How to lose 50 pounds in 3 months

It is the 19th of January and I have now lost just over 20kgs or just under 50 pounds since the 24th of October. I weighed over 124kg and now I weigh 103. That is two months and 26 days, or 87 days in total. 240g (1/2 lb) per day.

Over this period I went home for the Christmas and New Year’s break. It meant I had to contend with my mother’s enthusiasm for feeding me good food. I went to a wedding and many other lovely events that had nice, rich food.

So, how did I do it?

I dieted. With a bit of research I figured out it was easier to remove all fat and sugar from my diet than it was to do enough exercise to eat what I liked. Not that I ate too badly to begin with, but I did enjoy the odd pizza or burger binge.

Then I exercised. I started walking, now I am riding.

THE MATHS

The basic maths are something like this:

1. The basic daily metabolism or Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) for an adult is about 2000Cal (8368kj). If you go to this nifty site at the University of Sydney it is a basic daily metabolism energy requirement calculator determined by sex, age, weight and height. When I started out at 124kg I had an energy requirement of 2516 Cal (10527 kJ) and now it is 2228 Cal (9322 kJ).

2. For each kilo of fat is around 39000kj. You also lose some lean muscle mass depending on what sort of exercise you do so it is slightly less than this. I use 8000Cal to make the maths easier.

3. The first couple of weeks of dieting I experimented with different meals. I don’t need huge variation. Mostly tuna and rocket/baby spinach wraps, then it became celery and tuna. Snacks were apples and then apples and raw sweet corn cob. The point is that I reduced my caloric intake to below 1000Cal per day. On a perfect diet day it was below 900Cal.

4. I would try to do at least 200-300Cal worth of exercise per day. This is the equivalent of an hour’s walk or 20 minutes on my stationary bike.

The maths basically work out. Needed 2500Cal for basic metabolism had a deficit of 1600Cal and would do 300Cal of exercise, so 1900Cal burned per day or a kilo of fat roughly every 4 days.

To help me figure all this out I have an application on my iPhone called iKeepFit.

THE DIET

The diet for me was an experiment in discipline and patience. I knew dieting all the time would be a total fail so I gave myself two meals off per week to be social. I started off eating what was obviously healthy food, and then began cutting elements out. The below are perfect diet days. I would’ve had about a dozen of these over the 87 days. Most other days were variations of the below. Some days (like Christmas Day!) were AWOL. Plus I had two meals off per week when I was normally eating out. I would often choose the fish option off the menu. A whole pan fired Barra is absolutely delicious!

1. First version.
In the context of an actual day of my early dieting, my diet to begin with was thus:
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
mother energy drink 208kcals
Celery 6x stalks 62cals
Apples large raw 116cals
tuna in lite oil x2 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
spinach raw 2x cups 14kcals
corn wraps x6 389kcals
Total consumption 1325kcals

Base metabolic rate -2521kcals
Activity level desk job -504kcals
Exercise -429kcals

Net kilocalories -2129kcals
Weight/gained lost -304g

2. Second version.
I then started to refine the diet. A problem I had is that my digestive system was not agreeing with so much celery, so I introduced the yogurt for breakfast.
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
Celery 12x stalks 124cals
Apples large raw 116cals
2x tuna in lite oil 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
Jalna Fat Free Berry yogurt 200g 156kcal
Total consumption 866kcal

Base metabolic rate -2269kcals
Activity level desk job -454kcals
Exercise -280kcals

Net kilocalories -2137kcals
Weight/gained lost -305g

3. Third version.
The third version is basically the same as above except I now add muesli to the yogurt and have kangaroo and spinach salads in the evening. The third version was required because I started to commute to work by bicycle three days a week, plus walking in the evenings and riding on the weekends, and was feeling a bit light-headed.
Spinach raw 120g 28kcals
kangaroo 250-500g 278-556kcals
Free & Fruity Monster Muesli roughly a cup, 100kcals

EXERCISE

I used to be super fit, about 2.5 years ago. I was going to the gym for two hours per day doing an hour of cardio and an hour of weights. It is all documented on my blog. I got my 2km ergo times down to the low 6:20’s, which should give you an idea of how fit I was. A buggered knee from my rugby days, now a buggered left shoulder from an incline bench press gone awry and crotchety ankles and joints from a decade and a half of heaps of junior sport means I need to do low impact exercise.

I realised that my previous extremely fit persona has helped me cope with doing exercise this time around. When you are super fit you rarely work at 100% intensity of your capacity (except for an ergo or something). Now I am about 80% capacity of fitness compared to then. So me working at 90% when riding for example is just over working at 70% of my previous level of fitness. The capacity for the work intensity may not be there but all the necessary techniques for working that hard still are. Here I mean things like controlling my breathing, doing stretches/prep, being comfortable with feeling the ‘burn’ in my lungs and legs, etc. A big part of this is the mental toughness not to have a breather or stop but to keep going. Already knowing that the level of exercise I am doing is 100% achievable makes it easy.

1. Walking.
I walk up to the local shops to purchase the evening meal and food for the next day. This would take an hour. Over Christmas and NYE period with plenty of time to kill I was doing a minimum of 2 hours walking per day, sometimes up to 3.5-4 hours. 220-800kcals.

2. Stationary bike riding.
I have a pretty good Life Fitness bike my brother bought off eBay for me for my birthday last year. I was doing anywhere between 20-40 minutes 2 out of 3 days. 220-500kcals.

3. Cycling.
I now have a pretty good mountain bike that my lady friend bought for me for Christmas. I have attacked riding with gusto. The previous few months of daily activity, especially the long walks over the holiday period prepared me for eventually commuting to work on my bike. My commute is 17.6km, so 35.2km per day, which is roughly 1200kcals each day. I also ride on the weekends for at least an hour or two. I am currently only riding to work for 3 days as I often need my car for work related meetings.

MENTAL
I am pretty hardcore when I do things. I put on weight when I am depressed, content to watch TV and play video games and basically don’t give a fuck what happens. Here are some things I have figured out:

1. Discipline.
As well as an experiment in weight loss, this has been an experiment in discipline. How much control do I have over my body? Over my desires? Over compulsions just to eat that biscuit? I can afford to be less disciplined now because of my bike riding regime, but in the beginning I would not vary from my diet. There was a strange satisfaction when every Friday my co-workers and I would go down to the local burger joint for Friday burgers. I would take my can of tuna and celery sticks. However, i would also have two meals off per week, plus I would often have some sort of variation to the diets. For example, I went through a week of trying protein bars as a supplement to my diet for my riding. They were too expensive however to eat all the time.

2. Enthusiasm.
I treated this process as a challenge and an experiment. I didn’t know what would happen. The basic maths seemed sound and I have been active enough in the past to already have a sense of how my body would react. I enjoy stepping onto the scales everyday and seeing my progress. The sense of satisfaction I feel because I have been disciplined enough to rise to the challenge makes me feel good and makes me feel like further weight loss and the required discipline is not only possible but achievable.

3. Mood.
I treat food as a drug and as a nutritional source. Sugar, caffiene and nicotine are mood enhancers for me. Plus I did not curb my alcohol intake at all, I often have a few very small glasses of red or a beer or two every few days. I will probably stop smoking shortly. I probably won’t give up coffee. Sugar was easy to cut out. The apple and corn cob contain enough natural sugar to enhance my mood during the work day. There is no point getting all cranky at work because you are starving yourself. Eat an apple or some other piece of fruit. The timing of my meals are designed to maximise and affirm my positive mood.
6:20am Yogurt and Muesli, Coffee
8:30am Coffee
9:30am Coffee
10:30am Apple, Coffee
12:00midday Celery and Tuna
1:00pm Coffee
3:30pm Corn Cob, Coffee
4:30pm Coffee
7:30-8:00pm Kangaroo and Spinach

4. Goals.
My first goal was 115kg. Then 110kgs for Christmas. Then 105kgs for my return to work after the Christmas break. Now it is to get down into double digits for my birthday coming up early February. Goals are important, but make them realistic. Again because of my previous experience I was confident in setting some pretty tough weight loss goals.

WHAT IS NEXT?
Next I am going to use my discipline developed as part of my weight loss regime to tackle my finances. I want to pay off my debts and save money to be able to buy a flat. It is going to require some different strategies. I am off to a good start because dieting and riding to work are already good steps for saving money!

When you hit your late twenties or early thirties it is time to take stock of your life and make changes, this is part of that process. You can make changes if you want to. So if you want to, make them.

6 thoughts on “How to lose 50 pounds in 3 months”

  1. This project of yours has troubled me from the outset, Glen. The amount of coffee you’re drinking, for instance, is a recipe for a heart attack. And I feel very alienated as I read about your obsessive behaviours involved in precisely cataloguing and calculating food and exercise, and replacing variety in your life with strict routine.

    This is ascetic (a word which derives equally from the Greek for ‘monk’ and ‘exercise’). I feel that you are removing pleasures from your life and perhaps I’m being unduly teleological but I can’t easily identify your ultimate goal. Do you want to “look sexy”? Do you want to “fit into different clothes”? Or – and given your “What is next?” section, I suspect this might be it – do you want to feel like more of a social agent through honing the agency of your own body?

    As a feminist, I’m very critical of any ideology that advocates disciplining one’s own body as the key to success and happiness. Maybe that is at the heart of what troubles me about your regime.

  2. I’ve been learning about discipline, Mel! Plus, this is a very masculine lifestyle I think.

    Don’t worry about the coffee, it is a very weak single cup drip machine. Four of those coffees is the same as a double shot cafe coffee. Thanks though 🙂

    One way to think about what I am doing is stripping away all the unnecessary elements of my life. (Wait until you see what my birthday party theme is, look on facebook late tonight!) It is a clearing of elements in my life so I can actually figure out what I want. I know it sounds weird but I have done many things in my life without actually being sure if I want to do them. I don’t necessarily need variation in my life.

    Mobilising myself through my body and a militant regime that cultivates a sense of discipline is a way to provide the physiological and mental infrastructure to be able to experiment to figure out what I want. Because I have been relatively active in the past I know how to push my body and basically what will happen when i try certain things. On balance, across my whole life, I have actually been very active, even though I don’t think of myself as a sporty-type (I am an epic nerd!!).

    It is ascetic! Precisely. I have thought about it precisely in these terms. There is no goal, but a process. Well, there is, but it is like a meta-goal. I always knew that the discipline being cultivated in terms of my eating habits and exercise would then be translated into other contexts of my life. ‘Financial’ is what I have identified next. There is also ‘career’ but that’ll come in a few months. My already started financial ascetism is similar in that at the moment it is to reduce my debt and build up my savings, thus reducing the debt burden and increase my finanical degrees of freedom.

    I went through a similar process 3 years ago, if you remember, when I was finishing my diss. I had an end goal there, sure, finishing the diss and not going mad, but it was all about mobilising — accelerating — to go to war with the world.

  3. I admire your discipline. Like Mel I am concerned about the coffee – but if it is very weak, that is OK. I will be impressed with the flick of the Cigs!! Getting your finances in order is also very important.

    I am glad that you have the days where you can enjoy a meal out and some variation to the diet.

    As soon as my left foot has recovered from the op, I need to follow your example.

    We are very proud of all your achievements Glen!

  4. I’m impressed by your ability to stick to such a demanding program. I wonder if the exercise itself is a reward: the endorphines you score when you’re fit are really very good and make exercise addictive (for me, anyway).

    This is the sort of discipline I see dancers use when they want to achieve particular goals: training every day on the dance floor, jogging every day, eating carefully, etc. With those guys weight loss is a by-product and facilitator, really, for and of their technical achievements. But to achieve in lindy hop, which is an incredibly physically demanding dance, you need the sort of discipline you describe. In fact, I know a few ‘high end’ dancers who actually have a far more challenging exercise regime. As Frankie Manning said “Get in shape to do lindy hop, don’t do lindy hop to get in shape.”

    So I’m wondering if perhaps you can use your new fitness for a particular sport or other challenging (mentally/socially/creatively) activity? I mean, if you’re this fit and disciplined, you already have the tools you need for a demanding sport or dance or activity (dance? climbing?) I only mention it because these sorts of structured, goal-oriented activities require discipline but are also satisfyingly challenging – mentally and creatively – and can therefore keep you motivated.

    …on a side note, are you sure you’re getting the right vitamins, etc that you need? Having lost all this weight and attained a higher level of fitness, you’re going to need to maintain your health while you push your body so hard. It might also be worth exploring the sort of activities that are good for maintaining muscle/tendon health – yoga, tai chi, etc. These are good for promoting health and also ensuring you’re using your body properly.

  5. Perhaps you can resume your discus throwing again!! You must make sure that you have a well balanced diet

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