Using Psychology to Control Weight

by | Oct 13, 2015 | Weight control, Weight Loss | 18 comments

12 Oct 2015: Decades ago I set a lifetime maximum weight for myself. I did that because I knew that prevention of weight gain is easier than weight loss. I have done well over the years in keeping within my maximum, 170 pounds (77.1 kilograms). When I went a few pounds over, I increased my exercise level for a few weeks and dropped down to weight (like a boxer before a bout!). As I became older, the increased exercise did not work as well, and I have had to reduce the large amount of food I eat. I gradually went from 10 slices of toast plus other food for breakfast to 4 slices of toast plus the other food. Right now I am about six pounds (2.8 kilos) over my maximum weight. Time for more changes!

Losing weight and keeping it off are difficult tasks because of the great temptations of delicious food and the great motivating power of hunger. We humans are genetically predisposed to avoid hunger and to stuff ourselves at every opportunity. Thousands of years ago humans who did those two things were more likely to survive than other humans. Those gluttony genes are in us because they worked well in olden times.

So what is the secret to losing weight and keeping it off? Using the right methods persistently.

Here is my plan, based on psychological principles I teach in my Behaviour Modification class:

1. Set measurable, realistic goals. My ultimate goal is to lose 6 pounds in 90 days and keep that weight off.

2. Develop a plan for reducing calories. My plan involves eating no snacks (6 of 7 days a week), one less fruit per day than now, one less slice of bread per day, and less pasta when I eat pasta.

3. Develop a plan for increasing the burning of calories: I will increase my exercise level, including walking, cycling, playing sports, and working out in the gym to an average of 70 minutes per day.

4. Self-monitor. I will weigh myself once a week on the same scale, record daily whether I achieved each eating goal, and record daily how many minutes of exercise I had.

5. I will make a public statement about my goal and plans. Here that is! Perhaps individuals who become aware of my goal will help me.

6. I will have a behavior-change pal, who will try to change behavior at the same time as me. The self-chosen goal for my pal is to eat at least four nutritious foods (e.g., blueberries, tomatoes, and carrots) per day. My pal and I will prompt each other to reach our daily behavior goals and praise achievement of the goals.

7. When tempted to eat too much, I will slow my eating, drink water, engage in some competing behavior that does not involve calorie intake, or consult my change pal (similar to members of Alcoholics Anonymous contacting their sponsor).

8. I will try to avoid feeling hungry often, as the feeling can motivate excessive eating.

9. I will interpret hunger as a sign of progress and tell myself how tough I am when I do not respond to hunger by eating snacks or too much food at meal times.

10. I will persist, adjusting the plan as needed.

11. I will reward myself for making progress in executing my plan and losing weight. I will start with a reward for following the plan for the first week. I will see if I can think of a reward that might help motivate me.

12. I will post comments here daily (or so) about how I am doing. I thus become publicly accountable for my daily effort level (such as on the TV show “The Biggest Loser”).

I begin the weight-loss adventure today. Come along for the ride!

Updates below:

October 13, 2015: So far, so good — 105 minutes of exercise today and I followed my new eating guidelines. I felt hungry in the late afternoon, so I busied myself with work and reading until supper time.

October 14: Met my daily goals. Walked and cycled for 55 minutes total, going to and from work. I read an article in U.S. News and World report with tips for losing weight. I am using four of the six suggested strategies: lifting weights, seeking social support, keeping a record of my relevant behaviours, and weighing myself once a week. The other two strategies involve getting more sleep and being mindful when eating. I usually get plenty of sleep, but I will try to be more mindful while eating. Especially when I eat bananas — like a true primate, I love bananas.

October 15: I met my eating goals for the day, staying to three meals, with decreased calories for lunch and dinner. I got 35 minutes of exercise riding my bike to and from work. You might wonder why I have given myself 90 days to lose 6 pounds. I read in a Mayo Clinic web site that losing a pound of fat requires a person to eat about 3500 fewer calories. Six pounds would be 21,000 calories. I have cut my calorie intake by about 250 calories per day. Divide 21,000 by 250 per day and the answer is 84 days. Viola!

October 16: Friday is my big exercise day of the week. Today I cycled to work, played tennis, and later played badminton. Total exercise time: 190 minutes. Also, I recalled 20 minutes of exercise earlier this week that I have not recorded yet. I am on track to reach my weekly goal of averaging at least 70 minutes per day of exercise. I also kept to my eating regime today. You might wonder about my baseline weight for this project. It was 80.2 kgs (about 176 pounds). My height: 1.88 m (about 6 feet, 2 inches. My Body Mass Index at baseline was 80.2 divided by (1.88 squared) = 22.7. That is good, but I can tell by looking at myself that I have unnecessary fat on my waist. Also, my pants waist size is bigger (35 inches) than it was when I first set my lifetime maximum weight (33 inches).

October 17: I met my eating goals, including eating no snacks. I estimate that my baseline calorie consumption varied from 2500 to 3000 calories a day. I now have reduced that by about 10%. I got 50 minutes of exercise walking to and from the town library, rather than driving there as I usually do.

October 18: I may have overdone the exercise over the past few days. I spent 11o minutes today cutting rushes in ponds. The unusual muscular demands of the work, along with the cool pond water, left me exhausted. On the positive side, my digestion, which typically leans toward irritable bowel, has been perfect since I cut out the sweet snacks. Coincidence?

October 19: Sometimes I feel hungry. To avoid snacking, I busy myself with some activity or I tell myself that the hunger is a sign that my body is burning my fat rather than food in my belly. Not eating until meal time becomes an appealing accomplishment. So far I have done well — no snacks and no eating extra at meals to compensate. Cycling and lawn mowing (with a push mower!) gave me 45 minutes of exercise today.

October 20: One week into my program, I weighed myself on the same electronic scale as at baseline and at the same time of day. I came up a kilogram (2.2 pounds) lighter than a week ago. I wish I could conclude that I had lost a kilo of fat, but that is not likely – I still eat a few pounds of food (all nutritious food now) a day. Because I have decreased my calorie intake and increased exercise, I expect I lost about 0.3 kgs of fat. The 0.7 extra loss showed by the scale may be due to fluctuations relating to how full my bladder and bowels were or to measurement error. Today I faced my greatest challenge so far in the project: an afternoon staff party with many delicious foods, including the brownies I love. In preparation, I ate one less fruit at lunch. By luck, I ate lunch late, so I was not hungry at party time. I looked long at those brownies and I thought about the blue cheese, but I ate only pieces of fruit. Now that I am making progress in weight loss, I feel motivated to keep to the program. Writing this public blog also helps me toe the line. I had 160 minutes of exercise today, involving walking to work, throwing a football around, working out in a gym, and weed-whacking (my first time for that!).

October 21: I have met my daily eating and exercise goals for the first nine days of my program. My behavior-change buddy has also met her goal of eating at least four nutritious foods a day. I invite you to post a comment stating a behavior-change goal toward which you are working. The more, the merrier in behavior change. A buddy can model, prompt, and reinforce change efforts.

October 22: Fun or functional. I have been able to average over 70 minutes of exercise a day by keeping my exercise fun or functional. When I walk, I walk to get somewhere. Arriving reinforces the walking. Also, I enjoy the flowers along the way. Sometimes I have entertaining company. Sometimes I read an interesting book or magazine or do some work as I walk. When I cycle, I cycle to get somewhere. I am reinforced by the thrill of going fast downhill and by arriving at my destination. When I play sports, I am reinforced by the fun of the activity and sometimes praised by another player. When I work out in the gym, I sometimes listen to my favorite music (that I would not otherwise hear). Other times I interact with an exercise buddy or watch others work out — the muscle boys, the cardio girls, the oldtimers, etc. I challenge myself to lift more or I try a new lift.

October 23: Standing is good. In addition to averaging over 70 minutes a day of exercise, I often stand when others sit. At work I usually stand at my desk, which I can put up or down. At meetings I often stand. At home, I eat part of breakfast standing. When I fly or ride the rails, I stand as much as I can. I ate a bit much last evening and today. Tomorrow I hope to eat less.

October 24: A constant risk, now that I usually do not eat snacks, is of overeating at dinner. I will keep my pasta, starting tonight, to one large plateful. I feel as if I am on track with my program, although I have not been perfect at every moment. I feel happy about my response to feeling hungry — I view hunger as a sign that I am succeeding in following my program and burning more calories than I take in.

October 25: Sensible eating and exercising have benefits beyond weight control. My blood pressure is usually about 110/70; my usual heart rate is about 61. I don’t know whether my recently improved behaviors will lead to changes in those numbers. I continue to meet my daily program goals.

October 26: Now that I am eating less food and sometimes feel hungry for longer than usual periods, I enjoy eating more. I still eat a few pounds of food a day, but almost of all of it is low calorie and nutritious. For breakfast, I usually eat hundreds of peas, four slices of wheat toast, and a banana. Occasionally, I also eat a boiled egg. With the food, I drink water.

October 27: The challenge today was to resist lots of free food at a university event. Some of the desserts looked delicious, but I met the challenge by thinking about my project goal.  Twas a victory for self-control.

October 28: Happy news: I weighed myself on the same scale as before, and it showed me at 78.1 kgs, down 1.8 kgs from the start of the program two weeks ago. If I keep losing at this rate, I will approach my goal weight in a little over a week. I feel motivated to keep making progress. I will finish today with 175 minutes of exercise after I cycle home.

October 29: I had to muster my self-control today to avoid eating any delicious-looking, hi-cal food items at two different social events. It was good practice for the upcoming holidays. I remain on course.

October 30: My success over the past two weeks has led me to have high self-efficacy (confidence) about achieving my weight-loss goal. When I feel hungry, I think the hunger is a sign I am losing weight. When I feel tired after exercise, I think the fatigue is a sign that I am losing weight.

November 4: Disappointment! I weighed myself on the same scale as before and found that at three weeks into the program I weighed 78.8 kgs. I had been following my program so I do not think that I gained 0.7 kgs of fat in the past week. More likely the weights have varied due to how much I have in bowel and bladder or due to errors in the electronic weighing machine. I was much lighter on the scale next to it, which involves sliding weights over! Still, I will stick with the electronic scale. I felt discouraged enough tonight that I ate somewhat more for dinner than I would like. I was thinking like a loser (but not a weight loser). I will change to only one fruit a day for lunch. Also, I will try to increase my exercise level by returning to playing badminton this week.

November 5: I cut one banana from my daily diet, saving myself about 100 calories a day. The recent rain has made it hard to get exercise going to work, but I took a risk today and walked home without getting soaked.

November 6: I resisted the temptation of delicious-looking food today at a mid-morning work function. I might eat some of the fruit later as a lunch dessert. Helping me resist was my desire to tell others (e.g., right now!) that I was able to resist. Achieving tough goals often requires sacrifices. See below some of the food I did not eat.


Plates of food


November 8: I continue to follow my program. I looked at my kitchen today and saw that it followed suggestions from an article I read on empirically supported weight-control methods, one of which is to have only nutritious foods such as fresh fruit visible on kitchen counters. Here are some stimulus-control research findings mentioned in the article: Individuals serve themselves more food if the food color matches the plate color, if the plate is big, and if the food to be served is put on the table rather than being left in the kitchen. Individuals who have high-cal food like crisps and cereal visible (e.g., on the counter) in the kitchen have higher weight. Individuals pour themselves more wine and other drinks in glasses that are wide and short than in glasses that are tall and narrow.

November 9: I adjusted my plan by eating a bit less for my evening meal — three home-made burritos rather than my usual four. I still felt filled up. Also, I ate only a bit over three fruits total today. I do not feel deprived!

November 10: Four weeks into the weight-loss program, I weighed myself on the same scale as before. My weight: 77.5 kgs, just 0.4 kgs over my target weight. I weighed myself on another scale also and it showed the same weight. I felt pleased about that. Now is a good time to check whether I am carrying out all 12 elements of the plan. Ah, I am following all but the one about rewarding myself for achieving the weekly goal. Because I usually do and buy whatever I want, it is not easy to think of a tangible reward. However, I do give myself credit for not eating appealing snacks that are offered to me. I also have become slightly more mindful when eating, especially when I eat my beloved bananas.

November 11: I became very hungry twice today, but I did not eat extra when I had food, in part because I see myself as close to reaching my target weight. I had 70 minutes of walking today, going to and from work.

November 15: Recently I have averaged over 90 minutes a day of exercise. Much of that comes from walking or cycling to and from work. I ate one fruit too many today, committing a project sin. I hope to get those calories back by cutting out one slice of bread tomorrow at lunch.

November 16: I cut out one slice of bread at lunch today to make up for the extra fruit last night. I walked away from 30 free sandwiches at an event between lunch and dinner. I am making tough sacrifices in the hope of continuing to make progress toward my weight goal. The biggest challenges involve resisting the stimulus control of appealing food that is offered to me. In general, calorie restriction has proven much more difficult than increased calorie burning, which has been easy. Studies have shown that calorie restriction tends to have more impact on weight loss than increase exercise. However, increased exercise helps weight loss and has substantial potential for improved cardiovascular fitness and various positive effects on health.

November 19: I did my weekly weigh-in yesterday, with the anxiety of a boxer or wrestler trying to make weight. I ran into a common problem in assessment of change — unreliability (inconsistency). The original scale I used for the project showed me a slightly different weight each time I stood on it. I used two other scales also. The range of weights varied from 76.6 to 77.9 kgs. For the three scales, the average weight was 77.2, just 0.1 kgs over my goal weight. So I will proceed with the program. Once I reach my goal, I will start eating a bit more to maintain my weight. Just in time for the holidays, I hope!

November 20: I have made excellent progress. Five weeks into the program seems a good time to review which elements of the program have helped and which have not. I will copy the elements here.

1. Set measurable, realistic goals. My ultimate goal is to lose 6 pounds in 90 days and keep that weight off.  [This goal has helped motivate me; it has proven realistic — I am close to my target weight already. Maintenance will become my goal soon.]

2. Develop a plan for reducing calories. My plan involves eating no snacks (6 of 7 days a week), one less fruit per day than now, one less slice of bread per day, and less pasta when I eat pasta. [My plan has been sound, and I have followed it well, if not perfectly. The only change in the plan has been my cutting out two slices of bread at lunch rather than just one.]

3. Develop a plan for increasing the burning of calories: I will increase my exercise level, including walking, cycling, playing sports, and working out in the gym to an average of 70 minutes per day. [This has worked great. I have enjoyed upping my exercise level.]

4. Self-monitor. I will weigh myself once a week on the same scale, record daily whether I achieved each eating goal, and record daily how many minutes of exercise I had. {The weighing has given me important feedback on my progress. I have learned to use the average weight shown by multiple scales rather than just one. ]

5. I will make a public statement about my goal and plans. Here that is! Perhaps individuals who become aware of my goal will help me. {Knowing that I have to disclose my progress has motivated me.]

6. I will have a behavior-change pal, who will try to change behavior at the same time as me. The self-chosen goal for my pal is to eat at least four nutritious foods (e.g., blueberries, tomatoes, and carrots) per day. My pal and I will prompt each other to reach our daily behavior goals and praise achievement of the goals. [My pal has asked me several times how I am doing. I ask her also about her change project. Her queries help me feel accountable as a model.]

7. When tempted to eat too much, I will slow my eating, drink water, engage in some competing behavior that does not involve calorie intake, or consult my change pal (similar to members of Alcoholics Anonymous contacting their sponsor). [I have not used these alternative behaviours much. Actually, I had forgot about them. It might be wise for me to read my plan more often!]

8. I will try to avoid feeling hungry often, as the feeling can motivate excessive eating. [I have felt hungry several times over five weeks. The hunger did not lead to exessive eating.]

9. I will interpret hunger as a sign of progress and tell myself how tough I am when I do not respond to hunger by eating snacks or too much food at meal times.[This element has worked well; also, I tell myself that the hunger means I am burning fat.]

10. I will persist, adjusting the plan as needed. [Persistence is crucial. So far, so good.]

11. I will reward myself for making progress in executing my plan and losing weight. I will start with a reward for following the plan for the first week. I will see if I can think of a reward that might help motivate me. [I have not used this method because I cannot think of any special treat that I do not already have. I will try to think of how to celebrate reaching my target weight.]

12. I will post comments here daily (or so) about how I am doing. I thus become publicly accountable for my daily effort level (such as on the TV show “The Biggest Loser”). [This helps greatly.I have followed my program today.]

November 23: Once I reach my target weight the challenge will be keeping unneeded weight off. I plan to continue eating two fewer slices of bread at lunch and avoid overeating at supper. I will change the current eating pattern to allow myself a 4th fruit or a snack every day, rather than once a week. I hope to continue to rack up an average of 90 minutes per day of exercise and to continue to spend most of my work time standing. With this new pattern, I expect my weight to stay steady at the target weight of 77.1 kgs.

November 25: Weigh-ins are the most exciting part of my program. At my weekly weigh-in yesterday, I found that the gym’s electronic scale has ceased working, so I used the average of two hand-manipulation scales. My weight: 77.7 kgs — still 0.6 over the goal. I may need a final additional effort to get me to the goal. I will try eating less for my evening meal, especially less pasta.

November 26: I am persisting. I want to reach the goal weight.

November 30: Persistence paid off! I hit my target weight today. Using the original electronic scale, with a new battery, I weighed 76.1 kgs; on the slide scale I weighed 75.1. I will use the mean of 75.6, which is under my target of 77.1. I don’t think a lost a big amount of weight this past week. I expect I lost some, but the main difference this week was that I had little solid waste inside me. Sorry, if that is too graphic for you. I had a picnic to celebrate (a bitesize Picnic candy bar — the first low-nutrition food I have eaten since I started the program). Now I will strive for weight maintenance.

December 8: My weight today was in the target zone: 76.9 kgs (169 pounds). My belly looks slightly smaller now compared to before I started this project. I have maintained my average of 90 minutes per day of exercise. It helps to live within walking distance of work. Travel can create challenges for a person trying to control his weight. I spent a few days in Sydney last week and one day I ate at least four delicious slices of banana bread offered at a conference and another day I ate pizza. On the positive side, I walked many miles and ran over the Harbour Bridge. I will continue to weigh myself once a week and stay with my weight-maintenance plan.

December 14: I am keeping my maintenance plan going. I liked this article on weight loss:

December 15: My two weight scales were 1.4 kgs apart today. The average put me at 77.1, my target weight. How much exactly I weigh remains a mystery. I will fly to the U.S. soon. Trips can create risks to weight control. Awareness of risk can mitigate risk.

January 5, 2016: I weighed myself at LA Fitness in Phoenix about a week ago, and the scale said 165 pounds (75 kgs). Being away from home for weeks has created challenges for maintenance, but I was able to avoid almost completely high-cal food during the holidays. The only cals I drink are the few in green tea. I walk most places that I go, so I am still burning cals.

January 21: I weighed myself back at my university gym. Weight: 76.8, 0.3 under my goal weight. Not only am I keeping my weight down — I now almost always avoid eating low-nutrition foods loaded with added sugar.

Feb 10: I have switched to weighing myself every fortnight. Last week my weight was 76.2, below the lifetime max I set decades ago. The exercise and careful eating that have helped me lose about 3 kgs and keep that weight off has positive side-effects. My blood sugar and iron are in the normal range; my blood pressure was 108/70 last week, and my resting heart rate was 57.

Feb 19: My weight two day ago was 75 kgs. Weight gain does not seem like a looming problem at present. I seem to have changed my habits for the long run, but new challenges will arise. For instance, I now have a new car for my own use.  That could tempt me to drive more and walk/cycle less.

Apr 25: My weight today: 75.5 kgs. I am where I want to be, at the target weight, with good nutrition and about 10 hours of brisk physical activity a week, along with many more hours per week of standing at my office work station.

June 1: Yesterday I weighed in at 76 kgs (168 pounds), still below my set maximum weight. I had a big workout in the gym, with cardio and resistance training. Later I walked home fast, taking about 35 minutes. To keep my workouts interesting, I try to go up in weights or reps or I include new lifts. This time I enjoyed doing a new activity for me: machine-assisted chin-ups. Next time I will try squats with barbells. I am careful about what I add because I want to avoid injuries or strains.  I have been unusually hungry lately, possibly because of the cold weather — my body might want to add blubber to keep me warm or I may need more calories to keep my body adequately heated. So I eat more nowadays, but I continue to avoid non-nutritious foods.

July 24: In the past few weeks I exceeded my max-set weight, possibly because I feel more hungry in the winter (my body wants to add blubber to keep me warm). So I reduced the number of fruit I eat each day to 5. A few days ago I weighed in at 77.35. The goal remains 77.1. I will cut out one snack a week also.

Aug 28: I just finished a month traveling around Asia and Europe. I estimate that I consumed a daily average of at least 500 calories less than average during the trip. I had plenty of exercise walking, but I did no weight training. My weight upon return: 75.5 kg. I lost 1.8 kgs during the trip. I am below the maximum weight of 77.1 I set decades ago. Some of the weight I lost was fat — I can perceive a flatter belly. Some likely was upper-body muscle. I will return to weekly workouts in the gym in the hope of gaining that muscle back.

Dec 14, 2016: I faced a major challenge recently when I went on a 10-day cruise through the South Pacific. The ship I went on offered all-you-can-eat food all day long. Much of the food I ate was delicious. My favorites were bananas and banana bread (well, I am a primate!). I regulated my eating by aiming to match my usual eating patterns with regard to number of calories consumed at each meal, no snacks between meals, no calories consumed in drinks, and limited desserts. To replace my walking to work, I walked up seven flights of stairs repeatedly each day to get to food and entertainment. I usually walked up the stairs two steps at a time. Also, I worked out every other day in the gym, which offered good equipment and a view from the top of the ship. I weighed myself when I returned home on the usual two scales at the university gym. Weight: 66.8 kgs; that is 0.3 kgs under the lifetime max I set decades ago.

Jan 15, 2017: I weigh myself every month or so to see how I am doing. Today, my weight was 66.8 kgs, 0.3 under my target maximum weight. So I am doing well with regard to long-term maintenance. One thing I have discovered in my project is that weight scales vary in the weight they give. Today the two scales I use were 1.0 kg apart. I always use the average of the two scales. One of my recent dietary goals has been to reduce my intake of fruit. The Australian Government recommends only 2 or 3 servings per day of fruit for an adult, depending on how active the person is. I recently cut down to 3 to 4 servings, not for weight loss but to reduce the amount of sugar I consume. I love fruit, especially bananas, so it is not easy to change my fruit-eating ways.

Feb 22, 2017: Yesterday, I weighed myself on the same two scales as usual. My weight: 66.9 kgs. My weight has been holding about constant in the target zone for over a year, showing that I have been successful so far in maintaining my desired weight loss. I average over 60 minutes a day of exercise or brisk walking. I gradually have moved up in the weights I lift and in the extent of the interval training I do. In the few past months I have decreased my fruit consumption to 3 to 4 per day. I sometimes eat junk food, but not often.

May 8: The cold weather has reduced my frequency of walking to work, so I decided to increase my gym workouts from once to twice a week. At the gym yesterday, the scales showed me at 76.1 kgs, well under my target maximum. I now have been in my target zone for about 1.5 years — the longest I have gone in more than a decade. I give credit to my reducing the amount of bread I eat at lunch and to almost eliminating snacks. Often in the late evening I feel slightly hungry, but I tolerate the hunger, occupy myself with some activity, and then go to bed.

May 31: I thought that I could eat more and stay under my max weight. I was wrong. I weighed in yesterday at 77.5 kgs, 0.4 over the max. I need to eliminate cereal for a few weeks and keep fruit to 4 per day. I would like to return to walking to work, but I fear the cold, dry weather would trigger eczema if I do. I will try to work out twice a week rather than once when I am unable to walk to work.

Aug 24: It took me a few months, but I finally reduced my weight (now 76.3 kgs) to under the maximum I set decades ago (77.1). The key was spending 10 days in Japan (a great country to visit!) and eating mostly tofu. Some days I ate only two meals, usually small ones in the Japanese style. I did not see many overweight Japanese individuals. It also may have helped that I upped my gym workouts from one big workout a week to one big one plus two smaller workouts. I also switched to eating only two slices of toast for breakfast, along with my usual hundreds of peas and a bananas. Long ago, I would eat 10 slices. Then I cut back to 8, then 6. I had been eating 4 slices for many years up until several weeks ago.  In a week or so the weather will be warm enough for me to return to walking or cycling to work. That effort will help me burn calories.

2 Jan 2018: I weighed myself a few days ago on the usual two scales. My weight: 75.2 kgs. I am almost 2 kgs under my lifetime maximum weight target. I now may be too low in body fat for my own good. So I ate pizza today! I have maintained my reduced consumption of slices of bread. I still struggle with eating no more than a few fruits a day. My exercise level is high now that summer weather allows me to walk or to cycle to work. I continue to work out hard in the gym twice a week. I am gradually increasing the weight that I lift and the intensity of the aerobic interval training I do. I want to avoid injury, so I have stopped using free weights until my mild right rotator cuff catching goes away.  I feel proud to have maintained my weight progress over a long period. That is not easy to do. I also feel pleased that my diet is now healthier than it was two years ago.

Apr 7, 2018: I weighed in today on two usual scales and the weight they showed was only 0.2 kgs apart. My mean weight on the two scales is 76.1 kgs, under my target maximum weight of 77.1. I am pleased with the result, especially after eating five chocolate chip cookies two days ago. For the most part, I eat nutritious, low-calorie food, and I drink almost no calories. My exercise level remains reasonably high, thanks to the good weather allowing me to walk to work. I usually read a book or magazine and listen to music as I go.

Aug 4, 2018: When I weigh myself, I always hope to make weight, like a boxer or a wrestler. My target weight is no more than 77.1 kgs. Today I weighed myselfd on the usual two scales and took the average . It was 66.8. I feel happy about that. I would like to add muscle weight, but that is not in the cards for someone my age. My main goal for weight training is to avoid losing muscle mass and strength. I suffered some muscle atrophy as a result of traveling recently in Europe for three weeks, but I sense that my prior strength is returning as I pump weights weekly.

Dec 28, 2018: I weighed 75.15 today. After returning from travel overseas, I slipped off my weight-control eating habits for several weeks and probably gained weight. The villain: A new sandwich heating machine in the staff tea room. As I used the machine, I started adding a third slice of reduced-fat cheese and a second slice of bread to my normal lunch at work. I thus relapsed to the eating pattern that I changed to start this weight-control program. I looked and felt heavier. So I stopped using the sandwich machine, cut out the extra slice of cheese and extra slice of bread. Now my weight is back where I want it. However, I do not want to lose any more weight. My BMI is 20.2.

May 22, 2019: I have been eating more than usual, probably because of the cold weather. My body tries to add fat to keep me warm. So I was surprised to find my weight today at 75.3. I am still under the meximum weight I set decades ago. I have maintained my weight loss for this project for almost four years. I feel proud of that and give credit to the behaviour modification methods I have used. See above a list of those. Most importantly I made permanent changes in my eating that have led to lower intake of calories. I also have continued to be physically active. Most people who lose weight, whether it is a little (like me) or a lot, gain it back relatively soon. See, for example, the results of this study.

Oct 15, 2019: I started this project four years ago. I lost the weight I wanted to lose, and I have maintained the loss. Losing weight is hard; maintaining a loss is very hard because we tend to return to a weight set point and we tend to return to our habitual behaviours that led us to become overweight. I know someone who lost 45 kgs in a year with an hour of brisk exercise a day and restricted calorie consumption. A great accomplishment. Then he reverted to his prior behaviour and regained all the weight.  Two days ago I weighed myself. I was at 76.9 kgs. I have maintained my weight loss for years! I had a good idea decades ago to set a maximum weight, and I had another good idea to adjust my exercise level and eating as necessary to stay within the max.  I intend to keep working on my weight control as long as I live.

18 Feb 2020: I have been working on this project for 4.5 years! In truth, I will need to work on it as long as I live in order to maintain my weight b/c it is not easy to avoid weight gain. I worked out in the gym today and weighed in. I weighed 77.1 kgs, my goal weight. I felt happy! It helped me that I traveled to Tasmania recently and often ate only two meals a day, with no snacks, as I went on walks and saw the sights. Also, several weeks ago, I cut down to only two slices of wheat bread as part of my breakfast. Decades ago I ate 10 slices for breakfast, along with hundreds of peas and a banana. The peas and bananas have remained constant. To keep from gaining weight I gradually reduced the number of bread slices — to 8, then 6, then 4, then 3, and now 2. Don’t think that I am starving myself — I ate a heap of blueberry cobbler two days ago.

A friend of mine has recently lost a few kgs and wants to lose one more. She and I talk at times about “making weight” like a boxer or wrestler.

Are you at your desired weight? If you want to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight, see at the start of this post the methods I have used. So far, so good with those methods.

27 July 2020: It has been almost five years since I started this behavior-modification project to control my weight. I originally set a life time maximum weight of 77.1 kgs (169 pounds) over 40 years ago. I set the goal because I wanted to maintain my health and look fit. During the recent COVID-19 lockdown I was barred from my usual activities of gym workouts and tennis. I substituted walks and lifting heavy jugs of laundry detergent at home. I weighed myself on my usual two scales at the gym when it reopened a few weeks ago. I was half a kilo over the max weight I set. So I reduced the amount of bread I ate and I cut out cereal with fruit in it. I weighed myself again twice in the subsequent weeks and found that I was at my max weight. I felt happy. Weight control is the longest-lasting specific goal of my life.  I feel healthy, and I plan to continue working on this goal from here on.

19 Jan 2021: I weighed myself on the same two gym scales as always and took the average. My weight: 74.9. I continue to be below the max weight I set decades ago (77.1), and I continue to maintain the weight loss that was the goal of this project (to lose about 2 kgs to reduce down to below the max). I continue to eat sensibly and to avoid junk food. However, I did eat two cookies after my workout and weigh-in. I continue to get regular exercise, mainly involving working out in the gym once a week and playing tennis once a week. My walking is less now than previously because I have a problem with a toe. I hope to eliminate the problem with surgery this coming month.

4 March 2021: i weighed in on the same two scales that I have used for years. The result: 75.0 kgs. I have a new standard weight well below my max weight set decades ago. I worked out in the gym where I weighed myself. I adjusted my routine to give my toe longer to heal from surgery I had on it a few weeks ago. I long to return to running sprints and to using the eliptical machine. I need a few weeks more to recover fully.

19 Apr 2021: i worked out in the university gym this morn. My weight on the two usual scales there: 75.4 kgs, well under my set maximum of 77.1. I eat healthful food, except for one or two dessert items a week. I eat a lot of food, but most of it is low cal. Today I ate three meals. At breakfast, I ate hundreds of peas, two slices of toast, a banana, and a pear  I ate a gift donut for morning tea. For lunch I ate salmon on a slice of toast, and two slices of reduced-fat cheddar cheese between two slices of bread, along with an apple and an orange. For dinner I ate pasta and sauce with parmesan cheese on top, broccoli, several almonds and cashews, about 30 pepitas, a banana, a plum, and a mandarin. Lots of food! I drank water, tea, and coffee, with no milk or sweetener. I feel hungry now. Time to go to bed.

9 July 2021: I had a dream last night that I weighed myself and was shocked to see that I was over 78 kgs. I thought in the dream that I had to eat less. I weighed myself for real this  afternoon and saw that I weigh 76.6.  Still in the goal range. Nearing six years of weight maintenance after my initial weight loss.

1 Aug 2021: I have been working successfully on this specific weight project for almost six years — to get down to 77.1 kgs or less and stay there. I started weight control efforts decades ago. I reckon that my long-standing goal of keeping under 170 pounds (77.1 kgs) was right for a long time. However, now that I have aged, I expect that my body composition has changed somewhat from muscle to fat, so my original maximum weight allows too much fat. Hence, I will adjust my max to 76.6 kgs. BTW, I just read that 80% of Aussie men my age are overweight or obese. The methods I am using for weight control have kept me in the normal-weight category.

4 Aug 2021: I weighed myself on the same two scales at the gym as always and took the average, as I always do: 76.4. So I am under my new max weight of 76.6. My BMI is about 22; I look slender; I feel good. I worked out with weights and an exercise bike. Fitness is more important for health than weight.

11 Sept 2021: I returned to the gym this afternoon after several weeks of Covid-related lockdown. I had a long workout and weighed myself: 76.9, slightly over my new weight maximum. I might weigh less in the morn. I will reduce what I eat by one fruit a day and weigh again in a few weeks.

24 Oct 2021: I worked out in the gym this afternoon and weighed myself. I weighed 76.9, 0.3 kgs over my new target weight. I might weigh less in the morning.  I have been trying to eat a variety of foods. Over the past four days, I have eaten 54 different foods, usually in small quantities.  I have eaten too much total food at some meals. I will try to eliminate that behaviour.  I just finished the sixth year of this behaviour-modification project. I have done well.

14 Nov 2021: I made weight! Specifically, I weighed less today than my new max weight of 76.6 kgs. I weighed 76.15 on my usual gym scales. I lost weight by eliminating one fruit at dinner and not eating any cinnamon/date protein balls that were given to me in bulk. I helped myself avoid stimulus control problems by putting the balls in a cabinet, where I did not see them every time I entered the kitchen. I thereby reduced my calorie intake for the past week by about 150 calories per day. After making weight I thought about eating one of the balls as a reward, but I decided that act would not be a good application of psychological principles. I let virtue be its own reward in this instance.

5 Jan 2022: Today I weighed 76.5 kgs, which is 0.1 kg under my current goal for maximum weight. I continue to eat sensibly most of the time and to get plenty of exercise. I rarely drink any calories, and I never eat in the evening. I rarely snack.  My BMI is about 21.7, and BMI is reasonably meaningful for me (I am not highly muscular). I am in essence a “tall drink of water.”

23 Jan 2022: I work out weekly in the gym in addition to playing tennis once or twice a week. At the gym I weighed 76.3 today, under the max weight I set this past year. I occasionally eat junk food — maybe once a week. Usually I eat a mostly Mediterranean diet, with vegetables, olives, pasta, and fish. I eat meat once a week at the most. My usual dessert is fruit. I eat a wide variety of foods, most in small quantities. My usual breakfast: Hundreds of green peas with mint, two slices of multigrain toast, water, green tea, a banana, and another fruit such as a pear.

20 Feb 2022: I weighed 75.8 at my weekly gym workout. I decided last week to lower my max weight to 76.4 to try to get rid of some visceral fat — dangerous fat for health purposes. Long ago wy waist was 33 inches. Now it is 35. So far, so good, in meeting the new weight goal. In a few months I may measure my waist.

4 Apr 2022: I worked out yesterday and weighed myself on the same two scales as at the start of my weight control project over six years ago. My average weight on the two scales was 75.2, below my new max weight of 75.4. My persistence with eating properly, getting exercise, and weighing myself has paid off. A friend says she has lost weight by not snacking in the evening and not eating to comfort herself. I follow these two rules myself.

4 July 2022: Weighed 75.2. Heading toward seven years of weight maintenance.

12 July 2022: The greatest danger to my eating healthfully involves stimulus control. Every month or so I am offered at work delicious sweet items such as peanut-chocolate cake or rocky road. These free items have high calories and almost no nutritional value. Because the items so infrequently, they do not much affect my weight, but they invariably upset my digestive process. Still, i find it hard to resist them — the food stimulus controls my behavior. Today I have started limiting my consumption of these items to one small piece. Will the stimulus or I win the battle? Stay tuned.

9 Oct 2022: Weighed 75.1. BMI: 20.1.  I now have had seven years of weight maintenance due to this project. A few day ago I changed my eating to all food within a 10-hour period daily (usually 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM b/c there is evidence that this type of eating helps with health maintenance and weight control. The method give the digestive system a long rest every day! It is a form of intermittent fasting.

7 Nov 2022: Weighed 75.5 kgs today. Still working out once a week in the gym, playing tennis, and going for walks. I eat sensibly. I include a variety of foods, usually avoid junk food, and savor what I eat. Still trying to eat within a 10-hour window each day, but I find it hard to do when traveling overseas or when some activity or event interferes with my eating an early supper.

16 Jan 2023: Weighed 75.8. I have been feasting on fruit. I will eliminate one fruit a day. I will also reduce the amount of pasta I eat when I eat pasta. I have maintained my exercise level, including one workout a week in the gym, tennis twice a week, and some evening walks in nature. I have met my orginal weight goal for over 7 years now. i reduced my target maximum weight last year to 75.5. I have work to do to get back under it.

25 Feb 2023: Earlier this week I weighed myself. The results was 76.5. Only 0.1 over my new weight goal of 76.4. Weight control is a continual struggle for most of us.

28 Mar 2023: Weighed 75.75 kgs at gym today, 0.25 over my new weight max. From today I will eat one less fruit per day. Also, I may lose weight when I go overseas and do not have unlimited access to food. I worked out hard in the gym.

16 May 2023: Weighed 75.6. Still above my new max of 75.4. I have reduced to one fruit for supper dessert. Maybe I will make weight in June. 

28 May 2023: Weighed 74.45. I was under my new weight max. I was helped today by having little food in me. I continue to lift weights and pedal in the university sports complex once a week. I also play tennis once or twice a week and go for walks sometimes. I am doing well — now 7.5 years into my weight-control project. It may help me that I have made my project public. 

7 Aug 2023: 75.1 kgs. Still under my new weight maximum. My BMI is about 22. I work out in the gym once a week, play tennis once, and walk or practice tennis most other days. I generally avoid junk food. My typical breakfast includes two slices of mixed-grain toast with nothing on them, hunders of peas, a banana, and one other fruit, often a pear. I usually do all my eating in a 10-hour block from about 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM. I eat three meals a day and have a late-monring snack of seeds, nuts, and a fruit. 

11 Sept 2023: 75.3 kgs. Still under my new max of 75.4. I have added kimchi, a probiotic to my diet. I continue to get plenty of exercise and to eat mostly nutritious foods.

30 Oct 2023: 75.7 kgs. Over my new max. I blame the four cinnamon rolls. They were mostly sugar, butter, and white flour — which is not much better than sugar. i continue to get plenty of exercise. Now I need to eat less junk food. I aim to lose 0.3 kgs in the coming month. 

10 Mar 2024: Weighed 74.85 kgs, Now under the new max weight of 75.4. Happy to acheive my goal. I continue to get plenty of exercise, lifting weights, playing tennins, and walking. I have eliminated one of the two sanwiches I used to eat for supper. I don’t feel hungry late in the evening. 

Top Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash


  1. Ok, excellent. I have started a similar plan this week.
    So far:
    Daily exercise is: 40 min walk in the morning and 40 min session at the gym in the evening.
    Food: Cutting out snacking. Reducing the portions and no late evening eating. Trying to have dinner by 7ish at the latest.
    I like your plan of reducing one fruit and 2 slices etc.
    My aim is to lose 5kg in one month.
    Your email is timely.
    Thank you

  2. Hi Carmen. Our plans are similar. One difference I see is that you intend to lose weight much faster than I do. I hope you succeed, and I hope that you keep me updated on your progress. You could provide me with an inspiring model.

  3. Hi John, I have just started a new health routine and replaced bread with baby spinach leaves and a touch of mayo. So for breakfast I will have 1 egg scrambled with tomato and capsicum on a bed of baby spinach leaves. Lunch is either tuna or Cajun chicken(left over from dinner the night before)and salad. Dinner usually chicken or sometimes steak and salad. Sometimes I will cook up a big pot of steamed vegies and eat that for a couple of days. I really love bread and thought I would miss it but don’t. When I think of bread I think green spinach leaves now. 🙂 I work out every day for 30 minutes on a aero Pilates machine, do 10 squats plus 100 tummy tighteners using a fit ball. I haven’t lost weight as yet but definitely changing shape. I walk when I can and will soon add a few laps of swimming when its warmer. Feeling so much better.:)

  4. Hi Joanne. You seem to be on the right track. It takes time to gain weight and to lose it. For health purposes, fitness is more important than weight.

  5. OK OK already …. you are right on with this … I hadn’t come back in a while as it would break my procrastination ritual … I might have to take action … now I’ve read your story to date .. it is time … already started swimming in the ocean each morning … and getting to bed at an appropriate time … this is huge for me and helps avoid the leptin/ghrelin disruption … not to mention energy levels … checking tyres on bikes (bike buddy just finished HSC, needs a companion) … gotta make my list and consider making it public … well done John, and I’m sure others are quietly observing your progress … I’ll post again when it is a reality … now I’m public, the clock is ticking … under 40 days to 2016 … I will have commenced my new routines prior to 2016 … thanks for being a catalyst … Michael

  6. Hi Michael. You and I are making changes! What is your goal?

  7. This is great ! But, I remember you being naturally, genetically, lean and tall, with, probably, a fast metabolism. I can’t imagine you got above your recommended BMI. But, since I am 48 yo now, I guess you are near 58, so I guess it’s possible.

    Something people need to regard, is air quality, and how it affects ones hormones, and body functioning in general.

  8. Hi Beth. Were you a student of mine? You are right — I am lanky. A few people have told me that I don’t need to lose weight, but the scale tells no big lies (when it is working). I have made it this far in life keeping within the maximum weight I set long ago; I want to make it the rest of the way.

  9. Congratulations on reaching your goal, John!

  10. Thanks, Caity. It was not easy. I had to make sacrifices here and there.

  11. Many people register in gym as a new year resolution, and this resolution get down within 2-3 days or may be in a week. I think daily morning walk, meditation, and some outdoor games like badminton can give you good health and fitness which help you to lose weight.

  12. Hello. I often play badminton. Always indoors tho for me.

  13. I have noticed a big difference with my energy levels since swimming laps. I do want to walk but waiting for the cooler months. I just hate being hot these days. I also lost 3 kilos by doing a spinach, banana, blueberries or strawberry with coconut water shake but then read that too much spinach can cause kidney and gall stone problems. Now i am back to normal eating with a shake here and there. I have just discovered Chia soaked in coconut water with mashed bananas or any fruit you may like plus a dollop of Greek Yogurt. Its really refreshing especially on a hot day. I find it helps if i look at the nutritional value of what i am eating. Im not craving my usual chocolate or coffee. 🙂

  14. Hello. There are two paths to weight loss: decreasing calorie intake and increasing calorie burning. Recent studies indicate that reducing calorie intake works better. However, both have weight-loss value and exercise has important health value in addition to helping one lose weight. You also are experiencing improved energy levels with exercise. That is great.

  15. Thanks John, i agree fully, since my early 50s i have increased my food intake and lessen my exercise. What amazed me most was the decrease in cravings for sugary food or caffeine once having my spinach etc shakes. I had gotten into the bad habit of wanting that instant energy kick with the sugar or caffeine but then would experience that fatique/ loss of energy soon after and then all over again crave the sugar and caffeine. I dont even really like coffee but do associate the smell of going to the city with my Gran when very young. 🙂 Thank you for your reply. 🙂

  16. Brilliant work!!!

    That’s it! I’m going to get back on my healthy-eating plan. I’m going to have to avoid going near the isles in the supermarket with the Lindt easter eggs!

    Secondly, I’ll need to get out of bed and go for the morning rollerblades I planned to do so I have the days free to do things with my toddler – or when she’s at her daycare 2 days a week, to study. So, will start off in the morning again, 6.30 will need to leave home, go for a skate and be back by 8.15 so my husband can leave and go to work on time.

    I stopped going because my heart-rate monitor that tells me how many calories I’ve burnt (and steps taken) was faulty – although I exchanged it for a new one, all my recorded data was lost and I let it influence my motivation. I just need to remind myself that going for a skate will be beneficial even if I don’t record the data 🙂

    I’ll also need to tell myself when I don’t feel like exercising is that the time will go whether I exercise or not, so I may as well get it over with.

    With an ultimate goal of keeping around the 60kg mark being such a lot to lose, I’m focusing more on the daily goals such as eating sensibly – getting enough vegetables into my diet and cutting out added sugars.

    My reward for reaching my goal is a completeley gorgeous sterling silver necklace I saw (annoyingly) just after xmas – but mostly like you John, it will be the non-tangible reward of just being healthy and having improved fitness levels.

  17. You have goals and a plan — a great start. Let us know how you do.

  18. You’ve inspired me Dad! I will interpret hunger as progress.

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