Weight Loss by Numbers

Weird title, I know – after all, weight is already just a number. So what do I mean by “weight loss by numbers”? In short, it’s reducing my efforts (eating, exercising, etc.) to data points. This is my latest “scheme” to get on track with losing weight.

The other day I found – by accident – a really useful spreadsheet designed to help you nail down your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure – the amount of calories you burn per day). It’s the kind of spreadsheet that requires a lot of data – to work well, at the very least, 4-6 weeks’ worth of data. It took me a little bit to figure out what I needed to do to get value out of it, but once I did, I found I really love it.

How it worked for me

For the past several weeks I’ve been working with a max 1555 calories per day, and that was based on some TDEE calculations and MyFitnessPal goals. The idea was to be in a 1000-calorie deficit from my TDEE. Well, this spreadsheet takes into account your weight and calorie intake to calculate your TDEE. This is, I feel, slightly more accurate than the calculators available online. What the sheet is doing is calculating the TDEE based on how calorie intake is affecting your weight the next day.

All that said – what it’s telling me today (at the time of writing, Wednesday) – my TDEE is approximately 2650, which means I need to eat about 1650 calories daily to lose 2 pounds per week. There are some missing days in my data, unfortunately, but this is a very good approximation of where I should be. Since I’ve committed (mentally, at least) to being diligent with logging, I believe I should get even more relevant data as time goes on. I’ll be able to adjust my daily calorie intake more correctly.

So – here’s hoping I can make the right adjustments and get going with my weight loss. I want to get back to where I was 4-5 years ago, and keep going from there. Biggest roadblock to overcome in the coming days: I need to keep logging. That’s really all there is to it.

Results From an 8 Week Health Challenge

8 weeks ago (give or take a few days) I joined a challenge on reddit’s LoseIt sub – it was an 8-week challenge with at least two goals in mind: to allow individuals to try to lose weight, and also to collectively walk a bunch of steps. I’m being admittedly reductive in the description but it was actually a lot of fun.

I set an 8-week goal of losing 12 pounds, which would take me from 269.8 lbs to 257.8. By week 5 I had lost 2.6 pounds on the scale; but that’s also around when I unfortunately sabotaged my efforts and stalled a bit. I didn’t lose any significant amount of weight, and it looks like I possibly gained 1 pound on top of my starting number. Not so hot. But I did put up some crazy numbers in terms of steps and activity minutes. Here’s what I did, week-to-week (daily average steps):

Week1234567
Steps 80349589536386608912100348255

So, based on the daily average, I did about 411,929 steps! I could probably get a more accurate number but that would involve going back over 98 days or so…not quite what I want to do right now. Anyway, I’m quite happy with the work I put in despite not getting results that I wanted.

I don’t think I’m going to change anything up right now, except to try to stick within my calorie budgets as much as possible. I would like to see my scale weight go back down to 269 by the end of this week, if possible. If nothing else I’d like to get my trend weight lines to get moving back down instead of up.

I will tell you this…beer is probably the number one enemy for weight loss. That’s what started my 2-3 week setback.

Weight Loss Roller Coaster

This is not new that I keep posting about weight loss, as it’s something I’m working at – constantly. I recently completed a review of my weight data from 2013 to current day, and it disappoints me to learn that while I lost 40+ pounds by the end of 2014, I gained it all back by 2018.

At my lowest I hit 228 pounds (November 2014); that was from a starting number of 272 (February 2013). Today, August 6 2019, I’m still at 272. I knew that I was climbing back up on the scale over the past 3 years, but seeing it laid out in a spreadsheet made it pretty painfully obvious.

Clearly, I’ve talked a lot about my strategies for weight loss on this blog. Just as clearly, my strategies have not worked. I can’t remember exactly what I did when I lost the weight 5 years ago, but I at least know that it was a combination of diet (via MyFitnessPal) and going to the gym. I still have a gym membership, I just haven’t gone in several months – but it’s not like I’m inactive, it’s just not practical to go to the gym in Summer months when there’s so much to do outdoors.

5 years ago I wasn’t armed with the knowledge of CICO, though, so I feel like this time around it should be a bit simpler to approach. Of course that’s the thinking that I’ve been trapped in for a while, now. But since giving myself this kick in the pants, I’ve outlined a new plan.

  • Reduce daily calorie goal to aim for a 2 lb / week loss (so for right now, ~1555 calories per day)
  • Get back to the gym, 3 times a week. Doesn’t matter which days, and need to be there at least 30 minutes per session (if it’s a short session, it has to be all cardio).
  • I’ll allow myself to eat back maximum 50% of my exercise calories – since they are not accurately tracked, anyway.

Given this plan, I should be at 232 pounds by January 2020 at the latest. I anticipate setbacks, that’s a given. So buffer zone…end of January 2020 to shed 40 pounds. But my “real” goal is to try to hit that number by December 22 2019.

I’m not going to finish at 40 pounds, though. According to most sources, a healthy weight for me should be 148-153 pounds. That seems a bit extreme so probably my next goal after 40 pounds is to get down to 200. That was the original goal, back in 2014. I just never got there.

Weight Loss Update

I wish I could come up with more creative titles for these; but as it stands this is what it is: a weight loss update.

Recap

My goal for March 5th 2019 was to lose 22 pounds and weigh in at 154 pounds. I forget exactly how many weeks I gave myself but I started in November. That should have been plenty of time to reach the goal.

Reality

But I didn’t quite make it. The long and short of it is that I couldn’t get the scale to budge and as I got closer to the March 5th date, I ran out of weeks in order to lose the weight I wanted to. In total I lost 5.5 pounds, 16.5 pounds off from my actual goal weight.

Solution

Well…I don’t know really what my solution is. I’m just going to keep doing what I started back in February, which was to be stricter with logging my calories (both in and out).

I came up with a method originally of tracking my net calories, and it worked overall, so I think I’m going to continue with that. I just need to tweak my setup and try better not to falter.

According to Happy Scale, if I stick to 2 pounds per week, I’ll hit my goal (still 254) by April 24th; on my current overall rate it won’t be until January 2020. What I deemed my “realistic” goal (average of 2, 0.34, and 1 pound per week), it looks like June is my target date.

I think I’ll be happy if I can hit 254 pounds by May 1st. That gives me 8 weeks to hit my goal.

Quick Weight Loss Update

Back in November I wrote out a goal – that I wanted to lose ~20 pounds by March 5th 2019 (my 35th birthday). The only reason I picked my birthday was because 5 years ago, I had a huge weight loss goal for my 30th birthday, and I mostly attained it.

Anyway, suffice it to say it has not been going well. I started at 276 lbs November 28th. January 28th, I was at 275.8. Between then and now, I’ve flirted with reaching 270 but have gone back up. I know the reason: inconsistent food journalling / calorie tracking.

This week I gave myself a wake-up call and readjusted my calorie goals to aim for a 2 lb / week goal. I’m fine with 1 lb / week but this way, I aim high and won’t be disappointed if I get less than that.

I started the week at a really low weekly weight loss rate, but with my re-focused efforts have improved to a 0.40 lbs / week rate. I’ve started using Happy Scale to take some of the math away from me (I feel my own math is at times suspect), and it’s telling me that at this current rate, I’ll reach 270.1 lbs by March 3rd. That’s not ideal but better news than when I started the week.

Oh, I should mention what I’ve been doing to realize this change. I found a post on reddit on /r/LoseIt that gave me a different way of tracking my progress; to save you a click, I’m subtracting my daily calorie burn as measured by my Gear S3 from my calorie intake. The difference is either a calorie deficit (good thing) or a surplus (bad thing).

To lose 2 lbs / week I need to hit a 1000 calorie deficit weekly – 500 for 1 lb. As long as I’m in that range I’ll be in good shape! Now…to stay disciplined on weekends. That’s the real challenge.

Starting Over (Again)

I recently took a look at my weight numbers and came to the realization that since August 2014, I have gained at least 40 pounds. This, after having lost about that same amount in a period of 15 months from 2013 to 2014. 

That kind of number should be shocking, and it is. But I’m not reacting negatively to it. Instead I’m using the shock as a motivator.  For the last year+ I’ve been trying to lose weight, but haven’t really been getting anywhere (and in fact, have gained weight – just look at the chart for the last year!).  Seeing that I’ve gained so much weight back is an eye opener.

My weight from the last 365 days

Clearly, I’m not “doing it right”.  If I’m being honest, I know also I haven’t been recording my calorie intake (using MyFitnessPal) properly – at least, until last week.  If I were to think about any change I could possibly make, this is the first place to start.  

Sure, even in the last week, I still have had a couple of days where I was lazy and didn’t log things properly.  But what’s important to me here is that these days are 1 or 2 in 10, rather than 7 or 8 in 10.  So I have started here, with logging.  

Looking back before my hard restart, I can see that I just gave up completely on days where I know I blew my calorie goal.  I’d stop logging and not worry about it.  This is where I went wrong.  Today, I’ll keep logging the calories even if I’m going over my daily budget.  It’s the only way I’ll keep accountable.

My weight from the last 30 days

It really boils down to accountability.  For the longest time, I’ve been entering all of this fitness data and not doing anything with it.  Not only am I fixing what was broken, I’m going to have to do a regular review of my progress.  I won’t do that here, but this blog post is basically just as much for people reading it as it is for me to say, “I have to do this.”  

And I will do this.  I did it before.  My first goal post is 20 pounds by March 5, 2019.  I’ve only been at this in full force for about a week, and I’m at about the same weight as when I started.  I’m going to do a meaningful review next week (at the two week mark) and see where I am.

Health Notes + Quick Dailyio Review

I’ve not seen very much progress in the weight loss department over the last 90 days.  My numbers have pretty much fluctuated up and down, meaning I’m more or less maintaining my weight rather than losing.  That’s fine, it’s definitely better than gaining.  

I know the reason for this too – I’ve not been properly tracking my calorie intake via MyFitnessPal.  It’s been a combination of a number of things – either I skip days entirely, or I only enter a portion of my diary, or I don’t record “treats” – the bottom line is that I’m not keeping track of what I’m eating, so I’m not holding myself accountable to the weight loss.  

In looking at my numbers, I think part of the reason for this is because I set my daily food goal too low.  It looks like I based it on losing 2 pounds a week – which is pretty aggressive, but it meant that daily I was only allowed 1690 calories.  That’s really low.  I asked some questions yesterday about what I was doing, and the person responding felt my calorie deficit was really high.  That’s when I looked at my numbers and agreed with them.  Helps to get outside perspective every now and then.  So I’ve done a reset, based my numbers on my TDEE – 500 per day (so the goal is: 1 lb per week).  

We’ll see how this goes.  I’ve also decided not to focus too much on the exercise front; I will be going to the gym, going for walks, playing some sports, etc.  But I feel that I’m putting too much emphasis on getting my daily steps in and I’m not getting as much reading done as I’d like to.  

Edit: My overall goal too is to help me feel more comfortable with the clothes I’ve bought.  I liked them in the store, but when I go to put them on at home for work, I don’t like the way they look.  So there’s a confidence thing going on too.

Daylio

I’ve recently started using the Daylio app.  I’m…not at all sure how they came up with that name, but it serves a specific purpose that I was looking for.  Namely, to track how I’m feeling.  Mostly I wanted to do this for days when I feel “down”, to try and figure out the reason behind feeling that way.  

I wanted something simple, quick, and give me the option to look back on it later to track trends.  I stumbled upon Daylio quite by accident, because I was originally thinking of tracking this kind of thing in my bullet journal.  I saw someone recommend Daylio and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.  

I stuck with the free version for a while, but they ended up having a 50% off sale – so I jumped on it and bought the paid version of the app.  To be honest, I think most people will be fine with the free version – I probably would still be using it for free had there not been a flash sale.  

But the app is pretty basic.  You open it up, add an entry (which is done by clicking on an overall mood and associating with an activity), and that’s it.  You can type notes if you want to, but it’s completely optional.  The simplicity of the app is what makes it great.  I believe the paid version opens it up to add more “moods”.

Overall it’s only something I recommend if you need a quick tracking app.  It’s not an in-depth thing that has a lot of utility.  I would say that if you need help with mental health in a serious capacity, this is not a solution.

The Weight Train

In my mind, I had some kind of vision of a cartoon-y train to use as a picture for this post, but alas, it was not meant to be.

For the past…I don’t know…30 days?  I’ve been holding steady with my weight.  I went up, but have come back down.  Currently I don’t know my status, because I don’t have a scale handy.  You see, I’m in the process of moving so things are all over the place.  One of those things is the scale.  Anyway, this is all related.  Oh, and a warning, this post is going to be more of a ramble than something I’ve actually thought and planned out.

Early on in the moving process we decided that we would pack away things like dishes, cooking utensils, give away some pots and pans, etc.  Essentially means that we are currently unable to actually cook anything at home.  As a result we are eating out a lot.  Being in a small town at the moment, our options are rather limited.  It’s a little stressful at times, too.  So since February something or other I haven’t even bothered logging anything other than my daily weight.

I’m trying to keep some rough estimates in my head for when I eat, so that I don’t over-indulge, but for the most part I’m not worrying about it.  Unfortunately this is probably going to have the side effect of setting me back even further than I’ve already done.  Still, I would rather take the trade-off of not worrying about my current food intake vs. reducing some stress around a big move.

I was doing some thinking and I want to set some different goals.   My weight used to be my primary goal, and was a measure of success.  I don’t think that’s cutting it, for me though.  There’s got to be a reason why I keep going back and forth with logging, not logging, juggling my calorie limits and “do I eat back calories or not?”, and so forth.  And I think that putting too much attention on my weight is one of the leading factors.

So my goal for the rest of the Spring and Summer is to set a new goal.  Haha.  I have to do some thinking, but I need to set a goal that is measurable and attainable.  I will still have a weight number in mind, but that’s secondary.  Some of the things I have kicking around in my head include going back down shirt / pant sizes, improving my softball game, and so on.  What I need is a solid plan instead of a loose ramble.

Work in progress.

Wellness Update – Slow & Steady Wins the Race

I’ve got a ton of posts about media coming up, so I thought I’d break things up a little bit with something a bit more personal and leave a little bit of a fitness update.  So far, I’m doing fairly well.  My original title for this post was “fitness update” but I thought I would expand and talk about my overall ‘wellness’, in general.

Physical Health

December 2017 Weight Loss Chart
December 2017 Weight Loss Chart

The chart to the right is from December 2017; I’m honestly not sure if I shared this on the blog already, but it’s my blog, so too bad!  I’m sharing it now.  I finished December on a high note; my goal was to lose four pounds and while I didn’t get to that goal exactly, I did make some seriously great progress.  As I type this I do remember talking about this a while back so I won’t pound away too long on December, but suffice it to say – I have continued that progress through January, so far.

I started my number tracking on January 2nd, I think mainly because I might not have weight myself for a few days after December 31st.  Which is fine.  Anyway, I started the month at 261.2; with 4 weeks in the month for tracking I set a goal of losing 1 pound per week, or 257.2 by January 31st.  As of today (January 23rd), I’m sitting at 258.2!  So about a pound off my goal, with a week still to spare.  I’m really proud of that accomplishment.  I had some periods this past month with my weight going up, but that was in direct response to A) not tracking my meals, and B) there was one night when I had at least 5 beers, so to expect my weight to NOT go up is just silly.

Apart from weight, I’m also pretty satisfied with how I’m doing.  I’d like to be getting out to bootcamp (twice weekly) but I don’t feel terrible if I don’t go.  I’m still curling twice a week, and I don’t often drink while I’m there.  The club I’m at isn’t very big on the ‘buy for the losing team, then the losing team returns the favour’ that my old club was.  Actually, my team doesn’t seem to stick around after games anyway (they live a bit out of town so I understand).  So the side effect is I’m not drinking very much beer, which I find is usually the bigger obstacle when it comes to losing weight.

Oh, and also we just got a ton of snow in the last 24 hours – so I did some shoveling that I feel makes up for any missed gym time.

I’m trying to maximize my use of my FitBit Charge 2 (I’ve got a fun post about that coming up in February), and challenged myself to match Vanessa’s own goals on her Apple Watch.  It’s no longer about just meeting my daily step goal (though that is still a priority for me), but I turned on my “reminders to move”.  Every hour between 10am and 3pm FitBit wants me to get 250 steps.  If I haven’t reached my goal with ten minutes to go in the hour, it buzzes at me to remind me to move.  Still a work in progress.  Days when I work from home are harder to get 250 steps per hour, over 5 hours, than if I were to work in the office.

Mental Health

I don’t focus on this a lot – in general I feel like I am pretty healthy mentally.  At the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t ignore it, and when I think about it, a lot of things I do to in my day-to-day life fall under this category of ensuring I stay mentally fit. All of this is over and above simply talking with my wife, which does wonders on its own.

The thing I do most often is listen to Podcasts.  And I listen to a lot of podcasts.  My work environment right now is somewhat isolated, especially when I work from home (I try to work in the office as much as I can, but weather often dictates this reality).  Having podcasts to listen to and interact with provides a sense of community helps keep my mind working, while I’m working.  Also fun to listen to while in the car on the hour-long commute.

One podcast I’ve just started listening to is one that started up local to me – it’s a couple of guys from Manitoulin Island that have a show called “Raise The Bar“.  It’s essentially an outlet for them to share their own weight loss journey but they also talk about other things in their life.  I haven’t reached out to them yet, but I’m thinking about it.  What I find interesting is that their podcast style is quite close to another one I listen to – The Benchcast.  I am thinking that they base their show off the same influences (I think both are a fan of Joe Rogan’s show…maybe I should check it out as well).

I also try to read as much as I can.  I posted my reading list earlier this month – I’m slowly making my way through it.  I’m trying to set daily targets and make sure I reach them, but so far it’s not going like I wanted.  There are so many other easier distractions out there that make it hard to choose reading.  I used to be a voracious reader, and I still have the ability to tear through a book in a matter of days…depending on the book.  I’m still working on this one – I think I’m probably going to be marking January as a “fail” in terms of how much reading I’ve done, but I’m not quitting on it and I plan on improving this in February.

I maintain a daily journal (specifically, I use the “Bullet Journal” method) too.  Mostly, its purpose is to make sure I don’t forget anything and it’s mainly a to-do list.  But I also write down stray observations, other notes etc. of what happened during a day.  I find it more useful than dumping things into an electronic database.

Overall

I thought maybe I’d have more categories to write in, but I guess those are the two major categories.  I think I’m doing great overall.  I could be doing better, but so could everyone; no one is perfect 100% of the time.  I know what I’d like to focus on to be better, so I’m not going to worry too much about what’s already working.  It’s still important to me to recognize what I’m doing right, so that stuff doesn’t start to slide.

Any suggestions on finding time to read?  What do you do to carve out reading time?

The War Against CICO

The War Against CICO
The War Against CICO

There are a lot of articles lately in the fitness world about the “phenomenon” known as CICO.  CICO stands for “Calories In-Calories Out”, and generally it refers to the simple fact that to lose weight, you must burn more calories (“Out”) than you consume (“In”).  I think it was shortened to CICO because it’s just an easier way to remember the term, and it is kind of catchy.

I don’t want to give these articles more views; but just do a quick search online of “why cico doesn’t work” and you’ll get a bunch of hits.  I haven’t given a lot of time to these to read them in detail, but many of the articles suggest that CICO is a fad diet that won’t work for sustainable weight loss.

They use a strawman argument to suggest that proponents of CICO think you can eat all the junk food in the world and lose weight.  Technically, this is true!  If you eat all your calories in junk food, but you burn more than you eat, you WILL lose weight.

The problem with these articles is that they focus on the junk food aspect.  They harp on this over and over, telling you that not only do you need to eat “healthy” (which in itself is a very vague term that’s not helpful at all), but you need to include an exercise regimen in your weight loss plan.

What they overlook is that using the “junk food diet” part of CICO is a means to an end.  The /r/loseit subreddit doesn’t advocate eating whatever you want, whenever you want, all the time.  What they suggest instead is to start this way – don’t change what you’re eating, but change how much of it that you’re eating.

As you start logging your calories and seeing how much your regular food costs you in a day, you begin to learn about other foods that are more calorie-dense and leave you feeling full.  In effect, following the CICO principle teaches you to eat healthier.

In short, you need to learn about how weight / fat loss works (CICO is the mechanism of fat loss) in order to learn how to eat better.

It’s important that you remember most of these websites and articles waging war on CICO are in the business of selling a product to you; whether that’s a weight loss tips newsletter subscription, or diet pills, or a weight loss plan – they have some sort of service that they are trying to push.

Technically speaking, CICO is not a threat to their well-being – but they perceive it to be.  They probably sell some worthwhile information (and when you read the articles, they all circle back to the fact that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose fat), so being armed with knowledge is not a bad thing.

But their perception is that if people knew the basics of weight loss, no one will buy their services.  So, they attack the principle of CICO framing it as a weight loss fad that doesn’t work.

Keep this in mind when you’re reading conflicting information out there.