In my seemingly never-ending journey to lose weight, I’ve finally found a few systems that work, at least for me. As I’ve talked about before, my weight is the only part of my life that is not a nine or a ten on the one-to-ten scale. My health is very good. I just got my comprehensive blood panels back a few weeks ago and my levels in all the 15 or so key areas are not only good, but optimal (with one or two minor exceptions). I’m one of the healthiest men I know at any age.
But, alas, health and body fat are two different things, and my body fat is still too high for maximum happiness. I’ve written several articles here before about methods I’ve tried to lose weight and keep it off. While many of these things have helped, nothing has worked 100% so far. I actually made a list of everything I’ve tried here (please read that list before attempting to give me any advice or asking me, “Caleb, have you tried… ?”).
I mentioned last year that I was going to attempt the Carb Nite diet one more time (which was the most effective thing for me so far), and if it didn’t work, I would instead shift my focus away from diet, supplements, and exercise techniques and focus instead 100% on my psychology.
The second Carb Nite plan didn’t work, so I did exactly that. In January of this year, I completely stopped looking for different techniques about what and when to eat or how and when to exercise, since those clearly weren’t the problem. I tried everything on this massive list here and nothing worked. The problem wasn’t what I was doing because I was doing everything correctly. Instead, the problem was how I was thinking.
The problem was psychology more than it was action. I have been spending the last seven years of my life focusing on action, when in fact action wasn’t really my core problem. My problem has been my mind all along.
So I scoured the internet looking for some kind of information or program that focused on the psychology of losing weight rather than a list of things to do or not do.
I found a few systems like this, and I picked the one that looked the most promising. It’s called Noom. It’s both an app and a coaching program. For a small monthly fee, an app goes on your phone that you use several times per day. You do all the usual crap, such as tracking calories (which I did before and it wasn’t effective), tracking your exercise (I always exercise several times a week, doesn’t help), logging your daily weight (I do that already), and so on.
In addition, every day you get new lessons on how to re-train your mind on how to think about food. Instead of focusing on carbs, intermittent fasting, and specific training techniques (though it does address all of those things), it instead focuses on internal, psychological aspects such as:
- Thought distortions
- Being aware of satiety levels
- Being aware of different types of hunger
- Controlling mental, environmental, emotional, social, and hormonal factors
- Mentally reinforcing victories instead of failures
- Being aware of what they call “the elephant” (your irrational hungry side) and “the rider” (the rational side who wants long-term happiness)
And so on. There’s a hell of a lot more than just that, but those are a few off the top of my head.
In addition to all of this, you work with two different coaches. One coach you communicate with about once a week (or as needed) and they will actually see everything you log for your meals, exercise, weight, and so on. You work with this person to establish weekly goals, remain accountable, and answer questions. You also get a second coach who manages a small and closed forum with you and a small group of other Noom participants.
Noom is very different than any other program I’ve tried. For example, Noom says you should eat literally anything you want, whenever you want, as long as it fits into your caloric allotment. No low carb, no cheat days, none of that stuff. Just eat doughnuts and chocolate and ice cream whenever you want, even if you want to do it every day. Of course, they recommend to not make this a large percentage of your daily diet, but they won’t stop you if you choose to do it as long as you’re staying in a caloric deficit.
The Noom folks tell us that if you constantly say, “I shouldn’t eat X because X is bad! I can only eat X on a cheat day!” – which is exactly what I’ve been doing for seven years – then that alone contributes to making weight loss harder to achieve and maintain. If instead you re-frame this (which I have) to “I can eat literally whatever I want, whenever I want, in moderation,” your odds of losing weight and keeping it off go way up.
Again, that’s just an example of the changes I’ve made. There are many others.
The result? Starting in January of this year, I lost 30 pounds in 2.5 months.
Now, that’s nothing amazing. I’ve lost 30 pounds before – several times, in fact. I still need to lose more weight.
BUT! Here are the big, key differences:
1. Since March, I have kept all of this weight off and not gained back any actual body weight. Now THAT is something brand new that I have never experienced before.
As far as I remember, I have never gone five months after losing weight without gaining back at least 10 or 15 pounds (and sometimes much more). I haven’t lost any more weight in the last five months, which is mildly irritating, but I haven’t gained any back, which is a huge victory for me.
I have gained back a few pounds here and there, a few times, in scale weight, but that’s water, salt, glycogen, and other stuff, not body fat. When this happens, that weight just sloughs off in a few days.
2. I have not gained any weight while on long international trips. On many trips I have actually continued to lose weight. Again, this has literally NEVER happened to me before. I ALWAYS gain weight when I go on international trips.
Even when I spent an entire week in Hong Kong earlier this year (with the most amazing food on the planet), I actually lost weight while I was there. When I spent three weeks recently in Panama and Paraguay, I maintained my weight during the entire trip.
I’m still amazed this is happening. It’s never happened before.
3. I used to binge-cheat every week. Sometimes more. In the last five months I’ve only done it twice. Again, this is a massive, tectonic behavioral shift for me. I’ve had the “cheat day” system wired into me over the last few years, and when I had my cheat days in the past, I would binge hardcore. I’d easily eat 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day. It would then take the next four days to lose the scale weight from that binge before my diet could continue.
Today, when I “cheat,” which only happens once every 10 days or so, I will eat perhaps 500-700 calories over my caloric allotment. Since you need to eat 3500 calories to gain one pound, going 500-700 over isn’t going to be a problem at all.
So while I still have more weight to lose, I have successfully re-wired my psychology to not gain back any weight I’ve lost. Noom is fucking fantastic, so I can now officially recommend it for everyone. (I make no money from recommending it.) It may not be for everyone, since I know a lot of people who have lost weight who didn’t have the psychological problems with food that I did, but if you think that’s you, click here and check it out.
In the next installment I will discuss the exercise angle.