The 3 Most Important Tools that Helped Me Drop 70 lbs in 2021

If you’re starting a plan to lose weight, the number of tools available to help you on your journey can feel overwhelming. Depending on the type of exercises you enjoy, you may already have everything you need. My philosophy was to just start doing something to get my body moving, and for me that was walking. After a few weeks, I added an exercise bike I inherited when my father passed away.

I decided to list three key products that have helped me lose weight over the past year. This is not a comprehensive list, but all were at least partially instrumental in my ability to drop nearly 70 lbs. in 2021.

  • Apple Watch – I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas in 2020 and didn’t do much with it for three months. I bought the Apple Watch 6 with cellular on AT&T, but if I could do it again, I’d buy the far less expensive Apple Watch SE because it has all the fitness tracking features I care most about. The Watch tells me how many calories I’ve burned during the day, how many steps I’ve walked, how many minutes I’ve exercises and so on. Being able to track my walks by distance/steps helped keep me motivated when I first started. I’m sure other health trackers like Fitbit would work well too.
  • Lose It! – This app that runs on iPhone or Android that makes it simple to track track your food. I’ve tried other apps before and they were too cumbersome and I lost interest within a few weeks. What I like about Lose It! is that it makes it super easy to enter food I consume during the day, set calorie goals, and tracks macros, if you’re into that.
  • Brooks Beast 20 – I knew from the start I would be walking a lot, and I needed a comfortable and stable walking shoe. I visited the St. George Running Center and tried on and tested about a dozen different shoes, and I liked the Brooks the best because it has a wide toe box and felt snug around my foot without feeling constrained. If you have a more narrow foot, then something like a New Balance Fresh Foam model may work better for you. The key here is to find a shoe that’s comfortable and will not hurt your feet after a long walk.
https://cdn.runrepeat.com/i/brooks/34760/brooks-beast-20-black-ebony-grey-8538-main.jpg

These three items were enough to get me moving. I started by walking around the block a couple of times. I worked up to walking one mile then two. I started tracking my steps on my Apple Watch and set a goal to walk at least 10,000/day. Within a few months I was averaging about 4 miles a day which is about what I’m doing now, months later. My 14-year old son had early morning mountain bike practice a couple of times a week, and I’d take him to practice and then walk around the park or parking lot to get in my steps for that day.

Can I give you one tip if you’re down or discouraged about your weight and/or health today? Just start doing some type of movement for a few minutes each day. If you can only make it around the block once or twice like me, that’s fine. Don’t worry about distance or calories if you’re getting started. Making movement and exercise a habit is far more important to your weight loss than tracking every step, every calorie or every macro.

I’ve used many other tools that have helped me drop weight, but these three items have been the most important, and they are tools I’ve used since day one, and that I’m still using today. You will probably find your most important tools don’t match my choices, and that’s cool. Use whatever works best for you.

Getting in Shape

I had my big toe fused in November. For the next few months I went back to the doctor who performed the surgery, and he would take x-rays to determine if my body was healing properly. This went on for about four months before he determined I could resume most physical activity.

The only activities I can’t do at this time are running, jogging and jumping. Sports like tennis and racquetball are out because I risk jamming my toe into the end of my shoe. But I can walk. I can ride my exercise bike. I can do floor exercises and work out with resistance bands.

I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

At one of my last visits to the foot doctor I asked what I could do to accelerate my recovery. He said, “Drop some weight.” So I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas, but didn’t do much with it until the end of March. I almost returned the watch, but I’m glad I didn’t.

From around the first of April till today I’ve dropped just over 45 lbs. I thought I would share how I’ve done that and what I’ve learned about myself over the past few months. I’ll start with my least favorite part of the process: tracking calories.

I’ve tried to count calories in the past, but after a few days I’d give up. It’s just too hard to remember. But I knew monitoring what I was putting into my body would be as important as any new exercise routine. So I downloaded the Lose It! app on my iPhone and started. I still don’t enjoy it, but I’ve made a habit of tracking each item I eat. This one change has brought about big changes in how much I eat. I decided I wouldn’t deny myself most foods, but that I would monitor the amount of food and calories I was consuming each day. I quickly realized how many sweets I was eating each day, and began replacing them with fruits I enjoy like blueberries, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Selfies help track my progress – Nov 2020 till Aug 2021

The other big change I made was set a daily exercise goal on my Apple Watch. I started with 10 minutes and added another five minutes every other week until I’m now up to 50 minutes a day. I don’t stress about what type of exercise I will do, but I have a couple of favorites which include my exercise bike and walking around my neighborhood. One tip I have is to set small goals you can reach. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see instant progress, so I decided to focus on tracking my calories and exercising a few minutes each day. I didn’t make drastic changes to my daily schedule, diet or daily routine. It was also important that I be able to put on my shorts and tennis shoes and start working out quickly instead of driving to the gym, and then figuring out what to do.

About 14 years ago I dropped 65 lbs on the Atkins Diet. But I found it really hard to keep the weight off because the diet wasn’t sustainable for me. I removed entire food groups, banned sugar and most carbs, and the weight came off fast. I was a miserable person to be around though.

But I’ve learned that losing weight fast isn’t the most sustainable method. I’m learning to cook healthy foods at home. I’m drinking a lot of water instead of fruit juices. I’m one of those dorks who carries around a 40 ounce Hydro Flask! I keep a drawer of healthy snacks like nuts and protein bars and string cheese so I’m not tempted to down a Snickers and bag of gummy bears. If I have a day where I go over my daily calorie allotment, I’ll try to spend extra time on my bike or walking the next day, but I don’t get down on myself. I also found inspiration for losing a lot of weight by watching Chris Terrell on TikTok.

I’m at the half-way point of my weight loss. I have just over 50 lbs to go to get to my weight goal, and I figure I’ll be able to meet that goal sometime in the first few months of 2022. Slow and steady.

Turning Point

Many years ago, I purchased a step counter. It wasn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, and it hung from my shorts. I’d try not to check it all the time, but doing so was addicting. At least at first. Eventually, I dreaded checking it on days I didn’t move around much. Eventually, the washing machine put me (and the counter) out of its misery.

I thought back to that step counter as I began my walk today. I retired the counter, but have used various apps on my iPhone to track my fitness or lack thereof. Even when I walked or biked for miles or hit 10K steps in a day, I seldom felt joy. Sure, I hit a number, but that number held little value to me.

lava

Unlike this massive hill of lava.

See, the lava fields sitting just outside Snow Canyon are about 1.5 miles from my home just off a trail I like to take. When I don’t feel like walking, I tell myself I can at least make it to the lava. If I don’t feel like going further, I can turn around, and I will still have put in 3 miles.

I know 3 miles is nothing for most people. But right now, 3 miles feels like a lot to my body. Sometimes I turn around here and head home. And yet, I still feel like I accomplished something on those days. Making it to the lava feels good.

If I decide my body can go further, I remain on the trail and walk through the lava fields. Doing so nearly doubles the distance of my walk, but it feels further with several hills to traverse.

When I try this in the summer in 100-degree heat, I make sure to carry enough water, but today’s 50-degree overcast skies made for the perfect conditions to walk a little further.

The lava doesn’t count my steps, but it does something much more important.

The Two Sides Of My Closet

Last Friday, the alarm on my iPhone went off just before 6 am. I stumbled out of bed, put on gym shorts and laced up my Hyperdunks. In less than ten minutes I was heading to the gym with my neighbor to play basketball.

For the next 90 minutes I ran up and down the court. My shot wasn’t falling but that didn’t matter. I was there for the exercise, and I love the ebb and flow of the game.

As much as I complain to myself, once I get to the gym I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This school in Kent must have been built no later than the 1940’s. The glass boards drop from the ceiling. The rims are forgiving and are adorned with long nylon nets which flip up inside themselves on the perfect baseline swish shot. 

With my workout complete, I jump in the shower before heading to work. Then comes that time of day I dread: picking out my clothing for the day.

Kim has her own closet and I have mine. The right side is filled with clothing that fits me today. The other side is filled with shirts and pants that no longer do. Every morning I’m reminded of this fact so I seldom open the left side of my closet. It’s full of Dockers in perfect condition. Dress shirts hang there that haven’t been worn more than a few times. Even a couple of belts that used to fit around my waist.

Three years ago I got tired of being overweight and lost 60 lbs over the course of seven months. I did it by cutting sugar from my diet, monitoring carbohydrates and exercising. There were no secret formulas or magic pills. It was difficult. Bad habits occasionally surfaced. But I stuck with it and was down to within a few pounds of my goal. 

But by last December I’d gained back all but 15 lbs. Over time, I’d replaced my size large shirts with extra large ones. My jeans went from 34 to 38 and even those were tight. I had less energy to spend with my kids and my sugar cravings had returned in full force.

Sugar is my kryptonite. It’s the domino that triggers bad habits. I’m constantly fighting the urge to consume it through cookies or donuts or Chewy Sweet Tarts. Yet, once it’s out of my system, the cravings subside, and I am able to eat healthy foods without constantly feeling hungry.

When I went back to work after the holidays, I decided to change my eating habits. I began playing racquetball every Tuesday night. I joined a group of friends for basketball a couple of times each week. I got my butt back on the treadmill.  I began taking my lunch to work or making a salad at the Microsoft cafeteria. I’ve tripped up a few times. When that happens I move on instead of pouting over a bowl of ice cream.

Back to last Friday morning while I’m staring at my closet. I decide to pull down a pair of black Levi’s from the left side of my closet. I tell myself they probably won’t fit, but it will motivate me to keep going.

I was shocked when I was able to pull them on and fasten the buttons without suffocating myself. I checked the tag to make sure they were the smaller size. I could not believe it.

I was so happy I called out to Kim, “Hey, check this out! It’s been two years since I’ve been able to wear these.”

But I know I still have a ways to go. I know I can lose the weight. I know I’ll be able to get down to a weight I’m comfortable with. But I also understand that keeping the weight off will be a lifelong battle.

But I’m off to a good start. And most important, I feel better and have more energy to spend with Kim and the kids.

Fat Blogging

Back in August of 2006 I decided I’d better get my act together and begin exercising more and eating a healthier diet. For the next six months I was hard core with my diet. The biggest changes I made were:

  1. Replacing Coke with Diet Coke
  2. Drinking lots of water
  3. Removed sugar from diet
  4. Closely monitored carb intake

The first few weeks were miserable. Giving up breads and pastries was the most difficult. Even today it’s still not easy. But I noticed that once I stopped eating sugar, my strongest cravings disappeared.

Eventually dropped my weight from 260 lbs to 205 lbs. I replaced nearly every clothing item I owned. I lost 5 inches in my waist and dropped two shirt sizes. It was great fun to walk into Nordstrom and pick out a couple size LARGE shirts!

I felt so much better about myself. I had more energy to play with my kids. My clothes fit so much better and I could wear things that didn’t look very good on me before.

So it’s hard to admit this but I slipped up about 6 months ago and gained a good chunk of that weight back. I stopped doing those things that helped me lose the weight in the first place. I had a couple of big changes take place in my life that contributed to me slipping up, but had I been more committed I wouldn’t have let it happen.

When I first started my quest to lose weight, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’d think about my weight every single day but wasn’t sure I was able to do anything about it. This time around I know I can lose weight. The challenge is keeping it off and continuing to eat healthy foods and exercise so the weight doesn’t return.

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing well with my diet and the exercise has been more frequent, although still not what it should be. I’ve dropped 9 lbs. in the last two weeks to bring my weight to 235. My goal is to get to 180 by the summer. I created a spreadsheet at Google Docs to track my weight and bought a new scale that keeps track of my weight and body fat.

It seems strange to put so much focus on a number. In fact, I don’t really know what my ideal weight should be and I may adjust my goal at some point. When I married Kim, I was around 190. My body just “feels” right when I’m around that 180-190 range.

I’m going to reach my goal this time.

This is probably the most selfish blog post I’ve ever written because it’s hard to imagine anyone other than myself (and maybe Kim) who care what I weigh. But I hope by posting my progress occasionally that my blog will work as a motivator and keep me on track. And maybe some of my coworkers won’t place the candy dish right outside my door.

BTW, Jason Calacanis was the first blogger I read who mentioned the concept of Fat Blogging.