Weight loss by the book: Amazing Loser Dan Pickens

Dealing with disappointment on the scales

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While weight loss isn’t rocket science (just er… regular science), it definitely takes grit and determination to do and you could do worse than taking advice from those who have been there, done that and got the (significantly smaller) t-shirt. This week’s Amazing Loser Dan has been so successful on his weight loss journey partly down to absorbing as much information about weight loss as he can, and now he’s passing on what he’s learned…

  • Name: Dan Pickens (ask him anything on Talk, follow him on Twitter or Instagram)
  • Location: Williamstown, New Jersey
  • Job: IT technician
  • Height: 5’8″ (173cm)
  • Age: 29
  • Highest weight: 265lbs (118kg)
  • Lowest weight:  Currently 190lbs (86kg), with a goal weight of 170/175lbs (77/79kg)
  • Plan: Low carb, high fat, moderate protein Paleo/keto hybrid.

How did you get to the position where you needed to lose weight?

I have been obese since I hit puberty right around 11 years old. For most of my life I had zero interest in anything fitness related (despite being a big sports fan), and I had no discipline whatsoever, whether it was for working out, or eating right.
I have struggled with my weight my entire life and I tried and failed so many times from around 15 years old. I would estimate in high school that I reached a peak of 220-250 pounds for most of those years (which was pretty big relative to my age and heights).
In my 20s I kept myself at slightly lower weight, but I cared way more about my beer intake and “having fun” than my health. I got to a point where I was drinking the equivalent of 2-4 six packs of heavy craft beer a week, and a lot of whiskey on top of the terrible diet I had. I was probably having some sort of drink 4-5 nights a week. Right around 27 years old I found myself back up to 255-260 pounds.

[blocktext align=”right”]”I cared way more about my beer intake and ‘having fun’ than my health”[/blocktext]

What negative experiences did you have of being overweight?

The most negative impact that my weight has had on me was what it did to my confidence and self esteem. Being overweight instills a sense of inferiority from a young age.

The first terrible anxiety I ever had was in elementary school when they were doing scoliosis tests and I was so afraid of taking my shirt off in front of the class that I begged my father to let me stay home from school. That pretty much set the tone for my entire life to come.

In highschool, I made many awkward and flat out terrible attempts at dating girls, and I had zero self confidence. I was awful at speaking in front of crowds and in social situations in general. I was generally a very lazy person. It was all because of my weight and the image I had of myself in my brain. When you grow up like that, it bleeds into your adulthood, and it really took me a while to believe in myself and get my life together career wise.

What made you decide to change?

The breaking point came when my wonderful girlfriend, now fiance, bought me a pair of jeans that were a size 44 waist, and they were SNUG on me. It was very crushing. I looked in the mirror at my chubby face and man boobs and just could not take it anymore.

This started what I would estimate as a 2 year journey to get my ass in shape. In the beginning, I made some progress but it still went up and down. I experimented with a lot of ways of eating before I found what works for me.

I didn’t really get locked in until September of 2016, when my fiance was diagnosed with Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer and I made a promise with myself that I would be fit and healthy for her while she was going through this. In my mind, there was no excuse for me to be fat and unhealthy while she was fighting this (she is doing great now and recovering).

On top of all of this, I was deathly afraid of my family medical history. My mother died when she was 33 years old. She was a very unhealthy woman. I was looking at myself at 27/28 and going down that road, and I did not want to end up like that.

[blocktext align=”right”]”I looked in the mirror at my chubby face and man boobs and just could not take it anymore”[/blocktext]

What made it different from the times before?

I figured out what works for me, as far as diet and fitness goes. I did research and read books about the science of exercise and some great books on diets and the thinking behind avoiding sugar and grains. Vinnie Tortorich’s Fitness Confidential, Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, and listening to Dr. Dom D’agostino (a medical doctor who does research on ketogenic diets) really helped me out and set the tone for what would become my diet.
I was a huge skeptic at first. I had been eating pasta, potatoes, bread and rice my entire life. They told me it was healthy! But I could not deny how different and amazing I began to feel eating a lot of fat, cutting down on my protein and drastically eliminating my carbs. The weight started melting off.

How did you do it?

As far as diet, I eat most likely what would be called “Lazy Keto”. I do my best to keep my carbs under 20 grams per day and to keep my body in ketosis. Some days here and there I go above and hit around 40-50g of carbs.

The most important thing for me is to keep my calories at around 1500-1600 to stay at a deficit, and to avoid all grains, sugars and starches (besides the occasional treat meal). Eating those things may work for other people, but not me.
I also do a full body weightlifting routine 3 days a week (bench, deadlift, OHP, Squat, mix in some kettlebells) with 1-2 days of running or rowing.
I also practice intermittent fasting which, I believe, gives me an unbelievable amount of energy. I only eat between 12pm-8pm.
What tips do you have for someone who is interested in trying out intermittent fasting?
The best thing to know about fasting is that at first for some people, including me, is that it’s very hard. You are used to being told that you HAVE to eat breakfast. You have done it your entire life and are used to being told that it’s the most important part of the day. This was hard for me to get past.
But I eat between 12pm and 8pm every day. I take in zero calories from 8pm to noon the next day (obviously with life occurrences, holidays and treats it changes once in a while, but otherwise, and most importantly, I am consistent). I only drink water, tea or coffee until 12pm. Some people do the bulletproof coffee (coffee made with unsalted butter or ghee) and still consider it a fast, but I disagree as to me, a fast is not taking in ANY calories (and obviously butter has calories).
This method of eating has improved my physical and mental energy, It has made me feel like I have control of my hunger and cravings for the first time in my life. I feel like I have mastered myself. I would highly recommend reading anything by Dr Jason Fung on the subject to get more into the science of this.
My tips would be:
1. Drink a lot of water. Most people don’t realize that when they feel hunger pangs, they are most likely thirsty. If you feel hungry in the morning, drink a nice big glass of water and then some coffee and you’ll realize that you don’t really have to eat. People drink way too many sugary drinks like juice, soda, sweet teas, coffee/Starbucks drinks that are just pumped with sugar and milk basically turning it into a milk shake,  and they don’t drink enough water, which makes us even more “hungry”.
2. Keep yourself busy. Boredom = wanting to eat when you really don’t have to


3. Stick with your diet. Just because you’re fasting doesn’t mean you can eat like garbage.
4. Consistency. Even if you mess up one day, or give in at first, just start up again the next day and do not give up.
5. Work out while fasting. It feels great!
What did you eat before you lost weight?
When I was unhealthy, I would usually start my day with a bagel breakfast sandwich and a coffee. Lunch would be some sort of sandwich or burger (emphasis on bread) with fries of course. Maybe mozzarella sticks or pizza. I loved pizza and deli food. I was addicted to french fries! Dinner would usually be a huge piece of meat with pasta or some vegetables. Plus a lot of sugary stuff snuck in throughout the day, and of course there was alcohol at night.
What do you eat now?
I skip breakfast, except for a lot of black coffee. Around noon/1pm ill have a lunch of all vegetables and fats. I stock my office kitchen with coconut oil, butter, tuna, sardines, cheese, nuts, salad vegetables, avocado, and olive oil. I keep my lunch at around 300-700 calories so I can have around 1000 calories to play with for dinner. At dinner I have my big protein and a heaping serving of vegetables, and maybe some more cheese.
I’ll have cheat meals here and there. I treat anything with bread, dough and starches the same way someone would treat having a cake or a dessert. After a cheat day, I always fast until dinner the next day. I can’t emphasize enough how much the practice of fasting has helped me.
How was the journey? Was it straightforward or were there a few plateaus along the way?
I can’t even count how many plateaus and failures I have hit since I was a teenager. But the most important thing is that you never give up and keep going until you find what works for you. I am still a work in progress, as is everyone. I believe I simply have to work harder than some other people but thats the card I was dealt. Now I’ve gotta get rid of these last 15-20 pounds and lean out.
[blocktext align=”right”]”The most important thing is that you never give up – keep going until you find what works for you”[/blocktext]
How has life changed now you’ve lost weight?
I have never experienced the amount of energy I have throughout the day until now. I never get that 2-3 o’clock tired feeling at work anymore. I wake up in the morning and I actually enjoy lifting and exercising. My confidence in myself is high, and I feel like I can conquer anything. Clothes fitting way better improves your quality of life so much, you don’t even realize when you are really heavy.
Who helped you the most and who got in the way?
First off, my fiance Erika helps me the most. Every time I make a food choice, every time I step in the gym, it is to better myself. And she inspires me to be a better man every single day of my life.
Secondly, fitness and health podcasts and books have helped me enormously. Vinnie Tortorich, Dom D’agostino, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Jason Fung, all of these people have changed my life and I have never even met them. I went on a mission to absorb as much knowledge as I could to the point where most people would be bored to hell. I listen to lectures and audio books in my car and at the gym. I don’t think I will ever stop.
Can you recommend any podcasts?
Vinnie Tortorich’s Fitness Confidential podcast – #1!! I love Vinnie because he is straight up and honest with no intent to try to sell you anything. He gives out all of the information for free, doesn’t try to get subscriber fees from you, doesn’t try to sell you BS supplements etc., which in turn makes you WANT to contribute in any way you can.
His book and podcast have helped me tremendously. He answers every question asked to him on twitter, no matter how many times he has been asked a certain question, and no matter who it is. I never thought a fitness and internet personality would be so accessible and helpful. The guy is just a lifesaver. There is a lot of inauthentic hucksters out there, ESPECIALLY in the paleo/low carb high fat/keto world and he is not one of them.
Abel James’ Fat Burning Man Podcast – Abel is really great with cool ideas for recipes. He’s interesting, funny and he really knows how to connect to normal people who have struggled their entire life with these issues. Really great listen.
The Keto Subreddit on Reddit – Look, I know this isn’t podcast, but the people in this subreddit have helped me a lot. I can’t thank them enough. A great, positive environment to learn and share your ideas and stories.
What surprised you about losing weight?
I think when you lose weight and have a better self image, people respond to that much better. I think people are nicer and more receptive to you in public, in general. The difference has surprised me. Physically, I was surprised at how much my endurance has improved. I ran my first 5k this weekend with little to no preparation and I did very well.
If you could go back to the person you were at your heaviest – what would you say to him?
I would go back in time to high school, smack the 2 litre Pepsi out of my hands, wipe the cool ranch Doritos from my mouth and tell myself to stop being lazy.
I’d also tell myself how rewarding and worth the effort it is to work out, be healthy,and feel good about yourself. Also, I would warn me not to ask out that girl to junior prom, because she is going to say no and you will spend your junior prom night playing guitar and wallowing in self pity.
You’re President for the day, what one law do you bring in to help others who are obese?
I would subsidize real vegetables, instead of forcing all of our farmers to produce billions of acres of corn and soy which goes into products that are literally killing us. I would also implement free courses for parents who are not educated in proper nutrition. As a former manager of a corporate pizza chain, I felt terrible when I would see kids coming in my restaurant at very young ages already overweight, and in some cases, very obese, and eating the crap I was serving constantly.

What do other fat men need to know about losing weight?
1. Patience and consistency over time produces results. Instant gratification is something you will need to abandon.
2. No amount of shakes, pills, “body wraps”, supplements etc will ever replace real food. Do not fall for multi level marketing scams, and even the GNC type companies of the world. You don’t need any of it. Eat real, fresh food.
3. A lot of low carbers and keto people disagree with me here, but I believe calories are king. So no matter what your diet is, at least track what you are eating. Weight is lost primarily in the kitchen, exercise is the supplement.
What will you do when you hit your goal weight, do you have a plan for how you’re going to maintain your weight loss?
When I hit my goal weight, I am going to see where my body fat percentage is and if I am happy with it, I will continue lifting and exercising to maintain.
My goal for the future is to conquer a lot of physical endeavors I personally never felt was possible for me, like longer marathons, mud runs, obstacle courses and very long, treacherous hikes. But I will not go back to eating the way I used to, it is not worth it.
Our thanks to Dan and don’t forget – as with all our Amazing Losers and their weight loss before and after stories, you can find him on Talk and ask him anything you like! 

If you want to make a change to your life right now – then simply sign up for one of our free 30 day online weight programmes, the only thing you’ve got to lose is fat…


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