Over the last few years I have lost about 100 lbs. I started at 300 lbs at the start of the eleventh grade, and was about 200 by the end of high school. I am currently a university student, and just finished my undergraduate degree at 190 lbs!
(Above: me at 300 lbs)
(Above: Me about 1.5 years later, and 100 lbs lighter)
(Above: Me recently, at 190 lbs – main difference is face at this point)
After undergoing my transformation, I decided that health was something I wanted to devote my life to. As a result, I learned about food through culinary school, exercise by taking my personal training exams, and now medicine through medical school.
While its hard to say whether something is the “quickest way” of losing fat, there are a few pieces of advice I can offer.
1. You need to realize that this large of a change requires a change in your lifestyle and mentality.
All too many times I see people go on fad diets to try and reduce their weight. While they may be able to shed of 20 lbs or so, it is gruelling to go through, and they gain the weight all back after the diet ends. If you want to get rid of the weight, you’re going to need to evaluate what you’re doing, and change it. This means you need to watch what you eat, and how much you exercise, and change them to methods that will be conducive to a lower weight. These changes will have to be permanent, and you need to be mentally ready for that.
2. Since the changes are permanent, they need to be sustainable.
If you don’t like to do something, eventually you’re going to stop doing it. Willpower is an expendable resource and so you won’t be able to push yourself to adopt insanely strictly healthy lifestyle practices forever. Therefore, you need to find a way to make an increased exercise regiment and health calorie intake more enjoyable. In order to do this I recommend doing a few things:
- Evaluate your daily schedule, and determine where you can fit more exercise in. Can you walk to work instead of driving? Can you take the stairs instead? These small changes are usually low in regards to inconvenience, but can add up to have huge effects.
- Take up a sport that you find enjoyable. This can be any sport: table tennis, soccer, rugby, hiking, whatever floats your boat. Get some friends to join you, and go do this once a week. Even walking can count as a sport. I burn about 600 calories a day from walking alone. 3500 calories has been estimated to be 1 lb of fat, so there are some (approximate) figures for you. If you have something you enjoy, it’ll make exercise much easier.
- Find exercise regimens that can be done anywhere, or with very little set up time. This makes it so you have no excuse not to do it. If you have an exercise bike beside the TV, you have very few excuses for why you can’t get up off the couch to do some pedalling – even light cardio can be really helpful!
- Try and do some exercise that will build up muscle mass, so you can increase your basal metabolic rate. Doing so will increase the number of calories your body burns just by existing. How great is that?! Incorporating these hypertrophic training regiments into your workout can make you look more toned, and allow you to eat more calories. Of course, this won’t a massive increase or anything, but it will be a little boost in the number of calories you eat.
- One last thing here: you don’t need to run to lose weight. In fact, most of my weight came off after I stopped running, because I enjoyed the alternate exercise regiments I took up instead, and therefore stuck to it much more. As long as you can increase your heart rate for some extended period of time, and you should be good. See my point above about sports for this.
- Think about what your favourite foods and meals are – make a list of 6 or 7. Got it? Okay now try and rate those foods on a scale in order of unhealthiest to healthiest. What is it about those foods that make them unhealthy, or healthy? Often times similar things will give foods certain qualities. Unhealthy foods will generally be that way because they are cooked by frying, have large serving sizes, have a lot of sugar, etc… Healthy foods will have a high vegetable content, low sugar content, lots of fibre, controlled amount of seasoning, etc. By identifying these patterns, you can learn to make your unhealthy dishes in a way that is healthier (by altering the recipe to reduce the unhealthy qualities and increase the healthy qualities). Doing so will allow you to still eat foods you love, while reducing your calorie intake.
- Healthy recipes are available everywhere online nowadays! Find some that you love and try them out! If you love the food you eat, and its decently healthy, it is much more sustainable than bland, lean food you hate, and much healthier than fatty, fried food you love.
- Watch your fluids. Its insane how many calories I realized I was gaining from my fluid intake. Gatorade, Pop, Juice, Triple Mocha Caramel Peanut Sugar Frappuccino with Whip Cream and a life expectancy cut short from Starbucks, and the list goes on. These drinks are LOADED with sugar that you simply don’t need if you’re living a regular lifestyle. Do yourself a favour and find a way to wean off of these completely. While it’ll be hard at first, you’ll have more calories to spend on other yummy foods that will fill you up much more for the given number of calories in them, which will make a controlled calorie lifestyle much more sustainable.
- Find foods that have a high fill to calorie ratio (my own term I made up…). I define this as the ratio of how much a food fills you up, to the number of calories the food has. Foods with a high ratio include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc… With these foods, you can have a large quantity with relatively low calories. Low ratios come from things like chocolate, pop, etc – where you’re left feeling unhealthy, and still hungry for more.
3. Understand the power of data
Its an exciting time we are living in. In the palms of our hands, we hold a device that can track metrics that two decades ago, we barely knew existed. Having data about your exercise and intake is extremely helpful. The simple method that works best over the general population (of course there are exceptions, and if you have highly specified goals there may be better ways to track it), is the calorie inequality method(thats my catchy name for it).
The inequality goes like this:
Calories Out > Calories In = Weight Loss
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain
Ok got it? So your main goal is to keep it so you satisfy that first equation. I generally go for a 500 calorie deficit each day, resulting in a pound of fat shed per week. It is not recommended to go over 1000 calories worth of deficit at any point, as your body will start to do some weird things (like reduce your metabolic rate intensely, and other stuff that can be dangerous in the long term).
So anyways, you can track this stuff with data. Track your daily steps, heart rate, etc.. (there are many trackers out there and they are well worth the investment). Track your food in some app (I recommend MyFitnessPal), and use a scale if you want higher accuracy.
What you will find is that by tracking your data throughout the day, you can improve your mannerisms to be more conducive to a healthier life. I used to get really hungry throughout the day, but after starting to track my calorie intake, I felt much more satiated at all times, because I had the data to prove I had enough energy to function normally, and so I felt psychologically at piece without having to binge eat. Additionally, tracking my calories helps me get back if I have a cheat meal by accident, as I just increase the intensity during my workout to make up for things. Finally, tracking exercise actually becomes kind of fun! My friends and I compare steps each night to see who wins – and so we are always competing and pushing to find another way to get more steps in.
The last thing I want to mention about this is that data can’t lie to you (or at least the margin or error will be much lower than without the data). We vastly underestimate the number of calories we eat, and overestimate the number of calories we burn (. Tracking the data for real can help negate this, and lead to much more optimal outcomes.
4. Dont ruin your progress.
We love to feel proud of ourselves for our accomplishments. This is awesome for motivation and morale, but can be detrimental at times – especially at night time. Does this sound familiar? “I worked out so much today! I can have this one cookie – I deserve it!”. Unfortunately this one second of self-appreciation can completely negate all the work we spent the whole day working for.
My fix for this, is to workout only at night. That way, I sleep right after my workout and don’t binge eat or try and “reward” myself for having a great exercise day. However, this doesn’t really work for everyone – I am aware of that.
For those of you who work out in the day, the biggest thing to think about is just the fact that this is a problem. We have the tendency to over-reward ourselves when we exercise, and its important to realize how detrimental this is to our exercise regiments.
5. Have a re-feed day
A technique I use is to have a re-feed day every 1.5–2 weeks, in order to keep myself sane. You can do it more often (depending on your goal at the present time -I am trying to lose a little more still so I keep the time extended, but you can do once every 5–7 days if you’re just maintaining). On the re-feed day, I allow myself to have one meal where I can eat a large volume of food. On these days I still try to make healthier choices, but I eat a lot of food. My favourite place is a BBQ grill near my house where they give me a half chicken of meat, plate of fries, and beans. Doing this makes the food taste so much better, and rewards my hard work (without negating it all).
Additionally, re-feed days in general are believed to spark leptin levels, a hormone related to metabolic rate, and raises your metabolism (given that prolonged calorie reduction will slow your metabolism). I don’t want to say for sure these benefits about metabolism are completely true (medicine and the body are an uncertain science), however the morale boosts are definitely real, and from personal experience they have helped me a lot in terms of losing weight. If it does re-raise metabolism as well, well thats an added bonus!
5. Don’t forget to see how far you’ve come.
You want to lose 130 lbs, which is a difficult feat. It won’t be easy, and will require a lot of work. This is where you will need to find a way to stay motivated. I recommend taking progress pics, logging weight, logging your exercises (if you decided to go to the gym – although this isn’t necessary if you change lifestyle habits enough), or other methods of tracking your improvement. Doing this will allow you to remain motivated during plateaus. When I start to get disheartened and see myself reduce the intensity of my workouts, I first consider why I am feeling that way. Maybe I need a re-feed day (of course don’t over do these)? Maybe I have been working out too intensely and need a day off? Maybe I am hitting a plateau and need to change my exercise regiment? Whatever it is, try and identify the reason, look back at your progress, and then adjust as required.
The last little bit of weight has been really tough for me to lose. However, what has been getting me through it has been thinking about the possible options for myself 4 months from now. I could either be the same size as I am right now (or even gain weight), or I could have a chiseled jawline and six-pack. Seeing my own personal goal, and thinking about where I started, motivates me during these down times, and helps me persevere. If you feel the same, try doing something similar.
I hope this helped! Keep me updated on your progress if it does! In addition, I am really trying to develop my presence among the fitness and health community, and would really appreciate help growing my media reach! Follow me on twitter (@nishqy) if you want – I’d really appreciate it 🙂
Have a great day 🙂
Source:, Medical Student, Chef, Personal Trainer