Knowing the Formula
I stepped onto the scale in my coworkers bathroom. I couldn't remember the last time I had stepped onto a scale; probably a year or so, and I had definitely put on weight. Last time, I was probably around 170 pounds. For being six foot, that wasn't terrible. But for the past seven months I had done nothing but sit down and code at work, come home, sit down and play games. I knew I was out of shape.
So I did the worst possible thing. I stepped on his scale. It was nine at night. We had just come back from a huge dinner. I had drank some alcohol. I was still wearing all my clothes. It was the worst possible time to step on the scale. But he had one, and I was curious enough to want to know how fat I had truly become.
I had never, ever weighed that much before. I'm 22 years old, and leaving high school I was around 165 lb. I was 25 lbs heavier, and definitely into the overweight category. At 22, I'm basically at the pinnacle of my physical prowess, and yet I was enervated.
The next morning I decided to change. Being "healthy" had never been a high priority. I hadn't been able to go to the gym consistently before. I always went back to eating whatever I wanted. I was never in terrible shape, but I was never in good shape. But for the past two or three years, I didn't know the formula. I put x things into my body, and my weight was Y. But F(x) was hidden from my insight, and so I would just gain weight.
I had to learn was F(x) was. That became my new passion, my new obsession. I wanted to become healthier, and in better shape. There was one thing I absolutely needed in order to do this.
I bought a scale. I ended up getting the Fitbit Aria, a WiFi scale. Way more than I actually needed, but the ability to graph the data and view it all was a nice touch. I figured it would keep me accountable.
I also bought Foodist by Darya Rose. I just happened to be following her on Twitter, and had heard about her book. Eating better and losing weight was just what I wanted. Turned out to be the best $10 investment I made in thisprocess.
I immediately started reading the book (thanks kindle app), and changing my habits. Here are the biggest changes I made:
- Weighing Myself. I made a habit of weighing myself ever morning. Regardless how I felt, I had to weigh myself. I'd go to the bathroom, strip down, and weigh myself completely naked. I was brutally consistent with this. I gave me a huge insight into how eating certain foods and exercising would impact my weight. Being able to go to work and look up my weight on Fitbit was nice, but not necessary. If you weigh yourself every morning, you quickly learn what your trend is. I didn't need Fitbit to show me I was losing weight. It was a great way to show other people I was losing weight though.
- Biking. I made myself bike every day after work. The first day I biked, I probably went 5 miles total. It was pathetic. But I did it. I would finish work, go home, change into shorts, and go for a bike ride. I was lucky to actually have a nice road bike that I'd gotten in Seattle, so I didn't need to invest in one. I used the app Strava to keep track of my riding. Again, this allowed me to actually see my progress, which is huge motivation. 5 miles the first day? 6 miles the second? After biking for two months I biked 30.6 miles in one day.
- I ate better. Foodist gave me the motivation, knowledge, and skill to go to Whole Foods and buy the healthy food, make it, and eat it. I brought food in to lunch at work. I ate a high protein breakfast. My breakfast changed from Poptarts (definitely bad for you) or nothing (apparently bad for you), to greek yogurt. Lunch and dinner were both vegetables cooked in some simple way. I found that roasted vegetables were super easy to make and could last the entire week. Putting sriracha on everything made it all better too.
- I Experimented. None of these were very scientific, but they all helped me learn my own body's formula. What happens if I eat this entire sandwich for lunch? What happens if I only eat half of it? How do I feel if I don't eat breakfast? What if I don't go for a bike ride today? What if I bike longer? Each morning I'd see my weight and learn how it impacted me. Every day I was trying to perform a test on myself. I'd hypothesize how my weight would change, and then check it the next morning. Interestingly, I learned some very important things from this. For me, biking longer and harder was a faster way to lose weight. If I ate okay, but went for a long bike ride, I'd still lose weight. If I ate very well and biked for a long time, I'd go down even faster.
- Water. I just drank water (and coffee). No beer, no lemonade, no especially no soda. Not even the 0 calorie sodas. Luckily for me, my work had a seltzer machine, so drinking bubbly water was an everyday occurrence.
- Drank Coffee Black. Before this I'd put plenty of sugar and cream in it. I dropped it all and went to black. I didn't do it instantly, but over the course of a week I put less sugar in, less cream in. After a week I was drinking it black. It tasted bad for a week, then it became normal.
I started this on June 21st (the night I weighed myself). I weighed 190 pounds.
On Sunday, August 11th I weighed myself: 159.6 lb.
In 51 days I lost 30.4 pounds, for an average of .596 lbs per day.
This is first time in probably three years I've weighed this little. I'm writing this blog post much later, but Fitbit tells me I weighed 159.2 lbs on November 6th. Not only did I lose weight, but I've kept that weight from coming back.
Establish Habits. It's not about losing weight. It's about changing your lifestyle. You do that my making new habits. After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg I've been able to gain insight into why I was able to lose weight so effectively. The shock of weighing 190 lbs put me into a state where I was willing to change my behavior. The habits I made relied on solid cues that I couldn't avoid. Leave work? Go for a bike ride. Get coffee? Put nothing in it. Need food? Go to Whole Foods. After a while, I had to go for a bike ride after work; nothing else felt right.
Learn the formula. I now know if I eat that burrito how it will impact my weight. I know what will happen if I don't work out. If I feel bloaty I know why, and I know how to fix it. You can't lose weight effectively without knowing your own formula.
I now know F(x).