Now I'm going to talk about how I did it, and how simple it is. Not easy, mind you. It requires willpower and moderation. But the method is absolutely simple. This is a long journal but please stick with it, especially if you're overweight. Especially if you're overweight and don't want to be, but have no idea how to lose weight. I'm going to explain how I did it and how it works, and then we can all get on with the business of being skinny and sexy and healthy while we make art. There's no gimmick here, no "weight loss secret," no bullshit herbal supplements or wraps or pills. Just some solid science and math. With me?
First, why should you care?
As artists, a lot of us probably spend all day at a desk. And because the Internet makes it so we can work from our homes, we have no commute and very little reason to ever leave the home. Some of us are parents, which can make it difficult to find time to get out and get exercise, and we feel exhausted so we don't want to cook healthy food -- just grab fast food and scarf it down so we can get back to drawing or playing with our kids. So I understand why so many of us are overweight, I really do. But I want to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way, and it's so simple. This should be taught in every high school health class, but because it's not, so many of us think that weight loss is complicated, or even impossible. What diet should you follow: low-carb? Low-fat? Low-sugar? Weight watchers? Atkins? Paleo? Do you need to exercise? Do you need to join a gym? It seems complicated because for many of us, no one ever explained to us how calories work and how exactly to lose weight and keep it off. But it's so ridiculously simple; it's just math.
And it's so vitally important that we pay attention to our health. Especially for parents, because it's not just important that we stick around for a long time and see our children grow up, but because we are teaching them what's acceptable and what isn't. We lead by example, and I want to make sure my example is a good one. I want my child to know that it's not okay to be sedentary, and it's not okay to live on a diet of junk food and fast food. Maintaining our health should be our #1 priority above all else.
In 2013 my son was born, and I looked in the mirror and saw an obese man in his 30s. I knew if I didn't change I might never live to see my son grow up and get married or have kids of his own. All because of my own shitty eating habits. There was no excuse for it, and there was no way I could rationalize putting my own love of junk food ahead of the needs of my child. So I made a decision that I would get healthy, lose weight, and never again see a number on the scale starting with a "2."
i.imgur.com/tMgTjgA.jpg (caution: shirtless fat man)
That was me two months after my son was born. My BMI was 33.0, which put me well into the "obese" category at 6'1" and 250 lbs. This is me today:
i.imgur.com/PzXQDze.jpg?1 (caution: shirtless skinny man)
I feel better, I look better, and although I cannot predict the future, I know that my chances of seeing my son grow up have greatly improved.
Okay, so how the fuck did I do this?
I'm going to tell you, but first we need to go over some simple science and figure out exactly how our bodies process food. Keep in mind this is a very simplified explanation, and I am not a doctor or a scientist; I'm just a guy who tried to learn as much about this as possible, and then put it to use. Will this method work for everyone? Scientifically speaking, I'd have to say yes (with some exceptions for very rare medical conditions, obviously). But it requires an amount of dedication and will power that not everyone has. In other words, you have to want to do this, because half-ass attempts will not work. Let's get started:
You've probably heard of a Calorie; it's the number on the side of food packaging that tells you how much energy it contains. Many of us have no idea what a Calorie is or how our bodies use them, but you probably are aware that they have something to do with weight, and that lower-calorie foods are better than higher-calorie foods for keeping weight off.
Well, 1 calorie (note the lower-case "c") is the amount of energy needed to heat 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. That's not really important to know, but that should let you know that it's a fairly small amount of energy. 1000 of these little-c calories equal 1 kilocalorie (kcal), which is also called a Calorie (note the upper-case "C"). Confusing, right?? But just remember that the Calories on food packaging are big-C Calories. They're the Calories we talk about when we discuss food energy. You may see people refer to "kcals" or "kilocalories," and they're the exact same thing.
These Calories are what the human body runs on; we need them to live. Literally everything we do burns calories: when we breathe, we're burning calories. When we walk, we're burning calories. When we eat food, we're burning calories while taking in calories! And our body gets those calories from one of two places: food... or fat. Our bodies run on the energy taken from food that we eat. And when it needs more fuel than what's available to it, it takes that fuel from long-term energy storage in the body, which we call fat.
You see, when we take in more energy than our bodies need (a.k.a. overeating), our bodies convert it to fat and store it on our bodies for later use. Thousands of years ago, when we were still living in caves, this was a great system. Humans couldn't have survived without it! We would fatten ourselves up in the seasons where food was plentiful, and then during the winter when food was scarce, our energy intake was supplemented by fat storage. Today, that system is not so great. We now have constant access to high-calorie foods, even during the winter. Our bodies store fat and then never have a chance to burn it off. There no longer is a season of scarcity, just a never-ending plentiful season. And so our bodies store more and more energy, and we get fatter and fatter.
One pound of fat on the human body is equal to 3500 Calories. What this means for us is that if we eat 3500 Calories more than what our bodies need, we will gain 1 pound of fat. If we eat 3500 Calories fewer than what our bodies need to run, we will lose 1 pound of fat. Simple.
But how do I know how many Calories to eat?
Okay, first: you may have heard people talk about their "metabolism." What does this mean? They're referring to the rate at which their body burns calories. The rate is different for everyone, but it has to do with height and weight and a few other factors. The taller someone is, the more calories they burn because their body needs more energy to run. The heavier someone is, the higher their metabolism (that's right, contrary to popular belief, fat people have faster metabolisms than skinny people). Muscle burns more calories than fat. And metabolism drops slightly as you age, meaning you need to eat less and less as you get older.
Here's a good TDEE calculator: iifym.com/tdee-calculator/
That will tell you your BMR (base metabolism rate, in other words the number of calories you would burn in a coma) and your TDEE (in other words, the amount of calories you actually burn every day). Now, remember when I said that a pound of fat is 3500 Calories? That means that in order to lose 1 pound of fat per week, you can divide 3500 by 7 (days in a week), and get 500 Calories, which should be your deficit (the number of Calories under your TDEE to eat each day). Take your TDEE (mine is 2500), subtract 500, and now you have your daily Calorie goal (2000 for me, if I were trying to lose weight). See? This could not be more simple!
Calories to eat:
TDEE - 500 = Lose 1 pound per week
TDEE - 250 = Lose 0.5 pound per week
TDEE + 500 = Gain 1 pound per week (if you are interested in gaining weight rather than losing)
And how do I track my Calories?
Luckily, we live in the age of smartphones, and they make it so ridiculously easy to track Calories that none of us have any excuse not to do it.
Install that app on your phone. You put in your height and weight, how much you want to lose, and it does all the math for you. It will tell you how many Calories to eat per day, and all you have to do is log your food. Nearly every food you can think of is already in its database, and if your phone has a camera, you can scan barcodes on packages. Provided that you weigh and/or measure food (ie., don't just eyeball cereal and say "that's about a cup," actually get a cup and measure out a serving), you will see results.
Even if you don't have a smartphone, the fact that you're reading this right now means you have access to a computer. That means you can use the website to log. It may take longer and be a little more involved than just whipping out a phone each time you eat something, but this is your health we're talking about. You can take a few minutes out of the day to do this.
My username on MFP is scottewen. Add me as a friend.
What should my goal be?
You can calculate your BMI at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educa…
A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal. From 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight, and above 30.0 is obese. I recommend getting down to a normal weight, but even just getting out of the obese range is a great start. Once you're in the normal range, a better and more accurate measurement is Body Fat Percentage. I use this calculator for that: www.davedraper.com/bodyfat-cal…
But what about my specific excuse/justification for being fat?
The fatlogic section
We all have our excuses. I did for years, and I've heard it all before from my friends and my family, and even myself. If you're going to comment below about how it's impossible for you to lose weight, or how you love your curves, or how you are big-boned or have slow metabolism, or this condition or that, keep it to yourself. I don't care if you're fat, so don't bother justifying it to me or wasting my time with excuses. I'm here to help the people that want it.
Being fat is not healthy, period. Obese people are at higher risk for things like heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. Being obese makes doing normal things like climbing stairs more difficult, and increases strain on joints. Being fat makes people die early. Just getting out of the obese BMI range can give you back years of your life.
Now, there are some fatlogic arguments that I want to address specifically.
- Starvation mode - this is a belief that if you eat too few calories, your body can actually panic and hang onto fat, making you stop losing weight. Some people even claim you can gain weight by eating too few calories. This is complete bullshit, fortunately, and the reason we know it's bullshit is because of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed but only changed from one form to another. Your body takes in calories from food, and stores it as fat if there's too much. It can then convert that fat to energy if it doesn't get enough energy from food. It cannot create energy from nowhere, which is what would have to happen were starvation mode a real thing. If you're not losing weight, it's because you're eating too much, and you either need to be better about weighing/measuring/logging calories, or drop the number of calories you're eating further. As your weight drops, so does your TDEE, and if you don't adjust your calories, weight plateaus will occur.
- I can't exercise so I can't lose weight - exercise is good for your body, and it can really help with weight loss, but it's totally unnecessary if dropping weight is your goal. It's just calories in vs. calories out.
- Diets don't work/people just gain weight back - I agree, diets don't work. Do you know why? Because when most people go on a diet, they cut calories (or restrict food in other ways) for a length of time, and when they reach their goal weight, they stop dieting and go back to how they were eating before. And of course the weight comes back because you're now eating way too many calories for your body. DO NOT DIET. Make a lifestyle change, focusing on eating healthier foods in moderation.
- BMI is inaccurate - yes, for bodybuilders. If you are not a bodybuilder, using BMI is perfectly fine, and if you are a bodybuilder, you already know how to regulate your weight so this information is useless to you. And there are people who are at a normal BMI, but have low muscle mass and high levels of fat. These are called "skinny fat," and it's why body fat percentage is a much better measurement to use once you get to a normal weight.
- You're fatshaming - This is the big one, the one that I hear most often when I talk about losing weight. The idea is that I'm bullying people by telling them that being fat is unhealthy. It's nonsense. I wish someone had given me this information when I was fat. I wanted to lose weight and had no idea how to do it. Now I do, and I'm letting everyone know how to do it because it would be wrong of me to keep it to myself, when it could potentially save someone's life. This has nothing to do with feelings, and has everything to do with health. Again, I don't care if you're fat; I have loads of respect for fat people who admit they're fat because they like to eat. If you don't want to lose weight, and you have no kids and no spouse and no one depending on you not to die young, be as fat as you want. I just have no interest in hearing excuses. I'm here to help the people that want it.
I'm ready to do this. What's next?
Get on MyFitnessPal. Start logging calories. If you want to exercise but don't want to join a gym, I recommend Couch-to-5K. There's a great app called C25K which will help you. The idea is that it starts you running slowly (first day is 60 seconds of jogging, 90 seconds of walking, then repeat a few times), you do it three times a week and increase the time you spend jogging each day, and after 8 weeks you're running 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) without stopping.
If you'd like some monetary incentive to lose weight, I recommend www.dietbet.com. You can join games where everyone throws in a few bucks, tries to lose a certain percentage of their body weight in a certain amount of time, and everyone who does it splits the pot.
If you're on Reddit, there are some great communities that will help you:
www.reddit.com/r/loseit - For weight loss discussion
www.reddit.com/r/progresspics - For motivating pictures of other people who lost weight
www.reddit.com/r/fatlogic - For discussion of the excuses and justifications I talked about earlier
www.reddit.com/r/trueloseit - The "no bullshit, no fatlogic" version of /r/loseit
If I can do this, there's no reason you can't do it too.
Edited to remove some personal info that I shouldn't have included.