I've lost 66 pounds and dropped more than a dozen inches around my waist, and people have noticed. Even people who have managed to resist asking me questions before this week have finally start to quiz me for details now that I've begun wearing better-fitting clothes! I've had to come up with a set of recommendations and advice.
What I Recommend
I'm not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, nor your mother. The advice I would give now — if I were giving advice — would be slightly different from the advice I took when I started. Over the last 17 weeks I've learned some things and had a chance to try different approaches, and from my new lighter perspective I tend to be more relaxed about things than I was in the beginning. I was desperate then.
Looking back, the best way to describe the path I've followed to lose 66 pounds in four months is simply this: Atkins done faithfully. I've seen many people take the over-simplified idea from the original Atkins plan that you can eat all the protein and fat you want so long as you keep the carbohydrates low to stay in ketosis. There is some truth to that, but it will inevitably leads to slower weight loss and even rapid weight gain once you exit ketosis.
Face it: if you're a large person, like I was, the real problem is probably that you eat too much. If you're like me, the problem is even worse, because I was honestly convinced I didn't eat too much, but was paying the price for past bad eating habits. Looking back now, I realize that I was still eating too much. Maybe you're different. Maybe it's glandular. I'm still not a doctor, so I don't know. In my admittedly amateur observation, people my former size and larger tend to eat too much.
Any plan that includes "eat all you want" seems like a recipe for long-term disaster. Unless that sentence ends with "… then run two marathons a day," you're probably going to end up taking in more calories than your body uses, and where are those calories supposed to go? Long-term success depends on establishing a lifestyle in which the number of calories you consume is right in line (while losing weight, slightly less) with the number of calories you burn. Removing the bun (and the single slice of cheese stuck to the bun) from a Jack in the Box Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich cuts the carbs and the calories. Ordering a second Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich to make up for that is just a bad idea. You might still lose weight now, thanks to the ketogenic effect, but what's going to happen when you eventually go back to eating the bun? If you're still eating two sandwiches, you're likely to gain weight quickly!
Just eating less and exercising more will eventually get the job done, but that is difficult and slow. A low-carb diet helps accelerate things, which helps motivation, and if you spend the time building habits that will keep you going after you start eating more carbs again, you won't balloon up once you end the diet. I can offer an example: my wife. I've mentioned that she finally started the low-carb diet along with me, and that she had great success. She is about to embark on a three-week vacation visiting family, and she decided last week she wouldn't be able to continue the low-carb routine, and wasn't even going to really try. We've heard stories of people "adjusting" by gaining eight to ten pounds, and she was deeply concerned about this, but she only gained three, and then quickly lost them again. Nine days after re-introducing bread to her diet, she's actually one pound lighter! She knows her weight loss will be slower from here on out, but as long as she consumes fewer calories than she burns, it should continue.
I've only got three weeks to go, and I'm spending a few days between now and then visiting family in the northeastern U.S., where clam chowder is king. With most recipes, a single cup of clam chowder contains more carbs than I've had in any entire day since June. So I'm going to eat half a cup. Or maybe a cup. Look for even slower weight loss before I'm done, but I don't think I'll get back to the northeast for years. I may seem rigid and inflexible, but I'm not stupid.
I've finally hit the waist size I thought I'd never see again, and I'm wearing the same size pants I wore in high school. Once I got to 32 inches, I felt safe in buying new clothes, so I bought a new belt (size "S"), new pants (32" waist), and when I saw them on sale for $5, two new t-shirts (sizes "S" and "M"). That 'S' t-shirt may seem ridiculous, since most of my shirts are 'XL,' but since I was already buying things in small sizes, I thought I'd take a $5 chance. It isn't baggy, but it isn't obviously tight, either. I've never thought of myself as a "small" person in any way, so this may take some time to work through!
I'm down to my last 14 pounds, and it's all belly fat. My waist is at target, and everything else looks thin, or thin enough. Those last stubborn belly pounds won't all disappear in the next three weeks, so my goal is to lose a few more, then keep them from multiplying in November.
I have been much more relaxed lately, eating more calories and more fat than before, and occasionally even eating things for which the carb content wasn't perfectly known. I've gotten to where I think I can identify the carb count of many foods, within a broad range at least, and I don't worry so much about being a couple of carbs off. I still tend to eat tuna for lunch, though quite often I add a spicy beef stick for an afternoon snack. Breakfast protein shakes are sometime switched out for a couple of ounces of sliced turkey or ham when I'm running late. Dinner is often a salad, or grilled meat with veggies.
As far as I know, I've stayed in ketosis since that third day, but if I've drifted in and out, it hasn't seemed to affect my steady weight loss at all.
2007-06-12: 250, initial weight
2007-06-19: 236, -14 pounds
2007-06-26: 231, -5 pounds
2007-07-03: 225, -6 pounds
2007-07-10: 221, -4 pounds, 43 inch waist (estimated from belt size)
2007-07-17: 217, -4 pounds, 41 inch waist (estimated from belt size)
2007-07-24: 215, -2 pounds, 39 inch waist (estimated from belt size)
2007-07-31: 211, -4 pounds, 38 inch waist
2007-08-07: 209, -2 pounds, 37 inch waist
2007-08-14: 206, -3 pounds, 36 inch waist
2007-08-21: 204, -2 pounds, 36 inch waist
2007-08-28: 199, -5 pounds, 36 inch waist
2007-09-04: 196, -3 pounds, 36 inch waist
2007-09-11: 192, -4 pounds, 36 inch waist
2007-09-18: 190, -2 pounds, 34 inch waist
2007-09-25: 188, -2 pounds, 33 inch waist
2007-10-02: 186, -2 pounds, 33 inch waist
2007-10-09: 184, -2 pounds, 32 inch waist 66 pounds lost total!