedrine), exercise methods designed to lose weight, low-carb diets, low-protein diets, etc… Each was moderately effective but ultimately unsustainable and some made me really sick. Then the idea came to me that the real answer to losing weight (for me) was very simple – CALORIES – when I eat more calories than I need to sustain my body weight, I gain weight… period! I read up on the subject and found that each person burns calories at a multiple of their body weight. For instance, a professional athlete in the prime of his life may burn 17 calories per pound of body weight or even more, but for a normal person, the multiple is around 14 calories per pound. The quant in me LOVED this solution! I could make an Excel worksheet that would track my weight and my calorie intake – I started it in 2001 and have tracked those two things – my weight and calorie intake – ever since! Tracking really allowed me to understand my body which allowed me to develop and refine a weight loss solution that works for me!
A couple of points:
- Yes, it is still painful for me to reduce my calorie intake! I’m half Italian, which means I love to eat!
- My multiple is right for me – everyone’s is different though!
- Exercise is NOT an efficient way to LOSE weight – for most of us, it is unsustainable and for some it can actually be dangerous. Exercise is the ONLY healthy way to boost your metabolism though. My advice to anyone attempting to lose 20lbs or more is not to begin an exercise regimen until you lose about 90% of your target weight – THEN definitely leverage your weight loss by starting a weekly exercise regimen that you can SUSTAIN!
The first thing I had to find was my multiple – that is the amount of calories that my body burns per pound of my body weight, per day. Like I said, for the average person it’s about 14 calories. So, if I weighed 183lbs X 14 calories = 2,562. That means that I could consume 2,562 calories per day and not gain or lose weight, I would remain 183lbs.
The next thing was to find out how many calories I had to reduce in my daily consumption in order to lose weight. I found, through trial and tracking that in order to lose 1lb per week, I had to consume 500 calories less than the 2,562 calories needed to maintain my weight. Losing one pound per week seemed too little for me, I always double that. So, I would have to consume no more than 1,562 calories per day, for seven straight days in order to lose 2lbs. when I weighed 183lbs. I did it and it worked!
Remember though, that as you lose weight, the amount of calories that you can consume also has to reduce. That’s one of the things my Excel worksheet does – it simply converts my daily weight into the amount of calories that I can consume to maintain that weight and then subtracts 1,000 from it. Since I started tracking in 2001, I have been able to lose and keep off an average of about 3 pounds per year! That may not sound like much but what that translates into is 27lbs that I have lost (on average) since then and never regained!
The new challenge for me is reducing the large variations in weight that I experience in a year. Again, after tracking my weight for the last 10 years, I see that my weight goes up and down an average of 18 pounds …that’s a lot for someone my size! I even know my cycle – I generally lose weight January to August, then gain weight September through December (I love THANKSGIVING).
There are lots of websites that can help you determine the proper weight range for your sex and age (and yes, it is a RANGE, not a specific weight – the range can vary as much as 15lbs, depending on aspects that are specific to each individual). For me, my target weight range is between 130 – 144lbs.
A couple of final points:
- I have found that a healthy weight-loss target is no more than 2-3lbs per week. That is an aggressive yet sustainable target.
- Track your daily weight BUT only evaluate your WEEKLY AVERAGE WEIGHT! There are so many things that can make a person’s daily weight fluctuate – water, metabolism cycle, etc. Too many people get bummed out when they diet, then step on the scale and see that they have gained weight the next day – trust your diet! You WILL lose weight if you intake less calories than your body burns over time!
Tomorrow, on April 01, I will begin another weight loss regimen. My objective is to lose 20lbs in 2months! I’m going to share my shame/pain/gain with everyone on Facebook. Every morning I will publish my weight, what I’m eating and how I feel. I hope it’s fun for everyone and maybe inspirational for some …and hey, everyone who is dieting can use all the support they can get, so keep your comments coming!
By my wife’s birthday at the end of May, I hope there will be 20lbs less of me for her to love. Then on June 01, I will start my exercise regimen – one that I hope to sustain. The exercise will boost my metabolism, which means my body will burn more calories per pound of body weight (it takes more calories to maintain muscle weight than it does fat). That means I should be able to eat a little more and not gain any weight!
60 days to a new me in the mirror… I’m psyched! Now if I could just find a way to be a foot taller! Haha!
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Dean Wesley Smith