๐Ÿ“™ How I lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks with little effort

Daily Self-Discipline: Weekly Newsletter

๐Ÿ“™ How I lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks with little effort


In today's post-holiday and pre-New Year issue I decided to do a deep dive and focus on one topic: weight loss and weight management.

You can find never-ending amounts of information online on the topic. It's not my intention to repeat all the generic tips.

Instead, I'm going to share my personal experience of how I lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks and didn't even feel like I was putting much effort.

And no, the process doesn't involve any special meals or supplements.

It was by far the easiest weight loss process for me. I was extremely surprised when I stepped on a bathroom scale after 8 weeks (I was traveling for the last 5 of the 8 weeks and didn't have access to a bathroom scale).

Let me know if you want me to occasionally do these deep dives instead of the regular 3 topics for each newsletter.

Now, let's dive into it.

How I lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks with little effort

About two years ago I decided to focus on building muscle mass. I made a common mistake, though, by allowing myself to eat too much, thinking it would go to muscle anyway.

So along with muscle, I gained fat. Plenty of it: 20 pounds.

I didn't like how I looked and how I felt with this extra weight. So I decided to lose it.

But I had one limitation: I had been extremely strict with my diet when I was younger. For 7 years, I counted every single calorie, weighed everything, and had a restrictive caloric budget.

As a consequence, because I constantly felt restricted and underfed, I eventually developed a binge eating disorder (which still comes back every now and then).

So I couldn't just go the typical willpower-dependent route to lose weight or all the problems would come back.

Instead, I decided to change my eating habits in ways that didn't require much willpower but produced profound changes in my relationship with food.

Here are the major changes I've made that helped me lose 20 pounds within 8 weeks of implementing the rules.

The changes aren't listed by order of importance as it's more about the synergy:

  • Stop doing anything else when eating. I used to watch YouTube or read a book when eating. This made me less aware of how much I was eating. I also didn't enjoy the food as much because I wasn't focused on it. So now I focus on food only even though I REALLY loved watching or reading while eating. Talking is fine if you're sharing a meal with someone. Here's a great video about this topic and other ways to lose weight without counting calories.
  • Eat for at least 20 minutes. I'm a VERY fast eater. So now I use a stopwatch to measure my time. My goal is to eat so slowly that it'll take me at least 20 minutes to finish my meal. This also applies to smaller meals: you'll just need to take breaks instead of eating all the time. It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to send signals to your brain to indicate that you are full (link). By eating more slowly, you'll eat less. You'll also improve your digestion and reduce stress.
  • Eat with chopsticks. Unless you're a chopsticks maestro, chopsticks will slow you down. You'll also be more aware of each bite. This is the lowest hanging fruit to start losing weight. You'll be surprised how well they work. For foods you can't eat with chopsticks (like soup), you can use your non-dominant hand to slow down eating.
  • No snacks. I used to eat nuts and other high-calorie snacks in between meals. You won't lose weight if you unconsciously consume 500 calories between meals. So prepare your meals in such a way that you won't want to eat anything for the next few hours. Which leads me to the next point...
  • Focus on protein and fiber. Protein is more satiating than other macronutrients. Aim to get as much as you can but at least 0.5 g per pound of bodyweight or 1.1 gram per kilogram of bodyweight (for example, at least 100 grams for 200 pounds or 90 kg). Fiber further improves perceived satiety. Start your meal with protein and fiber. I always notice a huge difference in how hungry I am on a day when I eat too little protein compared to a protein-rich day.
  • Stop eating at least 3 hours before sleep. And ideally, at least 5 hours before sleep. This dramatically improves sleep quality. Sleep deprivation will sabotage your weight loss efforts due to biochemical changes no amount of willpower can overcome. If you're well-rested, you won't seek extra energy in your food just to get through the day.
  • Stop consuming fluids at least 2 hours before sleep. Waking up to pee interrupts sleep and reduces its quality, too. If you need to drink close to bedtime, slowly sip rather than gulp.
  • Practice LISS (low-intensity steady state cardio) daily. In simpler terms, this means very easy aerobic activity for longer periods of time. For this, I absolutely love walking. It's one of the simplest but most life-changing activities you can partake in. It carries virtually no risk of an injury, is very accessible and won't make you hungry afterward like regular cardio does. In the first couple of weeks my daily goal was 10 km (6.2 miles) but I walk almost every day and am used to it. I suggest starting with a shorter walk, say, 3 km (1.8 miles). You never want to be exhausted after a walk so add distance slowly and build up to 10,000 steps (roughly 8.5 km or 5.2 miles) or for the more ambitious, 10 km (6.2 miles). Here's a playlist of 6 videos on the topic of walking for weight loss. Easy swimming or cycling is also fine for LISS.
  • Be busy. Weight loss requires much less effort if you have something else to focus on rather than food. On days when I don't have anything to do, I'll often find myself wanting to eat out of boredom. On days when I'm very busy, I can eat very little (but still get enough protein and other nutrients) and still be satisfied.
  • Practice intermittent fasting. This is an extra tip as I've been intermittent fasting for over 12 years already so this wasn't specifically a new change for this process. But when I compared my days with a shorter eating window (say, 12 pm - 4 pm) to days with a longer one (say, 11 am - 6 pm), I usually eat more during the longer window. Note that intermittent fasting makes it harder to build muscle but I accept that trade-off for easier weight management.
  • Do strength training. As with intermittent fasting, this is an extra tip. You want to lose weight but you don't want to lose muscle. Strength training helps you lose fat while maintaining your muscle or reducing muscle loss. These days I'm partial to kettlebell workouts. Kettlebells are portable, simple and work your body in all dimensions. I like Geoff Neupert's work on the topic. His programs usually require only 20-30 minutes 3 times a week and produce impressive results.

Now, you may say: but that's a lot of things to do! It's a LOT of effort.

Well, is it a lot of effort compared to the standard approach?

I didn't have to do any exhausting cardio. I didn't have to count calories and weigh food. I didn't even have to use my willpower to eat smaller portions because the strategies made me naturally eat less.

I also could still allow myself occasional treats, for example ice cream or restaurant meals.

And despite not feeling like I was on a demanding, willpower-depleting diet, I had extraordinary results that I had never had before.

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Daily Self-Discipline - 21,000 Happy Subscribers

I'm sharing unique perspectives on how to build more self-discipline and achieve your goals. My primary focus is on sustainable, consistent methods that let you improve your life while also enjoying it. I don't believe in constantly pushing yourself to the limits and struggling for the sake of struggling. I'm an entrepreneur, writer, digital nomad, freediver, surfer, and language learning enthusiast.

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