Friendly warning: this post isn’t really about anime. This is instead a personal story about something I experienced that I wanted to document somehow. If you’re here for updates on 30-year-old ecchi anime, I’m sorry. Today is a little different. Today is about a terrible realization I had and the epic weight loss journey that followed from it.
My relationship with my weight was… ignorant. I last weighed myself when I was a teenager. Back then, the scale told me that I was 85 kilograms, or 183 pounds. At 185cm (6.1 feet) that put me just within the boundaries of a healthy BMI score. I was content with that and took it as static fact for years to come. I weighed 85 kilograms and that’s that.
Over the years I’d gotten some signals from people telling me that I was putting on weight, but I dismissed them. I was just wearing the wrong clothes or I was sitting in a way that made me look chubbier. After all, I weighed 85 kilograms half a lifetime ago and I hadn’t really changed my (eating) habits since then. This mindset persisted until July of 2022, when I decided to weigh myself again. I was so confident that everything would be just as I had expected, which made the shock all the greater. 98 kilograms. 216 pounds. I wasn’t just overweight now; I was past the halfway mark to count as obese.
How did this happen?
Well, firstly, it was naive of me to think that my lifestyle hadn’t changed. Age, for example, had begun deteriorating my body’s natural metabolism. Even though I still ate as much as I always had, my body was processing it much slower than before.
On top of that, I got way less exercise than I used to. As a teen I had mandatory PE and all my jobs had been heavy, physical labor. I was now an IT expert who mainly worked from home. Even my insistence that I was eating the same food as always was, frankly, delusional. There was definitely a difference between the two slices of brown bread with a bit of cheese between that I ate while working in a sawmill and the luxury sandwiches that had become a daily ritual for me now. Not to mention the alcohol.
So with reality poured over me like a bucket of ice water, I decided that I had to take action. And since it’s me we’re talking about, that action had to be completely unrealistic. Step 1 was installing an app called Fitatu. It’s a nifty little tracker that lets you scan food labels to document what you eat and how much you should be eating. It also adjusts your daily allowances to help you reach weight goals and even has features to help you find suitable, healthy meals. Step 2 was to disregard this advice completely.
For the first few weeks, I was effectively torturing myself. I exclusively drank water and coffee while eating fat-free yoghurt for breakfast, a pack of pre-cooked chicken for lunch, and as light of a dinner as I could get away with. There were several concurrent days where I was consuming about 1000kcal a day. Less than half of what Fitatu was telling me to eat. At the same time, I was exercising a lot. I went on long walks, bought a hometrainer that I used nearly every day, and was doing some muscle training too. It was effective for sure. I was down 5 kilograms by August, but even I realized that this was incredibly unhealthy. People were getting mad at me because I was literally starving myself.
I changed my plans again, eventually settling into a habit where I was taking in about 2000-2400 kcal a day. This is where Fitatu came in really handy, as it helped me get a perspective on what is and isn’t healthy food. Labels are nice and all, but they are hard to parse in isolation. But when you scan a pack of sausages at the supermarket and watch your daily allowance for fat shoot into the red… that’s worrying.
One example that comes to mind are walnuts and the like. I used to eat a lot of nuts as a snack. I figured they must be healthy since they’re a product of nature after all. Turns out that, in actuality, nuts are a tactical nuclear strike of fat and calories. A hundred grams of the kind I was buying has 700kcal in it and 60 grams of fat. Admittedly these are healthier, natural fats, but I was eating packs of 300 grams of these. Effectively exceeding my daily fat allowance thrice over on just my evening snack.
It’s in this phase of my weight loss effort that I began learning some very useful information. Little tricks that helped me cut down on a lot calories without affecting the quantity of food all that much. Among them, these were some of the most helpful:
- Meat replacements are really good these days and significantly healthier in almost all cases. You will taste a difference, but oftentimes that difference wasn’t strictly bad.
- If water is too boring, then low-caloric alternatives of drink brands are usually pretty good. A can of Coca Cola has 138 kcal. A can of Coca Cola Zero Sugar is like 1 kcal and a bit of salt. That’s a trade-off I could live with.
- Sauces are very treacherous. Even in little doses, they tend to have a lot of calories and high fat percentages. I’d rather spend extra effort on applying spices or marinating my food so I don’t even need to coat it in sauce to begin with.
- If you don’t like meat replacements for whatever reason, then chicken is the way to go. Chicken meat is easy to prepare, can be used in lots of different ways, and is very healthy. It’s high in protein, while being comparatively superlight on calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
The nice thing about this whole process is that these habits ended up sticking with me. I got used to regularly eating vegan meals and drinking calory-free drinks. Over time my appetite shifted. I got used to eating smaller portions of food. Before, a meal for me was potatoes with gravy, two pieces of meat, and veggies with sauce on them as a side. Now a meal can just be a salad or some soup. When I do eat a full meal like before, it’s made up of healthier ingredients and prepared with far more care.
With this approach, I enjoyed a lot of success. My goal for 2022 was to get back to that fabled 85 kilograms, which I achieved by early November. A weight loss of 13 kilograms in about 4.5 months. I was down to 84 by year’s end. I then set a new goal for myself to be at 78 kilograms (171 pounds) by the end of 2023. Mostly because it sounded neat to have lost 20 kilograms in total. I ended up making that goal by early April of 2023. And I wasn’t even actively trying to anymore. The habits had stuck so well that I needn’t even make an effort anymore.
In fact, my problem now is that Fitatu thinks I am trying to GAIN weight instead. It keeps telling me to eat way more than I can stomach just to get me back to 78. It doesn’t appear to have a setting for just maintaining whatever weight I currently have.
In retrospect, I gotta say that I am happy I did this. It was a shock to learn how much weight I had gained at first, but now I feel more confident, fitter, and happier than I had before. I have become a far better cook and I learned a lot of useful trivia about food and how our bodies process it. Best of all, I achieved all this without changing a damn thing to my drinking habits. Cheers!