Checking In On That Diet and Exercise Thing

As some of you may recall, I decided that one of the things I wanted to do, heading into my 50th year, was to drop my weight down to about 170 to coincide with birthday, which is on May 10. Mind you, what I really wanted to do was hit 180 going into 2019, and then ease into 170 over four months. As you can see from my top weight on Christmas Eve up there (for those of you who are sight impaired, I weighed 195.7 pounds that day), I didn’t quite make that goal.

With that said, this morning I was 178.6 pounds, which represents a drop of 17 pounds from that top weight, and also a fairly consistent and regular glide-down in weight from that top amount on Christmas Eve. 178.6, I will note, represents the least I’ve weighed since at least October of 2015 (when I clocked in at 180.1). Provided I keep at it, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility I’ll hit my weight goal somewhere near my birthday; even if I don’t I still plan on working toward that benchmark.

In case you’re wondering, the secret for me to dropping the weight is — surprise! — diet and exercise. Basically I’m eating fewer calories on a daily basis than I expend, and most days I spend about a half hour on the treadmill, which gets my heartrate up and burns roughly a candy bar’s worth of calories immediately, and gives me an overall larger number of calories burned for the day (because of a halo effect of having a slightly elevated metabolism). Basic diet and exercise is unsexy — I’m not doing keto, or intermittent fasting, or whatever, although if that’s done the trick for you, cool — but it’s working for me.

I also got myself a Fitbit Versa to track steps, heart rate, and such, and use the Fitbit site to track the calories that I’m putting into my body. Now, before anyone brings it up, I’m aware that a) calorie counts for food are deeply approximate, b) the data that my Fitbit tracks (steps, calories, etc) are even more approximate than that. I’m less concerned about exact calorie and step counts than I am getting a general idea of things, and also, being who I am, gamifying the diet and exercise helps me immensely. I certainly take the specific daily results with a grain of salt — and yet, I’m still losing weight.

The other thing is that I am genuinely now feeling better about myself than I was in November and December, when I had edged over 190 pounds. It’s not just that I was carrying more pounds than I am now, although obviously there was that as well. It was also a general unhappiness at the state of my body and how I was relating to it. I’m not someone who believes you have to be thin to be either healthy or happy — there are all sorts of body shapes that work for various people. What I do know, however, was the shape I was in was not what I wanted, and that it was worth it to start making an effort get to a place where I was happy with my body. I dislike exercising in a general sense — it’s kind of boring, no matter how one tries to spice it up — but I do like what it’s doing for me, both in terms of physical and mental health. So I’ll keep exercising.

(I do like that I’m getting better at exercising. I mostly do the treadmill, and when I started, walking at four miles an hour for 20 minutes wiped me out. Now I’m running the entire time I’m on the treadmill and when I’m done I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up. This is progress.)

Losing the weight and generally getting healthier was the goal; when I hit 170 I’ll do an assessment and decide what I need to do from there. One major new goal is likely simply be to maintain a baseline weight and exercise range, so I don’t find myself feeling unhealthy due to laziness and sloth. So no matter what, exercising and watching what I shove into my mouth is going to be part of the new normal for me. I’m about to be 50; there are worse things at that age, I suppose.

In any event: This is where I am, diet and exercise-wise, here in late March.

39 Comments on “Checking In On That Diet and Exercise Thing”

  1. WOW! Good job. Hopefully you find an enjoyable way to maintain you target weight and enjoy the benefits it brings to your lifestyle.
    Very Impressed Mr. Scalzi!

  2. I’m impressed! Especially with the exercise thing, not barfing is a huge deal!

    Keep it up. The world is a lot bigger when you can move freely through it.

  3. I’m actually curious. Is that a daily weight measurement and a rolling seven day average? It’s what I do manually, but I’m impressed if Fitbit is doing that automatically.

  4. “Exercise is boring” is how I ended up with the exercise bikes being my machine-of-choice in college– it’s possible to read fairly intently on an exercise bike and still be exercising.

  5. Congratulations. I myself lost 107 lbs over the last 1.5 years and know how hard it is to lose weight (despite being very simple – eat less than you use up in a day. Do this for many days. Success!). And how exhilarating it is to see what a body carrying less useless fat is capable of and how much better and easier everything feels. I went from running 100 meters to doing 8 km runs 3-4 times a week with ease. It’s amazing what the human body can recover from!

  6. Well done on the self-discipline; not something I’m good at, especially in refraining from comfort eating and anxious drinking. That said, I’m back to running after a year and a half off for medical reasons, and hoping to drop about 30lb, again for medical reasons. Also, being trans, and over 50, I need to reshape my body for reasons of mental health. I’m not great at calorie counting so I’m relying on changing what I eat – more fruit more often, same for vegetables, and using smaller plates to do portion control. It works for me. Best of luck with the rest of it.

  7. Kudos for you! I can definitely relate. I now do a lot of walking as part of my daily/weekly routine and to keep things interesting, I listen to podcasts. Since the weather is starting to warm up, I should be able to get back to where I was last year (170).

  8. Well done! Especially in having the confidence to decide what weight/shape matters to *you*. (Something a lot of women struggle with, including me.)

  9. Outstanding work, Mr. Scalzi. You have found the simplest but most studiously ignored strategy: Eat less, exercise more. Keep it up! ….. errr, down!

  10. Nice job! I’m one of the lucky people who never goes up or down much, who can lose weight fairly easily if I want to, but my wife has struggled her whole life with weight issues. It’s not easy.

  11. Good job! Wish I only had to drop 25 pounds or so. I should weigh 180 (I’ll settle for 190 – hell, even anything short of 200 for now) but after a long winter of inactivity and overeating bad foods I’m hovering just over 240 and I’m not happy about it. But I just bought a nice treadmill and plan to remain diligent in its use. It has bluetooth speakers that are only so-so, but listenable, and yesterday I started the audiobook version of Tiabat’s Wrath, book 8 in James S. A. Corey’s Expanse Series. A half hour never flew by so fast!

  12. Congratulations!

    I’m working to lose quite a bit more weight, so I’ve gone in on Weight Watchers, and have lost some poundage already. It’s not easy, and I’m happy to see you’re succeeding.

  13. The treadmill (or ‘dread’ mill) is just one option. Google ‘power walking’ and go outside! The scenery is nicer, the air is fresher.

  14. I lost 60 lbs once. Like you, I just count my calories and exercise. Apps make calorie-counting easy now, and it’s very enlightening. When I first started paying attention to my diet, I couldn’t believe how many calories were in foods, particularly restaurant foods. I remember a salad that I loved at a now-defunct restaurant had 2,500 calories (that’s about 5 Big Macs, for those who are curious). I suspect the dressing was mostly high-fructose corn syrup. But I was horrified to find out that something I thought was actually a healthy choice was exactly the opposite.

    But a general awareness of how many calories are in things would be beneficial to most people. Now I try to stay within 10 lbs of my ideal weight. When I start to drift up, I start counting calories.

  15. The salad with the horrible amount of calories was still probably healthier than five Bic Macs, given what else it contained in addition to the calories :)

  16. But yeah, I mostly only use plain canola or olive oil as salad dressing. Metabolizes slowly and keeps the hunger away for a long time.

  17. A- Congratulations on your progress so far! Getting healthier is definitely one of those things that fall under the category of “Starting is everything”. Getting over that initial hump of mental resistance to exercising has always been my biggest struggle, even though I was quite fit at one point and intimately know just how good I feel when I exercise regularly.

    B- You’ve totally hit the nail on the head when you write about how eventually getting to the maintenance phase and actually, you know, “maintaining” is the next big challenge. It’s always been my ultimate downfall. I get bored counting those calories day after day and then the backsliding begins. Thankfully, this time around, my wife is totally on board and has just embraced that I’m going to count calories for the rest of my life. That really makes it so much easier for me.

    Just to celebrate my own success for a minute (ie brag), I was 239 and change in November and through simple calorie counting and regular exercise, I’m down to 217 and change this morning. My exercise is a cheap $150 resistance rowing machine I got on an Amazon Black Friday sale and some dumbbells. I row for about 18 minutes, having started at just ten, three times a week. I also do the weights about three times a week, too. Mostly upper-body work. But, all of that is because resting muscle burns calories. (And, because my wife likes when I have muscles!)
    I use MyFitnessPal to count calories with on my smart phone because it can scan barcodes and has a huge database. I set my goals in that and let it tell me how many calories I can eat. I’ll be interested to see what changes when I hit my goal weight of 210, which is what ought to shut my cardiologist up for a couple years.

  18. Here cheering for you. There’s no fancy method. The right one is the one that works, whether it’s full of bells, whistles, and complexities, or whether it’s a prosaic buckle-down. Kudos to you for your success and better health. Feels great, doesn’t it?

    I wasn’t happy w/my weight & kept after it for years but still gained weight. Discovered I have an indolent thyroid gland, got on medication, lost 100 pounds. (I mean yeah, it took effort–I didn’t just start taking medication & lose the weight. It was more a case of having the energy to lose the weight.) But I got older, as one does, & my thyroid made even less, my dosage wasn’t enough anymore, and my body alerted me to this new reality by regaining 40 or 50 pounds back.

    Not a huge crier but I have cried buckets over this.

    Now turning it around. Stories like yours are a big encouragement. Thanks for sharing your success! Mainly, it just feels good to be in the shape *you want to be in.

  19. Good job Doppelganger. I’m taller than you so my numbers are different by a constant, but I’m also in the same boat as I have dropped 10 lbs since Christmas.

    Lay off the VALENTINE BURRITOs and you’ll hit your goal. And if you aren’t on target, no invoking food poisoning okay!

  20. An average 5.7 lbs. lost per month over three months.


    How many burritos not eaten does that come to?

  21. Bravo! I’ve been doing the same thing (albeit not quite so publicly) since November. Have been at my goal weight for a few weeks, and have (with the able assistance of my Fitbit) added the elliptical and yoga to my 10,000 steps daily (the steps are easy–my commute to and from work eats up half of it). It’s all a give-or-take, but I feel like I’m heading into seniority in reasonable shape, which is nice.

    Bonus: when my Fitbit tells me to get up and move around, I use that as a hydration prompt, so I’m drinking more water. Electronic nannying for the win.

  22. Congrats John! I have often noticed how our concerns are often similar. I have 10-15 pounds to go to be at an “ideal” state. I’ve gotten there and then gone back up, so working to get down again. When I can work the exercise in, it makes it also easier to avoid the calories. I hit 50 a couple of months ago. Thanks for being public about it.

  23. Good for you! Developing new habits takes work. I hope this continues to work for you. Maybe when the weather gets better, you can walk or run with your wife. Having an exercise partner can help.

  24. What got me started with diet and exercise was finally realizing that the ill health of my body would eventually damage my brain! That, and I developed atrial fibrillation. Upsetting to realize my sloth and obesity had actually already damaged my heart. I started cooking at home, and found an aerobic walking video I could do regularly. Lost 20 pounds so far.

  25. You GO! Good for you!

    I’m 6’2” and stuck at 225. Been power walking outside (just don’t do well with machines), up to 3.5miles 4-5 days a week. Want to get to 210, but being 60 makes everything slow down. Have to smash this plateau. Will keep plugging away at it.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  26. Congrats. So’s you know during my adult life so far 150 to 175 has been where I’ve been mostly 155 to 160.

    Between riding and pushing my motorcycle I’ve had all the exorcise one of 73 needs.

  27. Well done! I set almost the exact same goal for myself at the beginning of the year. But I have not been as diligent about the exercise part. Yet. I have dropped some pounds. I will get more serious about it starting now. No. Now. Well, you know.

  28. Great job, John! I just turned 50 myself, in November, and I’ve been making the rounds of doctors to assess how I’m doing. Physically, I’m very similar to you, and my last weigh-in was at 195. Not bad–my weight has never cracked 200–but it could be better. My cholesterol is a little high, but otherwise my numbers are good, and there don’t seem to be any major problems. So I’m in a decent position to improve myself just like you have.

    50 just seems like a good time to stop and assess what I’ve managed to bring into middle age, and how to maintain it for awhile. It really helps to see somebody in a similar situation get such good results from a modest daily routine. Thanks for sharing.

  29. I’m absolutely delighted that the eat less – exercise more plan is working for you, and others who have commented previously. I’m someone who never had any success with that prescription. After doing a lot of research*, I’ve concluded that for many of us who have damaged our metabolism over the decades, conventional wisdom doesn’t work very well. I’ve been following the advice in the 2 books written by Dr. Jason Fung, M.D. with great success: 20 pounds in 5 months, feeling great, moving better. It’s basically fasting, low carb, stress management. He as successfully treated many diabetics.

    “Move more” is important regardless of weight issues. Rehabbing a sprained knee convinced me I want to remain mobile as long as possible. Plus, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

    Here’s to long and healthy lives for us all, especially our gracious host!!

    *research: as an academic librarian I check the peer-reviewed literature

  30. Right there with you, if a bit older and a lot heavier. Been working my way down to 230 from my high of 275 from three years ago just on portion control, and finally got serious about at least getting out and walking last fall when I was diagnosed type 2 diabetic. Got a FitBit Alta HR and got moving. Turns our gamifying works REALLY WELL on me and I bumped up to an Apple Watch to game myself even more. Currently down to 217 and starting to think I can make it to 200.

    Of possible interest: I’ve been walking three times a day, at least a mile or two each time, and I’m burning through audiobooks. Currently walking my way through this series by some guy about old people who volunteer to get turned into supersoldiers…

  31. Keep up the great job, Mr. Scalzi! If you work for it, you can do it!

    I woke up January 1, 2017 knowing that I was going to turn 50 on November 4 the same year. I knew I wanted to drop some major weight (how did I get to 214 lbs?!) so my motto became 50lbs by 50! I hit that goal by late July so I changed it to 150 by 50! I’m very proud to say that I passed that goal, too. I also ran a half marathon – something I never dreamed possible – on my 50th birthday! I ended the year weighing 137lbs! As of this post, I’ve kept that weight off and I’m still running.

    When people ask me how, I always tell them that I ate less and moved more. It really is that simple. And I didn’t have to pay for a coach, a gym membership, or a diet planning outfit. Free apps are out there for the using! For me, I used MyFitnessPal and C25K, C210K, and a free Hal Higdon Half Marathon training plan. No excuses!

  32. Congratulations John!
    I have also lost weight this year (about 12 lbs. so far), simply by giving up sweets and cutting out coffee creamer. Apparently that stuff packs 100 cal/tblsp!
    Keep up the great work!

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