I was a skinny kid until I turned 40. I never had to worry about what I ate. I never gained much weight. I never went on a diet. After 40 things started to change. What I ate mattered more. I started putting on weight. I started noticing that I was putting on weight. I could see it in my face when I glanced in the mirror.
Whenever I want to make a significant change, I always have to think about it for a long time. I wanted to start to control my weight as far back as a year ago. But I wasn’t ready until recently. I was browsing on Facebook and came across a post by my friend, Michael Burstein, who talked about his own weight loss, and how he’d gone about it. Unlike most diets I’ve seen advertised, Michael’s was simple, and sensible.
So on Sunday, August 27, decided I was ready and I started a diet for the first time in my life. I tipped the scale at 182 pounds at the time. As of this morning my diet has lasted 31 days, and when I weighed myself, I found that I was 172 pounds. I’d lost 10 pounds in one month!
How’d I do it? Well, I just followed my friend Michael’s wisdom: I limited myself to 1,600 calories/day.
Of course, things were a little more complex than that.
Writing down what I ate
While I do enjoy tracking things, I’ve never enjoyed tracking calories. It seems overly cumbersome, and I have yet to find something better than a plain old notebook to handle this–which is exactly what I did this time.
I used on of my Field Notes Utility ledger notebooks to track my calories each day. But I had a few rules about tracking calories to make my life simpler:
- I would always round to the nearest 5 calories. If something was 167 calories, I’d write in 170. If it was 206, I’d write 205.
In the ledger column, I’d keep a tally of how many calories I had left in the day, to help make decisions.
If I didn’t know an exact calorie count, I wasn’t going to sweat it. I’d make my best guess, and move on.
If I went over on a given day, well, I’d just try to do better the next day.
I think writing it down was a big help, especially in the decision-making process.
Deciding what to eat
I quickly found that I had to make decisions: eat that 400 calories muffin, or east something that is only 100 calories, and use the spare 300 calories for 2 Coke’s later in the day.
Being on a diet means having to give up things. But I didn’t want to be miserable. I enjoy my caffeine: Cokes and Red Bull, and I didn’t want to give them up. So I worked very hard to ensure that I didn’t have to. Eventually, I settled on a pattern that seems to work for me:
- About 400 calories at breakfast
- About 300 calories at lunch
- About 300 calories at dinner
The remaining 600 calories are for enjoying my Cokes, Red Bulls, and the occasional cookie.
Remarkable, this worked for me, and I watched in surprise as my weight steadily began to drop. Not right away, not much in the first week, but pretty consistently thereafter.
There were a few days while on a vacation at a resort where we had buffet dinners and breakfasts. At first, I tried to stay on track, but decided that it wasn’t worth the effort for a day or two, so I gave myself the okay to eat whatever I wanted. It was fine. When we got back home, I was back on track with my 1,600 calories.
Sometimes, I’ll see the kids eating ice cream and it looks so good. But given the tradeoff between the calories for the ice cream and the calories for the Coke, I’ll pick the Coke every time.
My meals are smaller than they were. 300 calories too often looks like a lot less than what I am used to. But I found that after a little while, I’m not hungry anymore, and I don’t really think about it.
Some interesting stats
Of the 31 days so far, I came in over budget (more than 1,600 calories) on 15 different days, or about 50% of the time. 9 of those 15 time were in the first 15 days of my diet.
When I did go over budget, I did so by an average of 148 calories per day. So even though I went over budget, instead of 1,600 calories/day I was consuming 1,748 calories per day, still below what I was eating before.
On 9 days, I came in under budget.
Some final thoughts
When I started this, I expected it would take longer than 31 days to lose 10 pounds. I’m pleased with the results, but I am not finished. I’m looked to get down to 168, another 6 pounds or so from where I am now. Looking in the mirror, I can already see the difference, and I can definitely feel the difference. It has been a long time since I have felt over-stuffed.
I haven’t been doing any exercise beyond my usual daily walks as part of this diet. My focus has been on what I eat. More exercise comes later. But even before that, I have to figure out–most likely through trial and error–how much I can bump up my daily calories in order to maintain my final weight once I reach it.