May 14, 2021

JonWestfall.com

Researcher, Educator, Author, And More

Losing a Guy (a.k.a. 170 pounds) in Just Under 11 Years

This is the first post in a series. Here’s the next…

On March 16, 2011, I weighed myself for the first time in over 10 years. What I saw shocked me into action, confused me regarding my past, and launched me ultimately on a journey to lose over 170 pounds (and counting). This article details the whole story, from inspiration, to action, to relapse, to action, to technology, to macros, and to the goal of finding something good about 2020: myself.

As I said, this is going to be a long article, however I’ll try to segment it up a bit so you can jump to the portions that you find most interesting. We’ll start with history, then we’ll move to what didn’t work for me (lessons learned) and then finally what I did over the past year: a combination of changes aided by technology and a pandemic (Note, I don’t suggest starting another pandemic if you want to replicate my results: Just carve out more time in your life!)

Contents:

Also, a quick reminder: My doctorate is in experimental psychology, not nutrition, dietetics, physical education, or anything else that this post speaks to. This was my journey as an individual, not sponsored by any person or group, and solely my opinion. In other words, your mileage will vary.

Ye’s Question

On March 16, 2011, I was sitting in my office at Columbia Business School talking with a fellow postdoc, Ye Li. Ye and I were actually sharing one room at that time (For some reason, we moved around a lot in our 3 years working there!). Anyway, as we chatted about life and health, Ye asked me a question, which I’ll paraphrase as “Not to be mean or anything, but how much do you weigh? I’m curious.”. I told him that I didn’t mind talking about my weight, but I honestly didn’t know. That took him by surprise. How could I not know? Well… I hadn’t weighed myself or been weighed in over 10 years.

A Photo of me from February, 2011, holding my first commercial book, after I found it in a Barnes & Noble in Bellevue, Washington. I weighed approximately 415 pounds.

Growing up, I had always been a ‘big’ kid, both in height and weight. I was fairly active until my teen years, when I became a giant computer geek, both metaphorically and literally. I can recall that at some point in my early adolescence, the scales we had at home stopped working for me – they’d spin around past their end point and stop. So around age 11 or so, I simply stopped knowing how much I weighed. I also didn’t keep much in terms of documentation of the time, only starting this blog in 2004 when I was 21, and not keeping a regular journal (as I do now). I also don’t have any medical records from that time that include my weight. The only shred of information I have is a scan of my first drivers license, issued in 1999. To my recollection, I had lied and told the clerk that I was 250 pounds, but I vividly remember knowing that it was a low-ball lie. The memory of the lie is what would end up amusing me quite a bit in July, 2020, but more on that later.

So, when Ye asked me that question in March, 2011, I told him I had no idea how much I weighed. I agree this was probably a strange thing to hear from someone, especially someone overweight. Pop culture tells us that if you’re fat, you’re either completely fine with it (in a “Pass the snacks, please” sort of way), or you’re obsessed with your weight and always trying the latest fad diet to lose it. I was neither – I wasn’t particularly comfortable at my weight, but my weight hadn’t held me back from anything I had wanted to do. I could still go for walks if I wanted, I didn’t get tired out from daily life or even vacations that included physical activity, and I had no recurring health problems. So in my mind, I was fat, but it wasn’t really impacting my life.

When Ye asked about my weight, I told him that I guessed I was around 375, but it was really just a ballpark figure. I then asked him why he asked me. His reply was interesting: He told me that as we had been sharing an office for the last few months, he realized that I rarely snacked. Indeed, unlike many of my friends at Columbia, I didn’t keep a cache of snacks at my desk. I’d eat lunch each day, and drink coffee, and if someone brought cookies or muffins in, I’d have some, but I wouldn’t absentmindedly eat as I worked. He was surprised by this, because as he admitted to me later, he had always assumed that fat people stayed fat because they just kept eating a steady diet of calories every day. Finding out I didn’t snack puzzled him. This is interesting to me because it points out how those who are not overweight really don’t give too much thought to how people who are overweight got that way. And if you listen to pop culture, it’s pretty easy to fall into the “Fat people eat cake every day between every meal” myth.

Telling Ye about my eating habits, I told him that when I did eat, I tended to eat tremendous portions, but that I hadn’t been a real snacker since adolescence. As soon as I had projects to work on (College degrees, jobs), eating became more of a “set side aside to do” thing than a “boredom” thing. As I said, I was a giant computer geek, and it’s hard to program or hack when you’ve got fingers covered in orange dust (despite what stereotypes tell you).

I figured I was fat primarily for 3 reasons:

  1. I didn’t eat well when I did eat – Buffet restaurants were great in their variety.
  2. I ate a lot when I ate – Buffet restaurants were unfortunately great for this too.
  3. Despite having a 2 hour door-to-door commute, I wasn’t overly active. I’d walk in short bursts from train station to train station, and building to building on campus.

I figured that this, plus the fact I wasn’t really into any sports or physical activities regularly, meant that I probably never entered a state of fat burn. And since I wasn’t gaining weight (as evidenced by the fact I rarely needed to buy new clothes), I figured all was fine. I wasn’t stopped from doing things I wanted to do, had no chronic health problems (that I knew of), and felt “good” most days. So why lose weight?

Curiosity Kills the Myth

The Downtown 1 Arriving at Marble Hill, March 8, 2012.

That evening, as I sat on the Uptown 1 Train, I thought back to Ye’s question. I realized that all of the excuses that I had been setting for not dealing with my weight were gradually going away. I think in the back of my mind, I had always wanted to lose weight, but figured it wasn’t the right time. I was working on a degree, or a project, and would get to it later. in 2011, I was getting ready to head out onto the academic job market, so the only major milestones left on my “to do” list were really to find a permanent position, and perhaps become a tenured faculty member somewhere. I had no reason not to start looking into losing weight.

So I bought a scale. A $36.95 “Eatsmart Precision Plus” scale (that you can still buy on Amazon, for $23.60 today). It’s capacity was 440 pounds, and I figured that would be plenty high. On March 22, 2011, I weighed myself. The number read 415.6. Or 40 pounds higher than my “worst case” high weight estimate in my mind.

It was at that point that I kinda, sorta, thought that maybe I should lose some weight. I also realized that I didn’t really have any clue how to do that. At that point, the original FitBit Fit tracker was the most “fitness-y” thing I owned (having purchased it in January, 2010), so I did some research on how to use it more effectively, diet ideas, and settled on a simple plan: Count calories. Seemed very simple: Figure out how much of a caloric deficit I needed to lose a pound a week, and start adjusting my intake to match. I downloaded MyFitnessPal, and started logging everything I ate. I got frustrated at the amount of time it would take to search for a fast food menu item, so I did what every good programmer does: I wrote an app with a local database of over 100 fast food restaurants that simply gave you the calorie count for any item on the menu. Over the next few years, that app would get over 100,000 downloads on the Google Play store, and made me almost $700 in ad revenue.

Fast Food Calorie Lookup, the app that I wrote so that I’d have easy fast access to calorie data without waiting on a data connection.

And I had early success. Starting daily weigh-ins on April 1, 2011, I was at 406.4 (ah, that initial drop!). By April 18, I had dropped down to 400 pounds. And on May 1, I was at 397. This weight loss thing was easy! I’d be at 375 in no time, and then I could just keep going down. That was what I thought, until I hit that dreaded weight loss mainstay: the plateau. That started hitting me around July. Between July 8 and August 28, I had dropped just 8.6 pounds. My lowest weight of this first ‘phase’ of weight loss was 365.6 pounds, on October 27, 2011. At that point I was pretty much done with this diet plan. I had been cutting calories, denying myself, and felt pretty damn good about losing 50 pounds. So I lightened up a bit. After all, I’d done a good job for over 6 months – much better than those who go to the gym exclusively from January 1 to January ?? each year, right?

You can probably predict what happened next, although you probably wouldn’t be right about the speed. I gained the weight back, as you would predict, but it took 7 years. Not exactly the rubber-band rebound us fat guys are supposed to make.

My Weight from 2011 to 2018. Colors indicate where I was living: New York, Louisiana, or Mississippi

Officially, I didn’t hit my 2011 weight again until January 7, 2018, when, after recovering from a great holiday, I weighed in at 417.4. I wasn’t too concerned. After all, I knew I could lose weight if I wanted to because I did in 2011. And as a life-long fat guy, I figured “What really was the point”? I still felt fine, I was doing everything I wanted to do in 2018. Why rock the boat?

Gotta Lose Weight

On May 27, 2018, I was lazily waking up at a friend’s house in suburban Chicago. Karey, myself, and another friend, had driven up there for Memorial Day weekend, and Karey & I were staying in a spare bedroom of our host on our air mattress. I received a phone call from a family member that morning telling me that another close family member was at the hospital. What turned out to be nothing (A fall with no serious repercussions to the human, although a stove was injured), got me really thinking about my own mortality. I realized that if something like that were to happen to me, getting me to the hospital would be an ordeal, given my massive size. Thinking about Karey seeing me on the floor, unable to even try to move me, I laid up against the air mattress and thought “I gotta lose weight”. I took a picture of what I had been staring at the entire time I as on the phone, to remember the moment, and put it in my journal.

My journal entry

So, as I said before, knowing that I could lose weight if I chose to, I went back to my old habit: Counting Calories. I also incorporated a new goal – a vacation a year away. We were planning to go to Walt Disney World in May 2019 with close friends and their family, and I thought “It would be great to be 350 when I go to Disney”. Realistically I thought I’d be happy to just get back down to 367. After all, it took me 7 years to put all the weight back on – I could easily buy back 7 years in 12 months, right?

Vacation with Karey’s Family in June 2018. I weighed approximately 405 pounds.

On June 1, 2018, I weighed in at 414. By the next day, I was at 409.4 (ah, always love that initial drop!). By July 1, I was at 406.4 (There was a family vacation that slightly derailed me in June!). By August 1 I was back below 400 (399.8). By December 1, I was down to 371.8, and on January 15, 2019, I was back to 367 – the weight I figured I’d be happy with. But by this point, I had started to adapt pretty well to my diet, and Disney was still a few months away. So I kept losing. On April 3, 2019, I was 349.6 pounds. I’d made my goal. Recall that all of this was just doing one thing: counting calories. I didn’t really change what I was eating, when I was eating, where I was eating, etc… All I changed was how much I was eating. When I’d hear people talk about exercise (ugh!), and counting macros (huh?), I told them that I was happy with what I was doing. And by and large I was. I went to Disney in May 2019 (If you’re curious, I gained 6.6 pounds on that vacation, it took me about a week to get back down to my pre-Disney weight), and then thought “Ya know what, maybe I should just be happy at 350”. So there I sat, literally and metaphorically. It’s worth noting that, while you can clearly see a difference in my body from the photo above in 2018 to the one below in 2019, I didn’t feel anything had changed. My internal body image was exactly the same. I felt physically exactly the same (Well, I felt hungrier, but that was about it). I knew I was losing weight, but only because the scale told me and sometimes other people who hadn’t seen me in awhile would say something. I thanked them, but secretly thought “It really isn’t any different”. I knew they wouldn’t lie to me, but I honestly didn’t see any difference myself.

Karey & I at Disney Animal Kingdom in May 2019. I weighed approximately 345 pounds.

The Long Plateau & The Loss of All Excuses

On June 1, 2019, I weighed 347.4 pounds. On January 1, 2020, I weighed 344.8. In that time, my average weight was 344.9 pounds. Unlike the last time I stopped dieting, I did keep doing one thing that I think helped – I weighed myself every morning and recorded it. If I saw the number start going up, I’d cut back for a week or so. On the way home from Christmas travels, I thought it would be good to get back to weight loss in 2020, after proving to myself not only could I lose if I wanted to, I could also keep the weight off for multiple months at a time. The plateau wasn’t great in terms of progress, but it did tell me that once I stopped ‘caring’, I wasn’t going to immediately rebound.

Yet despite resolve to make 2020 my year of weight loss, January and February didn’t see much difference for me. There was really no incentive – life was normal, including social events, restaurant meals, and more. On February 27, our Provost sent an email to all faculty with the subject “Instructional Sustainability in Uncertain Times”, and it was the first time Covid-19 impacted me in any way – my boss telling me “Hey, have a plan in case we have to go fully online”. I never thought that was even possible, and lamented having to put together a plan I didn’t think I’d ever use. Looking on my journal for that day, I noted that there were some really good parts of the day. Ah, ignorance is bliss.

Our last trip prior to the Pandemic, to visit our niece Ryan, and her family in Austin, Texas. I weighed 343 pounds.

On March 2nd, I noted that I felt like I overrate. Likely because we had left over food in the office from a friend’s wedding on February 29, which myself and other friends helped organize the food for (and I provided the music, given that I have a loud speaker!). March 4th was a Fried Chicken Wednesday (a tradition at our cafeteria, which is all you can eat), and that afternoon was filled with meetings. Life seemed really normal. March 6th was the first time I started to notice the pandemic – I noted in my journal that I couldn’t find hand sanitizer in travel size at Walmart, but that I found some at home. Karey and I then drove off to see her brother in Texas, for what would be the last time we were out of our county. By the time we got home on March 10, the pandemic was starting to become national news. By March 23, my classes were all online, and Karey & I were working from home. Life, it seemed, changed in an instant.

Over the next month, I finished the Spring semester up and tried to stay sane. I worked on the final proofs of my R book, waited to hear about my tenure & promotion process, and knit or crocheted a lot of random things. With venturing out only once a week or so, perhaps for groceries, I began really noticing what I was eating, and surprisingly started losing weight. When we went into the new normal on March 23, I was 336.8 pounds. By May 10, I was 327.6. I picked up a new scale in early April that could track body mass and fat percentage, and I had fun seeing the new metrics every morning and night (even though they all basically said “You’re really fat”). May 10 was also the day I decided “Why not go for a walk?”. So Karey & I took a half-hour walk.

The first walk

Walking seemed like a good thing. So I did it some more.

Walking the Earth with Technology

I walked every day between May 15 to May 26, and then from every day from May 28 until… today (and I intend to go tomorrow). Most days around 2-3 miles. Along the way I’ve learned a number of interesting paths around my apartment to take, fallen into some routines (Saturdays & Sundays typically see me do a 5 mile walk), and spent a lot of time listening to podcasts or talking to my mother. The walks also have provided some much needed reflection time in my day. For an hour or so each morning, I have something to do – a task to complete – before coming home, showering, and starting my day. It’s also been interesting to see the temperatures for my walks going from 90s to 20s – needless to say, these days I bundle up before I head out! And I also found, much to my surprise, that I can jog if I want – my record is around 32 minutes at a pace that’s slightly slower than my walk… but it’s a jog nonetheless. My 9th grade PE teacher, Mr. Boynar, would be amazed.

I walked 400 miles between July 1 – October 15 for the Highway 61 Walking Challenge, Cleveland, MS to New Orleans. I weighed 289 pounds when this photo was taken.

Along with walking the earth, I also radically changed my diet in response to one of the tech gadgets that I purchased, this crazy thing called a Lumen. Buying technology to help me track my progress became something of a side hobby in 2020 (It had been on and off for several years), So let’s take a trip into the Random Technology Purchases that I made this year, in an attempt to super charge my fitness journey. In 2020, I’ve purchased the following gadgets, which I’ll give you my mini-review on:

I should start by saying that the most influential technology that has helped me this year has probably been my ⌚️ Apple Watch, starting with a Series 4 that I bought in 2018, and then a Series 6 that I purchased in September, 2020. And along with it, the AirPods Pro that have been with me each walk. Having metrics has always been useful to me but when trying to exercise and also track what you eat, you really need something with tight integration and reliability. My Apple devices do this well (although I have no doubt that devices by Google, Samsung, or FitBit would do just as good a job – I don’t think Apple has any secret sauce on this – unless Fitness+ really changes the game). Without my Apple Watch I wouldn’t have a lot of the data that I am showing off in this post! However that being said, let’s talk about the other gadgets:

Arboleaf Smart Scale ($23.99, Amazon (referral link))

First of all, one cannot track progress without knowing where they are. My old scale did this well, but in the years since I bought it, “smart” scales with body fat analysis have become ridiculously cheap, so I thought “I should buy one of those”. I took my first reading on April 3, 2020 – and have made some substantial improvements since then, as you can see in the screenshot below! If you’re going to buy one thing on your journey, this is probably the one to have – something that keeps your data in a place you can reference, timestamps (so you can see differences in morning vs. night weights), and gives you comparison graphs.

Down 92 pounds, 17.6% body fat, and 11.6 BMI since April 3 (Data as of December 13, 2020)

Oura Ring ($399, Referral Link Gives $50 off to first 3 people who use it)

The Oura Ring is a smart ring that tracks a variety of metrics, designed to help you determine your overall readiness each day. Famously it was the ring given to NBA players when they entered the “bubble” earlier this year to finish the 2019-20 season. I purchased it primarily in order to get sleep tracking data, as I wasn’t wearing my Apple Watch to bed with me each night until about Mid-October. I do find the readouts that the Oura Ring provides to be interesting, and have used them to correlate “readiness” with exercise, but honestly the ring hasn’t given me amazing insights into my weight loss. It’s definitely more of a “FYI” purchase than a necessity. However it does have the ability to potentially tip you off to the fact you’re getting sick, which I suppose might be useful if my body realizes it’s under attack before I do. It does this by tracking how long it takes for your body temperature to lower at night, and compares it to your baseline.

Aura Strap ($119, direct)

This one looked so promising – get the same information your body fat scale tells you in the morning anytime you like through a custom Apple Watch band. However in practice, it has been quite a bit different. First, it took at least 3 months to arrive – not a great sign – and then I found it to be very buggy with my Apple Watch 4. It’s been a bit more stable with the AW 6, however the readings tend to be wildly different depending on how I hold my wrists together when taking a reading – and I’m not sure what is the “proper” way since their diagrams have subtle differences. Every so often I take this out and play with it a bit more, but I’d recommend passing on it. You won’t get much bang for your buck, unlike the next item, which has probably been my single most important “new” gadget – the Lumen.

Lumen ($279 on sale, $350 normally, Referral Link)

OK, this one is probably the craziest yet seemingly most effective thing I’ve bought this crazy year. And I bought it pre-pandemic, ironically. Basically it’s the answer to a question I’ve had for years – what exactly is my metabolism doing?, or more appropriately “WTF?!?”. You see, prior to lumen, I had noticed some strange things about my metabolism:

  • It loved carbs – burned them like nothing else – I could eat pizza for dinner and drop a pound that day, no problem. This whole “low carb” thing seemed really strange. People’s reactions to carbs seemed strange to me too – I never felt a “carb slump” like my friends did after a high carb meal. I just felt energized.
  • My metabolism didn’t react to protein the way that it was supposed to – I’d eat a steak and gain weight, despite the low calories and everything “good” I was hearing about high protein / higher fat diets.
  • Exercise didn’t seem to matter at all – in fact, at one point in Shreveport I had worked out 5 days a week for 5 weeks and lost absolutely nothing. So apparently my metabolism DGAF about my physical activity.

So anything that could help figure me out was going to be helpful. Lumen provided it by telling me if I was burning carbs or fat. A very simple thing – take a series of 2-3 breaths through something that looked like a giant kazoo, or the world’s most incredibly lame vape pen, and get a score between 1 – 5. 1 means my body is burning mostly fat, 5 means my body is burning mostly carbs. The simple goal: Take a reading every morning, and follow the nutrition plan that Lumen gives me. The goal: Metabolic flexibility – train my metabolism to switch back and forth between fat and carbs more easily. I was extremely skeptical about the Lumen when I started, but thought “Eh, it’s worth a shot”. I’m glad I took that shot. One of the reasons I felt comfortable with Lumen was the fact that they specifically warned against seeing their device as a weight loss tool – it could help you lose weight, but that wasn’t its goal – its goal was metabolic flexibility. As someone whose metabolism didn’t seem to exist, let alone could be flexible, this was very attractive.

So let me walk you through my Lumen Journey thus far. When I received my first Lumen unit, I did calibration day – a day where you essentially eat a ton of carbs. They’ve since done away with calibration days, but at the time this was their way of figuring out what your body does naturally. I ate my carbs, woke up the next morning, and blew a “3” – halfway point. That seemed a bit strange to me. Later in the day I blew a “4”, and by bedtime, I was at a “5”. This was on a day when my carb servings, by Lumen’s plan, were 45 grams of net carbs – low carb to be sure. Friday of that week, Day 3 with the Lumen, I woke up and blew a “5”, which aside from an hour or so after my walk, I stayed at a “5” until bedtime, when it dropped to a “4”. Lumen gave me no carbs that day. With low carb servings, by Monday morning, day 6 of Lumen use, I blew a “1”. First lesson learned: My body did not like switching away from carbs. I had a lot stored, and my body was going to use them all. It was at that point I realized I’d probably never actually “regularly” burned fat in my life. I probably burned it only during intense physical activity or extreme food deprivation.

So everything was going well with Lumen until Monday night when I had a hard time getting the unit to take a measurement. I eventually did, but thought “Hmm… I guess I just need more practice doing these long breaths”. On Tuesday morning I woke up, blew a “2”, and then went for my walk. When I got back I was surprised to see a message from Lumen technical support in my email inbox. Basically they’d noticed that my Monday night reading was really difficult (lots of stops/starts) and found a defect in my Lumen. Good news: They were going to send me a new one for free. Bad news: They told me to stop using the old one as the data might not be accurate. So after waiting 3 months for my Lumen to ship (I had ordered it in February), I now had to wait for another. But it was very impressive how quick their customer service was to reach out and tell me “Hey, we see there’s a problem”. Since receiving my new Lumen, 9 days after that email (Super fast shipping from Israel!), I’ve used it every day in the morning, and followed the diet plan it gives me. Fairly quickly you see the logic behind the plan, which in my case is designed to help me lose weight: Spend 2-3 days on low carb, then a day at medium carb, then a “Boost” day – a day where you eat a lot of carbs. Over time you train your metabolism to be more responsive. After 4 weeks you get a “Lumen” flex score, which in my case started at a “7” out of 21 – the lowest level of “medium” flexibility. After using the Lumen for 6 months, I’ve risen to an 18, which I’m told (thanks to a weekly report) is at the 90th percentile of Lumen Users. and most importantly, my metabolism makes sense to me. Eventually I’ll transition my Lumen into the “Metabolic Health” mode, where it will keep my metabolism flexible, but give me more calories to work with every day.

My Lumen Data from the last few weeks. My Flex Score, an 18.12 is in the 90th Percentile. The circles show daily readings (The days cut in half are boost days, showing my morning reading + my reading after a high carb meal, indicating I’ve shifted into carb burning)

I cannot recommend the Lumen enough – it’s given me so much information on how my metabolism works, and it’s helped me feel more in control of what I’m doing. Plus it was probably the only way I would have ever thought to track macronutrients. Lumen + Daily Walks took me from losing 1.2 pounds per week to losing 2.5 pounds per week (with a few months in there of 2.5-3 pounds per week).

Counting Calories alone, without Walks or Lumen
Walks + Lumen, counting Macro Nutrients, my best month for weight loss.
Walks + Lumen – a typical month for me now.

So, in sum – Lumen is either a particularly useful placebo effect (if you’re a skeptic or cynic), or an awesome tool that should be in your arsenal. I’ve been pretty happy with it.

Apollo Neuroscience Band ($349, direct)

The Apollo Neuroscience Band is a pretty interesting idea – wear a wristband or ankle band that helps you either rev up or cool down based upon stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. I spent over a month using it and wearing it, and did notice some changes to my Oura Ring readiness scale – I had a statistically significant increase in readiness on the mornings after I’d used the Apollo on the “going to sleep” setting. I’m comparing data in an A-B-A single-case experiment right now, and so I’ve stopped wearing it for a few weeks to see what happens. At $349 it’s a bit steep for the benefits it gives, but it is an interesting product that I plan to keep using and analyzing it’s possible effects on me!

Bello Body Fat Analyzer ($299, Referral Link)

The most recent addition to my arsenal of tech is the Bello Body Fat Scanner. Honestly I’m not quite sure how it fits in at this point since I know I have a lot of subcutaneous and visceral fat on my stomach. I do think it will get more useful when I eventually switch away from just weight loss to more strength training or toning of my body. Right now it’s a neat toy that I was able to get for $199 on Black Friday, but I really can’t justify anyone buying it at this point!

So now that you’ve heard about the technology, the walks, and the history, let me wrap up this long post by simply talking about the present (What I do each day now) and my plans for the future.

My Daily Routine

Prior to this year, my daily routine was pretty minimal – wake up, get dressed, go to work, come home, go to sleep. So what does my daily routine look like now? Here’s a brief rundown:

5:50-7:30 AM: Wake up, based upon whatever time I need to be either on my computer for a meeting or out the door if going to work. Start my daily routine (Which takes about 60-100 minutes):

  • Weigh myself on the Arboleaf Scale
    • I use the Happy Scale app to see my weight (automatically read through Apple Healthkit, where the Arboleaf Scale wrote it), and see projections for the future.
  • Do a variety of random tasks while I wait for the recommended 20 minutes after wake-up to do my Lumen measurement:
    • Practice my Spanish on DuoLingo
    • Add today’s New York Times cover to my Day One Journal just to have it for future reference on “What was going on in the world that day”.
    • Read email, social media, news feeds.
    • Post my Bad Joke if it’s Saturday.
    • Sync my Oura Ring
  • I use the awesome “Streaks” app in order to check off my daily tasks.
  • Take my Lumen morning reading.
  • Go out for my walk. Right now I’ve been doing this mostly “Rain, Shine, Cold, or Wind”, although I’m hoping to perhaps add in workouts from Apple Fitness+ in the next few months, so I can exercise while staying warm and dry!
  • Come home, brush my teeth, shower, and get ready for the day.

Noon: Eat lunch. If it was a boost day, I may have had breakfast of some sort, but most of the time, lunch is the first solid food of the day. Coffee, tea, or a great protein Hot Chocolate mix – mix that with mild coffee and you’ve got a hot chocolate.

5 PM: Eat Dinner. HelloFresh has made this super easy – full nutritional information!

Before Bedtime: Another routine:

  • Brush teeth
  • Make my entry in my Year in Pixels spreadsheet.
  • Make an entry in Day One about my day. Maybe only 1-2 sentences, but at least something I can look back on in the future.
  • Take an evening Lumen measurement, mostly FMI (for my information).
  • Use the Bello body fat analyzer
  • Take an evening measurement on the Arboleaf Scale.
  • Use the Apollo Neuroscience band to relax.

Overall my day stays very nicely routine, even during a pandemic. I am curious how it will adapt whenever I can start traveling again! Most of the changes are probably sustainable when I travel, although I will have to modify the exercise to something do-able in a hotel room or fitness center.

The Future

So what’s next? Well, obviously I don’t want to ever get up to 417 pounds again. I’m pretty optimistic about not getting there though, because of the following changes that have happened in the last 11 years:

  • My brain has (mostly) caught up with my stomach – in that after eating a reasonable size meal, I feel full within 20 minutes. Previously this had taken 50-75 minutes. This is probably the single biggest misconception that I read all of the time online in the “advice for fat people written by skinny people” columns: “Just wait 20 minutes, you’ll feel full” – No, if you’ve always eaten large quantities of food, your body might not send the “full” signal for way more than 20 minutes. In my case, even as recently as August, I timed it at about 50 minutes. Even now when I have a reasonably sized meal (my lunch recently was 2 slices of pizza), I have to remind myself that I will feel full in just a little bit.
  • I’ve changed the way I plan food, thus eating food has become more of a structured necessity. I was never a big snacker, but now I can count on one hand how many days of the month I eat anything after dinner. Probably around once a week I’ll eat something between lunch and dinner. Most days I try to have my meals planned out well in advance, that way I feel much more like I’ve ‘earned’ whatever I’m enjoying, and not that I’m being irresponsible when I have a high calorie meal.
  • I don’t feel like I have an industrial-sized case of Imposter Syndrome when I work out. I fondly recall years ago watching a stand-up comedian say that thin people shouldn’t be at the gym – they should go home – they won – it should only be fat people at the gym! Yet a fat guy working out is, for some reason, horribly stigmatized. And when you’re the fat guy, you feel it. Once you lose some weight, though, you start to feel like you belong, whether it be at the gym or out walking or jogging with others.
  • Doors that were once sealed shut now seem much more likely to open for me. Nothing major, just little things like being able to buy clothing at a store (Most of the retailers around me didn’t carry my size before), eat dessert without feeling the eyes of the people around me burning into my skull, and the ability to do physical activities with friends (when I can see them again) that before might have concerned them (e.g., “Let’s walk a 10k” etc…).

So in sum, it’s been a long road. My goal now, as I head into 2021, is to drop a little bit more weight until I hit a BMI classification of “overweight” (as opposed to “Obese”), and then once I’m comfortably in that range, perhaps start weight training, aerobics, or exercise to tone the body I have. Regardless of where I go from here, I have learned a ton of lessons over the past year. Most importantly: It isn’t that I can’t lose weight, it’s simply that I didn’t want to lose weight before bad enough to learn how to lose it. If I want to lose it, I can lose it.

Stay strong my friends, and feel free to put any comments you have below!

Jon Westfall,
December 15, 2020
Weight: 243.4, 171.8 pounds down.

Looking for the next chapter of the story? Click Here… to see how I survived the holidays!