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How I lost 100lbs in 6 months (medium.com)
56 points by JustinAngel on Mar 17, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

PSA: Every legitimate long term study of major non surgical weight loss shows that it doesn't happen for the vast, vast majority of people. It's basically freakish when succesful in the long term.

1) ["In controlled settings, participants who remain in weight loss programs usually lose approximately 10% of their weight. However, one third to two thirds of the weight is regained within 1 year, and almost all is regained within 5 years. "](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1580453)

2) Giant meta study of long term weight loss: ["Five years after completing structured weight-loss programs, the average individual maintained a weight loss of >3% of initial body weight."](http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/5/579.full)

3) Less Scientific: [Weight Watcher's Failure - "about two out of a thousand Weight Watchers participants who reached goal weight stayed there for more than five years."](https://fatfu.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/weight-watchers/)

4) [The reason why it's impossible seems to be that although calories in < calories out works, the body of a fat person makes it extremely difficult psychologically to eat less.](http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-...) This is borne out by the above data.

5) [The only thing that does seem to work in the long term is gastric surgery.](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1421028/)

Moreover, you won't find any reputable study on the web where the average person lost 10%+ of their body weight and kept it off for five years. Not even one.

> 2) Giant meta study of long term weight loss: ["Five years after completing structured weight-loss programs, the average individual maintained a weight loss of >3% of initial body weight."](http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/5/579.full)

I think you misread the results of that study. It's countering your point, and demonstrating that the structure and initial success of the diet affects the long-term success of the weight loss.

The average weight loss was still averaging 3% - basically nothing for an obese person.

Respecting both your disclaimer on #3 and the older date on the article, it's amazingly depressing to realize that probably most participants in a program DON'T reach their goal weight. This is saying that even of only the relative few who do reach their goal, still, the vast vast majority will not be able to maintain it.

Personal experience, I worked hard to lose about 40 pounds and keeping it off is an interminable nightmare. First, people said "oh, when you lose the weight you'll feel better and other people will treat you better..." and so on... Well I lost the weight and I don't feel any different and people don't treat me different (except for all the awkward "wow you look so different" type questions).

It feels like it's not worth it. Plus the fact that every day, day in and day out I have to struggle with limiting my calories and monitoring my weight. It just takes all the joy out of life. (Of course this is personality dependent! For me, stuffing myself with sweet, rich food until I felt like I would burst is just one of the best most satisfying feelings ever... if I could just somehow reprogram the mental pathways there......)

>Of course this is personality dependent! For me, stuffing myself with sweet, rich food until I felt like I would burst is just one of the best most satisfying feelings ever... if I could just somehow reprogram the mental pathways there......

What worked for me:

Find a flavor you absolutely hate. Be it some hot sauce or mustard or whatever. Top whatever sweet, rich food you enjoy with that topping any time you wish to enjoy said sweet, rich food. This corrupted my memories of "this food was sweet and rich" with "Oh god, last time I did that it was terrible I nearly threw up".

I don't drink alcohol, so I put some rum in my Dr. Pepper. Now I don't drink soda anymore. Ever tried chocolate icecream with mustard? The memory will have you avoiding chocolate icecream like your life depends on it.

It took a bit of self control (actually taking a bite of mustard covered chocolate icecream was tough) but I have such bad memories of the things I used to crave that I no longer crave them. I know they're amazing by themselves but I can't bring myself to partake in them anymore.

> 5) [The only thing that does seem to work in the long term is gastric surgery.

Arguably not "average" people, but there is a club of "extreme calorie counters" who have maintained substantial weight loss over many years.

I wish I could find the link to the documentary, but the search signal-to-noise ratio is problematic. It feels like something I saw on an investigative journalism program e.g. The Fifth Estate. In any case from recollection, this is what I recall:

- There were something like 30,000 members worldwide - Membership required maintained weight loss - They generally counted and journaled every calorie, with remarkable rigour

This appears to be the one alternative to gastric bypass that has repeatable success. It's just not achievable by most.

Incidentally, only Roux-en-Y laparoscopic gastric bypass has been associated with long term successful weight loss; the "tube" mini-gastric bypass has not; I'm not sure about others, as some experimental alternatives are cropping up.

Oh boy, this is a classic example of "science" hiding behind obvious facts:

I spent 18 mos. leading a section of a major study within the armed forces testing physical transformations, mainly focused on gender differences but the point still stands. At this point I have seen hundreds of first-hand examples (if not a thousand plus).

Step 1: Be any profile of relative fitness from normal to your average to slightly overweight 18-20 year old American male/female.

Step 2: Be inducted to the Marines or similar armed forces where you are required for 5 years to wake up and conduct a high level of physical exercise as a mater of daily life.

Result: You've lost 10%+ off your body weight and kept it off for the duration.

It's just so exceedingly simple. Set conditions for a lifestyle where you are burning more calories than consumed and weight loss will continue. It's not some crazy secret. Everything else is crap.

> Be inducted to the Marines

> It's just so exceedingly simple.

I lost a bunch of weight with calorie counting and then gained it back after 2 years. But I'm fine with that. I started losing it again recently and I've already lost about 8lbs. After you do it a few times it gets easier as your skill in it gets better and your body & mind become more resilient to being in weight loss mode.

The way I'm doing it now is so easy (subway, chipotle, trader joes & calorie counting) that I feel fine in being in a yo-yo of a slow gain of 10lbs over a year and then losing 10lbs over a month or two.

It's not a useful attitude to be fatalistic about weight loss.

I track my weight regularly to make sure weight gain doesn't creep up on me.

> It's not a useful attitude to be fatalistic about weight loss.

Nor is it useful to promise people trips to the top of Everest on a hand glider, but that's empirically what most weight loss advice entails.

Thats a fatalistic attitude to weight loss advice too. Weight loss advice can be complicated, but calorie counting and eating at subway everyday really does work.

Counting calories is hard.


TL;DW: Calculating the actual energy in a day's worth of well labeled foods resulted in a 500 calorie overage.

This doesn't even account for how your body absorbs calories different from every other body, and probably even differently every day.

Being perfectionistic about calorie counting is not necessary. It still works. The approximate measure is quite enough. And if you don't have the time to do it, just eating from chains that already do it for you works quite well.

> calorie counting and eating at subway everyday really does work

Is there any evidence of that?

Myself and many others? I've been doing it for the past few weeks and I lost a bunch of pounds. A few weeks before that I was eating at chipotle everyday and was getting similar results.

Try not to lose weight eating only 1600 calories a day. It's pretty difficult to do unless your 90lbs and 5 feet tall!

Subway, chipotle and other chains provide calorie counts for their food. Don't add calorie-full condiments to your subway sandwiches (mustard, not mayo) and stay within that limit +/- 100 or 200 calories.

Thank you for taking the time to post the basis of your belief.

The problem with your argument is twofold. First it's anecdotal, not a statistically significant sample with a control group. Second, it's temporally insignificant, therefore does not account for those periods of most significance - years 5+.

I hope you personally do well over the next few years but, based on observations conforming to principles we understand to constitute reliable evidence, such would be an exceedingly rare exception.

Bariatric surgery is the best answer for most lifelong obese people.

Or maybe they should move to a weight-maintenance program after the weight-loss program?

Why is surgery your conclusion when it's not surprising that people revert to their old weight after reverting to their old diets.

I read the abstracts and the studies only have weight-loss programs. Even the weight watchers article (which by the way is not a study) says: "Lifetime Members are only "the most successful” Weight Watchers members who achieve their “goal weight” (usually a BMI of 25) and maintain it for 6 weeks."

> "At this point I should say that I’m not a healthcare professional and I’m not recommending my dietary changes to anyone. I was in intense emotional pain every single day and made the decision to capitalise on it."

Lost 26kg (25% of my weight) in 2013. Doing great so far. Stepping on the scales every day makes sure that weight gain doesn't creep up on me.

That's great news for people like me, thin people and the OP. I lost 65 pounds in 10 months. (220 to 155) and kept it off for 7 years.

Once again, it means less competition for resources as the population mass gets bloated.

I wonder what the research into environmental contribution says? Like, how people change weight in different social situations.

I wonder how many people lose significant amounts of weight without entering a program.

That's an interesting note to make. One could imagine that those who enter Weight Watchers are those that lack the fortitude to lose weight on their own, and that signing up to Weight Watchers isn't going to change their psyche in that regard.

That is REALLY interesting! I'm going to spend some time reading into this!

In these studies what kind of exercise did the participants do?

This is a new classic in the Hacker News "How I Lost X Pounds in Y Months" genre. Other favorites:

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8449301

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12279415

I've been overweight for almost all of my adult life, and the level has been either steady or rising over the years (31 now).

The only thing making me loose weight was 5 month studying abroad in Ghana (I'm from Germany).

The ridiculous thing about it was: I didn't intend on loosing weight there. I ate as much as I liked whenever I liked it. Still, I lost about 15 kg in 5 months, and I didn't even notice it until the end of the trip when another student told me that I looked like it.

What I noticed as a big difference in my habits: * no Drive-In, no McDonald's, no Burger King, no other franchise. So, no junk eating while driving (e.g. from work) * no fridge at the hostel (at least none you would want to use). So, no "I'm bored and will just get something from the fridge" * I'm not a cooking person, so almost all food required walking the 5 minutes to the small market. Not a long way, but it keeps somebody like me from boredom eating * the fucking heat =D no movement and a lot of sweating ;-)

This is one of the best ledes I have ever read:

> I decided to lose weight after my ex-wife cheated on me stating that she found me unattractive, that she never loved me and that she was leaving and taking the dog with her.

Nothing like a man being faced with a lifetime of no romantic love to get his will power in the right gear.

IMHO, The measure of successful weight loss ought to be at 7 years from the start.

There are three cycles to control: 1. the hunger cycle (short, daily), 2. the hypothalamus equilibrium (aka "set-point", 6-months+ cycle, controls inhibitions [1]), 3. the hydrocarbon cycle (i.e. 1+ year hormone release by non-flush fat cells [2]).

We also know that decisions made in the hypothalamus are responsible for energy regulation,[3] and we also know that those decisions happen before we are consciously aware of them.

In other words, the feeling of hunger and short-term control appears to be a surprisingly small portion (pardon the pun) of the dominant forces that control long-term weight - namely hormone cycles and decision making.

So while the 100lbs loss is an achievement, I'd be more interested in hearing how someone kept it off for several years – since that's presumably the ultimate goal and it requires overcoming what appear to be exponentially more difficult challenges.

(The links below touch on supporting the above, but I think I should be able to find the papers/references for all the above.)

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3084499/ [2] https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2010/... [3] http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)0...

I went from 250 to 185 (currently 183) in 7mths about 20mths ago, it's stayed off.

All I do is count my calories everyday and add 10%, if it's less than 2630 (my BMR based on age, weight and activity) I'm good.

If I go 200-300 over one day I go 200-300 under the next.

Weight has been completely stable.

It's the running total in my head that works for me as an incentive to not over eat.

In fact I should point out I have the opposite problem, If I'm not careful I gradually start losing weight again, I dipped down to 180lbs over a few months and had to adjust my intake to climb back to 185.

It's really hard to over-eat when you calorie track and eat healthy.

7 year cycles is a pretty long term horizon. That is almost a decade each time, and keeping the weight off in your 20s is easier than it is in your 30s hormonally speaking. Same thing with each subsequent decade.

> Low Calories Snacks: 0–150 calories snacks

Besides the pre-packaged engineered foods he listed, there's also fresh fruits and vegetables.

Yep. I called out my favourite one (warermelon) on that list and also called out the Weight Watchers list of "Power Foods" that's mostly comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables.

My issues with a blanket recommendation of fresh fruits and vegetables are around (1) perception as calorie-neutral, (2) prep time and (3) overall caloric variance.

1. Regarding perception, for me it's very easy imagining apples are "free" (= 0 calories) so I can just eat as many as I'd like. That's not true because an apple is approximately 70 calories. So in a universe where I think apples are calorie neutral (e.g. Weight Watchers has 0 PointsPlus apples) I might be overindulging in apples.

2. Prep time. Most vegetables require either a certain presentation or preparation. That time investment is a "barrier-to-eating" and could cause me to consume higher calorie foods and that's why I prefer very low prep time snacks. Nature's packaging requires some assembly in most cases.

3. The caloric variance amongst is meaningful. e.g. Celery being at 16 calories/100g and potatoes being at 77 calories/100g. That caloric variance there cautions me from saying carte-blanche "fresh fruits and vegetables work for my kind of diet".

> Most vegetables require either a certain presentation or preparation.

Eh. Cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms, and almost all fruits including tomatoes can be enjoyed raw. Broccoli and cauliflower, too, if your teeth are good - delicious with a dash of vinegar and salt - and while we're visiting the Brassicaceae, let's not overlook kale, which can be brined or salted, then dried in a low-temperature oven, to produce amazing kale chips; granted, this does take us a bit higher on the prep time scale, but it's the sort of prep you do once, on a weekend day, and pay little attention, and once it's done, you just grab a bag and you're off and running.

Nice work! You argued that you were never hungry on your diet. Was that due to the emotional stress you were under, or were the snacks really enough?

Thanks for asking!

> "It was fairly easy due to a combination of low-grade depression that reduced my appetite and having fairly immense energy stores in the form of fat."

For me, it's all about focusing on the sensation of being full. I'd like to avoid the mental sensation of hunger as it'll be counterproductive to long term weight loss. Whenever I'm hungry I eat something substantial, for example: a quarter of a watermelon (~1 lb, 200 calories) or two bags of Miracle Noodles (~1 lb, 0 calories) with yakiniku/pasta sauce (100-200 calories) or a double bowl of miso soup (100 calories).

AWESOME effort Justin Angel !!! :D

It is great to see someone achieve their weight loss goals.

Yes it is that “SIMPLE” and I know it can be done, as I too did it myself.

I too had a massive weight loss goal (90 lbs / 40kg) and achieved it with the same basic principals, but in a slightly longer time frame (9 months / 40 weeks).

I wrote a book about it (My Weight Loss Story: 40kg in 40 Weeks Without Exercise (90lbs in 9 months), instead of a medium post. ;)

I personally (Richard Boegli) lost 40 kg in 40 weeks (90lb in 9 months) WITHOUT exercise. [90lb in 9 months (no exercise)].

I’m not trying to hijack your story! I would just like to provide another data point, that the basic principals do work. As I have found their can be a lot of scepticism, even though the math works!

Justin Angel: How I lost 100lbs in 6 months [100lb / 6 months (with exercise)]

I could do a line for line comparison, but these are the points that immediately came to mind as I read the article: Richard Boegli: [90lb in 9 months (no exercise)]: “Just Eat Less”, its in the preface of the book :)

Justin Angel [100lb / 6 months (with exercise)]: "Calories In — Calories Out = Weight Change"

Richard Boegli [90lb in 9 months (no exercise)]:: “I reduced my food intake”

Justin Angel [100lb / 6 months (with exercise)]: “I reduced my daily caloric intake”

Richard Boegli [90lb in 9 months (no exercise)]: “I lost on average 1kg (2.2lbs) a week, every week for 40 weeks WITHOUT exercise

Justin Angel [100lb / 6 months (with exercise)]: “I would experience a 3lbs a week weight lose.”

I chose to do it WITHOUT exercise, as my theory was that I would keep it off longer, if it wasn’t dependent on exercise. Every other time I lost weight in my life, it was a combination of diet and exercise. When the exercised stop, the weight would creep back up, as I was still eating too much.


EDIT: Cleaned it up a bit.

Hey Justin, just wanted to say good on you.

While the physical change is great, it's a byproduct of the changes in your mind. Keep it up.

I'm so pissed at your ex. What an a-hole.

Congrats. Anyone ever tell you you look like Drake?

Why did this article get flagged?

This is the Seattle Seahawks. Can you come consult for us?


It's really easy. Like to eat. Or eat because of boredom, frustration, etc etc. Not everybody is a self optimization fanatic ;-)

I wouldn't consider maintaining my health a "self optimization fanatic" trait.

This was in response to your original comment that got flagged:

There's a few ways it can do so.

1. Depression: if life itself feels pointless, why care about your health?

2. Environment: lots of snacks, lots of work, little free time can add several kilograms.

3. Upbringing: if all you did in your high school and university life was hang out with friends and play computer games or generally un-athletic activities, the habit and drive to keep pounds off is absent.

4. Stress: if you're dealing with a really hard project at work or school, you may "put off" exercise and eating well, in order to give you time to finish it and comfort for the hardship. And when you do get some free time you may want to just lie around.

5. Money: if you're poor cheap snacks and unhealthy but high calorie meals are readily available at almost every corner of your city or town. There's no place in my downtown area where I can grab some roasted vegetables quickly to take back to the office. The salad places are expensive and also have high calories from dressing and lots of nuts and cheese.

6. Disorders: addictive personality being the foremost in my mind. If it feels good, keep doing it. Even if you don't need it. Even if you're almost full to bursting.

There's more I'm sure, but those are off the top of my head.

Alright, I'll continue to live in my OCD fantasy world where staying in reasonable shape is normal.

That gripe is different from what I responded to. You originally said it's unfathomable how someone could get 100 pounds out of shape, and I listed a few ways that it can easily happen.

It sucks your original comment was flagged - I can see how people may have thought it was a bit harsh, but it was true. You don't see how it can happen.

Speaking only for myself, it's simple: I'd never known anything different. I'm 6'2", and was ~230lb when I graduated high school. On January 9th of this year I was 318lbs, and decided to make a change.

I'm 285lbs now and still dropping a few pounds every week. My clothes are starting to fit poorly, I've had to adjust my watchband twice now, and my wedding ring will barely stay on my finger.

I hit 100 lbs. overweight after Hashimoto's destroyed my thyroid. Now, on thyroid meds, I'm about 20 lbs. overweight, but it's hard to maintain even this. If I'm not careful, I can gain twenty pounds in a month without batting an eye. I've yoyo'd several times since being diagnosed.

Judging from your recent comment history, I'm thinking you're a troll.

What makes you think so?

I haven't been that much overweight - but it can creep up on you. And losing weight, and keeping it off, is very tough.

Same reason people get addicted to anything. We're emotional creatures.

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