At the beginning of the pandemic, it seemed there was a global conspiracy to keep everyone “fat, dumb, and happy.” Why else would there be a sudden uptick in sourdough baking, and then, just when we started thinking it might be time to get off our growing butts, the mysterious arrival of Bridgerton and WandaVision?
There was a moment last summer, after months of carbo-loading on homemade pretzels and binging Nordic Noir, when I finally swept the cobwebs off my scale, considering, in a moment between batches of baked goods, that when the world slowly began to reopen it might – shock and horror – occur right at the start of swimsuit season. And I decided to do a little conspiring of my own and get in shape.
For the record, I was already paunchy and round-of-cheek going into the pandemic, though I could rely on my relatively broad, six-foot-one frame to passably carry it under a boxy blazer. The number that glowered back at me from the scale that fateful day, however, made it plain that I was courting some serious health issues if I didn’t roll it back. And they don't make blazers in size "tent."
This is how I did it...
Weight loss is a numbers racket. At least that's what I would say if I was a day player in The Sopranos. Without numbers, all you have are hopes and dreams, and any adult can tell you how those turn out. You need metrics. You need an honest number with which to start and an aspirational number to know when to stop. (Pro tip: the second number should be smaller.)
So to start things off, get yourself a digital scale. Why? Not only are digital scales more accurate than ye olde analog models, but they will also weigh you down to the ounce, and you want to see every win as it comes. Lose a tenth of a pound? Yay! These micro victories add up quickly and you will need positive reinforcement to encourage you to continue.
That said, don’t get too weird about it... like waiting for a bowel movement before weighing yourself. I get it, I’ve been there, you wanna weigh you not your poop. But unless you’re literally full of shit, it’s not going to make much of a difference – especially if it interferes with my next recommendation:
The Weekly Weigh-In.
Pick a day that you can commit to, and make it your weekly weigh-in day. Six days out of seven, hide your scale from yourself.
No, but seriously, you must resist weighing yourself daily. The normal fluctuations in your weight due to water retention and other factors (see above) will seem erratic and distressing. The weekly weigh-in, however will be a sort of average, especially if you opt for, like, a Wednesday (far from a more licentious weekend of eating).
Once you have a means of capturing this most basic of metrics — your weight — you need to abide by this Karate Kid-style maxim: "Calories in, calories out." I'm in no way, shape, or form a nutritionist, a dietitian, or medical practitioner but I am a dude who lost 30 pounds by burning a smidge more calories than he was eating. I didn't starve or over-exert myself, I simply ate less and moved more. To make sure I did both, I relied more on tech than technique.
You Are What You App
Get a food tracker app. These come in every form under the sun. Pick one. Some are more convenient than others, like those that scan barcodes on packaged goods and record the calories and serving size data. I used an app called Lose It for no reason other than its name matched what I was about to do with my mind after learning my true weight. It worked great – I even upgraded to a premium membership just to feel more invested in the process.
Here's a point of consideration: Some foods, particularly those you should be eating, i.e., those that are neither processed nor consumer packaged goods – don’t come with handy, scannable barcodes. The celery from your local farmers’ market is not part of the Matrix known as the universal price code system. So supplement your app with another bit of tech: a digital kitchen scale. Like your new bathroom scale, it will help you keep accurate totals, and accuracy equals accountability.
Tracking your food means you're tracking your calories. Your app will help you here by calculating the number of calories you should eat in a day to reach your goal. This will usually be a deficit of only a few hundred to 500 calories. Keeping in mind that there are approximately 3500 calories in a pound, you can see that shaving 500 out of your daily diet becomes a pound a week in weight loss. This is generally a safe rate for weight loss, though your doctor would know the specific thresholds that are appropriate for you. If you want to learn more about the importance of smart calorie counting for weight loss, read our interview with Jillian Michaels. She defines what a calorie is, shares the scientific law of thermodynamics behind it, and the simple math to track calories for ease of understanding.
Obtain an indoor exercise machine that doesn't require you to go outside or pay for a gym membership. COVID-19 has made me a germaphobe. At this point, I can't fathom touching a piece of equipment someone else has even glanced at.
Fortunately, there’s been a relative explosion of home exercise gear on the market, which is a boon for an introverted weirdo like me. My requirements for my new at-home hamster wheel were few: it needed to be discrete, durable, and have a digital readout of calories burned. For my purposes, this was the DeskCycle 2 Adjustable Height Under-Desk Exercise Bike / Pedal Exerciser. It started, aptly, given its name, under my desk, but it now lives quite invisibly beneath a coffee table. I got it for two hundred bucks on Amazon. Though there were less expensive variants, this one’s sturdy construction meant it could withstand the antics of my tween-age boys who would inevitably turn it into some kind of kinetic sculpture.
What’s germane is the counter for calories burned. If I ate over my daily allotment of calories, I would simply hop on The Wheel, as I came to call it, and pedal them off while Wallander solved crimes in Malmo by way of Netflix.
It took a week for the Karate Kid process to become a habit and about a month for it to become a lifestyle. Four months after that, and I was 30 pounds lighter, all from abiding by the most modest of metrics. Though others may quantify every element of their physical existence as if they were a lab rat (see our app rant here), this is what worked for me. And I still got the cheese.
Related on Organic Authority
Calorie Counting is the Only Way to Lose Weight, According to Jillian Michaels
5 Pro Tips from Jillian Michaels to Thrive In Challenging Times
Quitting Sugar? Here’s How to Handle the Withdrawal