A Weight Loss Journey
Before reading on, I’d just give a disclaimer here that any experience recounted here does not count as medical advice. As with anything to do with health or your body, do seek the appropiate medical channels (your doctor etc). Whatever things that is mentioned here might work for my case but it could be completely diferent for each person’s case due to different past diets/medical history.
About 1-2 years back (I guess just before covid really hit the world), my weight started to balloon to a scary degree; it had always been consistently high and I’ve tried multiple approaches to try to reduce it. One way is to try to stick to “healthier” foods with more greens (e.g. Subwway) and cutting back on carbs such as rice and bread. Even when going to those ZiChar stalls etc, the main dish I would usually eat is vegetables and maybe half a plate of rice (with a small bit of fish/chicken/seafood). However, my weight never really went down, it only did a slow but continuous rise up.
I guess one reason for this is I probably didn’t try to exercise or move around as much as I could. I only reduced my food intake but at the same time, I didn’t increase the amount of exercise I did. So maybe, if I had moved around a lot more, maybe I could have lost some weight here and there. But then again, I do think that its kind of unmotivating to see that for maybe a small-ish food item (maybe a small piece of chicken), to burn it off, you have a work a heck of a lot more harder. One example is maybe a chicken breast (which is already a healthier food) has about 165 calories (based on a quick search). But to “burn it off” to ensure that calorie intake is equal to calorie consumed, one would need to run maybe 20-30 minutes (a 30 minute run can use 200-500 calories). Also, all these measurements are all iffy in nature; they’re obtained from a quick search on the web and I don’t have time to verify and check if the values are really true.
However, regardless whether if the above numbers are true or not, it’s not exactly a pleasing thought to always have something at the back of head doing mental calculations on whether to eat a piece of food or not and whether I would need to spend all that extra time to burn it off.
Also, that’s not the end of it. Articles starting popping up about how if one tries to reduce the calorie intake, the body can kind of compensate it by reducing the body base metabolism. There were a bunch of studies being done on weight loss participants. These participants go through heavy diet changes and extreme exercise regimens and I would assume that the only way of them to keep that weight it to continue with said changes through the rest of their life. However, that does sound like a pretty miserable journey (especially so for my case since I don’t exactly like exercising in humid Singapore too much)
Articles mentioning about weight gain by weight loss participants:
I guess all of this are just excuses at the end of the day but during that whole time before hitting my “peak” weight, I do wonder if there is an easier way to go about with this “weight loss” without going through that mental math of keeping tabs of calorie input and output as well as execising constantly.
Also, just putting out there; my career was kind of “stabilizing” so I thought that maybe now is actually a good time to work on my health. I’ve kept putting it aside to focus on my career but I guess with me being somewhat satisfied being where I am at my job as well in my community activities in the tech space; I just thought to myself: Why not now?
Step 0: Prepping for weight loss process
As with the old adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” that roams around management thinking; with that line of thought, in order for me to manage my own weight, I would need to measure and continuously monitor it. I guess with that, the first step would be to actually get/buy a weighing machine. The weight needs to be recorded on a day to day basis
One thing I’ve learnt at least during the whole constant measurement of my weight is that a person’s weight varies across the entire the day. Consumption of food/drinks will cause increase in weight while any “toilet activities” would kind of result in a reduction of a weight. It is kind of vital to select a standard timing to measure weight which in this, I’ve decided to measure it right after waking up on the day itself (regardless if its in the morning or afternoon after I’ve slept in). In that way, weight is somewhat “consistent” in a way other variables like consumption of food/drinks would not affect it too much.
I guess some would say that weight of clothes does affect the measurement but I do think it’s kind of hassle to keep taking off clothes just before measurement especially in the morning right after I wake up.
Experiment 1: Cut breakfast
I started watching a whole bunch of youtube videos that kind of questions the importance of breakfast - which I can kind of agree on. Why is breakfast “the most important meal” of the day? Why do we need 3 meals a day? Does breakfast being “the most important meal” mean that it has to be rich with calories/nutrients?
This was one of the videos that started that whole thing:
Thinking about it, by skipping one meal - that would kind of reduce the amount of calories being consumed for the day. That is kind of convenient thing for me when I’m trying to lose weight. Rather than trying to reduce amount of food per meal, it would actually be way easier (accounting-wise) to just cut a meal and eat as normally for lunch and dinner.
With this somewhat minor change, my weight kind of dropped from peak weight of 130kg to 110kg over 6 months.
Experiment 2: Intermittent fasting
Weight loss from the previous weight loss “experiment” started not to have much impact anymore. My weight start fluctuating up and down; there is no further downtrend that can be observed. It’s as though the body has already determined the weight it wants to abide to and sticks to it as much as possible.
This was when videos on intermittent fasting starting coming out (even on mainstream Singapore media - CNA)
The only difference between what I was already doing and intermittent fasting is that I still drink liquids that contains calories (at least in the cases where I’m drinking milk coffee - there is no sugar in it) in the morning or late in the evening. My meals are already on the intermittent fasting time period. The intermittent fasting I’m referring here is the 16-8 combination where one undergo 16 hours of fasting (only can drink liquids with 0 calories) and can only eat within the 8 hour window.
Seeing the minor difference in current diet as well as the videos that mention potential health benefits of intermittent fasting, I’ve thought to myself: “why not give it a shot?”. And with that, I made my transition to try that diet.
As expected, similar to experiment 1 of just cutting breakfast, initial weight loss rate is high at first. However, weight loss eventually plateaus. I still can try to push weight down using this approach but the weight loss rate is sometimes not high enough to warrant the amount of effort to do so. What would work here would be to actually eat healthily and to begin some sort of exercise regimen to continue the weight loss but it does seem like “too much effort” to continue
This approach resulted in a weight loss of 110kg to 95kg over the course of 8 months
Experiment 3: Long term fasting
Similar to the situation in the previous phases, my weight started to stagnate and fluctuate up and down for quite a while. I’d imagine that the rate of weight loss at this stage based on my previous phase’s approach would eventually lead to weight loss but its just really really slow - my guess is that with a lighter body, my energy requirements (also calorie requirement) went down as well. I guess one way is to actually go the miserable route and cut calories and finally start moving alot more?
Video on a dude’s experience on a 5 day fast
I came across the following video by accident and now, I started going down the rabbit hole of why he did it (even though he’s kind of already in shape etc). And then, I came across the following videos as well.
Video on Fasting benefits
Video on How to slow aging on Veritasium Youtube Channel
There were a lot of more videos on this topic that expected. A lot of them were from “nutritional experts” or “health experts” that would explain to do “ACTIVITY X” or eat “ITEM X” and it will heal you and stuff but that never appeal to me. The one that is a lot of interesting is the ones where the commentary is covered by Doctors (at least they proclaim to be on video). They claim stuff but they would also inject in some scientific information that kind of coincides with how I learnt when I was still in University.
Let me list down some points here:
- Glucose enters the body after digestion from starches etc (Broken down from starch, sucrose etc)
- Too much glucose in the blood stream is bad, so the body produces insulin as a response to it
- Insulin response informs cells to take up glucose to build up chains of glycogen
- Any further excess of glucose is converted to fat (Didn’t exactly learnt how in school). According to some random article I read online, apparent high insulin in the blood will tell adipose fat cells to take up glucose for storage - https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose
- I guess in computer terms, I’d imagine glycogen as some sort of energy “cache” and fat as some sort of energy “disk”
- High insulin levels prevents energy usage from fat cells; as long as insulin levels remain high, fat remains locked up. (I guess with this, the caloric model of handling weight loss is kind of broken-ish)
- Hunger is just a hormonal response and can be handled/controlled. Being hungry doesn’t exactly mean one is “out of energy”; it sometimes just mean that that’s the usual time to eat or maybe blood sugar dipped slightly below usual levels (before glycogen/fat stores) unlocked
This is partially why intermittent fasting/long term fasting kind of work when it comes to losing weight - it reduces/forces insulin levels to be low and with that, we can tap into the vast energy stores in the fat cells. I tried a couple of times of doing the long term fasts and experience usual goes as follows:
- Day 1: Feel great - no issue with hunger (since I’m already intermittent fasting anyway)
- Day 2: Hunger pangs start to come in; maybe have slight headache (could be from fuel switch for brain from glucose to ketones? maybe?)
- Day 3-5: Feel ok during the day but sometimes, hard to sleep. Caffeine is way more effective in the fasted stated state that the fed state
Naturally, the longer the fast, the faster the weight tanks (still a goal till this day). I’m close to my healthy BMI range and I just need to continue on this journey for a couple of months before finally just maintaining my weight and food intake. Apparently, one thing I’ve found out was that for Asian males; the BMI to target for is 23.0, which is really quite low - I’ve previously thought it was 25.0 but apparently, further studies pointed that it is better for asians to aim for lower BMI due to different body builds. If you wish to calculate your BMI, you can try using this mini tool that I’ve built for myself: BMI Calculator
Another effect that kind of came along with these experiments is that I actually prefer to be in a “hungry” state rather than a “fed” state. While being in the “hungry” state, I’d feel more active and my mind is sharper and I feel way more motivated as compared to the “fed” state. In the “fed” state - it always felt like as though I’m in sort of a “food coma” kind of state - movements being quite sluggish and all I want to do is to just lie down and do nothing for the whole day. However, these are just my feelings on how I feel my body is at that point of time; who knows, it could just be a placebo effect from watching all those youtube videos on long term fasting.
This whole weight loss has been a huge learning journey; the part that actually surprised me the most was the one about the food pyramid. I still remembered when I was young, I kind of thought that the following the food pyramid is kind of the way to get a healthy body. That, as well as plenty of exercise. Who would have known that there was a huge dark secret behind all those food recommendations.
Nowadays, food recommendations are quite complex and they change every other year. A while back, they were saying all fats are bad but now certains fats are good but plenty of them are bad. So rather than following all that “recommendations” which changes every once in a while, why not stick to something that works well for me; which in this case is the whole fasting routine and all.