Before you read this I must remind you that I am neither a doctor nor dietitian. If you would like to adopt the same weight loss strategy that I used, you might want to check with your doctor first.
To be honest, I am not sure how this got started. I was not what you would call over-weight. Certainly, my BMI was within range. But there was one big problem. I had a big belly. That is where my body stored most of its fat, and this is the most unhealthy place to store it.
Everything I read about loosing weight suggested that the best approach was diet and exercise. Initially I wrote three apps, one to calculate BMI, one to calculate calories burned for various exercises, and a third to measure percent fat. I was looking good as far as BMI, but the third program suggested that I was too fat. This one focused on girth vs height. It was the program I wrote to calculate the calories burned during exercise that made it clear that I would not be able to reach my weight goal with exercise alone.
This motivated me to look into the next suggestion made to those who want to loose weight, and that is to eat less. The body stores fat for times when food is scarce. We are no longer hunter gatherers. So there is no need to store extra fat. Fat is like the body’s savings account. Store calories for later withdrawals. If Americans were as good at saving money as they are at saving fat, there would be many more millionaires in this country. The important thing to realize is that you can withdraw some of your savings by burning fat to live. There is no magic here. Eat less, and your body will burn some fat to make up the difference.
It is not enough to say you are going to eat less. You must track what you eat. I started with a 3 x 4.5 inch note pad. I do all my own cooking, and have an aversion to processed foods, so calorie counting was a bit more of a challenge than just reading labels. A carrot is not labeled, nor is a tomato. Initially I spent a lot of time on the Internet researching nutrition values for foods. But reading a label or looking up the calories of a food on the Internet is only half the story. The other half is portion size, and portion size is more often than not given in weight. I started weighing what I ate. For this I used an old spring postage scale purchased years ago, long before the digital age. At the time my scale was made, a first class stamp was $0.05 cents. This is actually printed on the scale. Basic, but it did the job.
Above is the scale along with a couple pages in my notebook. The plastic measuring cup weights one ounce. It is handy for measuring things like frozen peas. I cover the platform with wax paper before weighing meat or fish.
Above are two pages from my notebook. The right shows calories for some of the foods I eat by weight. It was up to me to do the math. For example, weight out a cup of peas, find the calories per ounce and do multiplication.
A closeup of the right side will give you an idea of what I used to track calories initially. This was one of two pages of foods that I had collected data on. Later I came to depend more on weight than volume.
My initial attempts were somewhat crude, but they worked. The left side shows a typical day while I was trying to loose weight. The date was 11/12/20. Breakfast was a bit unusual that day. Cucumber salad is not normally my choice for breakfast. For lunch, I had a cup of home made soup. By the end of the day I estimated that I had consumed 774. Did you catch my addition error?
Math errors aside, the other short coming of this approach is that it only tracks calories. Other things are important, like carbs, protein, fats, sodium, fiber, and cholesterol. These are not things you would want to track with a pencil and paper.
After a month and a half I reached my weight goal, loosing around 1.5 pounds a week. I did this primarily by eating less using the crude system described above. A lot less. A rough estimate was that I cut the number of calories I ate in half. In effect, I was not eating enough to live on, so my body generously contributed some stored energy to make up the difference.
In addition to tracking calories, I started to track my weight. Every morning I weighed myself, and measured my girth, belly button high, relaxed and not sucking my gut in. A spreadsheet was perfect for recording this data. The three graphics that follow tell the story. I won’t go into detail on the regression equations, but they turned out to be excellent predictors. They describe a steady decrease in weight of around 0.2 pounds a day on average, 1.5 pounds per week.
According to assumption that extra fat was stored in my belly, as the weight came down so did my girth. You might say that instead of living off the fat of the land, I was living off the fat the belly. I was tapping into my fat reserves. By the end of a month and a half my waist dropped from 37 down to 33 inches. I still measure my weight and waist daily, and at the time of this writing almost one year later, I have maintained my ideal weight 130 pounds, and my girth is in the 32 to 33 inch range.
The last graph shows the calorie consumption during this 43 day period. Once I reached my weight goal, I gradually increased my caloric intake to maintain my weight. On average this turned out to be around 1300 calories per day.
On one of my annual checkups with my doctor I told him about my weight loss program. When the subject of calories for my height and lifestyle came up, without hesitation, he stated 1300 calories should be about right. You can verify this number for your height, age, and activity level by visiting reputable sources on the Internet.