Open Source Weight Loss Week 1: the Rollercoaster

I’ve completed the first week of a year-long project involving sharing any and every detail of my attempt to lose weight and improve my overall health.

This week is full of highs and lows as my body adjusts to a sudden increase in activity. As per the advice I’ve received from numerous exercise sites, I’ve been increasing my steps per day gradually and maintaining a 750 calorie buffer between what I burn and what I take in. In some cases, I’ve even exceeded that buffer by an additional 250 calories. Even then, I’ve seen a slight weight gain during the week, which is a surprising and disheartening sign.

So why did I gain weight? I lost two pounds between Sunday and Wednesday only to gain it back by Friday. I ate some unhealthy things (again, another slow transition as per instructions), though my calorie intake has been exactly within the goals of the program.

Week 1 Report
Start – 295.8
Middle – 297.0
End – 294.5
Total Weight Lost – 1.3 Pounds

Can You Gain Weight While Exercising and Dieting?

As it turns out, the early weight gain I experienced is a normal occurrence, and one that often discourages people from continuing their plan. This is due to the body’s natural adjustment period when activity increases and/or your caloric intake changes. I may have also been gaining some amount of muscle weight due to the extra work I’ve been putting on my legs which, themselves, were only used to about half of the steps I’ve been putting them through this week.

So, if these pieces of advice are correct, I should start seeing a lower number on the scale sometime in the next two weeks. Otherwise, I may have to contact a nutritionist to see what I may need to adjust.

Again, I’ve had my bad meals as well as some very good ones. This first week sets the benchmark for what I need to expect of myself moving forward, so everything should be taken in stride.

On the upside, this early weight gain countered itself around Saturday and I ended the week about the same way I began it. The positive takeaway here is that my trend of increasing weight by a pound per week has finally come to an end.

What I’ve Done to Increase Activity This Week

Walking my dogs, Rocky and Apollo, has always been a matter of taking them to the area behind my apartment for a quick doing of their business and allowing them to run around while on a 28′ leash. This isn’t very stressful on me, and requires very little time investment on my part. So this ritual provided the perfect setting for an increase in activity.

At first, I walked my dogs around the apartment complex once during the morning and once at night. This provided me with 1,200 steps per round, which would put me at my usual daily amount. Anything else I did during the day would tip me over where I started before entering in to the exercise program.

After a few days, I began doing more walks around the complex, and my wife and I even attempted to walk to the convenience store a mile and a half down the road, but quickly realized the return trip would probably prove more difficult than we could handle after having already done a speed walk around the complex. So we abandoned that idea about a quarter of the way to the store.

On Friday, I had my best day yet in terms of activity. I figured out that if I zigzag between buildings in my complex, I could achieve double the distance walked without feeling as though I had circled the entire complex multiple times. In one rotation, I managed to grab roughly 3,000 steps. If I do that three times, I could reach my ultimate goal of 10,000 daily steps fairly easily.

Currently, I’m clearing 4,500 – 5,500 steps per day on the regular, which itself is a far cry from the 2,000 steps I was taking on average before this began. The transition was rough for the first couple days, but oddly enough, it quickly became much easier to walk faster across longer distances.

What I Plan to Do Next Week

Next week I should set a goal of 6,000 steps per day with an attempt to introduce stairs and/or some form of timed aerobic or cardiovascular workout. We have a gym in our apartment complex that has some basic workout gear including a treadmill and an orbital machine. I’ll see if I can’t take advantage of this equipment next week as I try to break previous personal records and hit that 1,500 burned calorie goal FitBit Trainer is setting for me.

Swimming may be an option soon, though I’m still finding it difficult to overcome the embarrassment factor of being the largest person at the apartment pool. Even with a shirt on, it’s not my favorite idea on the table. That said, it should be on the table as one important factor in slimming down is elongating the muscles. That’s something swimming is known to do quite well — and with very little physical resistance.

My knees are beginning to feel a bit tight after the first 20 minutes of walking. I may need to invest in a knee brace or wrap to even out some of that pressure. I’m sure I have one around the apartment, but I want to avoid adding too many obstacles to my motivation early on.

The hot Texas summer is about to begin, so I’m taking full advantage of the mild weather we’re experiencing right now as much as I can. The forecast for the next week looks pretty good, but it could reach the 100s sometime in the next few weeks. Once that happens, I’ll need to restrict my outdoor activities to the evening unless I start moving my exercise to the apartment gym.

Question of the Week

This week, I’d like to ask you to share any stories you might have of the first week you started a weight loss plan. Did you experience any early setbacks? How did you overcome them? If you didn’t experience any issues, what did you do that you believe made things smooth sailing for you?

You can join me in my year-long project by commenting in these weekly questions at and/or simply responding to others as they continue their own journey to a better life through healthier living.

My full weight loss, activity, eating, and other statistical data is available through my FitBit profile here. FitBit is not paying me for endorsing this project in any way. It just happens to be the best program I have found for tracking every aspect of my physical well-being during this project.

Positive Effects of Extra Activity

It was around Thursday that I realized I could jog a short ways without becoming terribly winded. That may not sound like much, but I’m a near-300 pound guy who hasn’t exercised seriously since I was in high school. I went to the gym a few months before my wedding, but spent the vast majority of my time lifting weights and avoiding all cardio like the plague. Baby steps is what I’m taking here, and it appears to be working.

I found myself smiling uncontrollably after doing a quick jog along a stretch that had me winded chasing my dogs (unsuccessfully) after they got away from me two weeks ago. This extra walking, as simple and easy as it may seem, makes me feel better with each passing day.

My wife has also commented on my face appearing to thin out. I’ve noticed this in the mirror a bit, and after a week, I’m finding myself caring less about the scale and more about this somewhat surprising change in my personal outlook on my health.

While this week may not have been a slam dunk on the scale, it has been no less than a revelation in terms of self-esteem. I feel as though I look better, and that makes me feel more able to get things done.

I haven’t felt this good in a very, very long time.

Here’s to next week, and the many joys it might bring.

Other Folks to Watch Out For

I was surprised to find out just how many people wanted to be a part of this project. It was certainly very unexpected, and a true inspiration to both myself and hopefully many of those that are also in the same pickle I’m in. Two folks in particular have their own blogs documenting their personal weight loss journey, and their own sites are certainly worth mention here.

Natasja is a member of our community and also a blogger. A month ago (before I started my journey) she started a blog with her friend Gina to document their progress as Two Chicks with Two Bikes. It’s a great blog that allows you to follow the journey of two different individuals as they get active and start riding.

Troy Rutter is also a member of our community and a fellow weight loss documentarian. In addition to blogging about his experiences, achievements, and setbacks — he’s also recording videos to update readers on his discoveries along the way. His daily updates are incredibly informational and I recommend anyone interested in adding another bookmark to their browser list take a look at his blog, One Man’s Loss.


Week 0: Will You Join Me?
Week 1: the Rollercoaster
Week 2: the Burn
Week 3: Slow and Steady
Week 4: Always Be Training
Week 5: Hydration is Key
Week 6: Taking Breaks

Apple And Scale by Anna Langova

16 comments On Open Source Weight Loss Week 1: the Rollercoaster

  • I decided also to write a blog on Exercising this summer. My goal is to write at least five times every week during the summer. 

  • Are you taking in enough water? You should consume half your body weight (in ounces). For example, if you weigh 300lbs, you need to be drinking 150 oz of water a day. It’s a lot – but your body will retain water if you don’t drink it. At first, you may gain a little until your body realizes it’s okay to let go of the fluid. I don’t consume any calories in my drinking – only water. 

    I’m on 1,038 (net) calories a day. The number of calories you’re allowed to consume will go down gradually with your weight. My calories are based on a goal of -2lbs. per week.

    Expect ups and downs. My weight goes up and down. I’ll drop a pound every couple of days and gain a half, drop and gain, drop and gain. I’m down 14 lbs. and 18 inches off my neck, waist, hips, and chest in 5 weeks. The muscle gain is what causes me to bounce up on the weight – that and not drinking enough water. I’m up to 2 miles 30-33 minutes a day. Some days I swim about 700-900 yds. It is embarrassing to get in the water at this weight but at least I’m trying! 🙂 You may feel better at a YMCA or aquatic center than at your apartment community. I don’t want people I know to see me yet.

    I get kidney stones every 18 months or so, and usually have pain in my right kidney. It has been so much better since I’ve stopped drinking soda – it’s nice to not have pain, so that’s keeping me away from the soda. I used to take 3-9 Advil a day for pain (L5 fracture, fibromyalgia, headaches) but I’ve only had to take Advil a few times since eliminating processed foods.

    Are you eating organic and unprocessed foods? I’ve eliminated dairy and no longer have any stomach aches – only 1 in 5 weeks from eating out. Hope all of this helps you! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m working towards more organic foods. That’s something I touched on in the first OSWL post. I’m not totally there yet, but a lot of my meals now are direct from Whole Foods organic. I’m still eating out now and then, though even that is slowly working out of my diet.

  • Hmm…funny…I just started working out again tonight…just got back from a bike ride. When I got done if I bent my knees I had to catch myself because I was so weak in the knees after the ride.

    I lost about 90 pounds (273->183lbs) doing pretty much what you’re doing…only I slacked off and gained about 50 back. So now I’m in it to lose it again. I know I can do it because I did it before…just takes willpower and a little work.

    Here was where I kept my progress:

    Towards the end I slacked off on reporting but the lowest I got (though never recorded it) was 183 shortly after the graph ends.

    Early setbacks are common…your body adjusts initially by saying “oh shit tough times ahead” and does what it can to store up reserves for the expected energy burn in the future. Don’t let it phase you. Just push through it and keep at it.

    Couple things I learned in my first try:
    -don’t cut back too drastically…like with increased activity too much of a lack of calories will set your body into the same state…storing up reserves for tough times (in this case survival mode, as if you were starving). You ease off on the number of calories initially and work it down as you get more fit…gradually letting your body adjust.
    -If you eat red meat (sorry no idea what your diet is like…only occasionally read your stuff on G+)…cut back…it’s great protein but it’s also much more fatty than other meats. I found myself hitting a plateau…so I was trying things to try to break it…and dropping the red meat (not entirely but MUCH less than before) did wonders to kickstart my weight loss again. Instead of red meat try turkey…it’s a good substitute in meals that require beef.

    Ok your fitbit profile finally loaded…and your nutrition is a mess. You know that just because you reduce your caloric intake doesn’t mean you will necessarily lose weight if the calories you do eat are loaded with fat and sugars…right? To expect to lose weight you gotta eat healthier. If a single item on your tray makes up for more than a 1/3 of the calories that day…get something else.

    Eat more fruits and veggies. Make veggies a regular part of your dinner at least. Use fruits for your snacks rather than high calorie/fat food.

    Switch to skim milk…if you have milk at all.

    Switch to 9 grain wheat bread or whole wheat bread instead of honey wheat bread.

    Lower sodium meals don’t hurt either…not a big deal for you right now but sodium helps you retain water….that’s more of a concern when you really get fit.

    If you don’t like straight water I found that mixing in low calorie or no calorie (preferably) drink mixes helps a lot. I get the target brand equivalent to Crystal Lite to have with my meals.

    Be honest with yourself…I see no syrup with that pancakes you had on Sunday…my bet is you left off that little detail. Or had some strawberries or something on top….especially since it was mother’s day…….

    I got into the habit of weighing nearly everything I ate. I still weigh a lot of stuff even though I slacked off on the exercise. I still weigh my morning cereal and my lunch.

    If you are serious about weight loss…you need to do more than just exercise…you need to get your nutrition under control. That’s your big issue IMO according to your fitbit profile.

  • The hardest week was the first week I wanted to get in-shape. I was a smoker. I started by walking around a country block, for those that do not know its about 4 miles. Those 4 miles took me about 1 1/2 hours to get done. I was hacking up a lung, and had a headache when I finished. I quickly realized I could not smoke and stay in shape.

    That second day I used walking as my distraction. I could not think about smoking if I was already hacking up a lung. I felt better, even though the challenge was still hard.

    The rest of the week was all about making modest progress. I started that week out strictly walking to small brief jogs. I can not say I lost any weight my first week out, but that did not distract me. In fact it made me go at it harder.

    Just remember your body will lose pounds at its own pace, be proud of what you accomplish with each week. Try to make this more about a lifestyle change and less about how many pounds I can lose. I wish you the best of luck in your journey! 

  • Harrison Kroeker

    weight loss at this rate is sustainable for long-term weight loss journeys, so don’t get greedy, this is GOOD.  i’ve averaged 2lbs/week over the past 6 months, total loss of just over 60lbs now.

  • I know how hard it is to start. Keep it going and you will see results mate. Good luck!

  • I know its very tough to do when first starting out, but something that helped me a lot (recently lost 50lb in 8 months) was to stop weighing so often. I took it down to once a week, and i found that it makes you work harder because you only get that one day to weigh, so you are intent on making it count. Further, week to week comparisons are fine, but really you want to be looking at 2-3 week comparisons, then you will start noticing your losses. Even months in, some weeks i would gain, but don’t get discouraged. It took a good amount of time to get to 295, it’s going to take a fair amount of time to get it back off. Just remember every day counts, and as long as you keep at it, there’s no way it won’t work! Keep it up, you have a great start so far!

  • If i could give you one piece of advice it would be: 

    Watch your carbs if not cut them out altogether.

    Carbohydrates, especially refined and manufactured ones produce an enormous insulin response in the body. This insulin stimulates the fat cells to store energy and (especially with sugary foods) can even cause the blood glucose level to go really low, making you hungry again an hour or so after eating. If you keep your carbohydrate intake below 50g a day then you will struggle NOT to lose weight.

    Best of luck, Sir.

  • Matt – you are doing great. Don’t worry too much about being seen in the pool. You are there for a reason, you have a purpose… Charity is right – find a YMCA or gym pool that you can swim in. It will work many different muscles and your cardio. Set a time or distance goal and go from there. If it gets too hot to walk outside, then jump in the pool and do some aqua-jogging. It’s just treading water, but if you do it like you are running it is very similar… Keep up the good work… 

  • You will probably see some weeks with big losses in the 5-6 lb range when starting out.  This will be a good motivator, but don’t get discouraged when it slows down. 1-2 a week is pretty standard and as Harrison says, sustainable.  Keep it up!

  • Congrats on making the decision and starting.  I am 36 lbs and 9 months into my health fitness revolution.  Very slow at first as well, but that was probably due more to me not knowing what to do to make the calories in/out equation work.  What I needed was to accurately track and document calories in/out.  

    It wasn’t enough just to decide to eat less and exercise more if I had no empirical confirmation of the values in the calories in/out.  Tracking by hand was a pain in the ass, but revealed I was screwing up when I thought I was eating less.  Searching for an online (free) calorie tracker, I found  Ever since I started using that website, my weight has been coming off steadily.  Average now is 1lb / week.  Fast enough.  Accuracy is key.  Along with logging food on MFP, I started weighing/measuring on digital kitchen scale every bit of food I wanted to eat.  After a few days my eyes were opened to my previous estimation errors.  I had still been eating more than I thought.  After 9 months, I still log… even though I no longer measure my ‘routine’ foods since I have improved my eyeball measuring skills. Example, before I began to log calories, I thought I was consuming about 1500/day.  Turns out I was averaging 2200.  Then, when I began to actually measure / weigh food, I discovered the volume of food I consumed dropped, implying that even while logging food, if I didn’t measure, I was probably consuming more calories than I thought.  MFP also has a log for exercise – cardio and strength. In calories out log, care must be taken. Its calorie expenditure calculator – like every other one I’ve ever found online and on the machines at the gym OVERESTIMATE calories expended.  In general, MFP estimates errors are lower than machines, but the key omission in its calculator is a factor for heart rate.  Your heart rate is the key component to track calories spent.  The faster it beats, the more calories you burn.  Other factors to measure/input to determine calories spent:  gender, age, weight, resting heart rate, time…I found an equation here: that is research based, not marketing based. (scroll to bottom of the screen).   I use an old heart rate monitor and log everything onto a spreadsheet.  Eventually I’ll buy a heart rate monitor that has the capacity to input all those factors to calculate my calories burned.  What I have learned through applying a more accurate estimate of calories burned is the degree of overestimating I’d been doing. Example: elliptical machine said I burned 540 calories in 60 which it calculated based on weight only.  My monitor and the above cited equation yielded a 410 calorie burn.  Lastly,  you should learn more about your base metabolic rate – how many calories does your body need just to maintain your weight.  While there is some dissenting info and I’m still trying to nail it down, there is some indication that if your net calories at the end of the day is too much below your base metabolic rate, your body will go into starvation mode and will force your metabolism to slow down to survive.  Cool evolutionary quirk, but a bitch for us overweight / obese folks hoping to buck the trend.  BEST wishes for continued success.  I’ve been feeling physically and emotionally so much better the last 9 months, I want everybody to feel this way.  Casey

  • PS:  Best book ever on the subject:  The Cure for Everything!  Untangling the Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness, and Happiness by Timothy Caulfield, law and public health professor at University of Alberta (where I live).  Title is tongue in cheek hyperbole.  

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