Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (II: Conclusion)

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My weight over the past 5 months.

Last Friday, I outlined the basic idea behind my weight-loss plan. The overarching idea was to expend more Calories than you take in. This idea is, of course, not original to me. Everybody knows it. It’s easy to understand. Still, in the United States, we are surrounded by bad food options and ridiculously large portion sizes. So, it’s easy to put on weight without even trying.

The second part of my plan isn’t original either — eat enough so that you have sufficient energy for all your activities, which you’ll want to increase, but end up slightly below the amount of Calories it would take to maintain your weight. In other words, lose weight slowly by eating less and being more active, but not eating so much less that you lack energy or are constantly hungry. That’s not hard to understand academically, but it is sometimes hard to put into practice. Here’s how I have been doing it.

Have a Reason and a Goal

If you’re going to try to lose weight, your chance of success will go up dramatically if you have a reason for doing so. For me it was health reasons. I want to avoid the weight-related illnesses that are prevalent in my family, and be able to enjoy a healthier life.

It also helps to have a goal. That way, you’ll understand that your period of losing weight will eventually end. In fact, setting some minor goals along the way to your major goal also helps. For example, when my weight dropped to just over 200 pounds (91 kg), my minor goal was to get below that weight. Sometimes a minor goal may simply be to burn more Calories than you did last week.

 

Starting Point

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I started around 220. This is just a few weeks after that.

When I started, all I did was begin to eat a little bit less and to exercise a little bit more. Nothing drastic. I also started counting Calories, just so I would know how much I was eating every day. I also made an attempt to estimate the number of Calories I burned from exercise. In the beginning, you should count Calories for two reasons. First, you can start to learn where your Calories are coming from and what foods or drinks are the most caloric. Second, you will soon see that it’s easy to snack here and there and how this quickly it adds up. Count Calories for your first few weeks. Record absolutely everything. It’s a bit of a pain, but your enthusiasm for losing weight should be high when you begin. After awhile, you’ll have a better feel for the amount of Calories in the foods you eat most frequently and you can just estimate your Calorie intake.

At some point, you’ll want to figure out a daily Calorie budget that will keep you losing weight. For this, I use the app Lose it! There is also a Lose It! website. There are also many similar apps and websites out there. (I have no financial stake in Lose It!, I’m only recommending it because it worked for me.) The app lets me look up how much Calories are in different foods and record what I eat in a log. It also lets me record my exercises and how many Calories I burned. Most importantly, it estimates how many Calories I should take in to lose a given amount of weight in a week. I currently have my goals set to losing 1.5 lb. (~0.8 kg) per week and the app calculates what my net daily Calorie intake should be. This changes every week, going down slightly as I lose weight.

I no longer use the app to record everything I eat, but I look at the net Calorie estimate each week and sort of wing it from there. I also use the app to look up the amount of Calories in foods I haven’t logged before. Maybe once every few weeks, I’ll record my Calorie intake for a day, just to “recalibrate” my idea of how much I am eating.

 

Don’t Give Up Your Favorite Foods

I have not given up any of my favorite foods, nor do I think that it is a good idea to do so. I just eat them less frequently, and in smaller quantities when I do. Also, when I’m cooking, I do not try to convert recipes to low-calorie or diet versions of the original recipe. If I’m frying chicken, I fry it in lard. I just eat an amount that fits into my Calorie budget. (And maybe I’ll swap a few extra Calories one day for fewer the next.)

You will eventually want to seek out, and start eating healthier foods. However, if mealtime is constantly disappointing, you’ll quickly lose interest in sticking with the plan. So don’t give up any of your favorite foods, or beverages, just make them fit into your Calorie budget.

Don’t give up beer, either. Just work it into your Calorie budget. You may end up drinking it less frequently, and in smaller amounts, but you shouldn’t give it up.

 

Exercise Doesn’t Need To Be “A Thing”

You will find it a lot easier to lose weight if you exercise as well as cut back on Calories. For one thing, exercising will allow you to eat more every day. For example, if your net Calorie intake for the day should be 1,800 Calories, burning 300 Calories through exercise — which isn’t too hard — will allow you to consume 2,100 Calories that day. In addition, the muscle you build will burn more fat, even when you aren’t exercising.

Exercise doesn’t need to be an activity separate from everything else in your life. It doesn’t necessarily mean lacing up your running shoes, or putting your workout clothes in your duffel bag and heading to the gym. Find active things you enjoy, and do them. For most of this spring, I’ve been gardening. Instead of rototilling my garden, I turned it all over with a shovel this year. On days that I don’t do much work in the garden or yard, I’ll go for a walk. Finding something active to do, that isn’t just exercise, will likely be much easier to stick with. You can also simply replace inactive things, such as riding in an elevator, with active things, such as taking the stairs. Walk or bike to your destination when you can.

 

Replace Less Healthy Things with More Healthy Things

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Last week, I weighed 192.4 lb.

For the first few weeks, losing weight will be very easy. After awhile, however, it becomes more difficult. This is a good time to start gradually replacing less healthy foods and activities with more healthy options. Find healthier foods, and gradually make them a larger part of your diet. If you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, add in a vegetable or something made from whole grains. Then, gradually decrease the meat and potato portion of your meals and increase the veggies and whole grains. Also, focus on the degree of satiety that various foods bring you. When you get done eating a meal of healthy food, you will feel more sated than if you’ve eaten the same amount of Calories from junk food. (While you are losing weight, don’t expect to feel full in the “I can’t eat another bite” sense. However, you should not feel hungry after a meal.) Eating your food more slowly also helps with satiety.

Likewise, gradually find ways to turn times that you are sedentary into times in which you are doing something active. Making the changes in your diet and activities gradually is much easier than shifting gears radically when you first decide to start losing weight.

 

Make Food Decisions When You Are Not Hungry

If you plan your meals ahead of time — both what you will eat and the portion size — you will be much more likely to stay on track. If you wait until you are hungry to make food decisions, you are more likely to overeat.

If you cook, making a dish with enough for leftovers can be a big help. Cook several meals ahead of time and store them in single-serving containers of the appropriate portion size. (Or find prepared foods packaged in the right Calorie range.) I try to cook a batch of something — beans, casserole, soup, etc. — each weekend. I refrigerate a couple servings for during the week and freeze another couple servings for later. If you do this, pretty soon you will have a “food library,” from which you can pick a meal (or part of a meal) with a known Calorie count.

Eating at restaurants frequently can really throw you off track. When you do eat out, make an effort to estimate the number of Calories on your plate. It will probably be much more than you have budgeted for. So, don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate or take a “doggie bag.”

 

Stay Hydrated and Well Rested

Weight loss is much easier if you stay hydrated and get a good nights sleep. The latter isn’t always possible, but be aware that the less sleep you get, the hungrier you will be. Drinking water with your meals — instead of liquids with a lot of Calories — will help you stay hydrated and make it easier to hit your Calorie intake goal. And, you’ll feel less hungry as Calories consumed as liquids are typically not very filling. In fact, sugary drinks make you hungrier. (As with everything, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Of course you’ll sometimes have a beer with dinner. Also, I haven’t given up Coke, even though I know it’s just fizzy sugar water that whets my appetite. I just limit the amount I drink.)

 

Weigh Yourself Once a Week

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This week, I weighed 191.6 lb. — down by 0.8 lb. Not a huge loss, but little losses like this have added up to nearly 30 pounds over the last 5 months.

Weigh yourself once a week. Do this in the morning, naked, after you’ve used the toilet, but before you have eaten or drank anything. This will give you a good indication of your weight when you are “empty” (and likely partially dehydrated). The amount of weight you have lost each week will tell you if need to adjust your net Calorie budget.

You can weigh yourself more often, if you wish. However, be aware that your weight will fluctuate every day based on how hydrated you are, the food in your gut, the clothes you are wearing, and other factors. Don’t get too obsessed with little fluctuations.

 

Don’t Sweat the Setbacks

Some weeks, you’ll eat more than you should, exercise less than you should, or both. It’s going to happen. When holidays or special events roll around, it can be hard to put a brake on your eating. Likewise when things get hectic in your life, you might not find the time to exercise. My advice is not to worry about the occasional setback. Just get back on the program as soon as you can, and start losing weight again. I know that when Thanksgiving rolls around this year, I am going to take in too many Calories. And, I may not get a lot of exercise that week, either. I’m just not going to worry about it. After the holiday has passed, I will just resume what I’ve been doing and in a week or so I’ll be back on track.

 

The End Game — Maintenance

Once you reach your goal, the rest should be smooth sailing. You haven’t adopted any weird, unsustainable diet that you are now going to abandon and revert to your old ways. You’ve trained yourself to estimate your Calorie intake and to be more active. You haven’t completely given up your favorite foods. When you reach your goal, you can scale up the amount of food you eat slightly, scale down the amount of exercise slightly, and reap the benefits of being at a healthier weight.

So that’s it. Just start by eating a little less and being a little more active. Count Calories at first, but soon learn to just make estimates. Let your scale tell you if you need to make adjustments. Continue by substituting healthy things for less healthy things. You don’t ever need to make any drastic changes, just keep chipping away. Although the weight will not come off fast — at least, in comparison to ridiculous rates of weight loss quoted by fad diets — it will come off and it will add up over time. Even if you “only” lost a pound a week, you’d be 52 pounds lighter in a year. It likely took you many years to put the weight on, so your weight loss will really be quite quick from that perspective.

Now I want a beer.

 

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Lose Weight Without Giving Up Beer (I: Intro) 

 

 

Comments

  1. Great information and great ideas, Chris. It’s been an inspiration to me watching you do this. I’m pre diabetic and need to lose weight and exercise more if I want to be able to keep drinking beer. Your whole journey has helped me along. I haven’t lost as much as you have, but I’m working on it!

    • Chris Colby says:

      Denny,
      Good luck on continuing to lose weight. I’ve been keeping with this since February and it has become second nature. I don’t have to think about it much, and I don’t feel hungry or out of energy constantly. And, I manage to work in a couple beers most evening. We’ll see if I can get down to my target weight, but so far it has not been a struggle.

  2. This is really great information that I hope people take to heart. I can’t stress enough the importance of cutting yourself some slack when you overeat or underexcercise (it will happen, such is life) and realize that it’s no big deal and not let that derail your progress.

    Great work getting more healthy Chris, and thanks for another great article.

    • Chris Colby says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article. I’m still on my “downward slide,” and am in sight of my target weight.

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