Weight Lost: He Went From 235 To 165 Pounds, Thanks To Counting Calories

Who: Rishi Sritharan

Occupation: Student

City: Mississauga, Ont.

Age: 24

By The Numbers: 235 pounds at my heaviest, currently 165 pounds, for a total weight loss of 70 pounds.

The Weight Gain: I think my weight has always steadily increased since I was in the third grade. Looking back at some very old pictures, it was around grade four when I reached the status of overweight and stayed there for a very long time. I ate a lot and mostly food that was incredibly unhealthy.

My eating habits continued to get worse as I got older. I would eat unhealthy snacks like chips and pastries between meals, and drink lots of soda and juice. I knew it wasn’t healthy, but it tasted good, which felt good to me.

I tried diets, but frustration would always lead me back to square one. I think a big reason was because I felt like when I was on a diet, I was very restricted. This led me to binge eat during “cheat” days and put me back to where I was before. So for a few days I would eat healthy, exercise and drop a few pounds, but then that designated cheat day would turn into a cheat nightmare and I would consume 7000+ calories in a day.

Final Straw: In August of 2013, my father lost his battle with cancer. I was devastated but also knew that it was a wake-up call for my own health. I made a vow to become healthier, and it started with losing weight. Although I started in September of 2013 with a gym membership, I would still fluctuate. By 2014, I had only really dropped 10 to 15 pounds. It wasn’t until the fall of 2014, after a trip to Florida, that I buckled down. I read many inspirational stories and progress posts online that really made me believe that I could do it.

The Plan of Attack: I learned about calorie counting online through the inspirational progress that other overweight and obese people made and thought that it was worth giving it a try. I also discovered MyFitnessPal, an app where you can log and track the food you eat every day, and see exactly how much calories you were consuming daily. I learned that my body burns around 2500 calories per day and that if I wanted to lose weight, I would have to consume a figure under that. Since 3500 calories equals one pound of fat, I’d have to consume 1500 calories a day to lose two pounds every week.

With tracking, I started to track even those cheat days that would be so bad for me before. Days when I would go out to lunch or dinner with my friends or family would be tracked. I would use this as motivation to burn calories to my maintenance level. If I tracked my day and realized I was at 3000 calories, or 500 over my maintenance, I would do cardio exercises at the end of the day to burn that 500.

It took my 10 months to lose the weight. My heaviest weight at 235 was in August of 2013, but the first year, I only dropped 10 pounds. I wasn’t calorie counting and I’d have some periods of dieting which were offset by periods of eating anything I wanted. Ten pounds was a great start, but it wasn’t until around November of 2014 that I started counting calories and sticking with my plan. It took me eight months to lose nearly 60 pounds and reach my goal weight. My BMI went from the obese range to healthy and I have never felt better.

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The Exercise Factor: I barely did any fitness beforehand. I had a gym membership that I rarely used and therefore cancelled. I had an elliptical and a treadmill at home and thought I’d use that to kickstart my fitness. I started to use the treadmill almost everyday and absolutely loved it. Once I embraced calorie counting, fitness became like a bonus and those extra calories I burned would be added to the 1500 calorie allowance I had for the day. The days I would go for all-you-can-eat sushi would be followed by an hour on the treadmill to help me keep my calories in check.

Right now I’m focusing more on strength training. I’ll be joining a gym in September after a trip to Europe in August. I have dumbbells at home and started a routine a few weeks ago. I also have protein goals that I try and reach every day. I work out every other day and still use the treadmill on the days I don’t do strength training because I’ve grown to love it.

The Food Element: Once I embraced the numbers game with counting calories, the cheat days became well managed. I would plan ahead for days I would go out or know that I’d eat unhealthy. As for the 1500 calorie limit, I found foods and suggestions that I enjoyed eating and would keep me satisfied. Since 1500 is a lot lower than 2500, I forced myself to find healthier options to keep me full for the day. My relationship with food changed and I knew that I can still enjoy my favourite things, but in moderation.

I started eating a lot more vegetables because they are so low in calories compared to the volume of food you get. One of my go-to snacks was a large carrot with hummus as a dip. It would be about 80 calories and have as much volume as a 400 calorie small bag of chips.

Savoury snacks like chips and sweets and cake are my kryptonite, so I stopped eating them. I also gave up sodas and juice and stuck with water and diet soft drinks. I also tried to eat protein-heavy foods as these were typically more satisfying and didn’t make me feel hungry the rest of the day. I found chicken breast to be awesome in terms of calories-to-protein ratio and it also tasted great! Salmon fillets and tuna fish are other foods I enjoyed and would eat quite often in those eight months.

The hardest adjustment was eating out a lot less often. I would eat fast food multiple times a week, but completely cut that out. Now I eat out at most once a week, and try my hardest to choose options that are lower in calories and healthy. MyFitnessPal has the nutrition information of a lot of dishes available at most restaurants, and therefore I found it relatively easy to track the food I didn’t eat at home. I used a food scale at home to be as precise as I possibly could be with calories and would overestimate rather than underestimate when I wasn’t completely sure.

The Current Day-to-Day: My days are awesome now! I remember getting winded walking up the stairs. Now I feel great and play a lot more sports. I used to stay at home and play video games during the summer, but now I’ll try and organize a basketball pick up game with friends or even drop by the local park and play with whoever’s there. I am maintaining my weight by continuing to log my calories. It also tells me my protein intake for the day.

Looking back, I’m most proud of sticking to the plan I had from the beginning. Too often in the past I have given up when I didn’t see the results I wanted. Once I embraced counting calories, I knew that I would eventually reach my goal, but I had to stick with it.

The only regret I have about the whole journey is not taking proper progress pictures throughout. I think this would have been awesome to track and look back on. I do, however, have a ton of old pictures that even shocks me when I see the difference.

My advice for people struggling with weight is to first understand that anyone can lose weight. I struggled with this because I would always make excuses. "Maybe I have a low metabolism. Maybe I have some kind of sickness that doesn’t let me lose weight." But it wasn’t until I saw the many progress stories of people that really inspired me. I knew it was possible once I embraced calorie counting. The digital age has blessed us with free phone apps, and MyFitnessPal has done wonders for me. I recommend this app to everyone, and not just people that are looking to lose weight. Track what you eat, count every calorie, and the results will show themselves.

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