A Weight Loss Journey

Writen by: Hank Wethington

Posted on 02 December 2012

About my weight loss.

2013-01-05 16.08.53

*Sorry, I realize that I don’t have many great pictures of me to create this post.

No. I didn’t have surgery, and I’m certainly not on meth. Those are the questions many have asked when asking me about my weight loss. Hopefully, those things were said in jest. When I first started getting serious about my weight, I had hit a high of 273, and just like most people when they see a number on the scale that sickens them; I made a decision that it was time to change. Not that I hadn’t made those decisions many times before, but this time, I DID change.

I guess the first thing I want to say is that it’s hard. That’s really important to understand. You don’t wake up one day, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I need to lose weight.” Wake up the next day, or even next month and BAM, it’s all gone. But then again, if you were honest with yourself, you didn’t put on weight all at once either. It’s a pretty gradual process. And that’s the second important thing to understand. Putting weight on, or taking it off is a gradual process. Anything fast is doomed to fail in the end.

So what did I do? What exactly were my steps? How did I go from 273 to 205 in 11 months? How do I plan to get to 175?

Sex and Koolaid.

What? You don’t believe me? Then tell me, how did I do it?

It’s ok. I’ll wait for you to answer.

Right. See you knew the answer all along. Diet and Exercise.

I know, that’s boring and it’s hard. And you’re right. And it’s why most people don’t do it. Again, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know exactly what we need to do. And we do it, at least for a little while. Then it gets tough. It’s not working like we thought. The kids get sick. Work is stressful. We go on vacation. What ever it is, diet and exercise get tough and we decide to quit. Maybe not right away. Maybe for a few days, then try to start again. Only, quitting the next time is even easier. Until one day we step on the scale and decide, diet and exercise don’t work.

But we know the truth.

“Wait!” you’re thinking, diets don’t work. You’ve read it a hundred times. And you’re right. They don’t work; at least as way we normally think about diets.

The main problem about diets is with the idea that a diet is a temporary eating plan, where we give up things we love to eat, so that we will let us lose the weight and look how we want to look. Of course, since it was temporary, we can go back and eat all the things we used to love when it’s done or when we’re done. And that’s why diets fail. Typically, we spent that “diet” time starving our self. Our bodies, thinking we’re starving, try and hold on to fat for even leaner times. Our bodies begin using lean muscle as fuel. We begin losing lean body mass, which burns calories faster than fat, and then replace it with fat when we pick up eating the same stuff we did before. This is the classic example of the yo-yo diet effect.

So what about the exercise? You’re thinking, I’ve worked my ass off (at least you were hoping you did) exercising, lost a little weight and it all came back. Or maybe you’re like me. I was very active. I played basketball twice a week for about an hour. Ran three times per week for at least 30 minutes. Heck, I had run a half marathon and completed a sprint triathlon in back to back weekends. And yet, I still weighed 273 pounds.

Just like diets, we think that a little extra exercise will fix all the issues. We run into problems because we don’t understand the relationship between food, exercise and our bodies. Some of the typical failures involve “rewards” for our exercise accomplishment, or trying to eat too few calories to speed up the weight loss only to binge a few days later when our bodies NEED food.

The truth is, when properly defined, diets and exercise are required to lose weight and keep it off.

Let’s go back to the word diet. A diet is not the act of withholding food, or a temporary eating plan. A proper diet is one in which we understand that food is fuel for our bodies. While a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, not all calories are the same depending on what your body is doing around those calories. There’s a lot of science about this, and way too much for me to get into (I’m just a project manager after all, not a doctor). However, there are many basics, which are easy to think about and put into action.

The primary goal when it came to diet for me was that everything I was doing, I would have to be able to do for the rest of my life. No special shakes. No temporary plans. No “off limit” foods. And, I didn’t want it to interfere with life; i.e. going out or eating with friends. I wanted to be normal, but I had to get control.

The first step was just writing it down. I needed a food journal. I personally used MyFitnessPal. There are others, this was my favorite. The first 3-4 weeks, I made no judgments, I just wrote down everything I ate, to the best of my knowledge. Sure, the gadget geek in me loved scanning bar codes with my phone, but tracking everything was boring and hard. But I stuck to it.

Step two was harder. In step two it was time to take inventory of what and how much I was eating, and then make changes. It actually wasn’t that hard. I looked at what I ate and was surprised at how often I was making bad food decisions. Sometimes we know when we do it, but most often, we think at the time, “it’s OK. It’s only half a Costco muffin. After all, it’s not a donut.” It’s this thinking that writing down what you eat will expose. I promise, it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what you should be eating a little less of. Everyday I had a calorie goal and I did my best to hit. I didn’t everyday, but each day I got better at it.

Step 3 was harder still. I thought I was doing well. I was still running and playing basketball, I was eating well, or so I thought, and I still wasn’t losing weight the way I thought I should be. It was time for drastic measures. BREAK OUT THE SCALE AND MEASURING CUPS! I grabbed my little plastic food scale and started weighing my food. WOW. What I thought was 4oz of chicken, was actually closer to 7oz. A teaspoon of sugar in my coffee? A tablespoon. And my little 200 calorie snack at night of 1/4 cup of and a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips… Turnout it was about 1000 calories. It was almost 1 cup of nuts and 1/4 of chocolate chips. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere.

It was soon after this point where I started to understand what my body needed. While fixing my portion sizes, I came to understand what I needed to run, ride, play basketball, all the things I was training for and doing. The last step was eating the right things at the right time. Carbs are not bad. We need them as energy. Cheap carbs (white flour, sugar, etc) should be used almost never. I know, I said no restrictions. I still have sugar in my coffee and white bread on race days. However, focus on the things that are changeable. Whole wheat bread replaces white bread. Fruit replaces candy. Lean meats replace fatty meats. The list goes on. Then I shifted my intake to support what I was doing.

I run and play basketball at lunch, sometime after work. This allows me to have the bulk of my carbs early in the day to support those endeavors. After exercise, I focus on proteins and healthy fats. There’s so much conflicting info on ratios, but for me, I found that 40% carb, 30% fat, and 30% protein worked best*. An easy way to change up how you’re eating is make half your plate vegetables and fruit, a quarter of the plate is protein, and the final quarter is whole grain carbs. Fat naturally occurs in the midst of all that. Don’t over think this. *Don’t use my 40/30/30 ratios. Find what works for you by tracking your intake and exercise.

Want to know the big secret about diet and exercise? Here’s the biggest thing I can tell you about losing weight.

It’s 80% diet and 20% exercise.

Read that again.

It can’t be stressed enough. I once heard it said, “You can’t out exercise bad eating habits.” It’s true. Weight loss is about changing how you eat, forever. This will also be one of the hardest thing you will ever do. There are many studies, journals, blog posts, etc. that will go into detail about how our American diet (now more like world wide) of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, saturated fats, and more, had contributed to where we are now. Not just as a nation, but you and me in particular. Read about it, understand it, but whatever you do, start making changes for a better you.

As for exercise, again, there is a ton of information out there. For me, I found running to be an easy, inexpensive exercise I could do. I started with Couch to 5k. You can read more about that process on my blog. The things that made it work for me were I could just get home, change my clothes and go. Once I finished the program, I started doing 5k races. No I didn’t win. I’m still not “fast.” Running turned into wanting to try a sprint triathlon. Now I want to do so much more. Last year I could hardly imagine the training and shape I am now in, but I believed in what I was doing and had a passion to get better. Don’t think too far down the road, but begin training for something. It makes it easier to do the work if you know you have something to do at the end.

I’m not going to guarantee you anything; you didn’t buy anything. However, I will say that you can do it. I’m not special. Hell, you’re not special. Focus on eating right. Make it fun. Begin exercising. Find some people do exercise with. But most of all begin.

Here are some simple steps to begin with. Doing this won’t shed 70 pounds in 6 months, but you will start losing weight. As you get more serious, like anything, you’ll need to take it to another level.


  1. Stop using “dinner” plates. Use salad plates. The typical dinner plate is HUGE (It’s actually grown from 9″ to 12″ over the last 100 years) and you do not require that much food at a single meal. By using a smaller plate, you’ll eat less. Most of us have been conditioned to “clean the plate.” At least now you can, and not have to eat so much.
  2. Switch to whole wheat. If it doesn’t say 100% whole wheat, it’s not.
  3. Drink more water. Most people don’t drink enough water and we’re often confused about the signals our bodies are sending. We confuse thirst for hunger. We’ve all heard 8x 8oz glasses per day. Use this instead, half your body weight in ounces. If you’re 130 pounds, the 8x 8oz glass is enough. If not, drink more.
  4. Minimize frozen/fast/processed food. Notice I didn’t say stop or never. However, the average meal at McDonalds is around 1200 calories. When you start looking at the calorie equation, that’s too much, way too much.
  5. Eat Breakfast! Study after study has shown that you people who eat breakfast eat less throughout the day. Breakfast does a few things to our bodies.
    1. Breaks our fast. We’ve been sleeping around 6-8 hours and we probably didn’t eat for 3-5 hours before we went to bed. That means 9-13 hours we’ve been without food.
    2. Sets metabolism in motion. When we eat our bodies begin the processing journey. All the work our bodies do need fuel, this helps our bodies begin using the right fuel and not stripping protein from our muscles to get it.
    3. Makes us less hungry later. When we go too long between meals, it becomes easy to make bad decisions about what and how much we eat.
    4. It’s the best meal of the day! OK, that’s just my opinion, but yeah.
  6. Snack. Yep, snack. I know you think you’re trying to eat less, not more, but snacking, at least healthy snacking is a great way to eat less! If you’re not ravenous when you eat dinner, you’ll eat less. Also, by eating throughout the day instead of only 3 meals, you’re body will be better balanced with no huge spikes. (Insulin is the main culprit here. You’ll need to read more about it, as this is a lengthy topic with lots of debate.)
  7. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk to the store. Walk to get coffee. Walk the dog. Walking 30-40 minutes is a great way to get out, see the world, enjoy nature, and burn calories. It’s easy. It’s free. And it’s good for you.

This hasn’t been an easy journey, and it hasn’t always been smooth, but it’s been worth it. There have been weeks where I need to remind myself about the basics above. There are times where I have had to “buckle down” to make it to the next step. However, I’ve also been on a 10-day vacation (even from tracking food) without gaining weight. Oh, and I’m not done! Feel free to follow me as I continue my journey.

1 Response to A Weight Loss Journey

  • Brian says:

    This is truly inspiring to me, Hank! I’m trying to lose weight too, and I’m finding that at 40 it’s not quite the same deal as when we were in our twenties. Seeing you do this really does help a lot of us realize that we can do it. Your accomplishment so far is notable. I’ve never seen you look so good, even when we were teens! Great job!

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