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Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

5 Simple Steps Of How I Accidentally Lost 30 Pounds

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Catchy headline, right?

Well, it’s true…and most of it happened over 6 months.

This was a picture of me circa 2006

Before Rob: Me at 200+ lbs circa 2006

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

After Rob: This is me at 173 lbs in 2008

So, here’s my story on how I accidentally lost 30 pounds…maybe you or a loved one can benefit.

It started about two years ago when I was 39 — I weighed 203 pounds at my highest point. The 30 pounds came off over a 12-month period (about 20 pounds within 6 months!).

And, again, I wasn’t trying to lose weight, so this is a weird one.

What’s a weight loss story without before-and-after pictures. I picked a couple in which I’m wearing roughly the same outfit (in this case a suit).

I have bathing suit pics too, but let’s not go there!

So what happened? Well, after the weight-loss, I reverse-engineered the experience best I could.

There are 5 items that stand out.

I like acronyms so I came up with “S.E.E.D.S” to outline the five steps (which are in no particular order).

The SEEDS Approach to Weight Loss

So, SEEDS is:

S = Sleep
I watched an episode on 60 Minutes that showed the effects of weight on Sleep deprivation. One normal looking guy (my age and weight) was put in a lab and woken up periodically so that his sleep was both inconsistent and shorter than it normally was for him.

The effect: he suddenly started eating twice as much food — they showed him eating an entire pizza with multiple toppings (and he remarked that he had never before eaten more than a couple of slices).

In other words, he felt tired and food represented energy to him. Well, the food certainly provided some short-term energy for him but it also added a bunch of calories to his body.

How much sleep do you need? Seven to 8 hours of sleep is widely considered to be healthy (I sleep an average of 7 to 7 and 1/2 hours).

It’s also important to make sure that you have as calm and deep a sleep as you can. One way to do this is to make sure you don’t consume caffeine too late in the day.

A massuese was giving me a massage and mentioned that she was also a nutritionist; I had a soy latte with me when I showed up for the afternoon massage and she told me to be careful as caffeine has a 6-hour half life.

So, for example, if you have a tea or coffee at 3pm and it contains 50 miligrams of caffeine, 25 miligrams of caffeine will still be in your body at 9pm and 12.5 miligrams will be in your body at 3AM.

So that 3pm cup of coffee is the same as having a half-cup of coffee at 9pm! That will effect your deep sleep (you still may fall asleep but you’ll wake up a big more groggy cuz of the caffeine).

I now try to have my last cup of caffeinated beverage at 12noon each day.

E = Eating
I met another nutritionist (a wonderful woman named Minna Yoo) at Samovar Tea House in San Francisco and traded her some business advice (she later launched a cool company called LoveBottle).

Minna’s advice: She drew a circle on my place mat representing a giant plate, and she drew a line in the middle of it and said that that half of your plate should be vegatables; then she drew a line through one of the halves so that there were two quarters — and she said one of those quarters should be protein (any kind you want) and the other quarter should be some sort of grains.

Minna also said that most people (including me) need around 1,200 to 2,500 calories per day (depending on how active you are) and you should spread that out over 4 to 5 meals (there are exceptions to this (if you’re an active athelete, or training for a marathon or Triatholon type event, for instance, you need/burn many more calories).

She told me that if I tried to eat those proportions for every meal, I would feel healthier. I have since adopted those proportions for most of my meals. The key: make sure to keep enough veggies and protein around.

Some other eating tips I found during my weight loss:

  • Read Ingredients
    • Read ingredients and keep a special eye on calories and try to keep your calorie intake to 500 calories or fewer for most meals if you can.
    • Watch for Sugar Versus Fat in Snacks — A good rule is to pick the lowest sugar snack option as sugar equates to calories. Fat is actually less important to weight loss. On sugar, I try to eat only snacks that have 10 grams of sugar or fewer  per serving– this is hard to find but two of my favorite slow sugar snacks are Z Bars and MOJO Bars (both by Cliff Bar).
    • Beware of energy bars in general — Energy bars often contain 20 to 30 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Dark Chocolate Rules
    • Pick as high a percentage of cocoa as you can tolerate as there is exponentially less sugar in the higher dark chocolate. I eat 82% cocoa dark chocolate and I’m able to have 1/3rd of a large dark chocolate bar each night and it’s only about 70 calories!
    • Beware Popular Candybars as a Habit — You will find triple the amount of calories in a Hershey Bar or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup as my 82% bar — i.e. you can eat three times as much of my dark chocolate bar than a Hershey’s Bar!
  • Many Meals
    • Four to 5 Meals Per Day — I believe that when I went to 4 to 5 meals per day at 400 to 500 calories each (versus 3 meals a day (at about 800 calories each) ), that my weight started coming off.
    • Bread — A typical slice of bread has 100 calories in it and a bagel has about 160, regardless of whether it’s white bread or whole-wheat or rye. I love bread but what I now do is eat mostly NON-white bread (the reason is that it has more nutrients and fills you up faster (so you don’t need as much).  Another trick I use is that I try to eat bread only when it’s fresh or when it’s in a favorite sandwich of mine (I like BLTs!).
    • Bread OR Pasta (not both) — I try not to eat bread in a meal if I’m already having a starch such as rice or pasta.
  • Fruit
    • A modest amount of fruit (or juices) any time is great.
    • Beware of too much smoothie! For instance, you could have the Orange Dream Machine smoothie at Jamba Juice and that’s 750 calories (the equivalent of over one meal worth of calories for yourself). Note: The largest size of Peanut Butter M’ood at Jamba Juice contains over 1,000 calories! (two meals worth of calories!)

The Next E = Exercise
I had previously exercised 4 or 5 times a week and I stepped that up to daily. Some of my approaches to keeping this up:

  • Break a Sweat — I try to do something to break a sweat at least once a day (a good sex life is the easiest way!)
  • Drive Less– I try to walk or bike (instead of drive) to something wherever possible (bonuses: it feels better AND helps the environment)
  • Enjoy It — I focus my exercise on something I enjoy (i switched from treadmill jogging (boring for me) to basketball playing; I also try to do one walk/hike by the water at least one day a week.
  • Make it a habit — I find it’s easier to exercise when I’ve made a habit out of it (same time of day, every day, etc.)
  • Early Rising — I find that it’s easier to exercise early in my day — Read How to Be An Early Riser to learn tips on waking up earlier (it has changed my life!).

D = Drinking (as in less alcohol)
I cut my drinking by one-third, from an average of three drinks a day to two drinks a day.

That oesn’t sound like much but beer, wine and cocktails have about 100 to 150 calories in them so if you do the simple math of drinking one less drink per day then that will cause a decline in your calorie intake of about 5% (the average person should have about 2,500 calories per day).

Calories are similar to weight, right, so just think that one less beer or cocktail a day could help you reduce your weight by 5% (since I was 203 lbs at my peak, that could have been 10 lbs right there!)

S = Spirituality (Optional)
This last step is really an optional/bonus round…as I feel the previous four steps are key and this one is more of a multiplier!

I added a form of spirituality to my life during my weight loss period in the form of yoga.

I can’t explain any scientific reason why yoga helped me with weight loss, but my hunch is that it was the icing on the cake to my four other tips (Sleep, Eating, Exercise and Drinking). The main benefits I get are to let go of stress and “just be” as they say.

Since I take a Vinyassa Flow class in 75 degree temperature, it’s also an excellent detox (I break a sweat every time!).

While any one of the 5 SEEDS (Sleep, Eating, Exercise, Drinking and Spirtituality) will help you lose weight, I believe there’s also a compound effect (the lollapalooza effect as investor Charlie Munger calls it) that took place in me improving in all five of these categories, even if just a little.

I was very lucky that I happened to dabble in all five at the same time!

So, that’s how I accidentally lost 30 pounds! I’m still at around 172 pounds and feelin’ great!

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