I decided to get less fat this year: Phase One

November 16, 2018    By: Geoff J @ 11:05 pm   Category: Health

So I’ve cut like 30 pounds of fat this year. I figured I’d blog about it.

First, the basics: I’m just over 6 feet tall, turned 48 this year, and at the start of the year I was up to 196 pounds. No one considered me fat, but I was sporting a fairly standard 21st century middle-aged-man dad bod. I was convinced that if I could get down to 180 pounds I’d have super low body fat. Turns out, I had WAY more body fat on me than that. But more on that later.

Phase One — Calorie Counting:

First thing I did was I started counting calories in and calories out. Don’t let anyone tell you that doesn’t work — it does. I like to build me a good spreadsheet so I determined that the number of calories it took me to maintain my weight (at the time) was probably about 1800 per day (assuming basically no exercise). This is generally referred to as basal metabolic rate or BMR. You can easily get an estimate for your BMR by googling some online calculators.

So I started recording how many calories I consumed daily. Then when I exercised I’d subtract the extra calories I thought I’d burned from that. For instance, I roughly assumed I burned about 100 calories per mile of walking (again based on basic internet research) so if I went on a three mile walk I’d subtract 300 calories. The cardio machines at the gym give you a calories burned number so that’s easy. And I basically assumed an hour of weight lifting is about 500 calories. You get the gist. My goal wasn’t to be exact because that’s not feasible, but I didn’t want to cheat because that defeats the purpose.

Every day I’d tally things up. If I consumed 1500 calories but lifted weights for any hour at -500 that would be 1000 net calories that day. The assumption I use, again from internet research, was that -3500 calories was roughly one pound of fat. So my initial goal was to get to -35,000 calories which would mean I cut 10 pounds of fat.

Side note: Having tried this on and off in years past I discovered that my biggest problem was under-counting calories. So to offset that, I set my BRM number at 1500 rather than 1800. I figured that would balance out my persistent under-counting problem and it has proved to be effective.

Solid Early Returns

I went at it pretty hard that first month or so, and sure enough, it worked. I was consuming an average of about 1300 calories per day and burning off an average of about 700 per day, putting me at a net of just 600 per day. In less than forty days I was at my -35,000 calories goal. And sure enough, I was tipping the scales at just 184 — 12 pounds lower than when I started. Success! Plus I was actually slowly getting stronger by hitting the weights maybe 2-3 times per week.

I kept on for a few more weeks and pounds kept coming off. By day 50 I was down to 181 pounds and feeling pretty stoked about it. Then came the work trip to New Orleans and I encountered my first hiccup. More on that next post.

But for now I’ll just say counting calories works like a charm for me. At least to lose weight at first. My spreadsheet is crucial to it all though. I’m already in front of my computer all day for work so having that spreadsheet there all the time helps when it comes to recording the calories in and out. Plus I have made a nifty little graph that makes it all super visual and motivating for me.

Counting Calories In

In order to count calories in I ended up eating a ton of frozen foods that first couple of months. I liked the food well enough, it’s mostly easy to microwave, and the exact calorie count is easy to see with those. Same with canned food. For other foods you often have to just google the stuff you’re eating. Occasionally I’d even weigh some stuff but I’m too lazy to do that much. After a while you kind of get a hang of figuring out how many calories you’re taking in. If you cheat the scale (and the tightness of your waistband) won’t lie.

I do a lot less frozen foods now, as I’ll explain later, but those easily calorie-countable items are still useful as part of my program.

What Next?

In follow up posts I’ll go over what I did when I got off track, my experiences with intermittent fasting (aka time-restricted eating), the ketogenic diet, creatine, weight training vs cardio, and more. Stay tuned.

But of course, chime in on the topic in the comments here. I’ve been away from my blog for years so we can make it like old times!


  1. Hi Geoff,
    Intermittent fasting has helped me lose fat mostly without feeling hungry. I skip breakfast, eat a medium sized lunch and often lack a appetite for more than a small dinner.

    Comment by Howard — November 17, 2018 @ 9:53 am

  2. Yep, Howard — I’m a big fan of intermittent fasting now too. I’ll post on it next.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 17, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

  3. I have also lost weight with calorie counting and exercise, intermittent fasting, and then the ketogenic diet, in that order. I first tried intermittent fasting after you posted about that BBC documentary on this blog back in the day. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience.

    I also had to do some experimenting to find the right number of calories. I’ve found the predictions I got from the MyFitnessPal app to be the most accurate. You put in your height, weight, and age and it tells you how many net calories you need to maintain, or lose 1 lbs a week, or lose 2 lbs a week, etc. It can be tricky to figure this out because your water weight can fluctuate +/- 5 lbs which means you might not see your results show up on the scale for a good month even with strict adherence, which can be frustrating.

    Comment by Mephibosheth — November 17, 2018 @ 5:22 pm

  4. Oh yeah — I forgot about this post: http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2013/05/fasting-for-health/3247/ from back in 2013.

    I guess this fasting topic has gained steam. And with good reason — it really seems to work.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 17, 2018 @ 6:24 pm

  5. I’m doing something similar, but I started much higher than you did. :) I hope to post something on Facebook in the next few weeks. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m getting close.

    Comment by Kim Siever — November 19, 2018 @ 4:43 pm

  6. Nice, Kim! Lots of good seems to come from getting into better shape. And in retrospect it wasn’t even all that hard (like most hard things seem in retrospect I guess…)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 19, 2018 @ 4:47 pm

  7. The hardest thing for me is the constant hunger.

    Comment by Kim Siever — November 19, 2018 @ 7:13 pm

  8. Kim,

    I’ll post on intermittent fasting (aka time restricted eating) next. I has done wonders for me with dealing with the hunger problem.

    After that I’ll post on the Keto diet which has done wonders for my wife regarding the hunger problem (since fasting wasn’t her bag)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 19, 2018 @ 11:35 pm

  9. Should be an interesting topic to cover. Except my hunger is because of going from 4500–5000 calories a day to 2200. I’m not convinced that a fad diet will address that.

    Comment by Kim Siever — November 20, 2018 @ 7:25 am

  10. Kim,

    I think I’ll save my thoughts for when Geoff J. posts the appropriate threads but just so you know, I was in a similar situation. When I was a fat man I would get so hungry that I usually couldn’t even wait to get home before ripping into a fast food meal from the drive-through. Ironically obese people burn more calories than average. Trick is to get your body good at going for the tens of thousands of calories it’s already carrying in the form of fat rather than sending up hunger signals for more preferred forms of fuel. It can be done!

    Comment by Mephibosheth — November 21, 2018 @ 12:22 pm

  11. Way to go Goeff. I miss our conversations from so many years ago. I do not miss my wife getting upset at me because I spent so much time blogging. In any event, I am glad that you are happy and healthy.

    Comment by Blake — November 25, 2018 @ 1:19 am

  12. Blake! Glad you’re still checking in on occasion. Hopefully we can can start up some new discussions here going forward.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 26, 2018 @ 11:13 am

  13. Geoff! Blake! Bringing back great memories already.

    I look forward to hearing more. Cutting back calories works well for me too. I hate counting calories, it is just super annoying to me, but if I feel my belt getting tight I just start halving my lunch and controlling my dinner portions and that does the trick for me after a month or so.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 1, 2019 @ 4:09 pm