The Incredible Scalzi Weight Loss Plan

I’ve made mention now and again that I’ve been trying to lose weight, inspired as I have been to do so by seeing pictures and videos of me at the Phoenix ComicCon looking rather a bit more pear-shaped than I would like. Folks have been asking me how that’s been coming along. So here’s an update, and those of you who aren’t interested in weight loss neepery should probably just skip along.

The short version of it is that in fact I’ve pretty much hit my goal: At the end of May I was about 185 pounds, and I hoped to lose 20 pounds or so. Last week, I hit 165, and at my weigh-in this morning I was 164.4. The chart above shows my general progress from the end of May through today. I plan to try to lose maybe a couple more pounds through December and then from there to generally maintain in the 160 to 165 area of things, which is a weight at which I am comfortable with how I both look and feel.

How did I lose the weight?

1. I ate less and exercised more. Which I understand people hate to hear, because it’s the boring way of losing weight; people want to hear about how you lose weight only by eating fried pineapple, or by some manner of “power cleanse” or whatever. But you know what, if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. It’s not romantic but it works.

For eating less, as I’ve noted before, I downloaded the Livestrong calorie counter app onto my iPod Touch, put in my then-current vitals, my weight loss goals (approximately a pound a week), and then tried to keep to the number of calories it told me to each day. That number was between 1,750 and 1,650 calories, depending on my then-current weight, which was not an amount that made me feel like I was starving.

For exercising more, I bought a young dog whose idea of fun is to run around the yard very fast, chasing me, three or so times a day. It works.

2. I did it slowly. You know how long it takes to lose 20 pounds if you’re aiming for losing a pound a week? If you say, “oh, probably 20 weeks, give or take,” then you’d be largely correct. My own time frame was closer to 24 weeks, but the basic concept is the same. Taking six months to lose 20 pounds is a congenial length of time — it keeps your body from freaking out about shedding pounds while at the same time allowing one not to feel one is suffering unduly to lose weight. Not being in a rush also gives you more margin for error and slippage as well; for example, when you’re obliged to eat several thousand more calories than you would usually do because it’s Thanksgiving. Which is the third point:

3. I didn’t freak out when I slipped because I knew it was a long term project. Which meant that on the occasional days I ate more calories than I was supposed to, I didn’t get OCD about it. I just kept to the schedule after that. Alternately, while I did make a general effort to eat better, I didn’t feel guilty about ice cream or other empty calories when I had them. I just tried to keep the portions from being stupidly gargantuan, and compensated later with better, healthier foods. Over time everything balanced and I lost weight on a fairly steady basis, as the chart suggests.

And that’s pretty much how I did it: Ate less, exercised more, did it over time, didn’t stress my brain or my body over it. It’s worked so far for me.

87 Comments on “The Incredible Scalzi Weight Loss Plan”

  1. That looks like the LiveStrong app/website. I use that as well. Great for calorie tracking, you put in the food you ate and most times it’s in the database. Makes it super easy to know what you ate, set a calorie goal, and exercise to meet that goal (it’s not that great for tracking exercise calories, unless all you do is walk or use a treadmill, but it definitely gets the job done).

    Scalzi, you’re crushing it. That is really amazing progress. Congrats!

  2. Congratulations.

    “I ate less and exercised more. Which I understand people hate to hear”

    People hate to hear it because it just doesn’t work. At least not long term. You can only suppress hunger for so long. That’s why almost no once can keep this going. Let’s check back in December 3, 2011 and see where you are. Perhaps you can take that as a challenge. :)

  3. LJ:

    “People hate to hear it because it just doesn’t work. At least not long term. You can only suppress hunger for so long.”

    Meh. As I noted, the slightly fewer calories I ate on a day to day basis were not enough that I constantly felt hungry. As a general rule I felt no hungrier than I did before I started dieting. So, yeah, you’re wrong on that one, LJ. It works just fine. Or did for me, and my own experience is what I’m sharing.

    As for your comment on checking back on December 3, 2011, that doesn’t make much sense, since I’m close to ending my diet as I am at my target weight. What I’ll do from that point is try to maintain my weight, which doesn’t require caloric restriction beyond what a normal healthy person should be eating daily in any event.

  4. Congrats! I did basically this same thing over three years ago, and I’ve managed to keep the weight off. It’s great to be able to buy and wear nice-fitting clothes. :)

  5. LOL, I’m within 1.5 lbs of posting about the 30lbs I’ve shaved over the last year as well, same basic method (as you know)

  6. The only thing that has ever worked for me is to eat less, exercise more, all with a food journal. Congratulations on reaching your target. I find that if I stop recording my food once the goal was met, I would slowly drift upward again. The food journal and refusing to grow into larger jeans (and continuing to wear jeans as opposed to stretchy sweatpants) helps with the maintenance. Good luck!

  7. Awesome! I’ve lost 30 pounds (from 235 to 205) since August doing the same thing with a similar food diary app. It’s not been hard at all to stay in my target each day and it’s helped to retrain me on healthy portion sizes and eating habits. It has also motivated me to exercise more consistently. I’m planning to lose 20 pounds more at least by summer and plan to keep it off. Good luck to you!

  8. I lost 35lbs four years ago using same method; and have kept it off. A major body change for me. Feels good.

    Getting in solid exercise every week requires more diligence than it sounds, but worth it.

  9. Oh, sure, eat less/exercise more. Um, you’re a ‘Science Fiction’ author and therefore, are likely to have access to super secret alien technology. Seems much more likely than common sense process.

    Cool BEANS!

  10. Hey, John. I’m glad you feel happier with your weight now. I suppose it should go without saying that eat less/exercise more is only effective if you have a healthy, functional endocrine system. But it is awfully easy to let disappointment turn to depression when one realizes that a method that many (not talking about you here, John) are happy to insist will work for *everyone* simply does not work for you. So, just wanted to advocate for the immune disordered among us and make the point explicit.

    So, um. Way to go, John!

  11. if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.

    And see a doctor if that doesn’t seem to be working — there are various medical conditions that can cause that to not work well at all. (As an example, thyroid disorders.)

    And when you eat less, do so sensibly. Don’t starve yourself.

  12. Congratulations! You’re an inspiration to those of us attempting to live a healthier fitter life. I’ll be sure to walk both Rottweilers simultaneously tomorrow in your honor.

    Ciao, Jon

  13. Congratulations, John. You’ve done well. Now’s the hard part (and I bet you know this already): keeping it off. Keep chasing the dog (or running away, whichever.) Best wishes.

    (Currently ~270, started at 308 on New Year’s, same kind of plan. Skip most of the candy and pogy bait, raw veggies and nuts for lunch. Not a pound a week, but my jeans have gone from 58″ to 44″, blood pressure is almost low, heart recovery is better, …. good things. Next year, do it again, and the year after; goal is “square jeans”, 32″ waist, 32″ inseam.)

    Waist is probably more important than pounds; it should be less than 46% of your height.

  14. Congrats. I’ve done something similar, but lost a lot more than 20lbs. Now that I’m working out I’ve put some back on, but it’s muscle rather than fat, well, in most cases. It’s hard to balance, and it’s something to be watched, but it’s a great feeling when you’ve lost the weight.

  15. Good job. I’ve been trying to loose weight for thirteen years. While I have lost some, I think that after watching and adjusting meals while adding exercise to the daily life style does the makes the biggest difference.

    And hey, at least you were a cute pear, are you trying to shape up to be a peanut now?

  16. Congratulations! Now the trick is to main your weight over the long run…

    I lost over 100 pounds (starting at 260 pounds and 5’9″ tall) about five years ago. I’ve learned that I pretty much have to follow the same program to keep it off. For me, the combination of exercise and carefully watching how many calories I eat (more than focusing on what I eat/how much carb, protein, etc.) is the key.

  17. I too use Livestrong –and except for the past month–my weight loss since March sounds very similar to yours. (-25 pounds) Largely I counted calories and tried to make the calories count. Stopped (mostly) eating the packaged snacks around work–they taunt us with free candybars–and went with apples, bananas, pears, etc. Lots of fiber, since it makes you feel fuller. Smaller meals, slightly more often. When the calories all go in, even the littlest Andes mint, you start making choices about how to expend those calories and they tend to be better choices.

    LJ at comment 5 says you can only feel hungry for so long and that’s true with fad starvation diets, which this isn’t. In point 3 Scalzi notes he used portion control and made healthier choices with his food. He also only attempted to lose a pound a week, which is smart. (Most docs don’t recommend weight loss above two pounds per. A pound is totally doable, and all the calories he needs to trim are spread among seven days.)

    If Scalzi’s been doing the same thing that I’ve been doing, then you can actually eat quite a lot by eating sensibly. (For example, it takes about four to six apples to replace the two candy bars I was eating every afternoon. Two servings of Green Giant’s Healthy Weight veggies vs a Butterfinger? Guess what made me feel fuller? Hrm.) What Scalzi seems to be describing is a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Eat less crap, exercise more. If you replace the crap with good stuff, you can eat way more good stuff and fill up quicker than you would on the high calorie detritus.

    Another thing to consider is that a number of people feel “hunger” pangs that are actually thirst pangs. Replace soda and juices (both highish in calories) with water and tea and drink as much as you like. Most people find they get hungry less often.

    I also noted that eating simple carbs and sugars definitely seemed to cycle. (I read somewhere that you should backload most of your simple carbs late in the day, since eating them often causes cravings for more carbs and sugars. Dunno how true that is, but it jives with my eating patterns and may with yours.) If I eat candy bars mid day, OMG…it starts the craving that never ends. Best to avoid them altogether. Apples, ahoy! (Or carrots or steamable packs of frozen veggies or dried cranberries or a SMALL handful of nuts. Small because nuts are proteiny but calorific.)

    Another thing you can do is identify your problem areas and work around them. Doctors often say that the best meal to eat big is breakfast….but I can’t do that. I tend to decide to consume more calories even after my large brekkie. So my largest meals tend to be lunch or dinner and I try to make sure I get yogurt (protein) and fruit for brekkie. I also found that pre-entering my calories meant I was more likely to stick to a meal plan. No spontaneous “I guess I’ll have that donut since Joanna brought donuts in.” I already know how my day is allocated.

    The calorie counting is now almost second nature to me. I know most of the calories of my favourites, so I can tot them up pretty quickly now. But John’s third point is vital: Don’t beat yourself up too much if you deviate from your plans. Just realign yourself with the goal and eat a little healthier next time.

    BTW, I highly recommend The Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss: She’s got a very no-nonsense approach to healthy eating and exercise, that advocates healthy eating and healthiness at many sizes.

  18. BTW, I feel like I should add that I understand not everybody has equal access to healthy food, and it is a sad fact that much unhealthy food is subsidized in many ways in our society that much healthy food is not. And as Meg at 17 notes, not all of us have the same endocrine system (or access to healthy exercise). My post is largely about my experiences and what I’ve extrapolated from John’s post, and isn’t meant to be universal–more like tidbits that helped me, and may help you. What works for one doesn’t always work for all. (And the fitness sites I like best tend to emphasise this fact.)

  19. I’m very glad that you’re feeling healthier about your own self-image and are physically in better shape, but I just hate, hate, hate the equation of weight with health. As people have mentioned above, there are many medical, genetic and SES related issues that can affect people’s ability to lose weight. I dislike the assumption that gaining weight or being heavier than average makes someone unhealthy when there can be many complicating factors, a lot of which are beyond personal control.

    I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that weight equals health, and that your efforts were all about improving your personal health and not your bikini body, but the focus on weight in the title and body of your post just hit all the squick buttons I have today. I would have liked to hear more from you about how you slowly substituted healthier foods into your diet and found ways around your barriers to exercise and less about calorie counting and the often psychologically unhelpful weight loss goal terminology. Still, congrats on it working for you, and for being healthier!

  20. rosness:

    “the focus on weight in the title and body of your post just hit all the squick buttons I have today.”

    Perhaps, but your squick buttons are not my problem, and what you’ve implied from what I’ve written here is also more about you than it is about me. This entry is about weight (specifically mine), and as it happens, I am healthier now than I was 20 pounds ago, so in my particular case there is a correlation between losing weight and health, whether this makes you happy or not. Conversely, the weight I had added was making me less healthy.

    This fact does not imply that I’m making any general statements about health and weight; it doesn’t even suggest that in all cases involving me that there would be such a correlation (for example: if I had worked on adding muscle mass as well as losing fat, I would have lost rather less weight).

    And in fact nothing in the piece I wrote even hints at the idea I believe there’s a “one size fits all” approach to weight and health, aside from the comment that I believe (generally speaking) that if one wishes to lose weight, eating less and exercising more is the way to go about it. I’m writing about me and my body, and what I feel comfortable with regarding my own weight, and my philosophy and practice of losing weight, given how I live. That you seem to feel that this implies a larger ethos about how anyone else handles the weight of their own body is, again, on you, not on me.

    If you do want to know what my ethos on health (and as a subset, weight) is, it is: It’s worth it for everyone to learn about their body and know what it needs to be healthy and for that person to be happy in their own body. And then they should work toward that, if they aren’t there already. Which is what I did with my own body in this case.

  21. Nice job Mr. Scalzi! It’s always nice to be rewarded with your weight loss results, after you achieve the goals you’ve set. I have a question though. That spike in August where you appeared to gain alittle weight, was the when you went to Austrailia and maybe spurged a bit? Or maybe used a different scale that threw your results off?

    Anyways, stay healthy and have a good holiday!

  22. Nice to read this, because I lost weight in exactly the same way. Counting calories worked for me, and it was so completely logical. (I was already exercising.) To keep it off, I have to keep counting calories, but I’m a 5’4″ woman, and it will probably be easier for you. And I discovered the same things: certain foods kept me more full (whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean protein), but I could also add in sweets as long as the portions were in control. And I never felt (or feel) hungry . . .

  23. Yup, as I got settled into my 30s I started to realize (after much denial, I’ll admit) my metabolism was slowing down and my “I can sit in front of the computer all day and eat whatever I want” take on things wasn’t working anymore. I’m about 15 pounds heavier than I used to be, and my muscles aren’t at all toned anymore, which I don’t feel happy with. After I get past healing from recent surgery, I’m back on more activity and watching how often I grab that cheeseburger instead of something healthier.

  24. I’m also going the slow eat less active more route. Medical issues stacked the deck against me but that means I have to put in more effort instead of use it as an excuse and do the resentful life’s not fair foot stomp. 35lbs over a couple of years down, same left to go.

  25. John, Curious minds want to know the reason for the blip in the graph between the 4-11 Aug

  26. Good luck, John.

    I don’t mean keeping the weight off (although I wish you success with that, too) but with this thread. Ta Nahisi-Coates called obesity the “third rail” of internet discussions–way more likely to cause nastiness in the comments than just about anything.

    Hope that doesn’t happen here.

  27. Congrats! I know how tough it is to do (because I’m struggling with it). I’ve done it successfully in the past and held weight for a few years, then it crept up, then I lost it, then it crept up… so I’m back in weight-loss mode again. Exercise isn’t the big issue with me–I exercise tons; it’s lunches out. I need to get into sandwiches or salad at home or making sure whatever I eat out is not ridiculous. I’ve found in the past that snacking isn’t that big an issue and the occasional dessert isn’t that big a problem, but eating out lunches and skipping french fries and/or chips helps a lot. Everybody has their own unique hurdles when it comes to managing weight.

  28. “Ate less and exercised more” doesn’t work, eh?

    Let me add my anecdote. I just passed my two-year anniversary mark of reaching my goal weight (I was 34 years old and had been obese my whole life). I lost 27 percent of my body weight. Oh yeah, and during that two years I also had a baby.

    And for me it was also ate less/exercised more. I am still maintaining and currently believe I will have to actively maintain my whole life, as a recovering addict model. I consciously “eat less” all the time, but it seems to be working.

    I consciously framed the effort (and blogged it) as a deliberate attempt to avoid old-fashioned gluttony. That helped.

  29. “…I didn’t feel guilty about ice cream or other empty calories when I had them.”

    Ice Cream is EMPTY CALORIES?!?! Aaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!

    You evil, EVIL man! You might as well just say that bacon has no value to life and happiness! I am crushed and my existance no longer has meaning!

    Now, where’s my spoon…?

  30. Congratulations, John!

    And let me add my own endorsement to the Young Dog Exercise Program. Not only is it an invigorating, fun workout, but the whining and crying and pitiful looks when a session is missed are an excellent motivator.

  31. Congrats!

    And add me to the “eat less, exercise more” list. After being massively overweight for a decade I finally did something about it. In my case it was considerably more than 30 pounds, and took about 3 years, but when it’s only a pound or two a week a massive amount takes a long time to lose. Personally I do more of the “eat less” part and less of the “exercise more” part, but that’s by design. I know exercise is something difficult for me so I need to be able to maintain a healthy weight without depending on exercise. I’m now going on a year and a half of maintaining.

    Which I understand people hate to hear, because it’s the boring way of losing weight; people want to hear about how you lose weight only by eating fried pineapple, or by some manner of “power cleanse” or whatever.

    This is so very very true. I get asked that question and people always seem slightly disappointed when the answer is “I quit eating so much crap.”

  32. I think part of the reason people (like me) hate hearing “eat less, work out more” is that whilst that works very well for people who sit at a desk snarfing junk all day every day and who then switch to a healthy eating and work out plan (I don’t know how far you, personally, were to the junk-snarfing coach-potato end but I’m guessing from what you said previous that you were a non-zero part of the way there)… that whilst it may work (to some extent) it is extremely unhealthy and nigh-on impossible to sustain long term for those of us already eating healthily and working out (eventually it kills, and you don’t always get thin before it does so).

    The trick now of course is to keep up the healthy eating and reasonable exercise so you don’t get it all back again. As LJ points out up thread the long-term success rates for dieters are very low, often because people simply slip back into whatever habits got them fat in the first place. If your diet wasn’t a total pain to be on then a sustainable maintenance diet will probably be easy for you to stick with, I wish you the best of luck with that.

  33. John, just wanted to let you know that your ongoing weight loss program has inspired both my wife and I to take similar action. We’re also using the same iPhone app (because of you), and over the last few months I’ve lost a few kilos as a result. Yes, kilograms: because we count in real units.
    So thank you.

  34. Naath:

    “that whilst it may work (to some extent) it is extremely unhealthy and nigh-on impossible to sustain long term for those of us already eating healthily and working out”

    You’re saying that it’s not possible for you to take in slightly fewer calories on a daily basis because you already eat too well and exercise? Well, whatever, man. I am skeptical that in general a person eating well and exercising could not still adjust their food intake/exercise regimen with an eye toward healthy weight reduction if that in fact was their goal.

    That said, in my experience, the reason that most people don’t like hearing “eat less, exercise more” is not because they’re already awesome in the eating and exercising category, but rather that they would like to be able to lose weight without having to eat less and exercise more. I mean, heck. I would like to be able to lose weight without having to eat less and exercise more. But in my experience it’s not something that happens very often.

  35. This is how I lost 50 pounds this year, too (not with the ipod app, but with another calorie-tracking bit of software). And I never felt hungry, because I ate more steamed veggies, which fill me up, are healthy, and have very few calories. I also walked.

    Go, you!

  36. “it is extremely unhealthy and nigh-on impossible to sustain long term for those of us already eating healthily and working out (eventually it kills, and you don’t always get thin before it does so).”

    No, it’s not impossible — it’s pretty much what I did. I already avoided junk and got a high-fiber, high-veggie diet before I lost my 40 pounds. I didn’t change my exercise regimen much, either. The only piece of the puzzle left was to eat LESS of everything.

    Believe it or not, it is possible to eat too much whole-grain bread, plain yogurt, broccoli, beans, and fish.

  37. I would like to offer Naath her some support and say, yes, it is possible for people to be doing ALL of the right things and not lose weight, even if they have plenty to lose. I am happy for those that have been able to succeed by reducing calories and increasing activity, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I have done 1200 calorie diets plus hours and hours of exercise and been unable to lose weight, and I have months of food/exercise logs to prove it. For me, getting past that involves a) NOT dieting b) continuing with moderate exercise and reasonably healthy eating and c) trying to figure out what’s wrong. I have a number of girlfriends who have the same struggle. Some of them are running marathons and eating nothing but twigs and leaves and still carrying excess weight or even gaining.

    That said, reducing calories and increasing activity is pretty much the basic formula for weight loss, and for most people, it’s what works, and what John is doing here is sharing what has worked for him, not telling everyone else what to do for themselves. He’s nice that way.

  38. Altitude. Totally magical. No work required, no modification to diet. No pills, no fuss or muss. 20% weight loss in 6 months guaranteed. All you have to do is change your primary place of residence by 6000 feet ot more (1828 meters). Trust me, it works. That why Coloradans and the Swiss are so damn thin.

  39. Crap. I always knew my dad was right when he said that the total weight of living humans maintained some kind of stasis. Flip your graph and it’s pretty much my version, right down to the time period. So, now that I’m carrying your poundage, I’m going to pass it on to someone else out there… Any suggestions as to the recipient?

    Off to the gym now to get some exercise…

  40. Congratulations John! As someone embarking on a similar path, it’s nice to hear the success stories. BTW, where did you get the chart that you used to track your progress? Is that part of the Livestrong software?

  41. Naath @40 and Catherine @45, I don’t know if either of you have done this, but I highly suggest you get your TSH levels tested with a simple blood test your doctor can easily order. It would be useful to rule out thyroid or similar disfunction, if you haven’t already. Good luck and good health.

  42. I noticed you only have two data points for the first month. Was this intentional (i.e., were you not weighing in on purpose)?

  43. Congratulations on reaching your weight goals.

    It’s crazy how many people think they’re above trying out the “slow boring method”, but heck, I lost my 90lb the hard way and am nowhere near close to putting it back on.

    My only advice as a former-fatty is to be prepared to work (just as hard) on maintaining your “new you”… shift gears a little bit, and try not to think of how much you’re “depriving yourself”, and more learn to love that moderation not feel dominated by it.

    Fitness goals are good to. Mine was “run a half-marathon”, which, if you knew my “Pizza Hut 5 times per week” former self, sounded 100% impossible. There are so many websites out there which tell you how to achieve a particular fitness goal from less-than-zero-fitness (including running), and I’d encourage you to try one of them out. Really solidifies the work you’ve already done and makes that willpower steely strong once you’ve done something you previously thought super-human or impossible like finishing a 9-mile run.

    Stay strong bro.

  44. I lost 60 pounds between December and June by the same method… Not surprisingly, many people asked me how I did it. The folks who were trying to lose weight almost all asked me the same question in the same way: “How did you lose the weight? AND DON’T TELL ME YOU ATE LESS AND EXERCISED MORE!” Never did figure out a good response to that one. :-)

    And while I understand the folks who have difficulties losing weight (my wife has severe thyroid issues, believe me, I understand) I always wonder why they wander into discussions like this and try to make people feel guilty for being happy about successfully making healthy changes…

  45. Meg @ 50 Yes, I have had mine tested a number of times. I am probably due to have it checked again and will bring it up at my next physical. Thyroid is something that can torpedo a person’s weight loss efforts, but there’s also this other thing. I have at least two girlfriends in the same boat–people I know well and who I know are not secretly binging. I have umpteen others who are on chronic diets in order to maintain, which another manifestation of the same phenomenon. This is pretty off topic to the original post, so I’ll leave it at that.

  46. MVS @47 That is very interesting because my sister moved to Denver and lost a lot of weight and looks fabulous. I’ve never heard that theory before, but it makes quite a bit of sense.

  47. i lost 50 pounds in 50 weeks just by eating less. no exercise. well. i tried exercise but ithatly last about 8 weeks and then i stopped that. in the grand scheme of things, it takes one minute to eat a 200 calorie candy bay and one hour to burn it off on a bike. so i figured it was a much better use of my time if i just didn’t eat the candy bar.

    i have kept most of the weight off for about a year now. though this thansgiving did put on an extra 5 pounds. i plan to get back down to my fighting weight and i plan on NOT gaining 5 pounds through xmas.

    a couple things that helped me was (1) learni.g basic calorie counts for stuff i was eating. i didn’t track my calories with an app. i just learned the calorie counts for the stuff i usually ate and kept a binary total in my head.

    I can’t remember exqctly how you count cards in blackjack, but the idea isn’t to keep counts of all the cards you’ve seen. the idea is to keep a single count and add 1 when you see a face card and subtract 1 when you see a nonface card. if the count is positive, then chances are more likely that the next card will be a number card. if the count is negative, chancs are more likely the next card will be a face card.

    so i didn’t keep a running tally of all the calories i ate so far that day, i kept a low/high flag in my head that if i had eaten more so far today than i did on my average day. if i was low, i might have something extra for lunch. if i was high, i would have spinach salad for lunch.

    the idea was to eat relatively less, not some absolute caloric number.

    the other thing that helped was finding foods that i liked that were low cal and feel full for a long time. turns out i like oatmeal. quick oats. just soak in hot water and eat. the trick that took me a long time to figure out was how much oat to how.much water. one oat too many and i had mortar. one oat too few and i had soup. took me several large containers of oatmeal before i really got the hang of it. and even now i still get an occaissional cup of patching material driveway.

    itry to eat lots of proteins with my salads because lettuce doesnt fill me up. beans. hard boiled eggs. and then i get spinach because it actualy has nutritional value.

    its been about a year and i’ve kept most of the weight off. and i still have to keep that low/high counter going in my head. but i’ve kept most of it off.

  48. Well, I’m just waiting for an OMW-type new body (I don’t care if it is green) or for aliens to give us some great technology that will blast away the fat (and old age) and restore me to something that aligns more with my 25ish year old libido….

    But, really, I’ve been doing your plan for about 40 yrs and, although it works, I’d rather just lay around and party (as in “eat everything in site”) until, well, forever!

  49. Yeap, same here, although a set of business trips mean I’m only 15 down on the year but 30 down on 2 years ago and 4″ smaller around the middle. The wife is down 25 on the year, she travels less.

    I use Lose It though. One of the problems with East Less is people (me, for example) just don’t actually notice the portions or seving sizes and over eat. The other home innovation is keeping a scale in the kitchen and reading the info properly. The number of times I’ve picked up a small bread roll with a Calories per Serving of 140 only so find that the single roll contains 3 or4 servings is huge.

    Back in the UK they show calories per 100g so its easy to work out the calories per what you’re about to eat. The US version feels more misleading when the count is given per serving and the serving size is actually extremely small.

  50. in the grand scheme of things, it takes one minute to eat a 200 calorie candy bay and one hour to burn it off on a bike. so i figured it was a much better use of my time if i just didn’t eat the candy bar

    On the other hand, if you skip the candy bar AND exercise you’re twice as far ahead.

    Exercise has a lot of benefits other than strict calorie burning.

  51. Oh come on John, you can tell us the truth. You lost the weight because of all of the hot orgies you were having and great drugs you were doing. Really, we’re all adults here and can handle the fact that when you’re not writing that SF authors like you, Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow live lifestyles that would have put Keith Richards in the ground decades ago and that would have had Hunter S. Thompson shaking his head and saying “I can’t write about that, some stuff is just too weird for people to believe”.

  52. “I have done 1200 calorie diets plus hours and hours of exercise and been unable to lose weight”

    Well, yeah, at 1200 calories a day you’re sending your metabolism straight into starvation mode. All exercise will do at that point is exhaust your ready glycogen, not actually start any fat burning.

    Eat at least your basal caloric requirement every day, and do a day of 150% calories or so every 3rd/4th day if you’re doing heavy workouts and every week or so if you’re not, to avoid getting into that trap. Even in the unlikely case you have enough willpower to actually starve yourself into being thin that way, it’s not healthy and you’ll be miserable the whole time.

    The real trick is to figure out the diet that stops you being hungry. Most people it’s as simple as stuffing themselves high fiber veggies. Those of us with extreme insulin insensitivity can’t handle even low glycemic carbs and are served better by going completely carnivore. Just gotta experiment there and find out what works for you. But avoiding anything processed, grains, and starches is usually a pretty good start.

  53. Scalzi @42 I’m saying I’m currently exercising to the point where I *physically can not do any more* most days, now, perhaps in a year’s time I will be fitter and able to do more (many people clearly manage to) – but right this moment, no, I actually physically can’t do any more exercise (and I am lucky to not have any conditions that make doing that much exercise medically inadvisable). At any given level of fitness and health that a person might have there are limits to how much they can do before collapsing from exhaustion; and of course there are also limits to how much time people have to work out in.

    And I’m saying that last time I seriously tried to cut my food intake that was observably very bad for my health (and my ability to hold down a job), if I were to do so again it would only be under medical supervision, with someone else carefully ensuring I had all the right nutrients included in what would need to be a very restrictive diet (and that I didn’t slip into disordered eating patterns)… I expect this would work out to be a very expensive thing to do – which is another limit on my ability to do things. It’s easier to go from “double-doubles for every meal” to “eating salad for lunch” than it is to go from “eating salad” to “eating no lunch” in terms of the hunger level, the expense, the potential bad effects to health, and so forth.

    This is not to say that healthy eating and sensible exercise are not good for you, of course it is. But there are limits to how much less food you can eat and remain healthy (there are reasons anorexia is a disease not a lifestyle choice); and there are limits to how much exercise people are physically capable of doing.

  54. mythago: Exercise has a lot of benefits other than strict calorie burning

    my point being that if someone wants to lose weight, then exercise has a lot less return on investment FOR LOSING WEIGHT than controlling your calorie intake does.

    something I see happen with people trying to start a diet is that they set themselves up with crazy expectations of going from being completely unaware of their eating and exercise and health to becoming expert nutritionists with professional chef skills, and triatheletes to boot. I found myself doing that a couple times trying to start losing weight and the diets usually lasted a week.

    right now I am about 50 pounds lighter than i was at my max weight and i still don’t exercise. would exercise improve my health? sure. but being 50 pounds less overweight is a big improvement too.

    I kept putting ‘lose weight’ on my to do list and my new years resolutions. but the only time i actually did it was when i stopped trying to go for ‘perfect’ health/diet/exercise and realized that SOME improvement was better than NONE.

  55. I need to get back on the healthier diet bandwagon- injury earlier in the year gave me the excuse to eat too much junk. I’m better now, and with limitations on what exercise I can do. Luckily weight training is both doable and enjoyable to me.

  56. I found that not dipping into the ever-so-cute Mr. Peanut jar of peanuts in the kitchen whenever I felt peckish did the trick. That and not snacking after dinnertime. And walking my effing ass off. No, not very exciting, as you noted. A lot of people here seem to want you to fail – don’t know why that is.

    And I was pleased to see the link to you performing “Don’t Stop Believing.” Amazing to see how long the legs are on that joke – how long have I been joshing you about that, John? And yeah, you totally owned that shit.

  57. That’s pretty much the same thing I did several years ago (replacing the dog with a gym membership) and it took me from 245 down to 165 over the course of about a year and a half. It isn’t glamorous, but it works.

  58. You must be a youngster. Losing 20 pounds is not as unusual as you seem to think. Keeping off will be. When you’ve maintained your weight (without going up and down 20 pounds at a time) for two years, please make another post on how you do it. That will be incredible.

  59. Well done, it is a noteworthy accomplishment. Celebrate (not with a meal). My own experience is that keeping it off is harder than losing it. I have found it usefull to keep a “clean environment” – no snacks – since I have limited self control. Keeping up a weight graph somewhere prominent would help. Best of luck!


    “Losing 20 pounds is not as unusual as you seem to think.”

    I’m not at all aware of suggesting that losing weight is unusual, actually. And at 41, I’m not particularly young.

    And yes, folks, I’m aware that keeping it off is a challenge, although I’ll note it’s a separate challenge from losing the weight in the first place.

    Bear in mind I’m not actually suggesting I’ve come across some amazing new way to lose weight; the title of the entry is meant to be ironic because my weight loss plan boils down to the most mundane way to lose weight there is: Eat less, exercise more.

  61. In the last year I lost 100 pounds. I did not do it by chance.

    I stopped eating dinner because it meant I was hungry for a shorter period of time, and after work so work was not impaired. I gotr a scale and measured the impact of different kinds of food and excercise. I work out three times a day and I cut out sugar.

    I believe the most helpful thing I did was to keep track of my weight, and learn what effected my own particular body, experimenting over at least a one week span to see results.. Red meat is fine for me, pork and cheese are fattening treats. Cheap bread is much worse for me than good bread. a bit of luck. but macaroni is the devil incarnate.

  62. Good work, John – the mantra of “eat less, exercise more” can’t be repeated enough, imho. I’ve lost 40 lbs in the last 12 weeks (325 –> 285), on a fairly steady basis, based strictly on that idea. I started out eating about 2000 cal/day, now I’m eating around 1800 – but there’s absolutely no need to be hungry. It’s a matter of choosing foods that aren’t really calorie dense, as far as I’m concerned – and that doesn’t mean lettuce and celery. In fact, usually I’m not hungry even at the end of the day, and I end up eating a snack just so I can be at my target calories.

  63. John:

    Thanks for the post. I just started on the quest last week using a BlackBerry app that sounds very similar to your iPhone app. It’s encouraging to hear your story and those of the others who have commented.


  64. Wow… I stopped reading Whatever for several months, I come back, and the comments are all mean-spirited now. What happened? (Ok, maybe that’s not fair, as there are plenty of supportive comments. The mean ones are just standing out, I guess.)

    In any case, good work. I’ve found for myself that if I keep up some decent exercise, I won’t gain weight (plus all the other benefits that exercise gives you). To actually lose weight, I need to also be more careful with what I eat, which I currently haven’t been. Some iPhone apps have helped me with the exercise part (I recommend RunKeeper if you like going running or walking; and iFitness is good if you want to keep a record of things you do at the gym), so I may have to check out that calorie app you mentioned.

  65. naath@63

    I’m sympathetic. You can get to a place where your “set point” doesn’t seem to want to re-set. You are right to consider working closely with a nutritionist. I have an anecdotal example for you. The daughter of a friend of mine was a professional ballet dancer. She was very good, though she knew she was not headed for the ABT or any first-tier company. But she worked hard and was doing well at a good regional company. Her diet was sensible, but at one point she decided that if she lost an additional 8 or so pounds, she’d be up for better parts.

    So we’re talking about someone who is already very conscious of every calorie, and who is working out a lot. She found a sympathetic nutritionist who understood that basically this young woman was doing some work-related physical fine-tuning, so they went through her diet and made cumulative small changes so she could, as they put it, get the most bang for her nutritional buck. One thing I remember she did was stop drinking fruit juice. The nutritionist told her to eat the orange, and drink plenty of water. It was better for her, plus your fruit juice intake can sneak up on you and end up being more calories than you realize.

    But remember, this young woman was a professional athlete. Her leanness and strength were both bona fide occupational requirements – also, she was fortunate to have never been prone to eating disorders. For the rest of us, sometimes we just have to march through a plateau without making ourselves crazy, and trust that our metabolisms will catch up.

  66. Plateaus are horrible. You do come to an end of them, and resume downwards, but spending a month or two at (say) 285..286..285..284..285 is frustrating as all get out, even if you are rewarded then by the loss of five pounds in a week and another five in the next!

  67. Greg @64: I got your point. It’s a false dichotomy. The reason not to eat the candy bar is not “then I can skip the exercise bike”. The reason to go for a brisk half-hour walk is not to burn off 1/3 of that KitKat you just wolfed down. They’re both important parts of a healthier lifestyle – which is why you’re losing weight, right? – and it doesn’t require perfectionism or choosing between them.

  68. I’ve lost about 15 lbs in the last…looks like 5 months or so, mostly using the same methodology (except I’ve been using LoseIt, which has its good and bad points that I’m not going into just now). Except that lately I’ve been less fastidious about tracking calories. Being aware of what you’re putting in your body has a salutory effect on weight loss, even if you’re not tracking it to ten-calorie precision.

    Mostly what I’ve had to do without is beer, which I really, really miss. Also, those two bags of sunflower seeds and Nutty Buddy I ate just about every weekday afternoon? 700 calories.

    Cutting out the constant snacking and the 3-4 beers every single night has been an important effect. And, yes, exercise. But I was already doing that, quite a bit. Just exercising wasn’t doing it for me.

  69. the title of the entry is meant to be ironic because my weight loss plan boils down to the most mundane way to lose weight there is: Eat less, exercise more

    I think you’re dead on with this, although you’ll never convince my MasterCleanse-seeky sisters.

  70. Eat less, exercise more. I did the same diet 2 years ago and lost 18 pounds, slowly. The first time in 30 years I’ve stuck with a diet and got success. Your chart says it all. You recorded your progress and set goals. I kept a day-to-day diet log counting calories, and I weighed myself EVERY DAY. It may be discouraging but it snaps you into reality. It caught me after 6 pounds snuck up. Now, I’m back to my calorie log until the pounds come off–right through the Christmas season.

  71. Good for you. Now keep it off. I recently wrote on my blog about all my struggles with weight. I lost 65 pounds a few years ago and have put about half of it back on. I am now starting over and this time I have decided it has to be entirely what food I eat which has to change.

    I am proud of anyone who decides to try and live a healthier life. It isn’t easy and for me it is always about constantly monitoring my weight or I blow up like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

  72. Weighing yourself every day can serve as a substitute for meticulously measuring caloric intake. For me, it achieved the same results – about a pound a week, over 13 weeks.

  73. Congrats, it’s something a lot of people are never able to get over.

    You really have to look at it as a lifetime commitment. Fortunately I got into bodybuilding in college, so I’ve had pretty good habits — protein shake and workout every morning, avoid high-glycemic carbs — for a long time now, and the abs and triglyceride counts to prove it, but I know it’s a struggle for people to change habits later in life.

    As others have suggested, a diary and graph can really help keep you focused on goals. For men, you might find a gram or so of tribulus terrestris helpful as well, as testosterone is a repartitioning agent. I also like green tea extract, and a light workout first thing in the morning before eating, while in ketosis, seems to help a lot.

  74. Five years ago, I retired and married within six months. Despite maintaining a size six and eight through healthy eating and regular exercise, the weight began creeping on as I happily munched and lapsed in my exercise program. From a size six, I ballooned to a size 14.

    I just registered with the website. After my first entry, I drastically modified the cream rich, sweet coffee I began my day with. And, I dusted off the treadmill and rolled it in front of the TV. There’s something that appeals to the “accountability” of logging in the calories consumed (super easy with the foods loaded into the Livestrong program) and the activity and calories burned.

    Recording the data brings a sharp focus to the between meals eating and drinking I’d unthinkingly indulged in.

    I logged in from my iPad, as well, so my record is always close to hand.

    It may take a year to get back to where I was, but I am confident that the Livestrong program is a tool which will provide structure and promote discipline to achieve my goals.

  75. Congrats, John. Long may you live to be chased by puppies. I’ll have to try this Livestrong app. Hopefully that will be enough – the eating less and exercising more parts aren’t crucial to the process are they? I mean, I want to lose some weight, but let’s not get carried away…

  76. mythago@78: Greg @64: I got your point. It’s a false dichotomy.

    Uh, no.

    What I said was this (adding emphasis here): it was a much better use of my time if i just didn’t eat the candy bar.

    Given my goal of losing weight, and operating with the restriction of not having a lot of time to exercise, I came to the conclusion that for me, my goal and my restrictions, exercise wasnt it. FOR ME.

    which is why you’re losing weight, right?

    No. I was losing weight in preparation of my upcoming midlife crisis at which point I plan to purchase a jet pack. And I was over the weight limit.
    WAAY over the weight limit.

%d bloggers like this: