Losing weight is easy. I’ve done it a dozen of times. Of course, I’ve also gained it a dozen plus one times. Unfortunately, that was pretty easy too, so I’m needing to lose weight yet again.
How Did I Lose Weight in the Past?
As I focus on getting fit again today, it’s helpful to look back on what worked well for me in the past.
When I was younger, my most successful approach was to simply out exercise my eating. Hiking farther, pedaling harder, and running faster was so much easier than showing restraint. As I got older and busier with work, kids, etc. I needed to find other strategies. Over the years, I have used several approaches to lose a respectable amount of weight and all have worked well. The funny thing is, I think used a different approach almost every time.
Some of the highlights over the past 20+ years include:
- Cutting out anything with more than 14 grams of sugar per serving. More difficult than it sounds. An amazing number of “healthy” foods fail this test.
- Having only a small portion of the main course and all the fruits and vegetables I wanted. If the first serving didn’t fill me up, I waited 20 minutes to reassess how hungry I was before getting a second small helping. This was the easiest, most sensible, and least restrictive approach, but I didn’t allow for sweets or desserts.
- Weight Watchers. My wife and I borrowed the guides from someone we knew and had tremendous success. We didn’t bother with the groups or anything, just focused on the principles.
- Limiting calories to 1800-2000 and lifting, swimming, biking, or running once or twice every day. I was training for my first and only sprint triathlon and this put me in the leanest and best shape of my life.
- Anti-inflammatory / slow carb diet (ala Tim Ferriss), complete with cheat day. This approach worked well with personality and mindset.
- Velocity Diet. This one comes from the weight lifting community and if you’re not familiar with the v-diet, it’s pretty simple: 28 days, four or five protein shakes a day, one solid meal a week. Supplement with vitamins and fiber. Um, yeah, pretty much as rough as it sounds. It’s (obviously) designed to be a short-term solution that doesn’t even pretend to be sustainable. Makes other diets seem easy.
So What’s the Best Way (For Me)?
Each way worked great for what I was trying to accomplish at that point in my life. And that’s probably why I chose different approaches each time – I simply had different goals each time. Sometimes I was focused on losing pounds, sometimes there was a very specific performance target, but each time worked as intended. In fact, as strength coach Dan John often jokes, “it worked so well, I stopped doing it.”
Looking back over the years, I’ve realized there are a few things which seem to work best for me:
I personally do best when I keep calories under 2000 a day and run or mountain bike four or five days a week. It becomes much more sustainable when I maximize protein and minimize sugar, but have some pre-defined rule for eating whatever I want once (and only once) a week.
Of course, that’s not advice or a recommendation for anyone, it’s just what my experience shows works for me. It seems simple enough, I really should do it more often.
But There is a Problem
Although I lean out when I’m focused on it, my weight climbs when I’m not. I simply don’t maintain weight very well – I’m generally either gaining or losing. Check out this chart tracking my weight from January 1, 2002, through August 30, 2017:
Notice anything? Long steady climbs, punctuated by sharp, focused reductions, with an overall upward trend. Although the chart doesn’t show my weight, there is a 70-pound spread from my lowest to highest weight. This steady, systematic increase over the past 17 years is kind of a big problem.
It’s not that I can’t lose weight. Clearly, I know what works for me and I have lost significant amounts at least five times, plus smaller amounts many more times. I know what to do – that’s not the problem.
Losing weight is easy. Keeping weight off is difficult. I’m still trying to figure that one out.