As tempting as it is to believe that you can shrink down overnight with the help of a magic pill, the reality is that weight loss is a long hard slog and there are no quick fixes. Sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do, even if that means saying no to all the food that tempts you. That’s exactly what this week’s Amazing Loser found out when he knuckled down to lose 87lbs after realising he was in the worst shape of his life…
How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?
I grew up being very active. I was raised on a farm, so we spent a lot of time doing manual labor and moving throughout the day. I didn’t really like doing farmwork, but it helped keep my metabolism up. Through grade school, I was fit, but not overly athletic. Our diet at home was heavy on protein and carbohydrates, light on vegetables. That being said, almost everything was made at home from good ingredients but when I finished high school at 18 years old, I weighed in at 160lbs.
When I moved to the city for university, I was finally able to take control of my life. But not in a good way! I drank a lot of alcohol, ate convenience food and spent most of my time sitting in front of a tv or computer. I slowly but surely went from 160lbs to over 260lbs over the next 13 years.
“I was shaving YEARS off my life”
What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?
One of the things that really bothered me was how much I would sweat. I got comfortable being overweight, but the perspiration soaking through all of my clothes anytime I had to do some physical activity… that sucked. I’d walk across the street on a hot day and have to hang my suit jacket to dry.
What made you decide to change?
I won a contest with my city’s football team, where I would race adult size tricycles on the field. The winner of each race during the season would move onto the semi-final round, then the top 2 from each semi move onto the final round. The overall winner gets a new Harley Davidson.
I actually won the first race – my competitors were in even worse shape than me! In the semi-final, one competitor dropped out due to sickness, so I moved on to the final by default.
The other guy and I went out for show and I could barely even finish the race, it was embarrassing. I blamed the bike at the time, but deep down I knew that I was in the worst shape of my life. I was too big and too weak to finish properly. I went on to lose the final, but that semi-final race stuck with me.
My bad cholesterol was off the chart. I was taking a small prescription of Lipitor, which helped, but I knew I was going down the wrong path and shaving YEARS off my life.
“Perspiration soaked through all of my clothes anytime I had to do some physical activity”
What made it different from the times before?
I think that I was able to justify other small embarrassments as just being a bit overweight. I’d be comfortable swimming shirtless in public. But the tricycle race made me feel like I had no endurance anymore. That’s when I started thinking of myself as a fat guy.
I also started to think that I was setting a really poor example for my 3 preschool age kids.
How did you do it?
We already had a treadmill and bowflex (a type of home gym) in our basement collecting dust. So my only excuse was making the time to exercise.
So at first I just started to exercise for an hour a week on Saturday mornings, walking on the treadmill to start. You could call it jogging, but it was just doing something active that made me tired.
I also started training on our bowflex to gain strength. I spent a few months doing my routine and noticed some minor changes. Then a friend of mine mentioned that he tries to workout every single day. I thought about my routine, and how tired I would be, and how sore I got after 30 minutes. I wondered how I could possibly find the time.
But it was inspiring. I eventually got excited about exercising and changed my routine to spend an hour almost every evening working out. I had to make that hour more important than other things in my life, which is difficult. I like watching TV, so I try to line that up with my routine.
I quickly outgrew my bowflex and sold it for a $1200 loss, then started building out my home gym piece by piece. I have a decent space, but factored in the following when buying equipment: price, size, quality, and how universal it is.
What do you have in your home gym?
I bought a FID (flat, incline, decline) bench for $100 used, a set of Powerblocks U-90 adjustable dumbells used ($250), then bought expansion weights two more times new (~$150 each). I bought the Powerblocks bar used ($100), found a great stud mounted chin up bar for about $60.
I also have push up bars ($15), an ab roller ($15), parallette bars ($90), and inversion boots ($40) that were all bought new. We bought a great Reebok treadmill that retails for ~$1600 when we moved into our house for $400.
And finally, I found a Schwinn 150 upright bike used ($150). If you don’t count the loss on the sale of the bowflex, my (well-equipped) home gym cost me about $1500!
Bargain! What kind of exercises do you do with all of that equipment?
Here’s the type of exercises that made their way into my routine with this equipment:
Sit ups (bench, inversion)
Chin ups, pull ups
Overhead Triceps (bench)
Did any other equipment help you to lose weight?
I like using technology and found that collecting data is really useful. I logged my weight every day using a Withings Smart Scale. I tracked my workouts with an app called Endomondo and my Android Wear watch captured my heart rate while I worked out.
I used MyFitnessPal to track my calorie intake. I even tracked my sleep using my watch and an app called Sleep as Android. All of this data is tied together in Google Fit to show how things are going. I set daily and weekly goals.
The data Jeremy collected throughout his weight loss journey
What did you eat before you lost weight?
Wow this is going to be interesting! I drank a lot of beer, maybe about 30 – 50 per week (which presents other problems). I also drank milk and different types of juices around the house, and soda when we’d eat at restaurants.
Vegetables were more of an afterthought, but made their way onto our plates most of the time (frozen, canned, etc). I ate a lot of carbohydrates: breads, pasta, potatoes… those are the part of the meal that fills you up right? Meat was (and always will be) the star of a meal for me. We also used to put a lot of sauces and dips on things.
A typical day used to look like this:
Breakfast – 3x coffees with milk or creamer, no food
Lunch – by 11am I’m starving, and eating leftovers (big bowl of pasta with some meat, no veg).
Dinner – HUGE serving of food for supper. Meat and potatoes or something similar.
Evening Snack – Cheese, chocolate, beer.
What do you eat now?
Here’s a typical day:
Breakfast – small cup of yogurt, black coffee
Lunch – bag steamed rice, vegetables, chicken (prepared, frozen)
Dinner – big piece of meat, lots of vegetables, and a salad with croutons
Snacks – practically nothing, but frozen grapes help with cravings
I eat a lot more fish and chicken now.
What about the beer?
I stopped drinking alcohol completely. But not just for the calories.
How was the journey? Was it straightforward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
Not that I planned it this way, but the first year was all about getting into an exercise routine. I learned to like it and I was motivated by seeing that a good long run on the treadmill could burn 500 – 1000 calories. I liked feeling sore the day after lifting weights, because it meant that I didn’t waste an opportunity. If I was sick or tired, I’d force myself to do something in my gym… cycling instead of running, lifting lighter weights, doing 15 minutes instead of 60. Anything to keep the streak going.
After ~18 months of improving my exercise routine, I had lost about 30lbs. I was still drinking a lot of alcohol, and eating poorly, but was making progress by being more fit. I was within striking distance of my first weight goal: 220lbs.
So in January 2016 I decided that I would make changes to my diet and set a new goal of 190lbs. I stopped drinking alcohol and started logging my food intake using MyFitnessPal. I set an aggressive calorie budget of 1500 calories per day, which would put me on pace to lose 2 – 3 lbs per week. I was strict with my diet and it was very tormenting and both the quality and quantity of what I was able to eat in a day were hard to deal with. But seeing the steep weight loss practically every day was motivating for me. When I got in my groove, I was losing a half a pound a day for weeks at a time!
I plateaued over the summer. I cheated on my diet more and more. I reached my goal of 190lbs in late summer, and promptly thought, “I’ve got this, I know which foods are good and bad, so I’ll just make sure to eat reasonably and keep up with my exercise routine”.
From October to mid January I gained 15lbs back, pushing me to 205lbs. So I started counting calories again and set a goal to be at my 3rd goal of 180lbs by my birthday at the end of March. I got back into my 1500 calorie food budget again, and the weight dropped off like clockwork – 3lbs a week over 6 weeks.
“You can’t blame people for tying to make you eat a piece of cake when you’re on a diet. You have to own your choices”
How has life changed now you’ve lost weight?
I’m a lot more confident now. I get complimented by people on a daily basis. People are nicer to me, for no other reason than I’m more attractive. I get excited about going out and doing activities with my wife and kids now. I feel like I can achieve other difficult goals in life now that I’ve proven I can do this. I’ve also stopped taking my cholesterol medication.
Who helped you the most and who got in the way?
My wife has always been very supportive. Whether it’s cheering me on, letting me change the family’s meals, buying equipment or taking responsibilities off my plate so I can spend time exercising… she’s been amazing.
Nobody has gotten in the way, per se. You can’t blame people for trying to make you eat a piece of cake when you are on a diet. You really have to own your choices from end to end and stop giving a shit what anyone else thinks. Go ahead and hurt someone’s feelings by not taking the food they offer. No explanation required on your part, just a simple “no thanks” will suffice.
What surprised you about losing weight?
I replaced my entire wardrobe twice. I was tightening my belt to the point where I had 6″ of slack before I realized it! You don’t choose where the extra weight goes, or where it will come from when you burn it off. I lost my wedding ring one day – it was falling off without effort because my fingers were not chubby anymore (don’t worry, I found it later).
There are also a lot of strange conversations with people. A lot of people excitedly ask, “How’d you do it?” then get visibly discouraged when I tell them I work out every day and practically starved myself to lose the weight. They want to hear that I made a minor change, like took a pill or ate a different brand of hamburger or something. Some people tell me that I’m too thin (I’m still near the top of the healthy BMI scale for my height), or that I’ve lost enough weight already and to stop (to which I think, you don’t know my goal).
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?
I actually had a great way to remind myself about why I need to be healthy. I had a daily reminder on my phone and at 5:30am every day I would read “Be the man your kids think you are”. I kept it to myself, and it was vague enough that it wouldn’t cause much explanation if somebody else saw it. That set the stage for every day. I knew what it meant every time I read it, and how important my choices were going forward.
You’re Prime Minister for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
I’ve had a libertarian viewpoint about these things for a long time, but I know I’ve made better decisions about my food choices when I know the caloric content. A lot of jurisdictions are making restaurants show the calories of foods on the menus and that WILL get some people thinking differently about what they’re eating. So I’d probably try to help people be more informed about what they’re eating.
What do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
Diet changes are more effective than exercise, but they are both important to overall fitness
Don’t drink your calories
Find what works for you, stick with it in your way, and take accountability for it yourself