How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by Elwing » Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:45 pm

(I wrote this down and have no other place to put it. Maybe it is of use to somebody....I hope it does not sound too pedantic)

Between June and December 2009 I went from a very puffy size 48 (97 kilos) to a far more manageable 42 (73 kilos)...Needless to say I feel much better, and people really notice. If I had an euro for every time somebody asked me "How did you do that?" I would be away now on a nice trip to the Bahamas...
I found that when I start explaining few people are actually willing to listen; I can't give them the miracle cure they want, and the truth is probably too simple and too bleak. Except that I didn't find it bleak at all, and had a great, empowering, healthy time dieting!
I’m no nutritionist, and no health freak. I can only tell you what worked for me. I hope some of it may be of help to others.

There are hundreds of diet books in the shops and they baffle me. How do they fill these? The technicalities hardly fill a few pages. I can’t stand fluff and I just want the facts…but it seems there is big money to be made from kind words and padding and sweet talk that softens the blow of the rock hard truth which is this:

energy output > energy input= loss of mass.

So how to apply?

First, find out what you need to lose according to the "Body Mass Index"(BMI) and what your body burns. There are websites for that; ... ulator.htm pretty much has all you need to know. Let's use my case as an example.

length: 168 cm
weight: 97 kilos
female, sedentary lifestyle

BMI: 34.4 Obese.

Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) 2212 calories.

So if eat roughly 2212 calories I should stay the same. A little more, and I gain, a little less, and I lose. A male body, a big tall body uses more energy, of course, but when you start losing weight your energy requirement goes down too so keep on keeping an eye on it.
I also learn after some fiddling that for me a healthy, normal weight would be 70 kgs or less.

As a rule of fist, in order to really start losing some serious weight you should aim for a calorie intake about 500 calories lower than your EER. I went a wee bit lower, and settled for something like 1600 calories a day.

How to plan calories
-get a calorie list. I have one in the Dutch language that cost me about €6 and lists all food products commonly used here, by weight. There are also online versions; I found having a hardcopy in my handbag more practical though. Ask your bookstore, this is all the diet book you will ever need. There are some on Amazon: ... 057203427X
-write everything down in a notebook. Use a kitchen scale to weigh things, look on packaging of readymade products for information, write everything down. Cumbersome at first, but you develop a good idea of how much 100 g is soon. Be stern! That apple may be healthy but it has calories too! Drinks can really add up! *Everything* counts!
-After a few days, analyze. What things on your list take up a lot of calories? Is there something you eat out of habit and can easily do without? Is there something that can easily be replaced with something far less harmful (like sugary soft drinks with diet drinks?) Is there something you enjoy and actually does not have as many calories as you thought and you will be happy to eat more often?

Get started
It is tempting to down cut your diet from 2700 to 1500 calories (or whatever applies to you) one day and be completely disheartened when you can only hold it down to, say, 2300. It is good to aim, and good if you make it, but your body is probably going to complain quite hard. Some people can do it, and some can’t right away but that does not mean all is lost.
Try again the next day, and maybe than you can reach 1800. Try again the next day, and maybe then it’s 1600. Day after, oops, 3000- but then, the day after that, try again. Your body will adapt and it will become easier.
Calmly chip away at the calorie count, do not despair. The worst thing that can happen if you go over the EER is that it may take a day longer to reach your goal.

Listen to yourself and adapt
Diet books unanimously tell me I should never, ever under no circumstance miss breakfast. I should eat 3 small meals and two snacks, and oh, lots of fish and steamed veggies. Some say no carbohydrates (grain based products) others say absolutely no fats, or no sugars… I felt guilty for a while about how I actually do it: I never eat breakfast. I don’t eat snacks. But I do eat two solid meals a day, with quite a bit of fat and lots of pasta. Sometimes I eat a frozen pizza, or a readymade lasagne. I avoid pork in particular and cut down on meat in general, I enjoy plenty of fish though. I’m not into sugary products, but I really should eat more fruits *shame*
A proper nutritionist would not be pleased- but I found out by trial and error that this works for me.

What works for me is not the same as what works for you; you need to fiddle around a bit and find a formula that works for you. You must be able to keep this up in the long run, and you won’t be able to if you are continuously miserable! Compromise:

If you are used to eating a bacon pizza on a Friday night and feel this is one of the things that make your life worth-wile, you could consider eating half a pizza, or that low-calorie pizza in the supermarket freezer(look at the calories on the label, as low-calorie is stretchy term!) , or a home-made veggie pizza without the cheese. All of these can save hundreds of calories, and leave room for something else.
Play around with food groups like meat, fish, pastas, rice, potatoes, see what your body craves for and what you can do without, or with less of. If you have a sweet tooth, stock up on artificial sweeteners. Try to get some of the bad but lovely things in very small packages (like 2 fabulous quality expensive chocolates instead of a huge box full of greasy cheap crap)
This works because you take your diet and life in your own hands, and have full choice and power over it. There is no such thing as an eat-whatever-you-like diet, and you will have to pass on things. But by making the right choices it is possible to have enough enjoyment left to make it sustainable in the long run.
Write down everything, find the problem makers and keep adjusting.
Always keep your eye on the wonderful prize, the EER!

Try to plan your days in advance. Allot a certain amount of calories for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make a list and then go shopping. I buy food for one day at a time, but that is probably not practical for everyone, and you may have to plan several days ahead. Do not buy more than you need as you will be tempted to binge on it.

Realism in small bites
I needed to lose 25 kilos. 25 kilos! That’s like 16.666 big bottles of coke. A bit of research learned me that that would take about 6 months to do at the very least. All very overwhelming!
I told myself that I would quietly start with 5 and not tell anybody so nobody could laugh at me in case of failure and I would award myself with a nice technical gadget if I could do it. After a few false starts and some adjusting in the beginning (I joined the Weight Watchers who aren’t bad and in fact highly recommended, but later did go my own way) this worked out surprisingly quickly. I bought my gadget, did not tell anyone, but felt empowered.
5 kilos may not seem a lot, but this can already make a big health difference.
At 10 kilos, people are starting to notice. There is no stopping now!
15 kilos down, I fit in those cool pants again!
20- I’m believing it can be done, but it is going very slow now.
25! Everything fits again! But I’m still a few kilos above what I should weigh…

Breaking down the huge problem in bite-sized bits each with their own reward makes it possible to handle them. Each of them is a win, and you cannot fail at any stage.

Yes, exercise. That means you too!
Why is this essential? When you eat less than you take in your body compensates by burning material it does not need. When you don’t use your muscles enough, you body will burn them along with your fat and you will be weak and miserable. You have to exercise enough to keep your muscle mass. Improve it would be even better of course, but when you have to move around less weight with the same amount of muscle you will still feel better.

That does not mean jumping around in skin-tight lycra and training for the next Olympics. Well, great if you do and keep it up, but me, well I’m a keyboard potato and I flee in terror when I smell the stale sweat of the sports school.
I looked around, and found there are things I do enjoy. I like going places on my bike. I made a deal with myself to go anywhere within a 5 km range on my iron steed. I huffed and puffed the first few days, but improvement in stamina came surprisingly fast. Then, I expanded my range to 10 km, 20- by the end of the summer I cycled 100 km a week. All in my own time, no hurry, no pressure.
What worked for me may not be the same thing that works for you. Look at your life style and find out what you enjoy. Maybe you like a long walk in the park; do it more often, gradually make them longer. Maybe you work in a high building and there are stairs. If you have problems with your joints you may find swimming enjoyable. You can walk or cycle to work, do some dancing- whatever works.
Remember, you’re not out to become Lance Armstrong. You do this for yourself and no-one else, and you must find an activity you enjoy enough to be able to keep doing in the long run.

Ideally you should lose your excess baggage by exercising so much you burn more than whatever you eat. This is however not for everyone, and there are traps- I did fitness for a while. I hated the stinking place and could not bring myself to keep going there, and also felt very hungry afterwards and entitled to an extra snack or two because I suffered so hard- and I ended up gaining weight, paying a fitness institute I didn’t use, and generally feeling bad about myself. FAIL!

There are sites out there that will tell you how much calories you burn during an hour of cycling, the climbing of a staircase or a good romp between the sheets. I advise caution, since these easily lull one into a false sense of security. Do not add calories to your daily allowance, unless it is really a major, long-lasting outburst of exercise that comes on top of all the activity you normally do during the day.

El's various tips
-If it’s more than a few kilos that have to go, it will take time. Early on, you will lose weight easily, but it becomes harder gradually. If you can lose 2-3 kilos a month you do pretty good. Some times are harder than others. December is a bit of a disaster, for one. In this case I accepted that I would not be able to lose any weight, and instead aimed for not gaining any, and then go ahead with it once the parties are over in Januari. Same thing for vacations, enjoy your vacation, don’t let things get out of hand, and pick up back home when you get back into your regular routine.
-Always shop with a full stomach, keep as little stock of the yummy tempting things at home as possible. Opportunity makes the binger.
-Do not deny yourself everything you enjoy. If you can’t sleep without that chocolate chip cookie, or you need that glass of beer after work- fine. Do count it, and compensate it with something else. It is better to plan a small amount of the things you crave into the diet than struggle and go on a binge later on.
-enlist your loved ones! Most will be happy to support you on the harder moments. Be wary of saboteurs though.
-Most fast food chain restaurants list the calories in their food on their websites and in their restaurants. For a tasty and light lunch, Subways is fantastic, for one.
-ready made meals usually have calories listed in a small table on the box. There are many tasty options out there in the 350-600 calorie range, if you look around a bit. Always look at the actual numbers though, as some “Low-cal” “Diet” and “Light” labelled products are anything but.
-Weight Watchers. Probably the best method out there, which works because it leaves people with a lot of freedom in planning their meals. They don’t do that public weighing with cheer-and-jeer thing any more by the way. In fact they were very discrete about it. It did not work for me, but it is something everyone should try.

-Dining out can be problematic because of social pressure and being unable to calculate the calories in the offered dishes. Here are a few things that may help:
-fish dishes often contain fewer calories than meat dishes.
-creamy “white” sauces usually have more calories than tomato-bases sauces. In a lot of dishes, the sauce is the worst offender. You could consider asking the cook to leave out the sauce.
-consider skipping the entrée, or replace dessert by a nice cup of coffee.
-compensate by using a few hundred calories less the previous day or the day after.
-some cuisines fare better than others…Japanese, Korean and Argentine dishes are often free of greasy sauces and have lean meat and fish options.
-don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

What to avoid
fad diets
Any diet that asks you to throw everything you are used to out of the window and live on a limited choice of food items instead is to be deeply mistrusted. Same for those that cut out entire food groups (like carbohydrates…). Some are downright dangerous, and all are impossible to adhere to in the long run.

crash diets
A diet that is too low in calories may make the body go in “energy saving mode”. Meaning that you will in fact lose less weight, have less energy and gain quicker once you stop. Also, it may be hard to get sufficient nutrients, and of course being constantly hungry will make it hard to keep it up. So don’t overdo it.

Wine and beer contain calories…Don’t forget to count them. Alcohol is surprisingly full of calories, and misguides you because the morning after a drinking session you seem quite a bit lighter. This is because alcohol makes the body lose a lot of water, and this loss is of course not permanent. If you must drink, count every last drop of it.

All pills, teas, powders, rubs and other items that promise miracle weight loss without effort are stone cold scams. There are a few things out there making more realistic claims, and some of them, like Alli, may actually help somewhat, but only in combination with a low-calorie diet and exercise. Funny side effects though, and some other products in the past have down right killed people. Don’t be fooled! There is no miracle cure. They just make money out of your desperation.

empty calories
There are some food items that are really better avoided when on a diet or any other time. Soft drinks are a serious offender, contain huge amounts of sugar and nothing else of nutritional value. Easily replaced with diet drinks. Another serious offender are potato crisps- these are never a meal, always a snack- you can eat a bag of these and after that you will still want dinner. But half a bag of potato crisps, 100g, is 530 calories( more than a Quarter Pounder + cheese), and consists of a bit of starch, a lot of oil, and a huge amount of salt.

“I baked this cake especially for you because I know you love it. Come on, just one piece won’t hurt!”
My mom/ friend/ lover is worried I may get malnourished. Or s/he is afraid s/he will miss the old chubby me. Or s/he thinks the new more confident me will be harder to manipulate. Or s/he feels bad because I can do what s/he can’t. S/he may even be just jealous.
Your attempt to improve your health deserves respect. If you don’t get it, demand it. It is not impolite to refuse food from anyone, but forcing food on somebody who indicates he or she is dieting *is* rude and cruel.

the slippery slope
Once the diet is under way and you are starting to see results it is tempting to loosen up a little. A few calories here, a few calories there, and before you know it, the scales come to a grinding halt. As you lose weight, your energy requirement goes down, because you have less to carry around and your metabolism adjusts. Check and adjust your calorie intake accordingly!
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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by puppygirl » Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:58 pm

:clap Awesome El :) :thumbup :thumbup :thumbup Maybe I should give that a try :scratch
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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by Angelique » Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:59 pm

El, that is the gist of what I've done. The only thing I might add is that weight loss clubs in which everything you've mentioned is done and encouraged are even better!

Not to mention exercising is much more fun and eating out is much easier when with friends who have the same goals you have.

[Edited on 18/1/2010 by Angelique]
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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by fourpawsonthefloor » Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:16 am

Good for you el! :)
I'm actually quite pleasant until I'm awake.

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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by Elwing » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:52 am

Angelique wrote:El, that is the gist of what I've done. The only thing I might add is that weight loss clubs in which everything you've mentioned is done and encouraged are even better!
[Edited on 18/1/2010 by Angelique]
You are completely right there, and I'd recommend this to anyone. Safety in numbers! Me though, I think I have Asperger's syndrome or something (trying to get it diagnosed)...And I find being in a room talking with a group of people I hardly know stressful and that's why I stopped going to Weight Watchers and had to do it on my own.
Also, I got great help from my family exept from my mom who was in the "saboteurs' category :yell
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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by Elfdame » Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:54 pm

Very practical. I am way too self-indulgent and lazy to do it, though. (If I tried walking to places I go, it would take me forever, and I would stink when I got there; never sure how Europeans manage that...?) Am 92 kg and if I had the inner fortitude I'd love to be about 64 kg -- in a perfect world :D. But your advice about keeping your eye on the prize (weight loss and feeling better) and not using a slip-up as an excuse to permanently sabotage oneself is excellent! Discouragement can wreak havoc on any type of self-improvement, and your suggestion to aim at a moderately reduced calorie intake at the beginning of one's adventure instead of wham! cutting out huge amounts of food, seems very useful.

One thing with which I disagree -- and this is only my opinon, not a scientific fact (depending on whom you ask) -- is the diet drinks. Except for maybe plant-based stuff like stevia, I would avoid fake sweetners. Aspartame is the worse, IMO. However, I have friends who have been addicted to Diet Coke for years (decades) and they are still alive and kicking, so ... it's merely a personal superstition, I guess.

By the grace of God I've been exercising regularly for over a year (for me, that's next to miraculous) but the eating still gets to me. One thing I've found is that I take a handful of popcorn, or M&M's, or what have you. If I take ONE PIECE at a time and really chew and ENJOY it, sometimes I get by with less than gulping a bunch. That is the one piece of advice I'd add to your helpful article.

And I do think there might be a market for your piece. Maybe an op-ed part of a local newspaper, or a special health section in a lifestyle magazine, etc. Thank you for giving us the chance to read it. And total congrats on the amazing change in your habits.
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How to lose 25 kilos in 6 months (non-fiction!)

Post by Elwing » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:40 pm

We Europeans like a good stink! :cracked (if you take a shower daily and use a deodorant, don't worry, you won't stink no matter how much you exercise) I live in an old city that really wasn't built for cars. Narrow, bendy roads, no parking space- after building up a little bit of stamina I found I get practically everywhere quicker by bike or foot.

What I said and I would like to repeat, it's not helpful to tell yourself you must lose 28 kilos. That's overwhelming. Try starting to lose 5 or something. Much easier to do, and you will already feel a lot better, and you will have proven to yourself you can do it. If that works out, look at the next bit. Give yourself a big compliment, buy something nice and don't kick yourself because you still have to lose 23. You have won! Even a moderate amount of weight loss will help your heart and you will feel it when walking up the stairs.

Discouragement is the worst part. It may take a while to find a way that works for you. Experiment! If one thing does not work, don't kick yourself- try something else! You haven't lost until you give up.

And the diet drinks. You are probably right, it is better to stock up on teas (liquorice tea is nice. It has a lovely sweet taste and no calories) and exotic coffees. But the artificial sweeteners are still better than lots of unneeded sugar...I drink lots, still not dead. They do the job.

Oh, and one more wierd little tip that works for me: If I get the munchies late at night I put a drop of tabasco on my tongue. It seems to distract the senses somehow. (I have a thing for spicy food)
For some reason they like to make diet food bland. I always add lots of spices. Maybe not so much food, but make sure it tastes great! Peppers, garlic, coriander, all kinds of spices- they don't add much calories, but add hugely to satisfaction. If you eat something, make sure it is worthwhile.

those late night hunger pangs…Sometimes, if you can avoid giving in to them, they just go away. Sometimes it is just boredom. Try to distract yourself, by keeping busy with maybe a computer game, television, hand work…If the hunger still nags you after an hour, eat something. Enough to satisfy; it will avoid a huge binge later on.


[Edited on 19-1-2010 by Elwing]
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