How a competitive twin brother and stupid “competition” helped shed pounds

Every year I promise to lose weight and it never happens. This year I was especially motivated.

I was 200 pounds, up from 168 when I graduated from high school. I had put on the predictable 10 pounds every decade.

When I checked in with my hometown friends, I discovered they had held their girth in check. They weighed, in descending order, 170, 165, 164, 159, 156, 152 and 137.

I was horrified. I weighed 30 pounds more than the next heaviest person. I didn’t even qualify as an outlier.

I decided to join a weight loss competition at work. Seventeen people were participating. It would last 10 weeks. We would check in each Thursday.

My first time on the scale it showed 199.4 pounds. It seemed hard to believe, but there it was. I had never been heavier.

My strategy was to reduce snacks — no more peanuts or candy or cappuccinos. And I would go to the gym every day.

The gym, it turns out, was a total mistake. Studies show 80% of weight loss can be explained by limiting consumption, not exercise.

Ten weeks later I had lost 10 pounds, or 4.8%. Not bad, I thought. Not as much as I wanted, but pretty respectable.

While I was shedding one pound a week, the top tier had lost far more, one person dropped as much as 40 pounds, or 20% of his body weight. The runner up lost 15%. I was in the middle of the pack.

They blew away the field with a simple strategy: fasting.

By reducing consumption to comically low levels and skipping meals, the winner reduced his intake to about 500 calories a day. Among other things, he sucked on lemon rinds to ward off hunger in the afternoons.

The winner had this dietary advice:

  • On weekdays, eat a cup of fruit for breakfast, soup for lunch, snack on vegetables and eat a small dinner. “Like for a tiny person,” he said.
  • On weekends, skip lunch. Eat a late breakfast and early dinner.
  • Drink hot tea in the morning, coffee in the afternoon with skim milk and no sugar.
  • Drink a ton of water — one cup for each hour awake.

One more thing that explained his motivation:

  • Grow up with a competitive twin brother and a mother who constantly preached delayed gratification.

The runner-up summarized his philosophy:

  • Don’t eat
  • Don’t drink
  • Exercise profusely
  • Plan some days when you do the opposite of 1–3.

His thoughts on motivation:

  • Enter stupid weight loss competitions with extremely competitive people.

**Published by Ted Merz Mar 18, 2016**