April 14, 2021

JonWestfall.com

Researcher, Educator, Author, And More

How to Survive the Holidays and Still Lose Weight

A little while ago, I posted my Epic Long Post about Losing 170 pounds in 11 years. Before I get into my update, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me with well wishes and support, especially those who told me that my blog post really helped them with their own weight loss and health journeys. I’m so happy to have been able to help you by sharing my story! If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest going there and reading it first!

Anyway, since my last update, the biggest nemesis to weight loss aficionados happened: The Holidays. And while the time period didn’t cover one of the primary gluttonous holidays, Thanksgiving, it did cover the 1-2 punch of Christmas Eve/Day and New Years Eve/Day. These two celebrations come just 1 week a part, feature special meals for many, and can cause a dieter to have to choose between “being good” and “being jolly”. Well friends, I’m here to report on my journey through the Merriest or Happiest of Seasons, with perhaps some advice for how to survive it without feeling totally bummed out. Spoiler Alert: You will gain weight… temporarily.

Christmas

Prior to December 24, I was losing at a rate of 2.0-2.2 pounds per week. I had achieved this through rigorously tracking everything I ate, aligning it with my Lumen’s (affiliate link) recommendations, and not cheating. I also would walk every morning for about 2.5 to 5 miles. December 24, Christmas Eve, my wife and I planned a small feast: crab legs and asparagus, and on December 25, we planned to have a prime rib, cheesy potatoes, and yams. Add into that an abundant supply of Christmas cookies and other snacks (I was particularly proud of my perpetually soft and chewy gingerbread cookies), and I was pretty nervous about how I’d walk the line between enjoying myself, and enjoying myself too much. My compromise was this: Eat whatever I want on 12/24 and 12/25, but continue to take my long walks each day in the mornings. I figured that my body would probably enjoy the time out anyway – walks do end up stretching you literally in ways you realize you miss when you stop doing them for awhile (As I’d find out in February!).

So with much trepidation, on 12/24 I weighed myself and was 240.3 pounds. I then went for a 3.66 mile walk, and burnt 423 calories. I was ready for the day. Feasting was done, and on Christmas Morning, looking at the pretty presents waiting for me helped me not focus too much on the change on the scale – I was 242.5, just 2.2 pounds heavier. Crab isn’t a bad food, but the sheer amount of it and the butter that accompanied it was probably a bit to blame. I went for another walk, 3.96 miles this time (burning 480 calories), and enjoyed round two of “eat whatever”, including a very good spinach artichoke dip around lunch time that I simply could not stop eating (my wife is an excellent cook!)

And on December 26, at 6:58 AM, I weighed myself… 245 pounds. By 9:27 PM that night, I was up to 247.4.

7.1 pounds. To put it into perspective, the last time my weight averaged 247.4 pounds had been December 6. So in 2 days I’d seemingly undid 18 days of progress.

Now I know what some of the savvier of you are saying: There are a TON of factors that go into those 7 pounds. Increased amount of food, for one thing – it takes time for your body to process those things that you ate, even if they aren’t calorie laden. Increased amount of water, through both drinking more beverages and through the carbs retaining water that they would eventually release. And yes, increased calories do mean you’ll go up a little over the next few days. I knew all of these things, yet it was still a tad depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have changed what I did – I truly enjoyed eating special meals with my wife on two very special days of the year. But to see your progress seemingly evaporate, even temporarily, was disheartening. I kept thinking “I wish I knew how long it would take to bounce back”, which is part of the reason I’m writing this blog post. Maybe future dieters will stumble upon this and realize that life will get back to normal fairly quickly.

Over the next few days, going back to my usual diet plan (and eating Christmas leftovers in small quantities), I got back down slowly. 245 one day, 246 the next, 244, 243.2, 242.7, and finally 241.6 on another monumental day: December 31, the last day of the dreaded year 2020.

(Curious as to the whole year of 2020? Here’s that chart)

New Year, New Shakeup

OK, so again, special food for special days, and again, a predictable rise, with the highest weight being on Sunday, January 3 at 244.2 pounds. Not as bad as Christmas, but still a bit depressing. All of this time I kept thinking “When will I get back down to 240.3?!?” Turns out, the answer to that would be January 6, two weeks to the day after Christmas Eve, I weighed in at 240.0.

Along the way, my Lumen started to notice my body acting a bit differently, as did my body fat scale – you see, as I neared 238.8, I was getting toward the cut-off from a BMI of 30+ (Obesity) to 25-30 (Overweight). BMI is a very troubling number – with lots of debate around how useful it is to describe someone’s overall health, so I’ve never really put much stock in it (Of course, when your BMI is 40+, you don’t need someone to tell you that you’re morbidly obese – it’s just something you know about yourself, like your eye color). Around the same time, my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) started to get closer to what it “should” be for someone my age and height. Lumen started playing around with giving me more carbs, which caused me to experience wild shifts in my weight loss rate – at one point I dropped as low as 1.2 pounds per week. Toward the end of January, I went back to my previous Lumen settings (assuming no workouts, just walks) and after a 10 day plateau, started losing again.

Finally, February saw me losing weight at a reduced clip, but I am continuing to drop. A big accomplishment for me came on February 12, when, for the first time, my weight hit below 230 (229.0), and my body fat went below 25% (24.8%) according to my scale. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to compare the numbers below from April 9, 2020, to February 12, 2021. Imagine looking at the first screen below on your phone, after already losing 80 pounds over the last 18 months, and thinking “Well… guess I got another 100+ to go…”. If that is you right now, as you read this, then know… it’s possible. If I could do it, you can do it.

April 9, 2020 – this thing just loved calling me Obese and Below Average!
February 28, 2020 – now it just likes to tell me that I’m 3 years older than I really am.

And if you’re curious, here’s the February weight chart. February posed a very interesting challenge for me – the inability to go for my morning walks. Something I’d planned for but hoped wouldn’t happen.

First, the planning: on December 14, Apple released Fitness+, their answer to Peloton and something that I would get for free through my Apple One subscription (or at least 3 months free since I’d bought a Series 6 Apple Watch). I was very interested in trying it out since many of the workouts could be done without equipment, and they promised to offer modifications for those who were starting out with exercise. On December 23, I started with the Absolute Beginner Strength workout, the Absolute Beginner HIIT workout, and a Mindful Cooldown – 25 minutes of exercise after my regular walk, and I enjoyed the variety. A week later I did another HIIT workout, and was happy to have an alternative to my walks.

Then, on January 19, it happened: I broke my walking streak of 222 days – instead of a long walk, on that rainy morning, I did a HIIT workout, a dance workout, and a Cooldown. I was happy to still get my exercise in while also not having to come home and dry off (Just to shower and dry off again!).

This preparation was very useful come Thursday, February 11 – the day that the Mississippi Delta got hit with a small ice storm. Campus was closed, and it probably wouldn’t have been a great idea to go out walking – so I did a bit of HIIT. The next day? Yoga. The next day? Core and Dance. And so it went, until February 24 when I was next able to get out and walk – because after the ice storm, came snow which lasted for almost a week.

My Workouts during the first week of Ice and Snow

As mentioned earlier, getting back into walking was something I really was happy to do but something that in just 1.5 weeks my body feel out of routine with. The nights of February 24 and 25 my legs were a little sore! But thankfully just a few days of walking built them up again.

So, not only have I ticked off the boxes for getting below my body fat, I’ve also added a bit more to my exercise routine, and found that I actually like HIIT workouts… and that Yoga can really whip me in ways I never expected! As I write this, February is ending on a “low” note – low weight. High note in other respects.

So that about wraps us up for this weight loss update. As of today I’m down 190.2 pounds from my high, within the home stretch to get to maintenance mode, and have dropped below 25% body fat. Nearly there. My next update will likely be once I go into maintenance mode, and how that works for me.

Thank you all for your support,

Jon Westfall

February 28, 2021 – 225 pounds.

P.S. In a fit of irony, when I posted my last update, my weight went up about a pound the next day, and it was 3-4 more days before it got back down to where it was on the post. Perfectly normal fluctuation, but of course, something one can’t help but roll their eyes at. Thanks body, I was just bragging on you… 🙄 😁