10 Pounds in 10 Days Thanks to LifeHacker, Hacker’s Diet, and DailyPlate

Update: Read updated progress reports here.
On Friday, February 2 I read an article linked from Lifehacker about how Kyle Pott had lost 50 pounds in 3 months using some unconventional weight loss methods.

I started the next day, and using some of the same methods, and combining in a few suggestions from some of the commentors to his post, I’ve lost 10 lbs in 10 days, without starving myself, changing everything my family eats, or going crazy trying to figure things out.

Here are the things I’ve done to make this happen, in no particular order that you can do too.

I bought a digital scale.
Kyle said he weighed himself everyday using a digital scale. This was different than what I’d been told in the past, which was to simply weigh in every week since weight fluctuates. Previously, I’d been using a very old analog scale which had wacky calibration issues. In addition to my own weight fluctuation, the scale itself could be off 3-4 lbs either way, and I probably really never had a good understanding of what I actually weighed at any time.

I picked up a digital scale at Costco for $29 that not only measures accurately to 1/10th of a pound, but also measures hydration and body fat, and allows you to store 4 different user profiles with weight loss goals, storing your daily progress. This has been a great motivation because I can see even small amounts of change, in both directions, which I know is accurate. Even losing just a third of a pound can feel great when you need a little extra boost. Seeing that I had lost exactly 10 pounds this morning was a milestone I was waiting for, and could know I reached accurately. (Note: I also weigh myself at the same time, wearing the same thing each day, for consistency.)

I started counting calories.
One of the commentors mentioned using The Hackers Diet, which was written by John Walker, a programmer who has dealt with weight issues due to his sedentary job, and stereotypical programmers diet. In a nutshell he points out that the body is a “rubber bag,” taking calories in, burning some, releasing some, and the rest, it stores as fat. Yes, a tried and true concept, but one that I’ve never personally used as motivation for weight loss efforts.

According to the charts on his site, a male of my height and age should burn about 2000 calories a day in normal activity. Since I sit all day, I probably burn less, and I know I take in more on most, if not all days. If you want to lose weight, reduce your normal intake by 500 calories, and you should be able to lose a pound a week, or 52 pounds in a year. For the past 10 days I’ve set a 1500 calorie limit for myself and have been able to stick with it. Apparently, I take in many more calories than I should, since the weight is coming off at a much more rapid pace…which I know is more typical due to my heavier starting weight of 258.2 pounds.

I use technology to my advantage
Being around computers and other gadgets all day long has been helpful. Thanks to another commentor on the original post, I found TheDailyPlate.com, which allows me to look up and track my calories every day in a journal format that is easy to use, and actually kind of fun. The Hacker Diet also has spreadsheets and a Palm application, but I’m at my desk pretty much all day, and have my laptop at home, so I have access to the site when I need it. TheDailyPlate allows me to set my daily caloric target goal, and indicates how many calories I have left for the day within that goal. It even allows me to input calories burned during exercise and adjusts my “calorie balance” accordingly.

Since we often eat out during the day, and make frequent stops at Starbucks, it’s helpful that TheDailyPlate has tons of entries for popular eateries and their items along side of brand name products and homemade dishes as well. When I’m out, I can look up things on my Treo, or even simply make a note of items ate to enter at a later point. iPods, portable media players, PDAs — all just weight loss tools now!
I’ve become more aware of what I’m eating.
Whoa, some of those things that hadn’t seemed so bad before are just super high in calories. Simple snack items can actually be high enough in calories as to take up a third of my allowance! Looking up items online, or simply reading the packages and accounting for how many servings are actually in a package or container, has been eye opening. By becoming more aware, I’ve become more realistic with myself about what I should or shouldn’t eat, and have started making a mental inventory of go-to foods for snacks. Previously, I could put down a handful of homemade cookies and a big glass of milk without even thinking about it, just as a snack. Depending on the cookie, that can be close to 1000 calories! Not wanting to totally give up cookies here and there, I found some South Beach cookies at the store that are 100 calories for two, and eat them with my coffee instead, for a low calorie option.

I’ve started drinking more water.
When I tried to lose weight a few years ago, I gave up pop as one thing I could cut back on. I mostly just drink Crystal Light tea, coffee and water these days, but don’t drink as much water as I should every day, favoring coffee, lattes, or tea. I purchased a 24 oz cup I could take with me anywhere, and have been trying to fill it up three times during the day to get 64+ ounces per day. Still don’t really love water, but know it’s part of the process.

I’ve started exercising again…just a small amount.
The hardest part about excercising for me, aside from the actual motivation to do it, is finding time. When I had a gym membership, getting to the club, working out, showering…all of that, would be an hour or more out of my time, which is limited already every day between my business, teaching at my church, and spending enough time with my wife and 4 kids. A few years ago I bought a very basic Nordic Trac manual treadmill with a slight incline and small progress computer on it. I now have it sitting in front of my iMac in my home office and try to just get out there for 20 minutes each day to walk and watch movies while I walk. At a pace of 2 miles per hour, with the incline, and arm movement, I burn 200 calories. That used to not seem like so much to me, but now with only 1500 calories daily, this can be the difference between making my goal or not…or having room for a snack with my coffee before calling it quits on food for the day. Also, it’s much easier for me to slip out for 20 minutes than to pack up and leave for an hour and a half….and I can do it at any time.

I’m trying to be proactive with my meals.
In more recent years, I’ve been wandering around making food choices as my heart has directed. Now I’m trying to think ahead to how I can make better choices ahead of time. As with many decisions in life, the ones you plan for and make ahead of time will generally turn out better than those you have to make on the fly. We have a weekly meal at church that may or may not be friendly to those trying to eat healthy, but by knowing the menu and making decisions ahead of time about menu items and portions, I’m able to eat there with my family as usual, but still stay within my goals. Same thing is true when my wife through the Taco Bell curve at me 10 minutes before dinner…I simply looked up their menu, found a chicken bowl that was under 500 calories without sauce, and ordered that.

I’ve made small changes that add up in the long run.
I changed from milk or cream in my coffee to just black coffee when I started 10 days ago. It took me a day or two to get used to, but now I actually enjoy it. It makes it easy to grab coffee anywhere I go, stays hotter longer, and cuts back on calories from cream, milk, or creamer that I can use for my meals. For a lower calorie option the other night, I made an iced latte with Equal, rather than sugar to save on a ton of calories (yeah, I know…aspartame…that’s a whole different conversation…if it doesn’t kill me, something else will….it’s a rare use for me.)

I’ve also started parking farther away in big parking lots or downtown to get some extra steps during the day, and it’s amazing how worked up you can get playing boxing against your son on the Wii!

I’ve tried not to turn my whole world upside down.
To many times I’ve gone nuts buying health foods, or trying to make everyone else in the family eat a different menu, or any other number of things that interrupted my normal daily life. My wife is still cooking from the same food we had before I started, and we’ve even made a last minute meal at Taco Bell. Tomorrow is Valentines day, and we have a tradition of getting a heart-shaped pizza with our kids for dinner..I’m still planning on eating that meal with them. Those of you who know me know that pizza is my drug of choice, and if there’s anything I’ve had dreams about, it’s definitely a Paddingtons Humdinger. However, by changing to a simple cheese pizza, I can still have three pieces and keep my dinner to less than 800 calories that night — a number I’ve had available for dinner on more than one night these past 10 days. So I can have my cake, er pizza, and eat it too!

The goal is not to turn everyone elses world upside down for me either. I don’t want people to have to worry about what I “can or can’t have on my diet” — cook away, I’ll find something to eat that works for me!

I’ve started sharing what I’m doing with others.
Some people are social drinkers…me, I’m a social eater. I enjoy food way too much, and without realizing it, can abuse how much I’m eating. I’ve never realized how many calories I can take in by simply having breakfast, mid morning coffee and small snack, lunch, dinner, and dessert or after dinner snack. Sometimes even hitting twice as many calories per day as I’ve been taking in over the past 10 days, or even more. It’s seriously scary and sad. By telling others, it’s beginning to build in an accountability for myself. If people know I’m trying to do better, I’m not going to be as inclined to propose a cheeseburger-fest with my buddies because it doesn’t line up with what I’m working on.

Another unexpected benefit has been others who have wanted to give this whole eating better thing a shot. Both my wife and business partner have lost 4 pounds, starting in a few days after I did. I didn’t ask them to, or expect them to, but nonetheless, they both picked it up. A few other friends have also mentioned wanting to drop a few Heath bars as well, and if that’s an added result of sharing some success stories, then I’m all for it!

I’m trying to visualize the long term goal over short term hurdles.
I have a closet full of shirts and pants that don’t really fit, but I can see that in just a couple weeks, they probably will again. Thats like a new wardrobe for free. I’m already cinching up my belt and extra notch, and have more energy during the day. The first few days were hard, and I was really hungry, but now I just continue to be excited about reaching my goal of 38 pounds to get down to 220. Since that number is still high, I can see setting a new goal of 200 beyond that. I remember a refridgerator magnet that said “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” and although I see the point, that person had probably never had a Paddingtons Humdinger, the greatest pizza on earth…however, I’m starting to agree with the sentiment now.
I also look forward to the benefits of not being so heavy. I’m excited to not be winded by simple activity, or to not have my head feel like it’s going to pop off when I bend over to tie my shoes, or to not have my acoustic rest up on my gut like a steel pedal guitar when I’m standing up! I want to be able to enjoy my active kids, and not always feel like sitting down for a rest…they deserve to have a healthy dad too. And I look forward to hitting a target weight and then using a regular healthy day to day eating plan to maintain it.

I know the weight loss will start to slow down and the progress will be harder to make as I near my goal, but this system is really working for me this time around. I have more motivation than before, and the results are measurable and encouraging. I also realize that there are other health considerations beyond just calories, but we eat pretty well balance meals around here, so I’m not worried about that. Some have asked “just what are you eating in those 1500 calories” so I’ll post some menus in upcoming articles, as well as other thoughts along the way, and continued progress reports.

Thanks to everyone who has been an encouragement. In the words of Townie….“You Can Do It!”