From >450 to <160 lb by 2022

Err2

New member
Hello all and welcome to my diary where I'll hopefully be chronicling my weight loss journey from over 450 lb to under 160 lb in 2 years. I actually started this lifestyle change for New Year's so I'm 8 months into it, but since I've just dipped under 300 lb (and am now no longer too fat for WalMart clothes) I'm feeling confident enough to share my progress.


Long prelude made shorter, in December 2019 I finally had enough of being "super super morbidly obese." I had reached the point where I was aching all the time and the simplest of activities would leave me winded. I realized that if I didn't get busy living, I'd soon be dying so rather than just resume previous vague goals of "eat less" and "exercise more" I needed to go full nerd and bust out a spreadsheet & make a firm plan.

Step 1: Find out how much I weighed. I'd never owned a scale, so I had only the vaguest idea of my weight. I went out and bought one, unwrapped it, put in batteries, set it down, and stepped on it. The digitial display flickered briefly before reading Err2. Great, I thought recalling the line from Office Space: "PC load letter, WTF does that mean?!" So I rummage through the trash and pull out the box the scale came in and found the manual I'd totally ignored. A quick scan showed that Error 2 meant "overload" - I'd exceeded the capacity of the scale! I looked more closely at the specs and discovered it was rated for a little under 400 lb. Fantastic. So I go back to the store and buy scale #2 - the "high capacity" model that goes up to 450 lb. I repeat the procedure and this time the display shows some bouncing digits -- 446, 465, 454... before settling on Err2 - overload. #$&!

I stew for a while before recalling that the local dump has a truck scale that you drive onto when you take in a pickup load of garbage. They weigh you in and out and charge based on how many pounds of garbage you throw away. So I hop in my truck and drive down to the scale and park on it, note the displayed weight, and then walk up to the teller so I could step off the scale. I make up some question as an excuse for stopping by (e.g. "can I throw away paint here?") and surreptitiously note the weight of my truck without me in it. Unfortunately, the truck scale only displayed to the nearest 20 lb increment and it kept jumping between numbers. But the math said I weighed between 440 and 460 lbs, so I'll call it 450.

Okay, so what should I weigh? I consulted the BMI guides, but scoffed at the thought of 123 lb as being a healthy weight for 5'7.5". 155 was at the high end of "normal," but looking at pictures of guys at that weight I still thought it was kind of scrawny. So I decided to shoot for a muscular 160 lb with around a 15% body fat percentage.

The next question was: "how fast can I safely lose weight?" I reckoned I had abused my body enough over the years that I didn't want to chase unhealthy weight loss in the name of impatience & vanity, but I did want to do lose as quickly as safely possible. Nearly every web page asserted that you can safely lose "1-2 lbs per week" but I could never find the underlying source or research behind this rule of thumb. Taking 3 years to lose ~300 lbs seemed like an eternity, so I rationalized that while 1-2 lb/week was reasonable for someone weighing 100-200 lbs, 1% a week was probably a better goal for some as heavy as me. That would put me at my goal weight in 2 years - conveniently just before my 40th birthday. I reckoned that even if this slightly faster weight loss was a bit less healthy by the book - it probably was still more healthy than remaining obese for an additional year.
 
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Err2

New member
I knew from the start that I'd be counting calories. In high school and college I exercised a ton and still had a little spare tire. Some animals you can free feed, others are chow hounds and will keep eating long after they've had their fill. I'm definitely the later so I decided if my eyes & stomach weren't going to self regulate, I'd have to measure and count just the right amount myself. So I plugged in my height (5' 7.5"), weight (450), and age (37 almost 38) into a BMR calculator and it spit out an estimate of 3700 calories/day based on my low activity level. Then I multiplied 1% of my weight - 4.5 lb per week - times 3500 calories per pound and divided by 7 days per week to get a 2250 calories/day deficit needed to achieve that weight loss. 3700 - 2250 = 1450. A 1,450 calories/day diet would be my initial goal and from there I'd check my weight each week to see if I needed to adjust my calorie intake up or down.

I decided I'd try to give up all soda and anything with added sugar, but otherwise I wasn't going to focus on carbs or fat or anything else - just calories. I'd simply look at the nutrition info and say to myself something like "if I were to eat 7 of these 200 calorie flour tortillas throughout the day and nothing else, would I still feel hungry?" (answer: yes). "if I were to eat 37 ounces of skinless chicken breast throughout the day and nothing else, would I still feel hungry?" (answer: no) I wouldn't actually just eat a bunch of 1 item each day, but this mental exercise helped me budget my calories so I wouldn't feel hungry despite the large calorie deficit.

Having never counted calories before, this was quite an eye opener. Who never knew that one 1,100 calorie box of Kraft macaroni and cheese was not a reasonable portion? *this guy* I was even surprised to see that fruits really weren't that great for you - at least not in excess. Essentially vegetables and lean meats would become my staples.

So how did it work? At the end of the first week I eagerly stepped on the scale. Again the digits bounced around the 440s and 450s before displaying the dreaded Err2. I even stripped down in hopes it would be enough, but nope. So I fasted until I had to go to the bathroom after which point I was sure I'd cracked the 440s. I stepped back on the scale and it bounced around before displaying Err1. WTF now? I dig out the manual and it says Error 1 is for instability and to place it on a hard level surface. I look down at nice hard level tile. I step on and off a few more times, always getting Err1. I then brace myself against a wall and am rewarded with a reading... in the 300s. Ugh.

Week 2 was more of the Err1 message, but towards the end I weighed in at a doctor's appointment that I'd scheduled to make sure I was healthy enough to start exercising. I was 438.8 so the diet was working! Miraculously, I didn't have diabetes or high cholesterol, but I did have an under active thyroid, low testosterone, and stage 2 hypertension. I'd take a pill for the thyroid and blood pressure, but leave the testosterone untreated due to the latest guidelines on heart risks...

By week 3 my own scale was no longer giving Err1 messages and I weighed in at 429.0. I was losing weight faster than anticipated, but I wasn't hungry at all and I was feeling good enough to start riding a bicycle again. In high school & college I'd done some racing and ridden a number of centuries -- 100 miles in a day -- but now I could barely go a mile before the seat hurt my butt too much to continue. I also had to get a bike with super relaxed geometry (an Electra Townie) so that I could pedal without having my knees shove 100+ lbs of belly fat out of the way on every pedal stroke.

Skipping forward a bit... In February I came down with a bad flu and was bed ridden for a week. During that time I was unable to keep anything down and my weight dropped sharply. I slowly recovered and despite maintaining my low calorie diet, I began to gain back some of the weight I lost which was both frustrating and yet reassuring as covid was just becoming a big deal and I was wondering if maybe I got it at the airport the week prior (in July I got an antibody test and it came back negative).

Skipping forward a lot: since March I've basically been in lockdown from the pandemic so I've been taking the opportunity to exercise more and more while learning more about dieting and refining my goals. Initially I could barely walk around my block, but now I routinely walk 5 miles at a time. That 1 mile bike ride has turned into 15-30 mile rides -- not too shabby for a fat tired cruiser. I even summited a 10,000 foot mountain last month (but just barely - hiking back down gave me the worst DOMS I'd ever had). I had planned on doing my first triathlon (a sprint / half Olympic triathlon) next month, but it has been canceled due to the virus. That's probably for the best, I can manage the swimming and riding, but haven't started running and probably shouldn't until I'm under 250. I do hope to do an Olympic Triathlon next year and maybe an Ironman in 2022.

So far I've cut my hypertension medicine dosage in half and may come off it entirely in another month or two. My resting heart rate has plummeted from 96 to 55 and I no longer have back, hip, or knee pain. The lack of pain plus a skinnier neck have helped me get much better sleep too.

As for the diet, I'm currently targeting 1,300 calories a day, but now I am shooting for at least 145 g of protein and 25 g of fiber. The protein is about 1g per my ideal lean mass -- a quantity that in small trials has shown some promise in preserving lean body mass during Very Low Calorie Diets. The fiber merely keeps things moving nicely -- I definitely notice... delays... if I drop below 20g fiber when consuming high (relative) protein. I've also started estimating my body fat using the Navy tape measure method, and then went back and estimated my original body fat based on shirts that used to be tight in the neck and how much I've cinched up my belt. I tried one of those bio-impedance scales, but it gave me laughably low body fat estimates - perhaps because my legs are very muscular & toned from the cycling despite the obvious 100+ pounds around my belly and hips.

And with that, here is the data I'm mainly tracking:

Screenshot 2020-08-25 at 01.44.15.png


Body fat % (orange/peach) uses the right axis, everything else uses the left axis. Solid lines are actual hard data, dotted lines are estimates or projections.
 

LaMaria

Well-known member
Hey Err and welcome to the forum! I love it when people go full nerd on their weightloss and it looks like it's really paying off for you. If I'm honest I get uncomfortable when guys go below 1500 kcal/day because of how difficult it becomes to balance everything nutritionally but I agree that in the early phase speed was more important than perfection. Best of luck!
 

alligatorob

Respected Member
Hey Err, welcome! You are sure off to a great start! Losing about 150 lbs is really an accomplishment.

You seem to have found an approach that's working for you, I have just a couple of suggestions. First you should talk with a doctor about your low calorie diet, if you have not already. I also lost a lot of weight on a low calorie diet and I did talk with my doctor about it. He said pretty much what you did that the benefits of losing weight were more than the risk of low calories, but hearing it from a doctor helped me feel better about it. Second do what you have said, start logging your progress here. I have been for over a year now and find it very helpful. Helps keep me accountable and I have found a lot of good support and advice here. The forum has a lot of nice, helpful, and smart people.

I am looking forward to following your progress!!
 

overlandflyer

Well-known member
.... Nearly every web page asserted that you can safely lose "1-2 lbs per week" but I could never find the underlying source or research behind this rule of thumb. ...

it is best to think about a pound as a percentage of your weight. at 300 lbs, a 5 lb loss is a reduction of 1.6%... at 160 lbs, it is a 3.1% loss. today i am at a high healthy BMI... i could lose 4-5 lbs to drop a number, but believe me, it's certainly not as simple as it was for me to initially drop from a BMI of 32 to 31. the 1-2 lb/ week is a generally safe average for someone who is overweight or perhaps slightly obese. probably where the majority of the population is at.
 

Err2

New member
Thanks everyone!

I had hoped to work a bit more closely with a doctor, but that hasn't worked out (in my 4 office visits, I have yet to actually meet the man). I have convinced the PA to schedule regular lab work to monitor liver, kidney, & thyroid levels and they've all been good since March. But otherwise I'm pretty much on my own, so it'll be nice to bounce ideas around and have some support here.

As far as nutrition, I'm open to suggestions. Right now a typical day looks something like this:

Meal 1, turkey wrapped carrots:
9 ounces baby carrots (105 cal, 6 fiber, 3 protein)
4 ounces deli sliced turkey (120 cal, 0 fiber, 28 protein)

Meal 2, chicken & beans:
1 cup cooked black beans (227 cal, 40.8 fiber, 15.3 protein)
0.1 onion (5 cal, 0.3 fiber, 0.1 protein)
1/4 tsp ground cumin (2 cal, 0.1 fiber, 0.1 protein)
1/2 jalapeno (2 cal, 0.2 fiber, 0 protein)
6 ounces of chicken breast (220 cal, 0 fiber, 52 protein)

Snack 1:
1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese (90 cal, 0 fiber, 11 protein)
1/2 cup blackberries (30 cal, 4 fiber, 1 protein)

Meal 3:
6 ounces pork sirloin tip (266 cal, 0 fiber, 53 protein)
3 cups of garden salad (30 cal, 2 fiber, 2 protein)
1/2 tbsp of dressing (30 cal, 0 fiber, 0 protein)
2 cups of spaghetti squash (84 cal, 4 fiber, 2 protein)

Snack 2:
25 grapes (85 cal, 1.1 fiber, 1 protein)

-----

1297 cal, 32.6 fiber, 168.4 protein
(16g fat, 128g carbs, 56g sugar, 1600mg salt, 360mg Cholesterol)


I'm not logging water, but I'm generally drinking 4-5 eight-ounce glasses of water each day which is generally enough to turn my urine clear.
 
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Cate

Support crew
Welcome to the forum, Err (I love the humour in your user name :) ) I love your graph.
It's a shame you can't work in conjunction with a doctor. 4 visits & haven't seen him? That seems a bit slack. You have done so well losing 150 lbs already this year! I'm with LaMa re consuming below 1500 cals a day for a bloke.
 

alligatorob

Respected Member
I can't think of much I would change in what you are doing, if its working for you just keep it up. You appear to be eating very well!

Is there anything in particular you are struggling with right now?

I have to agree with Petal, your dump scale story is great! A classic.

Thanks for joining us, you will be good addition to the group!
 

Err2

New member
Is there anything in particular you are struggling with right now?

Well I'm trying to learn more of the gritty details as I become comfortable with the knowledge previously acquired. At first, calories alone were overwhelming. Now that I've got a better handle on that I'm trying to get a bit more advanced by delving into body composition.

I got started down this track wondering why my meticulously weighed and counted calorie deficits were resulting in greater than expected weight loss. 3500 calories is a pound, right? Turns out that isn't the whole truth. 3500 calories is 1 pound of fat, but you don't just lose fat - you also lose lean mass along the way. And 1 pound of muscle is only 700 calories (you also lose other bits in "lean mass" but we'll ignore those).

Each person will lose a different ratio of fat to lean mass, but in general the research seems to suggest 70-90% of your lost weight will come from body fat. That suggests you need a calorie deficit of just 2660 to 3220 to lose 1 pound of body mass. Not only is that a far cry from 3500, that's still quite an extreme range!

If I count my total calorie deficit since Jan 1 and divide that by my weight loss, I get about 3150 calories per pound.. If I look at my body composition now and calculate how much lean and fat mass I need to lose to reach 160 lb at 15% BF, I come up with 3050 calories per pound.

Unfortunately, body fat calculations are fraught with errors. I've thought about rigging up a goPro, yardstick, and a water trough to try and calculate my volume Archimedes style, but for now I've been using the tape measure and the Navy calculation - purportedly a method with a +/- 3% error. You can see that while I fairly steadily dropped 10 pounds over the last 3 weeks, my waist and neck measurements -and their corresponding estimated BF%- have bounced around only a little and seemingly at random:

Screenshot 2020-08-26 at 13.08.52.png

Screenshot 2020-08-26 at 13.13.46.png


So my more immediate concern is ensuring that I'm not losing lean mass too rapidly at the moment. Part of the recent stagnation in BF% is likely due to reduced outdoor exercise (we've had a week and a half of extreme heat followed by a week of unhealthy air quality from the ensuing wildfires). And part of it may be due to my not doing enough resistance training. I have been doing some body-weight and resistance band exercises, but the home exercises I can do at all are much higher repetitions than the 3-10 rep goal for muscle building/training.

Unfortunately, my weight and my family's risk factors make joining a gym unwise during the pandemic. Not that I could right now - Gyms here aren't allowed to operate indoors and the smoke outside is at unhealthy levels...
 

LaMaria

Well-known member
I love how thorough and methodical you are.
I have been doing some body-weight and resistance band exercises, but the home exercises I can do at all are much higher repetitions than the
It's 100% better than nothing though, and in some cases you could even see it as adding a bit of cardio.
 

alligatorob

Respected Member
Well I'm trying to learn more of the gritty details as I become comfortable with the knowledge previously acquired. At first, calories alone were overwhelming. Now that I've got a better handle on that I'm trying to get a bit more advanced by delving into body composition.
You have done a much better job of it than I, I respect the detail of your research! On body fat % I looked into that as well. I had a caliper based measure done about a month back, and have decided to get a scale that shows body fat %. LaMa suggested that, and I think its a good idea. After a lot of investigation I ordered this one from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N1UX8RW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 it is supposed to arrive soon. One thing I found is that no body fat scale is very accurate, but they can be good to show trends over time. If you want you can always calibrate to a more accurate test occasionally. The one I ordered was the best rated of the Amazon scales and not too expensive, will let you know what I think when it arrives.

I think you are wise to be doing the exercise you can, I know I lost muscle in my weight loss, its best to keep as much of it as you can. Sorry you can't get to a gym right now, but your home exercising will be a big help, high rep or low exercise is what's important.
 

Err2

New member
Thanks, please do let me know what you think of that scale - it would be much more convenient than the tape measure. I did try my sister's Taylor-brand scale that she got at Target and it said I had like 26% body fat when I was 350 lb which was didn't pass the sanity check, though I never thought to check whether it could be calibrated
 

PolarPink

New member
Hi Err,

I had to tell you that I think your dedication and discipline are inspiring and how I envy your math skills lol
I just recently joined as well and I hope you're getting a lot out of the experience here too.

Best of luck on your journey and I look forward to cheering you on as time goes on!
 
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overlandflyer

Well-known member
i have a feeling your body sorts out what type of body mass you need in a somewhat logical sense. i used to weigh 60 lbs more than i do now. the other day i got exhausted lugging a 40 lb car battery less than a few hundred feet. of course some of that 60 lbs i lost was muscle... at the weight i am now, there's no need to have muscles to carry around another 50-60 lbs. that isn't there anymore.
 

alligatorob

Respected Member
Flyer makes a good point. I am down 160 lbs from where I was a year and a half ago, no way could I walk with an extra 160 lbs today. Fortunately I don't need to. Where I noticed muscle loss was deep sea fishing, I can't haul fish up from 100+ feet as well now as I could a couple of years ago.
 

Err2

New member
I've been skimming through your diary Rob - very impressive! And it seems like we have a similar approach.

Part of my focus on lean mass is definitely vanity, particularly because I'd like a healthy way to offset the inevitable sagging excess skin (something I'm already seeing 1/2 way to my goal). And part of it is my desire to maintain a more "normal" metabolism when I transition from my losing weight diet to my rest of my life maintenance diet (since I am wholly unable to regulate my food intake by feel, I'll need to count calories the rest of my life).

The math behind the later: If I reach 160 lbs at 5'7" with borderline acceptable 25% body fat, my daily caloric needs will be about 1850 (without exercise) -- this is not much more than the generic guidelines for men seeking to lose weight! On the other hand, if I reach 160 lbs at 5'7" with an "ideal" 15% body fat, my daily caloric needs will be about 2050.

15% @ 160 lb may not be possible for me at first (or maybe ever) because that would mean 136 lb of lean body mass and 24 lb of fat, yet I've read about similar weight loss examples where people had 20 pounds of excess skin surgically removed. At 160 pounds, at least 8 lb of fat will be "essential" so it may be that excess skin gives me bodybuilder abs at a nominal 18% body "fat."

I don't think I'll have quite that much extra skin because those "20 pounds of skin removed" cases were usually from people who had extremely fast weight loss from bariatric surgeries and/or fasts rather than a 2 year diet. But I know I'll still have a lot of loose skin and I don't expect all of it to go away in time. And while I have some vanity, I don't want to risk potentially life-changing complications (or possibly death) by having a major 8 hour cosmetic surgery unless I absolutely have to. So I'll aim for keeping as much lean mass as I can and try to convince those I wind up dating that my flabby skin is just a scar from my past & that scars are sexy. Easier said than done, right?
 

LaMaria

Well-known member
Have you ever watched Obese to Beast on Youtube? Young guy who lost a lot of weight, has plenty of skin left over, and talk about it very candidly on multiple occasions. Including how he feels about new girlfriends seeing it live for the first time.
 
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