Lessons Learned Losing Weight

Later this year Erica and I are having our five year anniversary. I can’t quite believe that five years have passed since we said I do, and we couldn’t be happier. Consequently, we are going to renew our vows and have a bit of a gathering.

The gathering is in late September and as such I want to ensure that Erica is renewing her vows with the same approximately-shaped guy. As such, I have spent the last three weeks or so focusing on losing some pounds. Now, I don’t really consider myself particularly overweight, but I have definitely put on some pounds since we got married, and my goal is to lose the 15lb or so.

Interestingly, we have discussed weight and health at a few previous Ubuntu Developer Summits, and I know that unfortunately a lot of folks in our community suffer from weight issues and challenges, so I thought it might be useful to share some tips I have learned about getting fitter. This might provide some food for thought for getting in shape too.

Now, to be clear, I hate exercise. I don’t like working out, I can’t stand gyms, and I also don’t want to live a monastic life in which I don’t get to enjoy my hobbies of smoking large chunks of meat for hours on end and having a few drinks with friends at the weekend. So, I wanted to put a plan in place to lose the weight while also maintaining a sense of normality with these aspects of my life.

I keep things pretty simple. I work out for 45 minutes a day on an elliptical trainer at home and I watch my calories during the week. I try to make sure I am eating at least 500 fewer calories than I need to maintain my current weight – this gets me onto a 1lb/week drop. At weekends I don’t go crazy, but I eat and drink pretty much what I want, and exercise at least once at the weekend.

To track this I have found the Fitbit One fitness tracker invaluable for showing how many steps I have travelled each day, how many calories I have burned, and helping to keep on track with my goals (at least 40mins of active exercise a day). I also use the Fitbit Area scale that automatically sends my weight to the Fitbit website, so I can see any progress that I am making. Unfortunately there is no Ubuntu or other Linux client for the Fitbit products, so I need to use the iPad to sync the data (some Android devices are supported too, but very few).

So here are some tips I have learned:

  • Pick a good time to work out. I used to do this in the evenings, but by the time I finish work at 7pm, get Jack to bed, eat dinner, and finish digesting dinner, it was often too late. I switched this to 4pm and I have been able to maintain my daily exercise routine without running out of time.
  • Find a calorie calculator (such as this) and figure out how many calories you need to eat to lose the pounds. As an example, I need 3000 cals to maintain current weight, so I shoot for 2500 a day to lose weight. Count up your food and try to keep it under your target. Some people track their food in Fitbit, but I can’t be bothered with that, so I just count it in my head.
  • Exercise is not about the time you spend doing it, but (a) making sure you sweat, and (b) making sure you get breathless at different times in your workout. I like variable resistant workouts such as on the elliptical where it simulates running up and down hills. It feel like I get much more out of my 45mins. Do whatever exercise you want, but I do the elliptical as it is (a) conveniently located in my house, (b) doesn’t involve going out and getting cancelled by weather, (c) lets me watch TV, and (d) doesn’t involve too much pressure on my ankles, like running does.
  • As I say, I hate exercise, so I watch Netflix and Amazon Prime on my tablet. I find this essential; anything to take my mind of working out and staring at the clock helps. This keeps me entertained, gives me a chance to watch the movies and shows I enjoy, and makes the time pass.
  • Learn to mentally set goals when working out. As an example, the other day I was tired after 20mins into my work out. I then mentally pushed myself to 30mins without stopping. I made it. Then I mentally pushed myself to 40mins. This is not only something you feel proud of in that workout session, but it gives you a renewed sense of determination.
  • Bear in mind that when you weight yourself your weight fluctuates, so don’t get disheartened. Always weigh yourself in the morning and then compare weights every Sunday. You should start seeing it drop off.

I hope this helps, and I am happy to answer any questions in the comments. :-)

  • Joseph Salisbury

    I find that using a heart rate monitor can be helpful. Especially one that can count calories burned.

  • Jayson Rowe

    Good luck dude! It sounds like you are on the right track for success. Just keep pushing. From one computer geek to another, here is my story: http://jaysonrowe.blogspot.com/2012/12/dont-be-this-guy-those-are-pictures-of.html

  • Jan Moren

    There’s a number of pretty different ways people manage to lose weight. Restrict the food intake; very little carbohydrates; mostly carbohydrates; low-intensity exercise; high-intensity exercise; and any combination thereof.

    I’ve come to suspect the main point is not how you adjust the energy balance over time, but how you adjust your body’s expectations, and how you break your habits.

    I’ve lost 22kg over the past ten years, almost by accident. I did so by moving to a different continent for work, making a complete break with all my previous habits and expectations. Started eating the way people around me did in my new country, and picked up a habit of walking quite a lot. I didn’t even realize I was losing weight for the first year, until I one day realized my pants didn’t fit me any longer.

    Just like quitting tobacco (did that too at the same time, though on purpose) or alcohol, the hardest part over time is not any physical craving, but breaking old, ingrained patterns of behaviour. You’re used to and expect a dinner meal to be of a certain type and amount, for instance, and breaking that is very hard.

  • JP

    Nice post, Jono. I noticed there are a number of very common mis-perceptions in your post, however.

    1) While increasing caloric expenditure is good, maintaining the same type of caloric intake (even if the amount is smaller) will not yield long lasting results. Look at what you eat – sugar, carbs, refined foods, etc and you’ll quickly see that you are consuming things that are awful for the results you wish to achieve.

    2) Exercise should be fun. Exercise is meant to maintain muscle, while also maintaining other normal functions. Truth is, humans are quite lazy in this era. We use computers to handle what our brains used to, we use machines to handle what our muscles used to (cars vs walking, elevators vs climbing, etc). The elliptical is great for a cardio workout, but what about the other few hundred muscles. There is a 7 minute workout that can be quite intense that works all major muscle groups and provides cardio to boot. In reality there are 2-3 exercises that will maintain muscle and provide the necessary major organ workout as well.

    3) The key to all of this is maintenance. If you increase your metabolism by adding muscle, replacing fat, and correcting the intake mistakes you will be able to maintain the correct body mass forever.

    Eating lots of vegetables, good protein, and limiting “the bad stuff” you will find it’s easy to maintain a great body. It’s easier said than done, but with discipline it will become second nature.

  • Alan Bell

    great stuff Jono. I lost a few kg last year and I thought it was kind of hard to find relevant advice. There is loads out there if you want to drop a dress size or get into a bikini for summer, but following that kind of advice would result in something the world does not need to see. If you want to bulk up and put on loads of muscles or run a marathon or if you are kinda huge there is loads of advice out there. Seemed to be a bit of a lack of stuff for middle aged average sized, slightly exercise-phobic blokes who want to look more like they have a six pack than look like they drank lots of six packs.

  • http://www.brandonholtsclaw.com/ Brandon Holtsclaw

    Rock on brother!! I wish ya the best of luck in being able to keep it a new routine like that and not kill all the fun bits !!

    And although a few months early, congrats on 5 years of having the privilege to treat Erica like a queen every day … I’m certain there will be many times that to come and before you realize it everyone will be reading lil Jack’s blog post inviting everyone to Graduation!!

    I know not everything can be peaches and cream all the time, but ride the good times until the wheels fall off !

  • Pierre

    Jono, how many calories do you burn with 45 minutes of elliptical?

  • Neil Broadley (Scaine)

    I’d love to know which of the various fitness monitors (Jawbone, Bodymedia, Fuelband, Fitbit, etc) are compatible (or will be compatible at some point) with the upcoming Ubuntu Touch devices. Has anyone looked at the various APIs available for these devices to see if anything is possible in this area?

  • http://www.derrekcooper.com/ derrekcooper

    good stuff, jono. I’m on the same kick. Like others stated, for some it can be slight adjustments. For some of us, life changing adjustments.

    What works for me..

    Fitbit- couldn’t agree more. I find more than anything it reminds me to be active and has a touch of the competitive spirit built in with friends.

    Walking- start slow, build up to elliptical, running whatever. I find MapMyWalk, MapMyRun apps to be great motivators as well.

    Eat less, eat smart.

    Drink lots of water.

    Keep exercising interesting and fun. I started hotyoga and I’m hooked. Balance of mental exercise as well as physical and makes you sweat like not other.

    The whole point is to be open and dedicated to change. After that, its filling in the blanks

  • Diane

    This Lady Is Losing It!

    I need your support today! Don’t Let Looks Deceive You!


  • Anonymous

    I hope we can get netflix on board

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  • Cort Kundu

    I’ve been overweight all my life and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 24 pounds in one month without exercise and it has been a life changer. I’m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I’ve been doing then I’d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at oceanflowers82@gmail.com and I’ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I’ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day