I lost 17 kilograms in 6 months

Seriously! โ€” Iโ€™m not kidding.
Here is the story.

It all started in a hotel room ๐Ÿจ

After checking in, I went to my room to shower and have a power nap ๐Ÿ”‹๐Ÿ’ค before getting ready for the wedding that I was attending. It was December 2018. I was in Sfax โ€”south of Tunisia; Andโ€ฆ there was a scale in the bathroom! ๐Ÿ›€

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Me (surprised) ๐Ÿค”โ€” โ€œA bathroom scale! The last time I used one, Obama was still a president! ๐Ÿ˜… Let me see if I still remember how they work.โ€

I got on the scale... I looked down and.. HOLY S#!T ๐Ÿ’ฉ... the number 96.5 showed up ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿฅถ โ€ฆ

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Me (in complete denial) ๐Ÿ™ˆโ€” โ€œNaaaah! What a crap hotel.. Even their bathroom scales are broken...โ€

I managed to convince myself that the hotel bathroom scale was broken! ๐Ÿ˜…

And to calm down more, my inner voice kept telling me that this is a great opportunity to use my expensive Amazon Prime membership to order a new scale for my flat, that may (or may not) display a smaller number โฑ when I stand on it!

So I picked up my phone and searched on Amazon for a bathroom scale with at least 5-star โญ review, for delivery to my home in London next day ๐Ÿšš๐Ÿ“ฆ (even though I wouldnโ€™t be back until the next week).

A few days later, I got on the 5-star โญ scale in my bathroom, more prepared to accept the naked truth. The same number showed up again! The verdict is in. โš– I weight 96.5 kilograms (214 lbs)! ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Sweet zombie Jesus! ๐Ÿคฌ
How the f did I get there!?
What the h is going wrong with my life?

It was obvious โ€” a major change needed to happen.

The secret formula

I wonโ€™t be surprised if Goldman Sachs fires me, given all the time that I spent researching weight loss techniques, nutrition, and fitness โ€”while at work. If you looked at my work desktop at any time between January and March 2019, you would see 1 browser tab (or 25) open with articles or YouTube videos about one of those topics. ๐Ÿ˜…

At the center of my weight loss journey lies a top-secret mathematical formula ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ”ฌ that I discovered on page 27 of Googleโ€™s search results on โ€œhow to lose weightโ€!

This formula states that:

Given:

x = the number of calories that you consume each day.
y = the number of calories that your body burns each day.

If you need to maintain weight, you must ensure that:

x - y = 0

Thatโ€™s it! ๐Ÿคฏ

If your X minus your Y is equal to zero, then you will never ever gain weight!
Scientifically proven! ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ And it works in 100% of the time. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

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In plain English:

DO NOT EAT MORE THAN WHAT YOU NEED ๐Ÿ˜’

It goes without saying that, if you want to lose weight, youโ€™ll have to eat less than what your body actually needs. Do that and your body will start burning fat to compensate for the calorie deficit.

Fatโ€™s main function is to store the energy surplus when we overeat. Back in the old days, when homo-sapiens were scavenging the Savanah and hunting mammoths ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿน, MacDonaldโ€™s wasnโ€™t very popular ๐Ÿ”, so they needed a more reliable source of energy for those days when hunting didnโ€™t go as expected. Hence, fat was an essential survival mechanism.

In todayโ€™s modern society, that survival function of fat is not needed anymore. We still need to moderately consume healthy fats for other purposes (to supply the body with fat-soluble vitamins โ€” for example) but relying on body fat as an energy source... naaaah! Forget about it! ๐Ÿ˜’

Burn that belly fat, baby! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ’ช

Measure, measure, and measure

A key point to the success of my weight loss journey was to measure 2 important things: ๐Ÿ“ˆ๐Ÿ“‹๐Ÿ“Š Calorie consumption, and weight variation.

1. Tracking calories

After doing some research, I decided to go for an aggressive weight loss strategy by consuming only 1500 calories per day. This should allow me to theoretical lose 1kg per week! ๐ŸŽ๏ธ๐Ÿ“‰ (.. numbers depend on current weight, gender, height, etc.. Google โ€œhow many calories to lose weightโ€ to get yours).

To make sure I didnโ€™t exceed my daily calories target, I used an app called MyFitnessPal to log all my meals and exercises ๐Ÿ“‹๐Ÿ”ข. The app calculates the number of calories Iโ€™ve consumed from food and burned from exercise, and lets me know how many calories I have left to eat for the day! โœ…

For example, here is how my logs looked for Wednesday 13th of March:

 
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Magical! ๐ŸŽช๐ŸŽฉ๐Ÿฐ

Tracking calorie consumption has also dramatically changed the way I think about, buy, and consume food. For example, knowing that there are around 360 calories in an average serving of french fries (more than 25% of my daily calories quota ๐Ÿ˜ฑ), I started to systematically ask for fries to be replaced with a salad every time I order a burger or a meal that has fries included in it ๐ŸŸ๐Ÿฅ—.

2. Measuring weight loss

It all started with me standing on a scale! โš–๏ธ And standing on a scale to measure my weight became a daily routineโ€ฆ a habitโ€ฆ a riteโ€ฆ a religious ritual that I practiced everyday for the past 6 months.

I used a mobile app called Simple Weight Tracker to log my weight loss (there are literally hundreds of those apps). Here is how my weight loss curve looked between January and June 2019:

 
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The few spikes that you see there correspond to periods of weakness ๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ’ค where I was not strictly following my calories quota (God forgive my sins! But that cheese raclette ๐Ÿง€๐Ÿณ in the Italian Alps ๐Ÿ”๏ธโ„๏ธ after a long snowboarding day. ๐Ÿ‚ It was totally worth it...)

Even though I was checking my weight (almost) every day, I did only log changes into the app once a week. That's because body-weight measures do vary a lot between 2 consecutive days and does depend on many factors โ€”like what meal you ate last night ๐Ÿ–, how much water you drink ๐Ÿšฐ, and even how often you go to the toilet! ๐Ÿšฝ You will only notice a significant change if you stay on a consistent low-calorie diet for several days or even weeks...

Also, when measuring weight, it's recommended that you take measurements at the same time of the day... and under the same conditions. In my case: I always do it in the morning ๐ŸŒ…, before eating my breakfast ๐Ÿฅ, and before going to the gym. ๐Ÿคธโ€โ™‚๏ธ

And yeah! Don't forget to get naked before you stand on that scaleโ€ฆ You'll make it f'ing impossible to track weight loss if you measure your body weight with your clothes on.

Fasting like a Buddhist monk

Long story short โ€” 4 months into this crazy journey ๐Ÿคฏ, I lost about 12 kilos (26 lbs)โ€ฆ But by the end of May, I reached a plateau: ๐Ÿ›‘ My weight has stabilized at 84.5kg and for two weeks I didnโ€™t see any significant weight decrease ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ despite sticking to my 1500 calories a day diet (You can see the plateau on the weight loss curve ๐Ÿ“ˆ above).

Thatโ€™s when a genius idea ๐Ÿ’ก came to my mind: fastingโ€ฆ like a Buddhist monk ๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™€๏ธ (more or less).

 
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I read about intermittent fasting a while ago, and I decided to give it a try.

Intermittent fasting is a way of scheduling meals that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. It is believed to have all sort of super-natural benefits by its worshipers... ๐Ÿ› from extending life expectancy, to curing cancer, to making you walk on water... ๐Ÿคฏ

For me, I was interested in reducing my calories consumption (the x = y formula from above, remember?) .. And I thought that by better scheduling my meals and by NOT eating for a defined period (aka intermittent fasting), I could push my calorie consumption further down, and hopefully resume my weight loss journey.

To do that, I installed a โ€œfastingโ€ app called Zero (there is an app for everything these days). This app helps you schedule your meals โณ, gives advice on how to fast ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ and allows you to track your fasting progress ๐Ÿ“Š and keeps you motivated.

With Zeroโ€™s guidance, I was able to not eat between 16 and 18 hours per day (sometimes up to 20 hours per day) for an average of 4 days per weekโ€ฆ I never imagined I would need an app for NOT DOING THINGSโ€ฆ but I have to admit, it was very effective. โœ…

Of course, by โ€œfastingโ€ I mean not consuming calories... but I still drink water, tea, and coffee (without sugar) .. This is how my fasting journey looked between the end of May and early June 2019:

 
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Fasting helped me reduce my daily calories consumption from 1500 to 1300 calories per day. ๐Ÿ™Œ And I kept doing it until I reached my target weight of 80 kilograms (177 lbs) by the end of June.

To my surprise, my body quickly adapted to my new eating schedule, and even on the days when I fasted for 20 and 22 hours (and exercised!), I didnโ€™t feel any fatigue or major side effects ๐Ÿ’ช.

Today, I only fast one day per week: usually 20 hours from Sunday night to Monday night... An indulgence ๐Ÿ’ฐ that I have to pay for, especially after those weekends where I blast my calorie quota with junk food and drinks. ๐Ÿฒ๐Ÿป

Things I wish that I knew before I started

I learned so many things about nutrition ๐Ÿ, weight loss, and fitness ๐Ÿ‹๏ธ in the last few months. But there are few things that would have made my journey much easier if I had knew about them earlier.

1. Adjusting calories intake to weight changes

This is probably one of the most overlooked details in most of the weight loss articles.

The number of calories that your body needs depends on your current weight! Which means, if your weight changes, you will need to revisit your daily calorie intake and decrease it.

For me, I started by consuming 1500 calories per day (it was a bit aggressive for my starting weight of 96.5 kilograms / 214 lbs), but after 4 months, my body weight decreased by 12 kilograms (26 lbs) and my body adapted to that daily calorie quantity that I was consuming... and thatโ€™s why I reached a plateau. ๐Ÿ›‘ Itโ€™s only when I started fasting and switched to 1300 calories per day that my weight loss resumed. ๐Ÿ“‰

If I do that again today, I would probably start with a moderate 1700 calories per day and reduce that number by 100 calories each month until I gradually reach 1300 per day. ๐Ÿš€

2. Not all calories are born equal

The source of calories that you take in is as important as how many calories to consume.

For example, 1 bar of Mars chocolate ๐Ÿซ contains 235 calories โ€” so does 150 grams of chicken breast ๐Ÿ”.
The difference though (apart from the taste) is that a Mars bar contains 12 grams of fat and only 4.5 grams of protein, while a chicken breast only has only 4 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein! ๐Ÿคฏ

Initially, I didnโ€™t pay much attention to where I got the calories from โ€” as long as I donโ€™t exceed my daily quota โ€” but Iโ€™ve noticed that it was way more effective to lose weight when I started eating less fat, when I reduced the amount of carbs and increased the amount of proteins that I was eating.

In their Healthy Eating Plate recommendations ๐Ÿฝ๏ธ๐Ÿฅฌ๐Ÿ–, Harvard School of Public Health provides detailed guidance in a simple format to help people make good eating choices! Thatโ€™s the diet that Iโ€™m currently following, and I highly recommend it. ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. Embedding exercise into daily activities

Another little tweak to my lifestyle that I found incredibly useful โ€” and that I wish I had done since day one โ€” is to embed exercise into daily activities.

For example, since mid-May, I started walking ๐Ÿšถ to work instead of taking the tube ๐Ÿš‡ (a.k.a Metro, Subway, Underground .. for my international friends ๐Ÿ˜). To my surprise, walking to work only took 15 minutes longer (40 minute walk vs 25 minutes by tube) and it allowed me to burn ๐Ÿ”ฅ an extra 400 calories per day!..

Imagine how many** donuts ๐Ÿฉ I can eat with 400 extra calories to enjoy! ๐Ÿ˜‹
(**Zero! Do not ๐Ÿ›‘ eat donuts).

 
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Walking the stairs, instead of taking the lift was another example... (the craziest that I've done so far was 12 flights of stairs). ๐Ÿข

I even started enjoying carrying those large water bottle packs from the nearby supermarket, ๐Ÿ’ง rather than ordering them on Amazon Fresh and having them delivered to my door. ๐Ÿ“ฆ

Functional exercise embedded in daily activities allows me to burn about 600 extra calories each day! In most cases, I do not log them into the calorie tracking appโ€ฆ but for long walks that last more than 1 hour, I do usually use Google Fit or RunKeeper to track the distance and the calories burned and I log that into MyFitnessPal to compensate a little bit for the energy lost.

Stop being lazy! Walk the walk! ๐Ÿšถ

At the end of the day

This body transformation has been an enormous learning journey for me. ๐Ÿคฉ It did literally change my life... In addition to losing weight, I also quit occasional smoking ๐Ÿ›‘๐Ÿšฌ (Zero cigarettes in 2019! Boy! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ•บ). I started drinking more moderately, and leading a healthier life. ๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ’†

That's how I ticked off โœ… one of my 2019 New Year resolutions! ๐Ÿ’ช

At the time when I'm writing this (July 2019), when I stand on that fโ€™ing scale, the number 79 shows up!โ€ฆ ๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ˜Ž I have no plans to lose more weight. I'm planning to stick to 79 kilograms (175 lbs) until the end of the summer... And starting from September 2019, I will be working on gaining more weight! ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ

โ€ฆ but not any weight โ—๐Ÿ˜ฎ
I'll start to actively build some stronger and bigger muscles and increase my body muscle mass! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ

To followโ€ฆ โญ๏ธ

โ€” โ€” โ€”

I hope that you enjoyed reading this story, friends! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Let me know what do you think by commenting below! Your questions and suggestions are all welcome... Just write a comment, and Iโ€™ll answer every single one of them! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And please do not hesitate to share this post ๐ŸŒ๐Ÿ“ค๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ with your friends and anyone who may find it useful. โ†—๏ธ๐Ÿ“ข

Thank you, amigos! ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ˜š