My Big Weight Loss Secret

Sometimes people find out that I’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight[1] and ask me “What’s your secret?” as if there’s one key piece of information that I know that helped me lose weight and get fit. My stock answer is that “I’m more active and eat better.” Everyone knows that’s how you lose weight, right?


No one is ever satisfied by that answer, though, because it’s only part of the equation. It’s harder to tell people that there are a whole bunch of things that you have to change: what you eat, your habits, hobbies, tools, attitude, and self-perception. I’ve been posting my “secrets” to this blog for the past four years. I tried to distill the psychological aspects of weight loss in “How to Lose Weight” but that’s not the only part (although I believe it’s the biggest part).

I’ve been trying to come up with an elevator pitch that condenses my weight loss “secrets” down into a 20–30 second soundbite, but its’ hard to compact a few dozen little things into a pithy statement, and even if I could, people would likely be dissatisfied with that answer anyway.

The Bigger You Are, The Faster You Fall

Here’s something that’s promising: the more weight that you have to lose, the easier the initial pounds come off. It’s encouraging to see weight come off the scale every single day when you’re just starting out with your Clean Livin’ regime, even just a week or two in.

Not everyone has as much to lose as I did, though, so my results are probably atypical and while I’m happy to be an inspiration for anyone, don’t be disappointed if you don’t lose 50 pounds in three months like I did.

As I’ve lost more weight it’s gotten harder to lose weight, and it’ll likely get harder still. I’ve had to reduce my calorie budget a couple of times already since I’m no longer burning as many calories just keeping my now smaller body alive. It’s not terrible. I’ve adjusted by eating healthier, lower-calorie foods so I wouldn’t have to reduce portions to the point where I’m hungry all the time (although I am hungry before I eat).

You’ll have to experiment a little, and adjust your calorie budget based on your weigh-ins, how fast you want to lose, etc.

Surely you’re thinking “I want to lose weight as fast as possible,” but if you want to keep it off, and get healthier while you’re losing weight, that’s probably not your best strategy. Optimal, sustainable (local and organic) weight loss is healthy only if you lose about 1–2 pounds per week, which means creating a calorie deficit of 500–1000 calories per day, either through eating less, eating healthier foods, by exercising more, or some combination of the three.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

A lot of people ask me “what do you eat?” as if there’s a magic weight loss diet. Me? I eat what I like. I try to eat new vegetables, or familiar favorites prepared in a new and exciting way. Novelty helps me. People are so used to various diets that stipulate cutting out entire swathes of foods that they expect I’ll have a short and simple answer like “Oh, I used the Paleo Diet” or “I cut out carbs, fats, and sugar.”

Sometimes people get annoyed with me when I try to simplify my eating strategy down to “I count calories, stay within my budget most days, and eat healthier foods so I’m hardly ever hungry.” Is it because that’s the conventional wisdom that everyone already knows? It’s common knowledge because it works, people.

Constant Feedback

Weigh yourself. Record the weight. Log what food you eat. Count the calories (especially helpful is to plan out a meal before you eat it). Take a tape measure and measure your waist. Take your blood pressure if you have a cuff. Talk to your doctor about measuring your percentage of body fat.

The more you know the more information you’ll have to help you make better decisions.

Check the color of your urine. While cloudy, yellow urine isn’t a sure sign that you’re dehydrated, clear pee is a good sign that you’re well-hydrated, especially if it’s combined with more frequent urination[2].

Wash the Weight Away

You’re not drinking water because you’re thirsty, you’re drinking water to flush out the crud that’s been building up in your system, and making it easier to get the water that comes out of your adipose tissue (i.e. your fat cells) flushed out of your body as you break down the fat cells (which also contain water) to make up for the calorie deficit you’re creating by eating fewer calories. Why weigh all that extra water weight? Go pee that stuff out because you’re hydrating like crazy.

It’s a Decision

That’s all fitness is: a series of good choices that get you to where you want to go.

You are trying to transform your body, but the transformation has to begin in your mind. Imagine an Olympic athlete suddenly inhabited your body (like in one of those Freaky Friday, 18 Again, Vice Versa, or Like Father, Like Son movies, but with an athlete switching bodies with you instead of a relative whose life will inspire you to change. That athlete will likely be frustrated with how your body performs, like asking a race car driver to compete in the Indy 500 in a Prius. You can bet they’d whip their new body into better shape, though. So become that athlete yourself and you won’t have to wait around and hope for a magic mirror, fountain, or fortune cookie.

You’re Not Exercising. You’re An Athlete.

Exercise isn’t something you do for thirty minutes at a certain time every day. It’s who you are. You are motion. You are activity. Every day you’re getting stronger. Your day-over-day improvements in strength, endurance, and speed may be imperceptible to you, but week-over-week, month-after-month you’ll start to find that you can do so much more than you could a month or two ago. Exercise isn’t work. It’s training.

Goals Are Where You Are Going To Be, and What You Are Going To Do To Get There

Your weight loss goals aren’t something that would be nice to do. Your goals are a series of small things that you do that get you incrementally closer to where you want to be. You’re playing the long game, setting milestones and taking every step necessary to get there.

Your goals are small enough that each one should be 100% achievable. You’re going to lose those ten pounds because you’re going to create a calorie deficit every day, by reducing what you eat at most meals, most days, and increasing your activity level to take up the slack.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
– Computer scientist Alan Kay, 1971

So How Did You Lose So Much Weight?

I eat better and move around a lot more.

  1. Okay, sometimes I volunteer that bit of information.  ↩

  2. You should be urinating a lot because you’re drinking a lot of fluids. If you’re not drinking a lot of fluids and still urinating a lot then you should check with your doctor to see if you’re diabetic or have kidney issues.  ↩

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2 Responses to “My Big Weight Loss Secret”

  1. July 20th, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Joe Dempsey, Sr. says:

    In the paragraph named “Garbage In, Garbage Out” you said: “I count calories, stay within my budget most days, and eat healthier foods so I’m hardly ever hungry.” I think most people would like to know /which/ healthier foods. That is a question which is more difficult to answer because it requires you to think and remember which choices you made and relay them to the person asking the question.I fully realize that the choices you made may not seem palatable to the other person but at least you answered their question /fully/. Now, of course, you can simply refer them to this blog.

  2. July 22nd, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Jough Dempsey says:

    It doesn’t matter which healthier foods you eat. Eat things that taste good to you that are low in fat, carbohydrates, sodium, etc. Eat natural foods. I don’t need to try to remember what foods I’ve eaten recently because I keep a log of everything that goes into my mouth. I probably eat something unhealthy every single day, but just in limited quantities. What foods do I eat? Just about everything (I’m not a fan of lima beans). What do I avoid? Hardly anything. I don’t drink soda anymore (diet or otherwise) or eat many fried foods, but I do sometimes. Telling someone that I had a beer, burger, and fries for lunch isn’t helping them lose weight. Telling them that I only had a yogurt with some berries for breakfast and a salad consisting of nothing but vegetables for dinner may help shed some more light on how to lose weight in such a way that it works.

    I have a few posts in the pipeline about healthy pantry items, things I eat when I eat out in restaurants, foods I avoid eating in quantity, and I often write about specific things that I eat. It really doesn’t matter, though. Lower your caloric intake, increase the quality of the food you eat by preparing it yourself, stick to your calorie budget, and you can eat pretty much anything you want. With moderation.

    For example, tonight I’m making country spare ribs, sweet potato, and roasted brussels sprouts. I’ll have one 4 oz rib, no sauce, half of the sweet potato, and one cup of brussels sprouts. That’ll come to about 500 calories, or a bit less than a third of the 1,800 budget I’ve set for myself. Maybe you need a higher budget and can have two ribs. Maybe you don’t like brussels sprouts. Maybe you’ll think my dry-rubbed pork is too dry, or you like it sweeter.

    If you don’t tailor your diet to your own tastes you’ll never be able to keep up with any particular plan. I advise keeping it varied and not eliminating any entire food groups as I like variety and novelty in my diet. We’re always making dishes we’ve never made before, and if you grow tired of one culture’s cuisine there are innumerable new things to try. I tend to adapt a lot of recipes to make healthier versions of them (yet another post or two) but once you’re more mindful of your eating and conscious of what you can avoid to lower the calories in most dishes (hint: reduce the fat, sodium, and sugar) it doesn’t take a centrifuge and laboratory beaker to make dinner (although I do at times wear goggles and a lab coat while cooking).

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.