Lose Weight, Stay Lean | Principles for Life Long Weight Loss

In this article I share my weight loss story and my principles for life long weight loss which drove my transformation.

30-Aug 2022, by Lee Sandwith

We started ingfit to help people lose weight and recover their health. It's important to me because I've been there, and I have committed my life to helping people get better.

In this article, I share my backstory: from the depths of despair towards the light. It's a long article, and it gets personal at times, but I thought it important to share 💝.

About me

If you don’t know me, let me take a few paragraphs to introduce myself.

At the time of writing, I am 46 years old. I’m from the UK but have lived in the UAE for over 10 years and consider Dubai my home. I am married to my beautiful wife, Alice, who is also part of the ingfit team.

Alice works behind the scenes in operations, purchasing and she manages our mobile app. Alice is shy and quiet, but a little beast in the gym: you can follow her on Instagram @icszy 👫🏽💍.

I worked in the Telecommunications industry for over 20 years, with Orange UK for 12 years, and then with Etisalat for 8 years.

Although I loved my various roles in Programme Management, Teleco was never really my passion so I was always on the lookout for something new.

In 2013 I started a little side project called ingfit. It was all about my true passion: health, wellness and longevity.

In this article I share how it all started, and my founding principles which I still live by to this day.

My Weight Loss Story

I’ve struggled with my weight since my mid-teens, an issue which continued into my 31st year, meaning, by the time I turned 30, I’d spent most of my adult life overweight.

At my worst point I was overweight to the tune of almost 30kg. Looking back, I had no idea why as I didn’t seem to be doing anything differently than everyone else around me.

During this time, I hated myself and I was quite cynical about the world. I hated going for nights out because I was typically the only overweight guy in the group; I hated going clothes shopping as the only things that didn’t look horrendous were overly baggy, fashion disasters; I hated taking my top off in public; I hated the subject of weight altogether.

I hated everything about my body but for some reason I made the unconscious decision to suppress the issue instead of tackling it head on. I dealt with it by blocking it out of my mind completely, burying it deep to the point where I had convinced myself that there wasn’t a problem, even though it was admittedly the single biggest issue in my life.

This all changed when I turned 30 following the failure of my relationship at the time. Without sharing too much, my fiancé at the time decided she wanted to end our long-term relationship, essentially because she was no longer attracted to me and didn’t feel the same way as she once did.

This turned my life so far upside down that I honestly didn’t know whether I was going to recover; I was crushed, a broken man.

The worst part for me was that I’d managed to get myself into the position where I was the most overweight I had ever been and, even though it may not have been true, I attributed the breakup entirely to my weight.

I remember playing through my mind that this just wouldn’t have happened if I’d had a six-pack!

This life-changing event was the biggest wakeup call I had ever had with my weight and I decided to take action once and for all.

Unlike any of my other previously unsuccessful attempts to lose weight, I started out by studiously researching weight loss, fitness and nutrition.

I read books, magazines, scoured the internet and consumed information, fully immersing myself in the challenge of finally getting in shape, setting myself the ultimate goal of getting the elusive six pack.

I learned that the major factor was nutrition, and based on my new basic knowledge, I created a diet plan based on my needs and started on my new wellness mission.

Within a matter of weeks I started to dramatically lose weight. I could not believe how such a simple change to my lifestyle could have such as rapid and profound effect.

Within two months I had lost over 12kg!

It took a few more months to get down to my ideal weight but as soon as I started to see results, for the first time in my life, I was hooked and fully embraced the healthy lifestyle.

Looking back, it fascinates me how badly I dealt with being overweight for so many years as it was the exact opposite of how I tackle issues in every other aspect of my life, normally taking them head on using logic to find solutions.

What amazed me the most was how simple it was given that I only changed a few minor things, but what was most enlightening was that it was extremely enjoyable.

I overcame a mental block that had plagued me for years and I still hold that this was the single biggest achievement of my life.

I found a new level of confidence, which reaped rewards in my professional and personal lives to the point where my life had improved by an order of magnitude.

One piece of advice that was given to me at the time of my breakup was this: “change everything”.

At the time it didn’t make a lot of sense but as soon as I’d come through the other side of my weight loss journey it hit home hard. Losing weight had changed everything: it changed my life, forever.

Over fifteen years on and I haven’t wavered. I continue to eat healthily and train properly. I have formalised my education by obtaining a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition and becoming a certified Nutritionist.

Despite my qualifications, I still very much consider myself a student of the game as we are all always learning.

As new things come up, I always experiment and fine-tuning my approach; however, the founding principles that follow still stand true today.

I can promise you that if you adopt at least a few of these principles, you can overcome your weight issue forever.

Principle 1 - Mindset

Mindset comes up time and time again when it comes to weight loss, but it can really vague. For me, it comes down to three things.

Understand your goals

All my clients have very deep routed objectives driving their decision to try to lose weight.

It usually stems from something deep inside regarding family, especially the desire to be a good role model for kids, and to have the ability to spend active time with them.

The first thing I do with my clients is to get them to write down their objectives. Once you write them down, they’re more real.

I’m not talking about “the objective to lose 10kg”. I’m talking about the emotional thing which is behind your decision to lose weight, your true “why”.

Write your goals and objectives down. When times are tough, refer to them. Don’t ever lose sight of your why.

Think long-term

Permanently changing your body requires permanent change: this is a fundamentally important principle that I frequently discuss with my clients.

To lose weight and to continue to maintain your weight, you will need to train yourself to think differently about food, nutrition and exercise.

The most fundamental flaw I see with a large percentage of people is that they’re looking for a quick fix. This sets you up for long-term failure and it’s a very delusional approach.

What I can 100% guarantee is that if you lose weight quickly, then go back to your old ways, you’ll go back to your old size.

You need to programme your mind into accepting that the decision to jump on the health and wellness train is a permanent one.

It’s a life-long project and a process, and you are always a work in progress.

Make it about the journey, not the destination

People have a bad day, week or month and they give up. That’s insane!

When clients ask me why some people are successful and some are not, the answer is simple.

The ones who succeed have a never give up mentality. When they fall down, they pick themselves up and keep going.

The one who fail have failed because they have given up.

If you follow the second principle, you already understand that optimising your health is a life-long project.

Falling off the wagon is natural but getting back up when you’ve had a fall is the key to success.

A very simple trick to dealing with a slip is this: don’t allow yourself to have two bad days in a row.

I’m also a huge believer in the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. If you have things dialled in for 80% of the time, you will do very well.

I’ve stuck with this for 15 years and it has allowed me to enjoy life but stay in great shape.

Understand your goals, think long-term and never give up!

Principle 2 – Understand the nutrition basics

It surprises me how many people still don’t understand that weight management is primarily about nutrition.

There’s no doubt that exercise plays an important role, but it will always be a supplement to quality nutrition. The adage that “you can’t out-train a poor diet” is a true.

Again, I ask my clients to apply the 80/20 rule: focus 80% on nutrition, 20% on exercise.

This means that in order to lose weight and, more importantly, to optimise your health for the long-term, you need to have a basic understanding of nutrition.

I’m not suggesting that you need to sign up to a nutrition degree, but at least familiarise yourself with the most basic concepts.

Start with the following:

  • Energy and calories
  • Macronutrients
  • Protein: amino acids, daily requirements
  • Carbs: simple and complex carbs
  • Fats: trans fats, monounsaturated fats, saturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6
  • Micronutrients: vitamins and minerals

There are plenty of helpful videos available on YouTube and I’ve posted educational content on my personal Instagram page.

Take responsibility for your own knowledge and education. Allocating time to this is an investment in yourself.

Principle 3: Calorie management

In the keto community, there is a common misconception that calories don’t count. Whilst there is still much debate in the scientific community on whether a calorie is a calorie, there are very few who believe that calories don’t matter.

Despite the few who believe calories don’t count, practically everyone in the nutrition world supports the Calories In Calories Out (CICO) model.

If you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight; if you consume less calories than you burn, you lose weight.

This is basic metabolism.

Everyone is different: different height, ages, different exercise levels, body fat percentage, different metabolic rates etc.

This means that everyone has their own personal threshold that determines at which point their calorie consumption exceeds the body’s needs, and as such, at what point they start to gain or lose weight.

The important factor in all of this is called ‘Base Metabolic Rate’, or BMR for short. BMR is the number of calories your body burns in a steady state, i.e. without factoring in any additional calories burned through exercise, strenuous work and through the process of food digestion.

By factoring these other activities in you can calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) which is essentially you BMR + calories burned through exercise and food digestion, technically known as TEF, the Thermic Effect of Food).

TDEE = BMR + TEF + Physical Activity

The noise comes into this equation as there are many factors at play - such as genetics, insulin, thyroid function and other hormones.

But all these factors do is affect your calorie burn, they do not defy the laws of thermodynamics.

If you think you’ve gained weight in a calorie deficit, then I would ask you to seriously reconsider your position on this. You’re probably overestimating how many calories you’ve burned, and overestimating the calories consumed.

Calories In Calories Out versus Insulin

There is much conflict about this in the scientific community, centering around two conflicting theories on obesity: CICO and CIM.

CICO is the energy balance model which obeys the laws of thermodynamics and is unequivocally accepted by the majority of the nutrition world.

CIM is the Carbohydrate Insulin Model of Obesity (CIM) which hypothesises that the hormone insulin plays a major role.

CIM is a theory that has been adapted and promoted by famous low-carb proponents such as Gary Taubes and Jason Fung, and is center to several papers from researchers such as David Ludwig and colleagues (1,2).

Jason Fung has even gone as far as to state that that it is IMPOSSIBLE to lose weight without reducing insulin (by either fasting or by lowering carbohydrates) and that calories don’t matter AT ALL.

Anyone with even the most basic education on nutrition knows that this is crazy talk. Quite frankly, it’s characters like Fung that give low-carb and keto a bad reputation!

Fortunately, Fung’s video expertly dissected and debunked by Layne Norton on YouTube, a much watch video for anyone interested in this topic.

Personally, I’m quietly watching from the sidelines to see how this debate pans out as I find it super interesting.

My advice to you is to spend some time fully understanding the CICO model and build a plan which ensures you’re in a calorie deficit. If you want to use keto to control your intake and it works for you, then go for it. But as well as cutting carbs you must be in a calorie deficit.

I think an important side note to this is that counting calories is NOT the same thing as a calorie deficit. I think people get confused by this.

When they say “you don’t need to count calories on keto”, then fine: counting carbs might be all you need to do.

But this does not mean keto allows you to disobey the laws of thermodynamics, keto is just another form of dietary restriction which help you manage calories.

Principle 4 – Plan and prepare

The vast majority of pre-prepared foods you can buy on the go are bad for you and will be higher in calories than you think.

It is definitely possible to incorporate packaged food into your daily routine, but the best way to successfully lose and manage weight is to plan ahead and prepare your own meals.

To use a cliché, “fail to plan, plan to fail”. This is as true when it comes to weight management as it is for anything else, so effective planning and preparation are key to the success of this programme.

If you are rejecting the idea of this now, I would bet that the lack of thought and planning when it comes to nutrition is one of the major factors which had caused you to become overweight in the first place.

I am so serious about this that I refuse to work with clients who do not agree to prepare their own meals.

There are two main objections to this, the most common one being time.

Let me deal with that one first as it drives me crazy. If you’re serious about losing weight and recovering your health, you have to change the way you’ve been doing things.

Inevitably, that means allocating some time to the project. That includes time spent educating yourself, time exercising; and time planning and preparing.

The great thing is, once you know what you’re doing, planning and preparing is super quick and should only take a few minutes out of your busy daily schedule.

The second objection is the “I can’t cook” one! No, you don’t have to train to be a Michelin star chef, you just need to chop a few veggies and pop some protein in the oven. Simple!

If you’re struggling, I posted some comments on this in a previous article which you might enjoy.

The bottom line is this: if you want to succeed, planning and preparing is critically important. The sooner you accept this, the more quickly you’ll achieve your goals.

Principle 5 - Track things

Success is only known if it is measured: this is an absolute fact in the world we live in. Progress against targets is tracked the world over from major financial institutions to the smallest businesses in the developing world.

Progress is tracked in pretty much every discipline where people are serious about success: athletes, sportsmen, doctors, bloggers, cosmologists, biologists, physics…… you get the picture!

Moreover, in the context of weight loss, experiments have proven that tracking alone is enough to enable people to lose weight through something called “self-monitoring”.

The concept is that by tracking and analysing your progress you become more conscious of how actions impact your goals.

Essentially, actions have consequences and monitoring things helps to rationalise actions to prevent them from becoming subconscious.

Tracking alone will help you to manage your weight by encouraging you to eat less, exercise more, focussing on making progress and avoiding weight loss plateaus.

So once you understand your goals, have a plan and are ready to go, it’s super important to track things!

As a biohacker, I have tracked many things about my health because understanding these things helps ensure that you’re on plan.

As you overcome your weight issue, you might start to track some metrics which pertain to your longevity, that is your healthspan and lifespan. But as this article is related to weight loss, here’s what you should track to ensure success.

Calories

Given that your nutrition plan will deliver 80% of your results, it’s very important that you track your calorie intake to ensure you’re on plan.

If you’re doing keto, the best app is Carb Manager. You can calculate your calorie and carb goals and enter your meal plan details to keep a check on how close to your plan you are.

Personally I don’t recommend doing this forever but when you’re starting out, it’s very important to your education and learning.

Eventually you’ll be able to eyeball your portion sizes but at the start it’s probably best to weigh your calorie dense foods such as nuts, protein and fats.

Activity

The other major lever in your energy balance equation is your TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

The best way to do this is by using an activity tracker such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit. You should be able to connect your device to your Carb Manager app so you have a visual on your calories in calories out equation.

A word of caution though. Although activity trackers are great, they can be inaccurate so you need to be cautious about the results.

If you’re constantly in a calorie deficit and not losing weight, you’re either underestimating your calorie intake, for example by not weighing your foods, or your activity tracker is overestimating your calorie burn.

Weight

Weight loss is your objective so it’s important to track it. I would recommend that you only weigh yourself once per week as things like body water content skew daily readings so they can be very misleading and could unduly affect your motivation.

The amount of weight you lose from day to day is minimal so once per week is the most frequent you should do this.

Every Monday morning, after going to the bathroom, get weighed and enter the result into your tracker app of choice. If you’re using a Fitbit scale, it should automatically sync.

There’s also a lot of value in tracking other body measurements such as chest, arm, waist and leg measurements. But the easiest one is your weight.

Body fat

If you have a lot of weight to lose, measuring body fat is probably not required in the early stages.

But Body Fat Percentage (BFP), compared to weight, BMI and other metrics, is essentially the most accurate measure of how lean you are and, to that end, it would be advantageous to measure and track.

To think about your body in terms of body fat composition is highly recommended as it will help you to think much differently about weight management which will lead to better results. Specifically, BFP is the only metric which you should be thinking about should you wish to target a super lean, ripped body.

The problem with body fat is that it’s difficult to accurately measure without using an extremely expensive solution such as Hydrostatic Weighing or DEXA scanning.

For most people there are only a small number of practicable ways to measure body fat percentage, however, some of the methods are questionable and may be inaccurate.

As such, you should keep your approach consistent and only consider any readings as a guide to monitor progress.

There’s no real need to measure body fat any more frequently than either fortnightly or monthly as the changes you will experience with body fat will be slow and steady.

The “In Body” machine that you can often find in gyms uses something called Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA). It’s not bad as a guide but it’s really innacrate.

If you fancy giving it a go, I would recommend either a DEXA scan or body callipers which are both well respected methods.

Other biomarkers

With one eye on longevity, there are a bunch of other biomarkers that you should really measure and track, ideally before you start your weight loss journey. Here’s our recommended hit list:

  • Standard Lipid Panel
  • ApoB / ApoA1
  • Lp(a)
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Glucose and Insulin tolerance test
  • CRP
  • Thyroid
  • Uric Acid
  • Mercury
  • Vitamin D
  • Testosterone

Final word

If you’re thinking short-term, then you’re probably going to fail.

I attribute my success over the last 15 years to the decision I took all those years ago to deal with my issue. I chose to “change everything” and the results speak for themselves.

Making permanent improvements to your body and health requires permanent change. If you accept this, and your health goals are important to you, then the sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll achieve your goals.

But more important that anything is to accept that success will not come through a straight line. You’ll have ups and downs so it’s important to pick yourself up after a fall, and enjoy the ride.

Stay positive and face the challenge with a smile. The journey truly is more important that the end result.

About the Author

Lee Sandwith holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition and is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. You can book a free 30 minute consultation with Lee here.

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