So this week ended a 63 week project I started in January 2015.
The project? To lose weight; specifically to get back to 81kg. This post is a summary of how it went, how I tackled the project and what I learnt along the way.
Tl;dr: 11.5kg lost. Set goals, track your progress, give yourself treats and record what you eat.
I’m a judoka; I used to fight in the -71kg category; then -73kg and finally at -81kg when I came to the UK in 1998. Then life happened and my career as a software developer and life in general kicked in and over a period of years that 81 ended up in the high 90s. As a formal lightweight, looking down the barrel of being 100kg was pretty scary. It was a gradual climb that I kinda just talked my way through and kept thinking “sure I’ll drop that extra kilo later” but once it was 10kg+ it’s not a a small tidy up it’s a problem.
So in December 2014, I decided that I was going to solve this problem the way I solve problems at work or in the dojo. Namely, make a plan and follow it.
It started with a spreadsheet. I jumped on the scales (97.8kg OMG!) and from there I used the figure of .25kg per week as a target and worked out how long it “should” take. I made lots of adjustments and changed things so that the final finish date matched up with my birthday in 2016… yes over a year away.
Armed with this, I mapped target weights against target dates (Sunday mornings); and had 63 rows of planned -0.27kg weight losses. A line chart followed, with a nice “burndown chart” layout. Target weight versus actual.
Next, I decided to reward myself for making progress. Things I wanted that I would give myself if I succeeded. I started with small things (a copy of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Vol. 1 (2000 Ad) ) if I hit my week 2 target. Then the Venom Xbox One Twin Charging Cradle at week 5 and a new case for my phone at week 9. You’ll notice that the number of weeks gradually increases. My final reward was a new laptop at week 63.
So the main tools were the spreadsheet, and the bathroom scales. I use the Withings wifi scales which was helpful as I was not good at times at recording my weight; but with the wifi scales just weighing myself was enough as I could check via the app at a later date what I weighed.
Next is MyFitnessPal; the website and the app. This is a great app that makes it super easy to quickly capture what you eat as you go along either by typing it in; or by scanning barcodes.
Runkeeper is next, but only partially related. I have used it since forever to track my runs. But it also has great integrations with other apps like MyFitnessPal and Withings so all the data from all three comes together.
Losing the weight
OK, so the goal was never achieved. I admit that and it does not bother me. The goal was just that a goal. The objective that mattered was shedding some fat. And I am now 11.5kg lighter and healthier and the weight came of in a slow gradual way without any “dieting” or workout regime so I feel happy that the fat is gone for the long-term and that more will go overtime.
I lost on average 0.19kg per week. The most I “lost” in a week was 2.9kg (with next highest being 2.6kg and 1.8kg). The most I gained/regressed was 2.4kg (with next highest being 1.9 and 1.4kg) in one week. I know enough to know that lots of this was “drift weight” or the side effects of large meals or bad weeks and big meals just before weigh-in day.
What went well
The line chart of target weight versus actual was probably the single most effective tool. I looked at that a lot and it did affect the decisins I made about exercise and food choices.
Next tracking what I ate was really interesting and helped a lot in realising where the calories were sneaking into my body.
Rewards; totally worked… a bit.
What went poorly
I put stupid rewards on the plan, too big mainly. Stuff I probably knew from the start that I would never drop the cash to buy even if I hit the target. And I think that hurt me as it devalued the goals. So then I looked less often at the chart and cheated more.
Starting with a sudden drop in weight. I’m a bit torn on this. I lost 5.5kg in the first 4 weeks. Awesome! But it meant that I sat solidly below my target line for the rest of the year. Which I think meant I did not have to work to make the target for most of the year. So as it came closer; I don’t think I had the rehearsed skills to tackle my weight… maybe?
Slacking was an issue. I found that after maybe 6 months I got decidedly slack with the weighing myself, tracking what I ate and updating the spreadsheet and buying myself rewards.
So, the project was a success, I am smaller and healthier. I dropped over 10kg and did it easily and safely. I feel confident that the weight will A) stay off but also B) keep going down.
Going forward, I’ll be redoing the spreadsheet and rewarding myself more often with smaller (sillier) purchases. I’ll be trying to get back into the food tracking as that helped and with the mobile app it is pretty subtle.
Advice for others
Set a goal, map out the loss over time. Plan on small weight loss and track it.
Keep a record of what you eat.
Give yourself toys when you hit your targets.