I want to lose 100 pounds. Where do I start?
December 20, 2009 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I want to lose 100 pounds. Where do I start? What can I expect?

I've just finished with my exams, and New Years is rapidly approaching. I keep putting this issue off, but no longer: I need to lose a substantial amount of weight.

About me, and my weight:

I weigh about 300 pounds. I have a large frame, and I'm about 6 feet tall, so I would be a big guy regardless, but I don't need to be this big. A BMI calculator says I have to weigh 185 pounds to be in "normal" range, but to be honest, I would be very happy at 200 pounds.

I'm 26 years old. When I was in high school, I was very overweight, at about 275 pounds. I managed, over two years, to drop to about 240 or 230 pounds. Then college ended. I had a job, followed by graduate school. It was harder to exercise, I ate more takeout food. (I eat a lot of take out food). Not making excuses, just explaining what happened. I also developed some anxiety issues, and started taking Paxil. Either because of the anxiety, or the paxil, I've put on another 40 or 50 pounds over the course of a year and a half, leaving me where I am today.

I think I use food as a comforting device: I eat when I'm stressed. I especially eat a lot for dinner. Sometimes I think I have trouble feeling satiated.

I want to fundamentally change my relationship with food. I don't feel terrible about my appearance, so that's not the issue. But I want to be healthy: I want to live a long time, and obesity has a plethora of bad long-term effects.

Where do I start? My therapist has said: "The paxil might be some of it. Finish your first semester exams, and then we can worry about it." Well, it's time. I'm going to talk about changing medications, but I am convinced that is not the whole of the equation: I was overweight before the anxiety issues. I've discussed my weight issues with my primary care doctor as well. He says "Its partly due to the paxil". He says it's an issue, and to lose weight. I guess it's helpful for him to identify it as an issue, but that alone doesn't seem enough to motivate me.

Well I'm looking for some guidance. Should I look for a nutritionist? Someone I should visit readily? Should I join weight watchers? How do I keep myself focused? How do I keep myself motivated? (Sometimes the goal seems so unattainable I begin to feel hopeless). What should I expect? I would love to hear from anyone who has dealt with weight issues before.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
If you do decide to go that route, see a registered dietitian, not a nutritionist. I'm not saying that all nutritionists are unqualified, but pretty much anyone can call themselves a nutritionist these days without any formal qualifications to back it up.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:16 PM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

The pros call your issue "emotional eating" or "stress eating." Some registered dietitians specialize in handling patients who eat emotionally, so I'd start there, as MaryDellamorte suggests. Perhaps your therapist can network with colleagues who specialize in eating disorders and come up with some referrals for you?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:20 PM on December 20, 2009

Here is a link to a very healthy diet program. It's a 21-day vegan kickstart. One woman lowered her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels without taking medication. She also lost weight in the process. I think those kinds of results are fairly typical. The food is very healthy, and you can eat lots of it. I'm going to do it myself.
posted by samsaunt at 9:29 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you've never been active I'd suggest that you get a trainer for a while to help you set up an exercise routine, get you set up with a heart rate monitor and set some fitness milestones. If you can't afford more than a session or two try signing up for a gym that has classes, ideally a good variety of classes so you can keep it interesting. Regular, strenous workouts will really help you lose weight steadily, help with your energy levels and sleeping patterns and it helps a lot to have someone get you started.

A friend of mine is doing this right now, I think she has lost about 75 pounds in the past year and has another 30 or 40 to go. We go hiking together a lot and she's started x-country skiing this winter as well. She uses a website called Sparkpeople to track her exercise and I know she gets a lot of moral support there so I'd check it out. It's been pretty inspiring watching her do this and go from someone who could hardly walk up the stairs to someone who can hike 15 miles.

btw, volunteering to walk dogs at the pound is a great way to sneak in an hours exercise after work and get karma points at the same time :)
posted by fshgrl at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2009

It's important to distinguish between bodyweight and body composition. At 6' tall with a large frame, you could be in excellent shape at 250 pounds, or heavier, depending on your strength and body composition. I'd recommend setting a performance goal, like squatting your bodyweight, or running a certain distance or time, or performing 10 consecutive chinups, or whatever. Or aiming for a certain bodyfat percentage. But focusing on weighing 200 pounds is probably not the best way to go about it.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

How do I keep myself motivated?

You keep yourself motivated by keeping yourself motivated. In the past, keeping a daily chart of the weight I was losing helped.

But I think for you the big thing is just to establish a new habit, and a perspective that you can change your life forever by sticking to this habit for just a year.

One year of loss at 2 lbs per week would get you to your target (I think 200lbs is an excellent target for your height).

2 lbs per week is just 1000 calories a day of deficit. I lost 50lbs over 5 months back in 2004 basically following the Hacker's Diet, which was basically eating less (eating for nutrition and never binging) and exercising a lot -- basically I lost that weight by eating 500 calories less than my BMR and the other 500 per day came from an hour or two of added exercise.

Losing the weight was the easiest thing I ever did.

So was gaining it back, but thats another story.
posted by tad at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2009

Nthing see a dietitian. Oftentimes I've known people who did this and were shocked to find out the qualities and quantities of the food they were eating. It really could change your relationship to food.
posted by smoke at 9:42 PM on December 20, 2009

A lot of people in your shoes are so eager to start that they over-do it and burn themselves out. There was a guy who went on the show Biggest Loser, won the whole show and gained it all back. They did an update on him where he was all 'I need to go back to that environment to re-lose the weight' and they told him no he didn't, he needed to learn how to manage in his regular life.

One trick a few people on my fitness board use is to give themselves a reward to work towards. One girl gives herself a dollar for every workout she does, and she can spend this money on whatever she wants. Focus on the feeling of empowerment and getting stronger, not on the numbers on the scale. Don't expect it to be instant.

A good book for you to check out might be 'Intuitive Eating' because they deal a lot wit the issue of emotional eating and diet mentalities. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Start small. Maybe get a pedometer and measure your steps for a few days, then every day try to add a hundred steps. Check out a book like 'Eat This, Not That' to help you make some healthy food swaps. Buy two workout videos and alternate them every day. Good luck!
posted by JoannaC at 9:46 PM on December 20, 2009

Regarding motivation: for the past few years I kept saying that I should lose weight. Back high school I was about 220 or so and thought that I was pretty comfortable with myself. After I graduated I backpacked europe for a few months, and when I came back I was down around 170. I felt better than I ever had before That was around 2004 and since then I managed to put all the weight back on (and then some). For the past few years I kept telling myself I was gonna exercise and drop the weight, but I never did. After I broke up with my girlfriend a year and half ago I decided I needed a change, as at that point I was 250 pounds. For the past year I've been meaning to and trying to lose weight; reading everything I could, talking to people, watching videos, etc, etc. I even signed up with a gym, was pretty good at going for a few weeks, then would stop. I signed up for yoga, went for two months, then stopped. I biked to work for a few weeks, then made up an excuse and stopped. There's this cycle of starting, working hard, then making excuses and quitting.

In the past few months I've managed to drop about thirty pounds. Back at the end of October, something just snapped and I realized that all of my excuses for not doing things properly were just that, excuses. Everytime I think of skipping and falling off track, I find that this video really helps keep me motivated. Well, that and I have a friend from high school who was a cross country track star and now weighs 200+ lbs. My goal is to drop weight below him and call him a fatty. Which he's cool with because it'll then motivate him to start getting in shape again.

Basically you've got to commit to doing it, and do it no matter what. The problem is that's really really hard to do. It's slow going. The only effective and safe way to lose weight and get in shape is the slow way. Eating properly and exercising. You're not going to see results right away and it's going to get discouraging, but keep with it! Because eventually you're going to start seeing changes, small things, but they'll pile on and start a positive feedback loop and at that point it all becomes worth it. I was exercising and eating right for two and a half months before I finally dropped a pant size, but let me tell you, it was an amazing day. It's also MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to keep with it if you have somebody to work out with, as you can help keep each other motivated.

To that end, here are a few things I can recommend:
Nutrition: To quote Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants". Lean meats, lots of fruits & veggies. Lay off anything fast food or sugary (No pop, etc.). It took me a week or so to get used to drinking just water, but I love it now. When I do get a craving for something flavored, I find the mix-ins of propel fitness water (something like 10 packets for $3) taste pretty good and have like 5 calories.

Start tracking everything you eat with a website like fitday or dailyburn. Dailyburn is cool because of the social networking aspects, but it's mostly a preference thing. Both sites are good. You'll want to do a few calculations to determine how many calories you should be taking in. A quick way todo this is bodyweight * 14. Since you're a bit overweight you may want to multiply your bodyweight by 25% first. To lose weight add in a 20-25% reduction. It takes a deficit of about 3500 calories to lose one pound of weight.

It's safe to lose 1-3 pounds per week. Anything more than that and it may stress your body too much. When you first start eating properly and exercising you may drop a lot of weight really fast, but it should even out pretty quickly.

Once you start tracking your food you can start to adjust the macro-nutrient levels in your diet. I'd aim for something like a 50% carb, 35% protein, 15% fat diet. Both of those websites will give you breakdowns of what you eat each day so you can adjust accordingly. I myself find it's pretty hard to eat that much protein, but just try to keep it so carbs are highest, then protein, then fat.

It's pretty hard to stick to eating healthy after eating fast food for so long. I forgot where I heard it, but somebody once told me that if you eat 8 or 9 out of 10 of your meals healthy, it's ok to cheat that one or two. Mostly it's about the week to week, not the day to day.

As far as exercising goes, at the beginning ANYTHING is fine. Get in 30 minutes or so of exercise a day, any exercise, and you'll see results. There are two things I highly recommend. Couch to 5K is an AMAZING running plan. Do it at your own pace; I've had to do each weak twice or so before I felt ready to move on, but I've slowly but steadily been improving since I started it mid october. When I started I'd run for 60 seconds then die wheezing. Today I just ran two miles straight through. I've never been able to do that in my entire life and it's an amazing feeling. Like I said it's a slow process, but when you see results and thing back to what you were it keeps you going.

On the weight lifting side of things, I keep hearing great reviews of the book Starting Strength. I just bought it a week ago and it's pretty in depth, but an easy read. But like I said, anything you do is going to be an improve ment. So just start moving. In a few months re-evaluate your progress and add/change things. But just keep going.

*whew*, that was more than I expected to write. In short: it's hard, it's slow, you won't see results right away, but realize that there is NO good reason not do it. Just stick with it. When you have a day where you know you should exercise but don't feel like it because nothing's chaning, do it anyway. I once read somewhere that it takes doing something like 21 times in order to make it a habit. Do your best to stick with it for a month. After a month look back and realize the progress that you've made. In another month you'll look back and realize you've gone even farther than you ever thought possible. Don't worry about the day to day, weigh yourself once a week, if even. Keep track of calories but don't pay much attention to your weight, if you're exercising and eating right it'll take care of itself. Also you need to get in shape to prepare for the oncoming zombie apocalypse.
posted by swashedbuckles at 9:47 PM on December 20, 2009 [25 favorites]

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: one of the amazing things I've found about exercising is that on those days when I feel like I'm too tired to do anything and have to force myself to the gym, I always end up having more energy and feel better once I've finished than I had when I started. Sure I'm exhausted and can barely move, but that doesn't matter at that point, I just feel better. Remembering that helps keep me going the next time I feel tired and don't want to do it.
posted by swashedbuckles at 9:57 PM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd set out with the goal of changing your life permanently, rather than seeing it as temporary, and also try to take changing your life in stages rather than starting out on some drastic new program. Setting up modest yet firm and definite and gradually increasing expectations of yourself is a really good way to get yourself working towards your goal.

First of all, your diet. You say you eat a lot of take out food. So your first change could be, "no more take out food". If that's too drastic, maybe your first change is, "I will only have take out once a month or even once a week, rather than four times a week." This means you have to commit to going to the grocery store on a regular basis, and to cooking meals. Do try to eat reasonably healthy at this stage, but don't overdo it. Maybe you still eat a little junk food at this point, but that's okay because you've made a rule and are sticking to it so that's definite progress and improvement. Then after you've been keeping that first rule for awhile and it's become automatic, you start working on improving your diet some more, but makng more rules. Maybe you resolve, "no more junk food and I will only have dessert a few times a week" and/or "I will only eat fresh fruits and vegetables between meals" or something along those lines. Feed yourself really well on healthy food and you will gradually lose your taste for the unhealthy stuff. If you like to cook, go ahead and get right into it. Take cooking classes. Buy yourself some nice cooking utensils and a great new cookbook. If you don't care to cook, try to streamline your food preparation as much as possible so it doesn't become a chore. I like to do batch cooking on the weekends. I make, say a big salad, a casserole, hardboil some eggs, bake some chicken pieces or porkchops. Then all week I can just nuke and eat.

Also, exercise. You don't mention exercise at all. Is there anything you love to do or have always wanted to do or at least don't mind doing? Like get a black belt? Or run marathons? Or climb mountains? Or learn to dance? Or you idolize Lance Armstrong? Well, here's your chance. If you haven't been exercising at all up till this point, take it gently. Maybe you start by going for an brisk half hour walk every day, or, if your knees can't handle that, by swimming laps at the gym. Then gradually you ramp up your efforts until you can handle more vigorous efforts.

You may want to consult a dietician or a fitness instructor along the way. But make sure that whatever plan you adopt works for you. The best diet or exercise regime in the world is useless if you hate it and can't stick to it. Make lifestyle changes that work for you and that you can live with happily.

Have patience. It's probably going to take you at least a year to get the weight off, but it won't take long at all before you start noticing the benefits. You'll notice even a ten pound loss.
posted by orange swan at 10:01 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have lost 40 lbs since sept. this is what I did.
step 1: stopped drinking all soda. even diet. it caused me to crave sweets all the time. did this for 30 days then ...
step 2: went low-carb. 20carbs / day for 30 days. this broke the rest of my food addictions.. it made it easier for the next phase.
step 3: moved from low-carb to mostly whole foods low-cal diet. I target 1500 calories / day. I also added weight training and cardio.

other tips:
measure everything - I use a spreadsheet on my phone
set a realistic goal - mine is 230lbs. once I get there I will set another goal.
keep it simple - you don't need supplements at this stage
visit 344pounds.com - someone that has done what you want to do
diet is 90% of the battle - you can't outrun your fork!

the only people I ever hear say "muscle weighs more than fat" are fat people.

suck it up. make the sacrifice and make it happen
posted by jseven at 10:10 PM on December 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Check out sparkpeople.com A nice FREE site where people motivate each other in weight loss. The site has some GREAT tools, weight trackers, food diaries, goal setting gadgets, etc.

The best way to start is to START! Get up, get moving. Exercise helps with stress, I've heard.

Write down EVERYTHING you eat. You may be surprised where those extra calories sneak in, and you might be able to correlate your emotions and diet.

Do follow your doctor's instructions on weaning off the medications. Some of these require a bit of a weaning process, but you can do it!

Do you have cable tv? The free On Demand channels should have FitTV or Exercise TV. You can select an exercise show, stretching, yoga, dance, whatever, when YOU want to work out.

Get a pedometer. Challenge yourself to take a few more steps than the day before. Omron makes a REALLY nice walking style one available on Amazon.com for about $35. Pretty accurate once it's set up, and has good tracking software.

Check out collage.com They have exercise videos available for sale in every ability range.

Eating well is actually cheaper than eating take out. Yes, you'll have to put a little effort into it, but really, do you have a skillet and a microwave? Gardenburgers are pretty good! Switch to Smart Choice or Lean Cuisine meals, but read those labels! Remember, a food with only 200 calories, but 100 of the calories are from fat, means the food is FIFTY PER CENT FAT!!!!!

NO soda, NO Gatorade, NO energy drinks! Water, lo fat or 1% milk, occasional fruit juices instead. You can do that for say 4 months? My hubby did that, as well as no red meat and lower salt intake, and daily walking of about 1.5 - 2 miles, and lost 25 pounds in about 3 or 4 months!

DON'T keep enticing foods in your house! Try the 100 calorie packs, or a snack with a good satiety to calorie ratio. (We LOVED the mini meringues at Trader Joe's, 9 calories in like 14 of those things, but they stopped making them...)

Remind yourself that this is only a temporary thing, after you get in a good healthy routine, you can start having a few snacky yummies.

Try to replace the comfort eating with healthier alternatives. Behavior modification courses can help you to learn to recognize your feelings when you want to binge, and help you to change or endure those difficult moments.
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 10:14 PM on December 20, 2009

I have lost almost 65 pounds so far (since April 1, essentially) on the Hack Diet mentioned above. My rate of loss has slowed, and I'm not eating more than I did, but I'm on track to be at my goal of 80 pounds lost by May or so.

When I first started on the diet I lost as many as four pounds a week, without trying too much. From 250 (my start) to 215 I lost a steady 2 pounds a week, which tapered to one pound and is now about 3/4 pound a week.

I also started exercising, but only do about 20 minutes five days a week, perhaps 200 calorie workouts.

Read a lot about nutrition from experts, if that interests you (it doesn't much interest me, in that I try to stay within guidelines, but that you'll find guidelines all over the place). Decide which has the best science. Some will say 35% protein is insanely high, others will say it's low. But the calories are way more important than the breakdown for simply losing weight.

Also, do your frame measurements. I've always thought of myself as being "large-framed" and it turns out I'm thin-framed. That's why despite now being under 25 BMI I'm still packing a spare-tire, despite my increased fitness. If I was large-framed I'd be ready to roll into maintenance mode, but as a thin framed person I need to be at around 165 for my 6'1 height to be "lithe."
posted by maxwelton at 10:14 PM on December 20, 2009

Response by poster: First, this is not going to happen at once. Give yourself permission to take it slow, and understand, truly understand, there are going to be setbacks.

You have to address the emotional eating. Whether this is through therapy or self-help, this part of you must be well. I've heard Overcoming Overeating and Breaking Free From Emotional Eating recommended highly here.

This is a great article that will get you 99% of the way to your goal, diet-wise. The only thing I'd quibble with is eating every 2-3 hours--there isn't an actual metabolic reason for that, it's just for many people it's psychologically easier to restrict calories if they eat a lot of small meals rather than getting hungry, eating a big one, and risking over-eating.

If I were you, I'd try implementing the rules one at a time, one for a few weeks, then add another, then another. Pay special attention to the "carbs from fruits and vegetables" point. Cutting out grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes, rice, all of that will show massive changes.

Another option is going strict Atkins, or Paleo, or other similar vegetable-focused, carb-low, protein-and-fat-high diets. I like the Berardi method though because it gives you a way to take things step by step, and that's often necessary for breaking bad eating habits that have emotional roots.

I would start a weight-training program, get thee to Starting Strength. You want to maintain, and build, as much muscle mass as you can when you're losing weight and because you're a beginner you'll be in that magical stage where you can do both at the same time.

For cardio, if you can find a rowing machine hop on that, it's rough but it works with your weight and isn't hard on the joints. Do not run. DO NOT RUN. Running is an impact-heavy sport with a very high injury rate that gets higher the heavier you are. You may as well just have someone take a hammer to your joints, it would take less time and produce the same result.

BUT the best exercise plan is the one you can stick to. Like orange swan said, if there's anything physical you've ever wanted to do, pursue that (within reason, and work up to high-impact stuff until you become lighter).
posted by Anonymous at 10:23 PM on December 20, 2009

Sorry, should say I'm eating more than I did when I first went on the diet. I was doing 1500-1600

I think you should go to the hack diet page and read it. I think the two things I learned there that motivated me:

1) It's an engineering problem. You can fix it!

2) You don't have to radically change what you eat, you can if you want but if that seems insurmountable, you don't have to. What you do have to do is track everything you eat, honestly (use myfooddiary.com or livestrong.com's daily plate), and not eat more than your calorie goal.

#2 is key. It's a lot less intimidating knowing you can have a burger and fries if you want them, but you need to realize that doing so will cut into what you can eat the rest of the day.

The biggest habit I changed was to switch from sugared soda to diet. I originally allocated calories to sugered but realized I'd much rather eat those calories in something tastier.
posted by maxwelton at 10:24 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Before I run out my welcome, I'll add that my diet is still high carb. It's possible to lose lots of weight without having to eschew carbs if that's what makes your world go 'round.

For all practical purposes, a calorie is a calorie as far as gaining or losing fat is concerned, and counting calories is more important than trying to achieve a particular ratio. Good nutrition is important, but counting your calories and sticking to your calorie goal is way more important.

(My humble opinion, what the heck do I know, etc., etc.)
posted by maxwelton at 10:36 PM on December 20, 2009

Having read through the comments, I want to throw in the comment that "fat in" does not equal "fat out". Fat has a bad rap (and rightly so with trans-fats), but really fat is beneficial for regulating appetite (satiety), while increasing carbs is likely to just make you hungrier. So personally I'd suggest avoiding "fat free" ideas unless you find it works for you. Really what you should do is (1) increase water, (2) cut down on calories, (3) get a good amount of protein, and (2) don't shun fat. Somewhere in past ask.mefis someone outlined a good plan of things to stay away from; I can't remember what it was, but it basically boiled down to cutting out starches, sugars, and breads, and I think that's a pretty good plan for success.
posted by crapmatic at 10:59 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

the only people I ever hear say "muscle weighs more than fat" are fat people.

IANAFP. By volume, muscle weighs more than fat. It also burns more calories at rest.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:12 PM on December 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

diet is 90% of the battle - you can't outrun your fork!

LOL. What enlightened me was: losing weight is just a matter of muscle control -- specifically, your arm muscles.
posted by tad at 11:30 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

^ crapmatic immediately above gives good advice. Almonds are "high fat" but a handful (1 oz, about 25) give you 200 calories that will stave off hunger for several hours.

One surprising thing about weight loss I found was that my stomach shrunk and after a week or so I was NEVER hungry. I was basically just reducing portion size and not trying for any carb or fat % alteration. If anything, I think an even mix (30/30/30% fat/protein/carb) is good enough.

The real key is the exercise. You burn 200 calories on the treadmill, and the afterglow seems to burn another 100 for free.
posted by tad at 11:34 PM on December 20, 2009

Maybe this will help keep you motivated?

posted by epiphinite at 1:07 AM on December 21, 2009

Oops. http://www.344pounds.com/
posted by epiphinite at 1:08 AM on December 21, 2009

I've had good results from following Weight Watchers' Filling Foods technique (previously known as Core Foods). This approach focuses on fruits and vegetables, lean meats and seafood, whole grains and legumes, no added sugar, small amount of added good fat/oil, and drinking plenty of water. It's probably not much different from other well-regarded plans/approaches listed above. By following these guidelines, I experience no acid reflux, so you may realize other unexpected health benefits or improved quality of life by tweaking your diet. Best of luck to you. You can do it!
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:01 AM on December 21, 2009

I have a couple of friends who lost weight, gained health.

One went to Grey Sheeters Anonymous (GSA). It's a spinoff of Overeaters Anonymous, a 12-Step program. 12-Step stuff isn't for everybody, but it often does work. I like it, personally. The Grey Sheet in GSA is some kind of method to keep track of the diet. She does a lot of weighing and planning of food, and the 12-Step program involves work on the "spiritual" side of things, namely self-control / locus-of-control work, working on shame / guilt / anger issues etc.. The combination seems to work well, she looks marvelous and is happier than ever.

The other friend basically stopped eating 1. sugar, 2. wheat, 3. milk. Started eating vegetables and that kind of stuff. He lost weight so fast it was almost scary, but then the drop slowed down and he looks great now. He should get more exercise though :) His old friends were so impressed with the "new body" that they took him mountain-climbing, but the new skinny version was just as out of breath as chubby guy was :)

I think it's very important to focus on building a complete diet of things that are good to eat and that you like to eat, rather than focusing on what NOT to eat. But that's just me talking out of my ass. I have no evidence for that.

That's all I have. Good luck in your quest! Thank you for the inspiration.
posted by krilli at 4:09 AM on December 21, 2009

Frankly, there are two kinds of dieting people. You've got the folks who like fussy things like Hacker's Diet and sparkpeople.com and tracking sheets, playing the "this is only temporary" and "don't have tasty things in your house" game with themselves. Then you've got normal human beings who are not accountants or diet robots, and who actually like and want food. For normal human beings, a common sense approach works a lot better than a bunch of fussbudget number-juggling that mostly serves the purpose of distracting you from the obnoxious deprivation. Visiting a dietician could be eye-opening for sure, but so could something like the No-S Diet.

The entire diet can be encapsulated in the <title> of the page: "No S Diet: No snacks, sweets, or seconds except on days that start with S." Combine that simple rule with maybe a bit of portion control and that's it, really. For you, I'd also suggest cutting down on takeout, because, yeah, it might be tasty and convenient but it doesn't really lend itself to portion control.

Simply eat three plates of food each day, drink some water, and that's it. Use common sense as to how much food to put on each plate at mealtime. If it looks like a bunch of food, it probably is a bunch of food. If it looks like not enough, it probably isn't enough -- and since you aren't snacking, that'll mean unhappiness and discomfort until your next meal, so yes, eat enough though not too much.

If you're an accountant or a number-driven fussbudget, a system this simple will probably drive you batty since there's nothing to track or quantify or obsess over. But if you're not, congratulations, you just learned an easy rule of thumb that can help you build a healthy eating habit for the entire rest of your life.
posted by majick at 5:25 AM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

There is lots of good advice here, so all I am going to do is chime in with my support. I am a little over 6 feet tall, and last year I peaked at about 300 lbs. I finally reached my breaking point, and became determined to lose weight in as healthy a way and as sustainably as possible. Since last September I am down 38 lbs, and I am continuing to lose weight at a rate of around 1.5 - 2 lbs per week.

The first, and most important, thing that I did was dramatically increase my water intake. I didn't specifically quit drinking soda, but that largely happened as a side effect of drinking more water. I actually have an app on my iPhone that tracks how much water I have had each day, to make sure I get at least 8 glasses of water per day.

The next thing I did was increase my level of exercise. I have found that I really enjoy inline skating, and I am fortunate to live in a climate (Central Florida) where I can get out skating several times per week. For my best friend, what worked for him was dancing. He quite literally danced his ass off over the course of two years. Find an activity that you enjoy, that makes you sweat, and that you can do several times per week.

Regarding food, I mostly just became more conscious of the quantity and quality of the food I was eating. I didn't forbid myself from eating any particular thing, I just added in more fruits and vegetables. I also focus on giving my body a steady stream of nutrition so that it does not go into starvation mode. Simply cutting calories is counter-productive. If you starve yourself you are just setting yourself up for failure, both because you will make yourself miserable and because your body will fiercely hold onto the calories it has. If you eat several small meals and healthy snacks spaced throughout the day, your body will expect that it has a constant flow of nutrition and will let go of the excess calories. (At least, that's how I understand it. I am neither a doctor nor a dietician/nutritionist.)

I have no idea what my target weight is, because I am not concerned about my weight per-se. I am concerned about feeling healthy and good about myself. The BMI charts say I should be about 185, but BMI is a notoriously awful measurement. I know that I feel better now than I did last September.

I am only a few months into it, and I am encouraged by my progress so far. If I can do it, you can do it. It's not magic, it's just hard work. Some days you'll be burning with passion about losing weight, and some days you'll be frustrated. Just remember that your day-to-day weight can easily fluctuate quite a bit, and stay focused on long term trends. Don't get frustrated by the daily noise, get motivated by the weekly and monthly averages.

Good luck!
posted by Lokheed at 6:13 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been on doctor prescribed diets with clinics and group therapy, I've done slim-fast like shake diets, and fads like the cabbage soup diet. But none of them stuck because I didn't care that I was heavy. I came from a long line of heavy people, there were no thin relatives, and my being heavy never stopped me from reaching my goals.

But then two things happened.

My sister had gastric bypass surgery because doctors told her she was going to die of complications related to obesity, and my son was almost hit by a car because I was to fat to catch him after he darted away.

It was like a switch in my brain was hit and all the common sense suggestions my doctors had made over the years made sense. Ever since then, it's been a daily struggle to do something about my weight.

You cannot eat a certain way and get heavy, change your diet drastically until you lose the weight, and then return to eating the way you used to and get heavy again. When you feel ready to lose the weight, this will be a lifetime change because your way of life right now is not working for you. Once you get that settled into your thoughts, it becomes easier to make peace with the fact that there will be some foods you will never be able to eat again. Ever.

For me in February of 2008 that was potato chips and other chip things. Haven't touched any since the day the light bulb went on in my head. I looked at it this way: Do I want that chip or do I want to be healthy? Because I have good reasons to be healthy, I always choose health over the chips.

I made my goals to stop drinking soda and taking a walk every day. After a month I stopped keeping junk food in my house for my family, because even if I bought it for them, I would end up eating it. I was honest with myself about not having enough willpower to give in. I upped my salad intake. I made gradual changes and never stepped on a scale once.

When I started noticing my clothes feeling looser which took about a year, I stepped on the scale and noted I was 250 pounds. It was a horrifying number. But a couple days later while talking to my doctor, I asked him what I had weighed when he saw me earlier in the year, and he said I was over 300 pounds, pretty close to 350.

So even though I thought 250 was terrible, I had actually already lost a lot of weight. I stopped thinking about how much I still weighed and concentrated on how much I had already dropped.

At the moment I weigh 215 lbs and I'm down from a size 24 pant to a size 14 (American measurement) and was gifted with a gym membership for Christmas to continue my work. My only goal, though, is to live and be healthy for my son. I don't want my obit to say I died of fat.

The only way to lose weight, any weight, is to burn more calories than you take in. There is no diet secret, pill, gadget, plan, guru, or book that will help you do it faster or differently. It's just a choice that you have to make and then patiently follow through with for the rest of your life.

Good luck.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's some anecdotal advice with no links ot science backing it up.

I'm about your size, though a bit taller. Got a gym membership earlier this year. At first I used machines. Then I ran on the treadmill. No impact whatsoever on my weight. Then a couple months ago I switch to free weights and I'm down about 20 lbs now. For my body (which may or may not be similar to your body) free weights are the most effective thing to do.

The nice thing about the gym though is that it motivates you to eat better. I never feel like I earned food by lifting. Instead I feel like if I spent all that time lifting weights, why would I want to eat crappy food? The more time I spend in the gym, the more I want to eat better because I've already invested time and effort into being more fit.
posted by valadil at 7:56 AM on December 21, 2009

There's a lot of really good advice and knowledge in this thread. Since most of what I've done to drop 70 pounds has already been mentioned, I'll keep this short.

The one thing I've always stuck by in my "diet" is: no fake food. I don't use fake sugar, fake fat or anything else that is billed as "diet", "fat free", "low cal", etc. I've found that all of those things kept me in a state of denial: "No, really, I can have ten of those 'Low Cal' cookies b'c they're LOW CAL!" As a result of using only the real stuff (and making sure that it's higher quality real stuff, not overly-processed cookies or twinkies), I've found that my sweet tooth has gotten much smaller. For dessert, I'm more likely to search out fruit than to go after chocolate/cookies/cake.

Also, I don't restrict myself from having something. My diet isn't a list of "NO, you can't have this!" foods; it's a mental list of "Hey, I really like x but x is high calories, high fat; I'll have just a little bit of it."

Another thing I've found that helped me was an increase in fiber. Instead of focusing on how many calories were in a food item, I'd look for how high the fiber content was. That did two things for me: one, fiber fills you up; two, fiber helps carry stuff out of the body. To stop my penchant for snacking during work hours, I kept a bottle of Kellogg's All-Bran fiber drink on my desk - the All-Bran stuff is a powder that you add to 20 oz of water. I stopped drinking the stuff about three months ago b'c it's too sweet for me now.

As for setting goals: I never set a goal and I never really sat down and said, "Hey, it's time to lose this weight". I just changed my thinking and altered my relationship with food. If I were to set goals, I'd reward myself for hitting the goal instead of punishing myself for missing it. Remember that falling off the wagon doesn't mean that you have to stay off the wagon!

I used to eat b'c of emotions, like you. I'm not sure how I disconnected from that (although, put mac'n'cheese in front of me and... man, that's some good comfort food that I'm hard-pressed to resist!). When I was attending Weight Watcher meetings (I started in October 2009 and have lost a total of about ten pounds on their program), I found that their meetings were great for helping with emotional eating. Weight Watchers is a wonderful program and definitely worth the money!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2009

The biggest thing for me losing 40 pounds was simply paying attention to how I was eating. I called it "mindful eating" but it was basically teaching myself to stop when I felt no longer hungry vs. clearing a plate of all food.

In the end, I realized I was eating almost twice as much food at each meal than I really needed, and cutting back started losing 1-2lbs per week steadily for the entire summer. I've since leveled out at my goal (after going 10 more lbs below it) and it's much easier to manage these days.
posted by mathowie at 9:06 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

The nice thing about the gym though is that it motivates you to eat better. I never feel like I earned food by lifting. Instead I feel like if I spent all that time lifting weights, why would I want to eat crappy food? The more time I spend in the gym, the more I want to eat better because I've already invested time and effort into being more fit.

Lots of good advice here, but I just wanted to second this. In a lot of weight loss threads you'll see various arguments pointing out that the number of calories burned by most basic work outs is negligible, diminishing the value of exercise overall. And while that strict caloric argument is more or less true, I think it really undervalues the role adding exercise to your life can play in terms of being a positive motivator to help you stay on track with your diet and lifestyle changes overall. Exercise allows you focus on other, positive metrics besides just the number on the scale (e.g., seeing yourself being able run/swim/row/lift faster,longer, more sets etc over time) and adding an exercise routine to your life can really help to create the kind of positive-self-reinforcing feedback cycle that's ultimately needed to sustain major lifestyle change over the long-haul; I know it has in mine. The thing about losing weight is, while the changes you need to make are not difficult or complex, major habit changes are not easy to sustain, so you really need every accountability and motivational trick you can use to help you change, and in my experience exercise is one of the most useful.

So my advice is to try and find something physical that you enjoy day to day and start there. It does not really matter what you do, it just maters that you enjoy it and can keep it up. Overtime I think you'll find yourself wanting to eat well and thinking a lot more about what you put in your body so you'll be in the best shape you can be when you go to the gym or play sports or whatever, and overtime the summed benefit of that motivator can be really significant.

Good luck!
posted by dyslexictraveler at 9:11 AM on December 21, 2009

For all practical purposes, a calorie is a calorie as far as gaining or losing fat is concerned, and counting calories is more important than trying to achieve a particular ratio.

I agree, but one of the interesting things I learned about myself was when I lowered the refined, garbage, carbs down to nearly nil was not only did I feel better (chronic migraine sufferer), but I oddly wasn't as hungry all the time like I thought I'd be. Increase the carbs: the migraines increased, I felt like crap and, I was hungrier than usual. Atkns and, South Beach were a turn off because *omg* I can't have carbs!? I'll never survive a week without them. Now I can easily ignore the bakery fresh baguette that I love so much if I want to, I couldn't have done that a year ago. I didn't go on either diet because I'm with orange swan on this one, changes have to be permanent and I couldn't see myself on either for the rest of my life. Without fully realizing it my diet now leans toward a higher protein low carb/low glycemic index end of the scale.

it becomes easier to make peace with the fact that there will be some foods you will never be able to eat again. Ever.

One of the big issues for me was feeling deprived and, by extension, punished because I made certain foods verboten. I actually wound up doing the inverse, nothing was off limits and, I started trying things I never had before (fruits, vegetables, spices). It flipped the internal finger wagging battle from you can't have that to, I don't want it and, because my taste buds have changed so much, much of the time I don't like the taste of things that I used to enjoy.

I used to eat b'c of emotions, like you. I'm not sure how I disconnected from that

Me too and, I don't know how I disconnected from that exactly either. I know I've spent a lot of time thinking, are you really hungry or, just bored/upset/etc when I do go to eat something. If I'm not sure I'll drink some water and, wait 'til I'm more certain. As Matt said, being more mindful before stuffing my craw.
posted by squeak at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2009

the biggest roadblock is (lack of a good) support system. if you have a partner, support from him/her is critical. if you are single, you have a fair chance of accomplishing your goal as you can control most aspects of your life.

calorie counting works. it is important to have a balanced diet as to not let the calorie counting interfere with essential nutrient intake. if you can afford, seeing a nutritionist would be tremendous help. it is also helpful to sign-up with a website like sparkpeople and record your calories and exercise and monitor your progress.

if you do not support diet with exercise, you will have tough time meeting your goal (or staying there). i suggest you start with walking. as you become lighter, other aerobic exercises will be more doable. later on, when you feel ready, adding core and muscle (weight lifting) exercises to aerobic will not only help losing the weight, they will also help your overall physical and mental well-being.

a buddy with similar goals will increase your chances of sticking with your plan significantly (going back to the support system).

be patient. don't try to lose too fast. losing too fast is usually accomplished by very strict diet and exercise, which is painful; at some point you say "f--k it, i will just enjoy myself, this is not worth it." a pound a week is a goal that can be accomplished without a lot of pain by daily creating a deficit of 500 calories (spend 500 calories more than you eat/drink).

best of luck to you.
posted by eebs at 10:21 AM on December 21, 2009

i suggest you start with walking. as you become lighter, other aerobic exercises will be more doable. later on, when you feel ready, adding core and muscle (weight lifting) exercises to aerobic will not only help losing the weight, they will also help your overall physical and mental well-being.

There are many ways to exercise, but there is no basis for saying that someone has to begin with aerobic exercise and then progress to weight training. Anyone can (and probably should) start weight training once they have educated themselves regarding how to do it safely and effectively. Furthermore, focusing on "core" exercise is unnecessary in the presence of a proper weight training program, which will work the entire body as a system.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2009

If you eat mindfully, rein in the comfort and binge eating, and get more exercise, you will almost certainly get a lot healthier.

Which is much more important, according to SCIENCE!, than your scale weight.

Monitoring your scale weight may or may not help you get healthier. It works well for some people as an indicator, less well for other people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:52 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

A word about "motivation". Motivation is temporary, comes and goes and is often absent when you need it most. Commitment is much more important for weight loss and the subsequent maintenance of that loss. Commitment is doing what you know you need to do even when it's the last thing you want to do. It means telling yourself no when necessary or going out for a walk when it feels like a bulldozer couldn't get you off the couch.

I have lost 111 pounds since April of this year. When folks ask me what I did, they seem disappointed when I say I just eat less and take walks every day. Experts will give you list after list of shoulds and shouldn'ts (what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, what to drink, what you shouldn't drink, what exercises you must do, what exercises you should avoid, etc), but most of it is useless advice. It really does boil down to eat less and move more - and the eating less notion is by far the more important part of that equation.

As a fellow emotional eater, I worked with my therapist to come up with new strategies to avoid turning to food for emotional comfort. You might want to do the same.

Lastly, find some support. It could be an online weight loss support group (there are several good ones out there), Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or friends who understand the unique aspects of needing to lose a significant amount of weight. It can really help during the harder moments. Best of luck to you!! It can be done and you will see the benefits long before you reach your goal.
posted by cecic at 1:13 PM on December 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've recently dropped some pounds without modifying my diet much due to two factors. I cut out pop and I upped my fitness. I take the dog on an hour long, up some big-ass hills walk every day. Then I started the couch-5k. Instead of feeling hungry and lethargic like I do when I try to do exercise and watch my diet, I feel fanfuckingtastic. When I am ready to start watching my diet, I know it will be much easier. Plus, exercise has become enjoyable and I can spend time outside having fun instead of inside eating. Small changes. I would totally endorse a one-thing-at-a-time approach.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:03 PM on December 21, 2009

What should I expect?

You'll be sore and a little hungry. Beyond that not much else. You'll have to redirect some of your time to working out and keeping a food log. So you're total extra time spent shouldn't be much more than 6 to 10 hours a week, including drive time.

Where do I start?

I would suggest with this article. Good luck and Happy New Year!
posted by P.o.B. at 11:25 PM on December 24, 2009

I have to second samsaunt's vegan program. Since I became vegan, I eat literally all day and continue to loose weight.
posted by 1awesomeguy at 3:16 PM on December 28, 2009

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