Plateaus, Milestones, and the Secret Food List: 3 Years, 200 Pounds

This is the third in a series of posts about my fitness journey. If you haven’t read them, here are links to parts 1 and 2.

The past few months have been ones of revelation, plateau, and reaching goals. I found out I was an athlete, my body decided it was happy in a spot, it moved around a bit more, and now I’m looking at my progress over the past 3 years. Also along the way I’ve had some people ask me a bit more about what I eat, so in this post I’m giving away my secrets of tasty foods that have helped me balance my macros.

Me at DSU’s Commencement. April 30, 2021, 212.2 pounds.

So to start, you might wonder how one finds out that they are an athlete. It started with noticing a toggle in my Arboleaf Scale app for “Athlete mode”. The description stated that it was ‘designed for people who were muscular, have been long engaging in intensive physical activities, or have been working out regularly’. When I got the scale, in April 2020, that did not describe me, except for perhaps the muscular part. In late May, 2020, I did start working out regularly, but even after several months, I still did not feel entitled to “flip that switch” so to speak. I wasn’t an athlete, I was a fat guy.

Around the end of April, however, I started to wonder again about that little toggle. I had read several articles that noted that BMI overestimated fat content of taller people (I’m 6’3’’) throughout the past year, but as someone who had an initial body fat reading of around 50%, I figured “How far could it be off?”, and didn’t care to use the “athlete” mode that would change the calculations based on a muscular physique. But the month of April 2021 got me thinking – mostly because the scale stopped moving.

For comparison, here was my trend line per week of weight from May 2020 to July 2021 (as of today):
May 2020: Down 2.1 lb/week
June 2020: Down 3.3l lb/week
July 2020: Down 2.9 lb/week
Aug 2020: Down 3.2 lb/week
Sept 2020: Down 2.5 lb/week
Oct 2020: Down 2.2 lb/week
Nov 2020: Down 2.2 lb/week
Dec 2020: Down 1.5 lb/week
Jan 2021: Down 1.8 lb/week
Feb 2021: Down 2.1 lb/week
Mar 2021: Down 2.1 lb/week
Apr 2021: Down 0.8 lb/week
May 2021: Down 0.9 lb/week
(And strangely, June 2021: 1.4 lb/week, July 1.2 lb/week… but more on that later)

So yeah… a bit of a dramatic difference in April & May with no change in my diet or exercise. What had changed? Well, obviously I would expect to lose less per week as I had less to lose. But to go from 2.1 lb to 0.8… that made me wonder if something else was going on. So I started looking into this “Athlete” mode stuff, and finally found a way to quantify it in the manual of my Omron Body Fat analyzer. It gave me a calculation for a “Fit Index”, which told me based upon my exercises, frequencies, and intensities, I was an Athlete. So on April 28 I flipped the switch. And while my BMI and Weight obviously didn’t change instantly, my body fat reading went from 21.9% to 15.2%. I started to wonder: Was my body telling me that I had reached a healthy weight? After all, 15% put me firmly in the Fitness category, and it certainly didn’t seem like my body wanted to lose anymore. I was 213.8 pounds, or just over 200 pounds down from my highest recorded weight in May 2018.

About a week after discovering I might be fit, I decided to transition into weight maintenance mode instead of loss. This mostly meant I allowed MyFitnessPal to factor my workout calories into my daily calorie allotment, I stopped rigorously following my Lumen’s daily advice (Might as well have some carbs again, in moderation), and decided that I’d eat snacks after dinner if the mood struck me. Since making that decision around May 1, my weight had stayed well within a 2 pound range, somewhere between 211-213 pounds most mornings, unless I had a late dinner or a lot of fluids the night before.

At the same time, I still kept doing my regular workouts, which have been not packing the same punch as when I started them – my body is well and truly adapted to walking 3 miles per day, and I do plan on switching up my workout regime after the summer completes. Why did I wait? Because I had a rather stupid goal: Make it 365 days of closing my Apple Fitness rings, with daily walks as my primary component since that’s where it all started. So without further adieu, feast your eyes on these image:

(Today = July 28, 2021)

Closing the Rings

So there you have it – I’ve come a pretty long way since May 29, 2018 at 415.2 pounds. Goals are good, but this one was probably particularly stupid – I didn’t give myself any rest days, which we know are essential to have here and there. So don’t be like me, set healthier goals than “never take a day off” (I will admit that after I made it year, I dropped my goals in Apple Health so that I wasn’t pushing myself unrealistically!).

And then, as I drafted up this post at the end of May, getting ready to publish around June 1, something strange happened. I started losing weight again. The plateau broke, and as I type this at the end of July, I weigh in each morning between 199-204. 8 week plateaus aren’t unheard of, but I never thought I’d experience one.

Me on Father’s Day with the shirt my kitten children, Coconut and Kinja gave me. My weight was 200.2 that morning. After a tasty coconut cream pie, brownies, and special meals, I did end up going up a few pounds for the next week! Still well within the 200-205 range, however.

So I’ll close this portion of the post by answering a question people have been asking: What is my end goal? Answer: I’m pretty much at it. Ideally I’d drop to somewhere between 190-195, but with a body fat percentage around 15%, a resting heart rate of 60 bpm, a Vo2 max around 41, and the ability to walk long distances (and even jog 20-30 minutes at a time), I feel pretty good.

But before I finish this post, I want to point out a few foods that have really helped me over the last year. This is mostly because I’ve told people about them, similar to how I mentioned my Lumen in the first post, and wanted to have a blog post I could point people to if they were interested as well. So here’s my “secret” food list, using affiliate links if possible.

  • Magic Spoon Cereal – Sometimes you want a bowl of cereal but you don’t want all the carbs. While these cereals are a bit more expensive (think $2.50 a serving), they are supremely tasty, and filled with a good amount of protein!
  • Bootylicious Muffins – And sometimes you want something that looks like cake. These are easy to make in the microwave and also very tasty!
  • Optimum Double Chocolate Whey Powder – You add this to a mug of unflavored coffee (e.g., McCafe works fine) and you blend, and bam = instant hot chocolate.
  • Atkins Endulge Treat Chocolate Bars – You like Mounds bars? These are better, and have a good amount of both protein and fiber.
  • Whisps – Like cheese? Want cheese as chips? These are just toasted cheese, but make for excellent lunch options or snacks.
  • Highkey Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies – Excellent little cookies for when you have a sweet tooth but also don’t want to blow your carb count on a single cookie.
  • These 1, 2, 3 excellent Fiber One or Atkins bars. Again, great for lunches on the go.
  • Old Wisconsin Turkey Sausage Snack Sticks – When you need some protein and something that will keep you full, pair 2-3 of these with a stick or two of cheddar cheese.
  • Elite Donut – Donuts rock, these are tasty, especially the cinnamon sugar!
  • Hello Fresh meal boxes – An absolute godsend during the height of the pandemic. Karey & I would eat 3 meals a week, and go to the grocery store once per month for staples. I usually have some “free boxes” for them, so if you’d like one, reach out and I’ll see if I have a better code than my affiliate link.
  • What about specific meals?
    • Want a good lunch option? Can of chunk chicken breast warmed up in a pan with a little butter, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, plus cheddar cheese to top. Basically you have a southwestern chicken bowl.
    • Another good lunch? Walmart (and others) sell flash frozen salmon and tilapia. Pop that in a convection oven for 7 minutes or so and you’ve got a healthy lunch you can spice however you like.
    • And if you are going to splurge, splurge on something really good – carbs go best in the morning, and ya know what pairs really nicely with good coffee (Blueberry Cinnamon Crumble is my favorite flavor, but Almond Amaretto, Sun Kissed, and Maple Cream are good as well): Chocolate Éclairs.
      • Yes, honestly flavored coffee (which I don’t have to put sugar or cream into) and bakery have been my go-to breakfast for the past few months. You can lose weight and enjoy food – don’t get suckered into the “100% clean” idea that everything you eat has to be meal prepped bland chicken and greens. If you make that your diet, you will jump off of it very quickly.

So there you have it – my secret food list. If you’re looking for a gift for me, pretty much anything on that list is a great option (Even the éclairs, just don’t be surprised if I save them for breakfast over 4 days!). And that about wraps up this post. As I type this I weigh 201 pounds, waking up this morning at 199. When will you hear from me next? Likely after a few more months of maintenance. I look forward to letting you know how I continue to tweak and maintain!

4 Replies to “Plateaus, Milestones, and the Secret Food List: 3 Years, 200 Pounds”

  1. Jon, you are the person who has lost the most weight I have seen. It is incredible to drop the weight to 200 pounds from 418 pounds. I saw many people re-gained weight after rigorous weight-losing programs. I believe the best advice to keep fit is doing the exercise or sports. The enjoyment we get from Sports will prevail. Personally, I play tennis with my wife and others, and I do not do any dieting.

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