80 #Pounds Down - The Hashtag Diet
281.2 lb. ⇒ 198 lb.
In January of 2007 I began the second semester of my Sophomore year at the University of Michigan. I had just completed my first semester of business school. I was putting 25+ hours a week into Halo 2 with my roommate; we were on the cusp of becoming a top-ranked duo. I was trading stocks with most of the $800 I had to my name. I was eating ravioli, discount pizza, and thrice-weekly twice-baked ziti.
Some snapshots of body composition change over the last 6 years. Notice that my nipples are still very tiny.
I signed up for a nutrition class to balance out a schedule which included corporate accounting, financial accounting, communication through memos, and "How to Dress Up a Spreadsheet."
In Nutrition 101, I was inundated with statistics on morbidity, obesity, and kCal density. For extra credit, I was probed to record as many body measurements as possible, change my diet, and re-record at the end of the semester. During the announcement, I was asked politely to put my pants back on and proceed with body measuring on my own time.
I really only cared about my weight (281 lbs), my body fat percentage (34%), and my before and after picture. My roommate and I did weekly bootcamps at the Central Campus Recreation Building (CCRB) near our dorm. After each class and week of weight loss, we would congratulate each other by ordering a celebratory pizza.
I lost 15 pounds during the semester. By January of 2008, 1 year later, I was down 45 pounds. I was eating a steady diet of turkey sandwiches, clearance chicken breasts, and pork chops. My metabolism was diving into slo-mo, and my hands were starting to get cold. I pushed on, adopting new sporting activities like volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and bullshitting during interviews. These all burn calories.
Long story shortcake, I lost a lot of weight. Until now, I've been hesitant to share this story because it was so personal and my strategy shifted many times, often in contradictory directions. By restricting calories, I messed up my metabolism for several years.
Let's skip to the good stuff. The mother fucking punchline, as I like to say. I want to offer you a shortcut to what I believe is the ideal, so that you don't have to trial and error as much as I did. Don't worry, you'll still have plenty of work to do.
Tips and Tricks
I’ve attempted to take what has worked best for me and apply it generally below:
- Only stock the good stuff. Keep that pantry line looking sexy. You eat mostly at home, so keep an inventory of your favorite, healthy food at your fingertips. It is especially important to find one or two healthy recipes that you know you’re good at cooking and can repeat until your repertoire expands.
- Walk > 2 miles every day. Rigorous exercise will come and go, but I believe daily movement is key. Coming back from a month-long trip to Guatemala, one thing that immediately hit me is how much Americans sit: at work, at home, when we eat. I like to walk before, during, or after meals. Many apps or gadgets can track your walking for free (on your phone).
- Don’t eat sugar. Keep it away from your daily route, limit it around holidays. When my mom started taking blood-sugar-reducing and blood pressure pills, I asked her to “get off” sugar immediately. A year later, both her blood sugar and blood pressure have dropped by 50% - to near normal levels - without the pills.
- Eat great fats, don’t eat bad fats.
Food Fats turned into Good Blood Fats
Great fats I eat often: Grass fed butter, dark chocolate, avocados, fatty pastured bacon, grass fed & grass finished steak/burger, free range chicken + skin, dark-yolked eggs, olives, coconut/avocado/palm oil
- Bad fats I don’t eat: Trans fat, hydrogenated fat (margarine), partially hydrogenated oil, canola oil, other vegetable oil
- Note: Extra virgin olive oil is great, but I don’t cook with it. It should not be heated up past 220 degrees (in theory). I cook with coconut/avocado oil, butter/ghee, or bacon grease.
- Note: Animal fat: Only eat it if you know the animal was fed what it was meant to eat.
- Chickens = bugs and soil stuff
- Cows = grass and weeds
- Pigs = fed outside of a concrete box
- Decide when and what you’re going to drink. Fuck Gatorade, Diet Coke, Snapple… everything. If it is liquid, it should be water or have < 10 g sugar per 12 oz. For alcohol, I have shifted to tequila, vodka and low-sugar cider.
- Learn to read a food label. Takes ~ 2 years, but it is worth it. Until then don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients, unless you know the person who made it.
- Consider going gluten-free and grain-free. Anecdotally, it has worked out well for everyone I know that has done it. Scientifically, I don’t think eating modern strains of grain offer any benefits whatsoever, but can have many drawbacks for many people.
- Consider going casein-free. Casein is a protein found in milk, and by extension cheese. I still eat Feta and Goat cheese once in a blue corn moon.
- Fed Up: Netflix
- Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: Netflix
- A Place at the Table: Netflix
Top Mobile Apps
- MyFitnessPal: Gives me a quick pictures of my carb/protein/fat ratio for the day
- Moves: Tracks my steps, gives me a map of my movement
- Buddhify: 8 minute guided meditations
- ShopWell: Input food preferences, and then scan a food label to get a personalized score
Let me know if you have any questions on eating for good health! In general I’m an avocado advocate. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out my Bulletproof coaching health plan consult!