Today I wanted to highlight a cool quantified weight loss story from my colleague Julian Parris from JMP. You can read posts about his story here in Part 1 and Part 2 on the JMP user community. Julian included JMP graphs in the posts showing how he lost 30 lbs in 40 days using a combination of diet and activity. He even put his data out there to share! He also paired the challenge with a fund-raising effort aimed at sharing JMP with students who can’t afford the software. Julian is matching donations you make to the charity of your own choice or to his JMP-for-students fund with his own money.
(JMP graph credit, Julian Parris, from Part 2 blog)
While a relatively extreme approach to weight loss hasn’t been the best one for me, it definitely worked for Julian over his a month and a half long experiment. Having been through a few extended periods of weight loss, I can totally understand why Julian wanted to get this unpleasant phase done as quickly as possible. Losing weight isn’t a fun process, but when you have the most body fat, this is actually an ideal time to restrict calories because your body can best “fill in the gap” with excess body fat when you have the most of it. For more on the reverse taper concept, which I learned about from Brad Pilon’s blogs and programs, you can check out this post on the Eat Stop Eat blog. I learned years ago from Brad and John that lower intensity exercises (like walking at a treadmill desk like Julian did) appear to stimulate hunger much less than high intensity workouts when greatly restricting calories.
On a side note that has nothing whatsoever to do with Julian, Brad Pilon is one of the only people in diet and fitness whose advice I trust. I have purchased a number of his exercise and diet programs, many created in collaboration with John Barban, my other go-to workout guru. Yes, they do cost money, but I consider their programs to be a total long-term bargain. Together, these guys freed me from the desire to continually search for magical “answers” in the form of the latest workout and diet program to hit the bookstore or my inbox. Brad and John digest primary research so I don’t have to, and that’s worth a lot to me. Having access to their Immersion program through Venus Factor has been akin to a college course on weight loss and muscle building. I don’t agree with all the marketing messages put out by their company or its partners. But I truly trust the core of the program and these two guys as my coach.
Self knowledge is truly power when it comes to taking control of your weight, and having data can make all the difference as several speakers at the recent QS15 conference I attended noted in their talks. Having your own data gives you something that weight loss marketing and the (mis)information in the popular press will never be able to give you. Tracking your own data helps you determine what combination of numbers actually works for you. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what calculators based on population averages tell you about how much, or even what kinds of foods, you need to eat. It doesn’t matter exactly what your activity monitor says you burned today. So many of the recommendations you can get from software or websites are based on averages-numbers from population studies or even smaller-scale studies whose participants may be nothing like you. In the end, what matters the most is tweaking your approach so that it works for YOU, given your own unique combination of genetics, environment, and activity levels.
We often default to thinking that there is something wrong with us if we’re trying to lose weight and it doesn’t appear to be working. Taking a data-driven approach in which you assess inputs and outputs realistically and in detail, and focus on identifying an effective deficit number you can target that actually results in weight loss, seems to be the best approach we currently have. From then, it’s up to you to determine what combination of eating less and moving more is sustainable for you to get to the desired outcome, whether it’s weight loss or gain or maintenance.
Kudos to Julian for working hard to get from a place he wasn’t happy with weight-wise to a better place. I bet he’ll find that long-term data tracking will keep him in a zone he’s happy with as it has for me. I’m looking forward to talking to him further when we’re out at JMP Discovery Summit in San Diego in a few weeks. I’ll be giving a talk on my workout data that follows some of my past posts in my Fitness and Food series on the JMP blog. That is a more JMP-focused series of posts that I will soon be adding to with an entry on continued data tracking with my Skulpt Aim. You can see a past post on that topic here.