– Ben Martens

Weight Loss

On January 1, I weighed 227.2 pounds. Last Friday, I weighed 201.8. I originally set out to get down to 210 but then decided to get to the point where I was no longer classified as “overweight” according to the government BMI charts. That meant getting under 205. I’m pretty proud of this process because it’s the most weight I’ve ever lost and the longest I’ve stuck with anything like this.

I don’t remember what I weighed when I graduated from college but I think it was right around 210. For most of the years, I fluctuated between 215 and 220. When I hit 227 after the holidays, I knew I needed to make a change and tackle the problem while it was still manageable. Then I kind of got into the groove and just kept going. On the last day of the diet, I woke up and weighed 205.4. Knowing I was so close, I basically starved myself and ended up losing 3 pounds that day. Ha! Obviously I gained some of it back but I declared victory. I’m going to try to keep it under 210 and I think that’s pretty feasible given the improved habits I’ve formed over the last 5.5 months.

Everyone wants to know how I did it. Before I give any answers, I’ll say that this is the diet that worked for me. This is by no means a recommendation for you or a commentary on your choices. That being said, there are two parts to the question: what did I change with my eating and how did I stay motivated?

Eating changes:

  • Avoid carbs. I’ve blogged about it before, but carbs are the biological start of generation of fat cells. I was unwilling to cut out carbs completely (I love beer and rum!) but I did scale way back. Most mornings I scramble eggs and throw in onion, sausage or ham, and cheese. It’s a very low carb meal and because I have everything chopped ahead of time, it’s super simple. I also stopped drinking orange juice in the mornings. If you’re doing a truly low carb diet, you should shoot for around 30 grams of carbs per day. One glass of OJ has about that many carbs! I ate a lot more salads at lunch with lots of meat on them and we cooked a lot more low carb dinner recipes. is a great resource for easy low carb recipes that generally taste good. We also stopped buying chips and desserts as an easy way to halt those temptations. I started going to the butcher regularly too so I could buy lots of delicious meat for the grill. All that being said, I still eat lots of carbs. The difference is that now I know when I’m doing it and I can balance it out. Cutting them out completely would have demoralized me and I wouldn’t have stuck with it. I found a balance that worked for me to lose weight but still enjoy some rum and Cokes or a burger with fries.
  • Eat less. This is pretty obvious but eating less was a big key to success. More specifically, eating less at dinner is important for me. I can have large (but still relatively healthy) breakfasts and lunches, eat a smaller dinner and still lose weight. To help me eat less at dinner, I store the leftovers before we eat so I won’t be tempted by seconds and we use smaller plates. The upside of eating less is that each meal goes farther reducing the grocery bill and decreasing the number of nights when we have to cook.

That’s pretty much it. Simple, right? There are other things like shopping on the edges of your grocery store (produce, dairy, meat) and avoiding the aisles (processed foods, etc) but in general it all goes back to eating fewer carbs and eating less food. But how did I stay motivated? I’m a geek and I my day job is all about big data, so my motivation was data!

  • Fitbit. Our health plan at work gives us some money to buy fitness related items so I picked up a Fitbit at the beginning of the year. It has been a very interesting source of data, but not nearly as helpful in losing weight as I thought it would be. I’ll show a data breakdown in a later post that will explain why.
  • Scale. Every single morning, I stepped on a scale. It’s important to weigh yourself at the same point of your day every day because your weight varies dramatically over 24 hours. I’d always weigh myself as soon as I woke up before using the bathroom or eating anything. I logged that weight every day too. That was the biggest single factor in keeping myself accountable and motivated. I knew I had to write down my weight the next day and that I’d be disappointed in myself for splurging on food the day before.

This post is getting very long already so I’ll save the charts and graphs for another day.

A lot of friends and family have told me their losing weight right now. If you add up the weight loss from Don, Tim, Tyla and me over the last 6 months, you’d have over 100 pounds! Each of us is doing it slightly differently, but the results are all good. The “trick” is to define a sustainable plan that provides enough measureable improvement to keep you motivated. Don’t worry about following my plan or someone else’s plan exactly. Chances are, as you go through phases of weight loss, you’ll need to adjust your approach anyway. As long as you’re staying healthy and losing weight then you’re probably doing it right! (Or bonus points if you are already at your goal weight!)