How My Diet Got Derailed

I haven’t posted about my 20 pound fat loss bet in a while. The reason is after losing 10 pounds, I stalled and then starting gaining again. This post will explain what went wrong.

#1 Coffee Addiction

Coffee is a complicated tool when it comes to appetite. At normal or low levels, it can suppress appetite and help with fat loss. At higher levels, it can make you feel jittery and stimulate appetite. At least it does for me. The problem is that when I started the fat loss goal, I was already at a higher than normal level of coffee. I decided to not cut back at that time and instead push it until the goal was met. At that time, I could reduce to a normal level. Only that didn’t work out so well.

I’ve become more sensitive to caffeine this year. Yet I still get massive enjoyment from coffee and especially espresso. In terms of losing weight, if I cut back, my mood drops. Mood drops and I reach for sugar. At the other end, if I consume too much coffee, I get jittery and reach for fatty foods. At both ends of spectrum, I consume extra calories.

When people post articles about how coffee helps you lose weight, I always roll my eyes. There isn’t a simple narrative.

useless without coffee

From Inanimate Objects Comics #40 by Todd Zapoli

#2 Corrupt Data (Blaming the Scale)

I’m not the type of person to blame the scale for inaccuracy. My approach has always been to throw out outliers and then average the trend. So if I go the gym and weigh myself 3 times one week and the scale reads 205, 207 and 202, I would throw out the 202 and average the other two numbers to arrive at 206 as my weight for that week.

That works if the scale is off in a consistent pattern. In mid June, I noticed one week that my weight jumped 6 pounds. The next week it was down 5 pounds. Yet by the mirror, my weight was stable. So I started playing around with the scale. I noticed the weight fluctuated if the scale was against the wall versus pulled out a few inches. And my weight was different if I stepped on with my left foot first or my right foot first. I tried several stances on the scale. All had different readings.

I’m certain that I made poor choices based off the inaccurate readings I got during the diet. On one week where I ate a lot of sorbet, I lost weight. Or at least I thought I did. I was excited to learn that unlike ice cream which is my go to for gaining weight, I was able to eat sorbet just as summer was kicking in and lose weight! But the scale was wrong.

All my data was suspect. Every single week. I do think I lost weight and I do think I gained some back. How much? Not a clue. I don’t even know if my initial reading was accurate.

#3 The Move

During my last month in Seattle, I was focused more on getting rid of stuff I couldn’t take with me and packing. There were a few goodbye parties thrown for me and they all had lots of great food. This was not the time to restrict calories. Also, I have this thing about not letting food go to waste, so I tried to eat most of the food I had in the house before I left.

#4 Grocery Outlet’s Sale on Pineapple Greek Frozen Yogurt

I shouldn’t even go into this store, as they always have great deals on ice cream, sorbet, sherbets, and frozen yogurt. During the period I believed I was able to eat sorbet and lose weight, I visited Grocery Outlet to see what sorbet options they had.

They were out of sorbet, but they were selling Ben & Jerry’s Pineapple Frozen Yogurt for $2 a pint. It was good. I went back for more. The price had dropped to $1. I bought even more. Then I returned and saw they dropped the price to 50 cents a pint. I have discipline, but not at 50 cents. I loaded up the cart.

If I made a food pyramid of June 2014, the entire base would be pineapple froyo.

Where I Went Wrong

Before I dive into my analysis, I want to say the bet was never motivating to me. If anything it was a minor distraction. I wanted my fellow competitors to succeed. Even though I was neck and neck with Competitor #3, we both stalled at the same time. Competitor #2 got injured and had sleep issues. Competitor #4 is still missing in action.

I think the goal of “20 pounds” wasn’t ideal and I should have known better. Four years ago I put out the post Fat Loss Metrics For Men, where I basically said the same thing. Had I lost 20# I would guess I would be at a weight when I would have flat abs and some upper ab definition. In that case, using “The Frankie Method” combined with a tape measure would be superior to the “can’t be trusted” gym scale. With tape measure, I could get a reading daily, whereas with the scale my data collection only happened 1-3 times per week.

With coffee I know I get the most benefit when I am able to spread out the coffee throughout the day. I do much better when I can delay my 3rd coffee until late afternoon. If I can do this, then I often can restrict myself to 3 coffees. If I can’t then I end up consuming 4 or 5. This is something I need to work on. For sanity and dieting, I think my sweet spot right now is 3 coffees.

Going Forward

I would still like to return to Level 2 leanness. It is where I recall feeling the best. Being leaner than that was too stressful on my body (cold hands/feet, gaunt face). I will start collecting better data and now that I am no longer in walking distance to great espresso places, I might be able to get my coffee consumption under control. Maybe. 🙂


Add yours

  1. We used weight as the metric because of your knee, but I agree that measurements or even LBM would have been a much better tracker for progress.

  2. So, is the bet over? I can’t remember when you started it.

    I gained a ton of weight (about 50 lbs, something I didn’t know I could even do) but that’s because I discovered I had been starving myself for decades and needed to refeed. I will go back down to my set point (not sure where it is) when my body has finished healing. In the meantime, I am getting bigger upper body muscles already, even though I’m not in that stage yet.

    And I don’t have a scale (I checked myself at a doctor’s office a couple of weeks ago when I saw the chance), but have been using a tape measure.

    At any rate, thank you for getting me started, and for telling us about Matt Stone’s book on sale. I’m getting my health back and that’s way better than losing a few pounds. I hope that your knee heals regardless of your weight, since that’s your ultimate goal, isn’t it?

  3. I saw that 50 cent Ben and Jerry’s froyo at Grocery Outlet yesterday, but I was able to hold off. Last week I unexpectedly came across grass-fed ground beef on sale at Chuck’s Produce for 3.99/lb. I cleaned them out (~25lbs).

    Since moving to a big city I’ve found that deals abound everywhere. At first I couldn’t resist and would literally have pounds of chocolate here at the house. Not a good idea. It was a great ‘deal’ monetarily, but not so much for my eating habits and ultimately my health.

    Now I don’t have stuff like that at the house and I’m forced to go out and buy treats when I get a hankering. I still do of course, but paying full price along with the effort to get there is a nice deterrent. In all my years in Aspen, I never had this problem. Deals are few and far between there.

    On the flip side, when I see bargains on staples like sardines and the grass-fed beef mentioned above, I snatch them up immediately.

  4. @Anemone – The side bet is over. I am assuming the main bet is still on, but it would just be between me and Competitor #2. Competitor #3 has joined Competitor #4 on the MIA list. Given the fact I’ve moved and now know that my data set is corrupt, I don’t know what we should do. I’ll reach out to Competitor #2 (fitnessbetwinner).

    I think just doing this for my knee was too narrow of a focus. I think 195-200 is where I look and feel the best. That should be my target. Once I get there I can reassess.

    @Aaron – I forgot about sardines. I ate them a lot when I was at my leanest. Need to bring them back into the routine. I like mixing them in kimchi.

  5. My biggest issue right now is that I work part time at a brewery where I get free beer, and that is truly derailing my diet. I know you aren’t too into beer right now, MAS, but do you have any tips for scaling back on something one takes such delight in, especially when it surrounds you?! Thanks!

  6. @Rita – You need a defined rule.

    When I worked for Pizza Hut as a delivery driver, I noticed how when things got slow drivers would eat pizzas that didn’t make it to the customers (cancellations, mistakes, etc). I also noticed that the drivers that had worked there the longest were the heaviest. Almost like how a tree develops rings as it ages in the forest.

    So my rule was I would not eat any pizza while at work. If I wanted pizza, I would get it on my own time and almost always from a different pizza place. That rule kept me lean while the other drivers got fat.

    You could come up with your own rule. One example might be to bring your own 2oz cup (espresso demitasse) and limit yourself to one per day. Then stick to the rule. Or you might pick a day of the week where you sample. “5 oz Friday”.

    Best of luck. Let me know if you figure it out.

  7. That’s definitely a good idea to have clearly defined rules. If you can think of any other strategies, please post them, as I might need to try several tricks to make it work! Thank you MAS!!

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