Geek Weight Loss

Earlier this year I was looking at some family pictures with my glasses off and asked myself, “Who is that fat guy on the end?” Turns out, it was me. I’m not sure when it happened, but I got fat.

So I dug out the scale and jumped on it. I looked down to see I was 200 pounds. Holy crap! When I graduated college, in 1990, I was 165 pounds. Somewhere in the middle I managed to pack on 35 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to do something about it. The question was, how?

I dismissed all of the fad-type diets. There is no way I could just stop eating pasta. I love pasta. I talked to a few friends and they all told me how losing weight quickly means you’ll put it back just as quickly. It’s all about changing habits. I needed to hack myself. I wanted something without a lot of complicated rules. I also realized that I’m a geek and because of that I should channel that geek impulse to help me lose weight. So I went to the App Store.

Lose It

First I downloaded the Lose It iPhone app (free) which is a great calorie tracker. (Sadly, no iPad app.) This app has an excellent database of food. Just about anywhere I go, they’ve already figured out the calories of whatever I order. You can also add in your own custom foods and it remembers prior meals. So when I return to Chipotle for the same burrito, I can report in with one tap. Moreover, Lose It partnered with some hardware-types to make it more fun and geeky. So I spent some money.


The Fitbit

This was my first purchase in the war against my belt. The Fitbit ($100) is a small device that fits in your pocket (or on your belt) and tracks your steps, your stairs, and other bits of data as you go through your day. I’ve been carrying it now since April and it is now a regular part of our my routine.

The Fitbit proves that game theory works on me. I’m always looking for ways to goose my stats. I park as far away as possible from my destination. I use the stairs all the time. While part of me thinks this is a pain, another part of me thinks, “this is going to be great for my Fitbit stats”. The Fitbit has social media hooks built in, which I never use. It also has a website and an iOS app, which give me updates about how I’m doing.

More importantly, it sends data to Lose It. When I get high stats on my Fitbit, it automatically deducts calories from Lose It. Yay.


The Withings Scale

I also purchased a Withings scale ($160). This is a scale with the built-in Wi-Fi radio. It connects to your network (it is 802.11G only, strangely not 802.11N) and collects data for its web interface and iOS app. In addition to telling you how heavy you are, it also performs BMI calculations and related data. Conveniently for me, there’s a hook to Lose It so my daily weigh-ins are automatcially collected.

You can also get all social with this scale and upload your weight to Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social media rocks your world. I’ve never done that. It always seems to me just too narcisistic to waste my reader’s time with a daily run of weight.

I probably could have skipped the purchase of the Withings scale but I’m glad I didn’t. In effort to keep at this weight loss game, I need to add as much “geek” to the process as possible.

So how is it working? I started at 200 and now I’m 179. I’ve lost 21 pounds in a little over three months without too much pain and suffering. I think it is great and I’m hoping that in another 3-4 months I’ll be down to my college weight of 165.


Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips for geek weight loss I’ve discovered along the way.

1. Record Everything You Eat (No Cheating)

I’ve had a few plateus. Everytime I stop recording what I eat, the weight loss stops. This is the most important tip.

2. Record Food Before You Eat It

It is easy to add food in Lose It. It takes seconds. If you put the calories in first, you’ll always know what you are getting into. I remember getting a breakfast sandwhich one day when I was hungry only to find out later I’d just consumed 700 calories. Ugh. Record first.

3. Elevators are Made of Kryptonite

Steps are fun. Take them. I walk steps everywhere I go. At work, everytime I take a bathroom break I walk four flights of stairs.

4. Park Far

It is so easy to find your car in BFE. And just think, you can listen to a great podcast on the hike.

5. Include Some Friends

Only recently I’ve started telling a few friends what I’m up to and they are now doing the same thing. I think this would be much easier with a group.

6. Build in Some Rewards

It sounds dumb but give yourself some rewards that don’t involve cookies. When I lost my first 10 pounds, I bought a Thunderbolt external drive I’ve been lusting after. At 20 pounds, I promised I’d go public and write this post. When I get to 30 pounds, I’m going to take all my fat clothes to the charity center and buy myself some new ones. I haven’t decided what happens at 165 yet.

7. Don’t be So Hard on Yourself

I think you need compassion towards yourself. Occaisionally you’ll move the wrong direction or plateau. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

I think the next 15 pounds will be even harder than the first 20 but I’m okay. The geek part of this is working for me.