I didn’t even bother taking “before” pictures.

Why would I?  Every year for more than a decade I had resolved that this would be the year I finally got my weight under control.  The amount of weight I needed to lose grew each year.  I’d done Weight Watchers, The Zone, Body For Life, South Beach Diet, Atkins and other diets.  Of course I can’t count the number of times I’d resolved to “just eat healthier and exercise more”.

I would almost always lose some weight.  But it would never stay off.  So when a friend told me about “The Belly Fat Cure” in late 2009, I figured I might as well give it a shot.  It was simple enough.  I watched a few youtube videos and finished the book in about 15 minutes.  The concept of no more than 15 grams of sugar and 6 servings of carbs per day was mostly consistent with the health literature I’d consumed over the last decade.  It was not consistent with the food I was typically consuming.

I followed the diet strictly without exercising at all for a couple months.  I lost about 15 lbs and quickly realized that I had some impressive sugar demons to overcome.  My travel-heavy work schedule made compliance challenging but not impossible.  I had a few days where I lost it but I got right back on it the next day.

After a couple months of this I was ready to add exercise to my life.  I joined a local Crossfit gym in April of 2010 and am still a member, going 3-4 times a week when my work schedule allows for it.  My diet has changed a bit over this time but I still believe that controlling sugar is the #1 key to controlling my weight.

Now, a year and a half later, for the first time I’ve been able to maintain a stable weight of around 220-225 lbs. I feel comfortable in my clothes at this weight and can wear the jeans I wore in high school.   I can’t really remember ever feeling like I was at more or less an appropriate weight for my frame.

There’s so much that I’ve learned through this process.  I’m going to share all of this in upcoming posts, but for now, here are a few principles that seem to be important.

Before was taken Summer of 2009 at a bodyweight well over 250 lbs. The right was taken Summer of 2011 at a bodyweight around 220 lbs.

Principles

For most people, carb restriction—especially limiting sugar—is going to be central in losing and maintaining weight.

The idea that it’s “all about creating a calorie deficit” is a myth; a horrible, frustrating myth that far too many people believe to be true.  It’s not your lack of willpower that makes you fat, it’s your hormones.  If you want to lose fat, you need to control three hormones: insulin, leptin and cortisol.  Those hormones are in charge of partitioning your calories and regulating appetite.  Cortisol is affected by many lifestyle factors, particularly stress.  Insulin is almost entirely related to the quality and volume of carbohydrate intake.  Leptin is a satiety hormone that is far more difficult to understand, but I’ll get there in time.  For now, you just need to understand that you can control how many sugary carbohydrates you eat. In doing so you control insulin and regulate whether your body stores fat or uses it for energy.  In my opinion, there is no more important concept to fully understand in losing weight than this.  Ultimately, calories do matter, but I’ve found them to be much further down the list of important things to think about.  I’ll unpack this concept plenty in future posts.

You don’t need to exercise to lose weight.

Don’t get me wrong; you should exercise.  It’s fun and you will be healthier.  But it’s not necessary to lose weight.  It’s definitely not necessary to get started losing weight.  In fact, I think it may actually make losing weight harder, at least in the beginning.  Intense exercise is going to make you hungry for carbs and if you haven’t started to integrate healthy eating habits into your life, your exercise regimen could be your downfall. There’s more to this story, but this is why I recommend working on your diet first.

Weight loss must be slow to be lasting.

The majority of the change I experienced took place over the course of a whole year.  “Lose 30 lbs in one year!” is not going to be the title of a NY Times bestseller any time soon, but it describes the only effective and lasting change in diet I’ve ever personally experienced.  I’ve lost weight before, but never kept it off.  Rapid weight loss doesn’t give you a chance to fully ingrain the lifestyle changes that must occur to create permanent body re-composition.  Don’t weigh yourself too frequently.  Visible results are fun and can be easily obtained by looking at a scale, but not seeing evidence on the scale despite meticulous compliance is discouraging. Pay attention primarily to how your clothes feel.

Once you heal your metabolism, you can relax (a little)

When you realize that being overweight is evidence of a diseased and dysfunctional metabolism, it makes sense that a healthy metabolism can more safely handle nutritional trysts that deviate from the norm.  You probably won’t (and shouldn’t) be able to eat a typical American diet (i.e. what made you fat in the first place) but neither do you have to say good-bye to ice cream for the rest of your life.  I eat more or less according to my principles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  But once the kids are in bed (8PM at our house), my discipline seems to retire for the night as well.  I typically have ice cream 2-3 times a week and most nights enjoy an adult beverage, especially red wine or a Dark and Stormy.  Because I’ve healed my metabolism, this isn’t an issue for me.  The grass is truly greener on the other side of metabolic dysfunction.

You never know what’s gonna be a difference-maker for people. For me it was this little tiny book that finally revealed to me the depth of my addiction to sugar. I believe that there’s probably someone else like me out there who can benefit from my experience. Perhaps I can even help them to speed past the decade I spent uncomfortable in my own body while steadily gaining weight.

I’m genetically disposed to gain weight and not be lean.  I tend toward laziness.  I’m a habitual procrastinator (don’t even ask how long this blog has been “in the works”).  I travel a lot for work so consistency in any aspect of my life is challenging.  I have 5 children ages 11 and under (plus one more on the way) that my wife and I homeschool so my life can tend toward chaos at times.

These are many of the reasons I got fat and stayed that way, but these are also why it’s so important for me to be healthy.  There’s a lot more at stake.

Thanks for reading. Lots more to come.

 

21 Responses to How I finally got the weight off

  1. Aaron PCF says:

    “I feel comfortable in my clothes at this weight and can wear the jeans I wore in high school.” To be fair, you wore really big jeans in high school :)

    Great work!

  2. Jessica says:

    Hi. My friend, Cutzi sent me to your page via Facebook. I’m so excited to keep reading!!! I have had 4 babies and definitely messed up my metabolism in the process. While I’m thankful for the children, I’m having a hard time sticking to any diet plan and being excited about it. I need to do something and maybe this is the trick. Thanks for taking the time to write up your experience!

  3. Chris Gordon says:

    Good stuff, Mike. Appreciate the insights. I just read this after eating chocolate oreos–really! :)

  4. Way to go Mike! Thanks for sharing your story. Our stories are such a gift to one another and reminds me of the choices we can make for them to unfold into something good or disastrous. Obviously, you have chosen the former and without a doubt your children and wife must benefit from all this and must be so proud of you!

  5. Shelly says:

    What a great friend you has to tell you about that book! Now maybe you can help her follow it too! Great writing! (doesn’t everybody look fit in Hawaii?) :)

  6. Mike says:

    Aaron, what do you mean? I’ve always thought of myself as petite?

    Jessica, I hope my experience helps you. I’ve got a lot more to share. The challenge at this point is to figure out how to break it up into bite sized chunks that make sense for people who haven’t been ME for the last couple years.

    Chris I had chips and guac for dinner tonight. So there.

    Shelly I owe it all to you. I’ve got BFC-approved dinner on Tuesday so that should help. And yeah any picture taken in Hawaii makes you look 15% better because you’re in Hawaii. In fact, I got a bit nostalgic just thinking about it.

  7. tim prussic says:

    You look awesome, Mike! Somehow, I’m more comfortable with the fat Mike… what can I say?

  8. Joe Hoppis says:

    You inspire me everyday! Keep it up.

  9. Jodi says:

    I’m so glad you’re blogging about this topic, Mike! Very well said. Jace was really inspired by this post too. Looking forward to more!

  10. Awsome post, can’t wait to read more! Chuck has lost 35 pounds by juicing, changing to a healthier diet and running. I’ve lost 12 by doing the same.

    • Mike says:

      Renee, I don’t know Chuck well but I noticed a change in him last night. I’ve never tried juicing as a weight loss tool (even though I do love my vitamix) but I know multiple roads exist to wellness. Congrats to both of you guys!

  11. [...] How I finally got the weight off [...]

  12. Theresa says:

    This got passed to me by my sister it sounds like you found something that works. I will give anything a try. I have a 25 yr old daughter and a 10 yr old daughter both delivered by c-section and about 15 yrs ago lost the weight but of course gained it back.I now have lost about 20 lbs. in the last 6 months and am just stuck now. But I have told myself that 2011 was my last year to be over weight so I am trying everything to lose. Look forward to reading more.

  13. Tara says:

    I got the BFC book. I am curious about all the soy. I thought a few months back you posted that soy was an unhealthy alternative. Is that why you are using more coconut and almond flour? We are staring the fast track on Monday, taking Sunday to prepare a bunch of breakfast meals since Bubba has to leave so early for work. Look forward to the recipes.

    • Mike says:

      Tara, soy is bad news but it’s bad to a lesser degree than sugar. Even thought the BFC was only a starting point for me, I think it is the ideal diet to start with because it’s simple and focuses on the the right things. I think even fast track is tough as a starting point. I lost nearly all of my initial weight eating wheat, so it’s not necessary to go gluten/grain free to lose the weight. There are lots of high-fiber options that contain wheat but make the BFC easier. I like to start w/ plain ol’ BFC. That leaves FAST TRACK and other dietary changes available as gears you can shift into down the road to plow through the inevitable plateaus.

      So realize that soy contains substances that your body basically treats like estrogen… if you want to be squishier, rounder, and look ready to bear children, then by all means eat lots of soy. Otherwise avoid it. But seriously at this point if it’s between soy and sugar, go for the soy. We can work out the soy later.

  14. Amber says:

    So glad you shared your story Mike! You always have great advice and I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas on the Belly Fat Cure with you! w00t to the Dad of 5!

  15. Great Job. You look awesome! I have lost 90lbs myself on the Belly Fat Cure so I know it works. Have a great day :-)

  16. Brandi says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve gof about 50 lbs to lose ( or did ) and after starting this new eating plan I’ve lost 9 lbs in about 9 days. Do you fell that is too much too soon?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Brandi,
      That’s pretty normal actually. As long as you don’t set the bar there for future weeks, I think you’re okay. What you’ve mostly lost is commonly referred to as “water weight”. It’s not like you’ve all of a sudden become dehydrated, but rather, any time someone dramatically lowers their carbohydrate intake, your glycogen levels fall. This means your body requires less structural water. Don’t be discouraged though; this just means your body is adapting to using fat for energy instead of carbs. This is exactly what we want. Real fat loss will happen much slower; more like 1-3 lbs per week. However, you will notice that more in your clothes than on the scale. Pay closest attention to how your clothes fit. That will be the bast indicator of how you are doing. Some people say that eating this way is very expensive (lots of meat, cheese, etc). The most expensive part of this diet is having to buy an entire new wardrobe. I think I spent a few hundred dollars on alterations for my suits.

  17. [...] very good blog post – couldn't have said it better myself (too lazy to try anyway)…hahah How I finally got the weight off | TempleStrong Before was taken Summer of 2009 at a bodyweight well over 250 lbs. The right was taken Summer of [...]

  18. Nancy says:

    Sounds a lot like The Schwarzbein Principle. A great book and explains the science very well.

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