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Ask Coach Tony: Weight Loss Secrets

In Ask Coach Tony, you ask the questions, and I answer them.

I am a coach, author and project manager. I have had built a successful, twenty-plus-year career in corporate America. I have created a small business, Operation Melt, focused on helping others make their dreams come true. Oh yeah, I also lost over 100 pounds in under a year and have kept it off without any fad diet. This means that people ask me many questions, and I love to answer them.

A question asked by one is a question had by many. So, Ask Coach Tony will share the answers to these questions via the Operation Melt blog so everybody can see them.

Go ahead, ask me anything!


Amuse Bouche

Before we get to today’s post, I offer you this light “amuse-bouche” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse-bouche, you may hate my “dad joke,” but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

Yesterday I saw an ad that said “radio for sale, $1, volume stuck on full.” I thought to myself, “I can’t turn that down!”


Ask Coach Tony: Weight Loss Secrets

Four years ago today, I stepped on my scale and saw this:

This beautiful sight came just nine months after stepping on the scale at my first appointment with a doctor in over fifteen years, where I saw the scale say 325 pounds.

I committed to losing over a hundred pounds in a year. This was a commitment I made to myself, and I crushed that goal.

Because a significant weight loss journey is a very visible event, I got asked a lot of questions as I progressed. So, on this fourth anniversary of achieving that goal, I thought it was only fitting to answer the most common questions I did and still receive.

If you have a question that I didn’t answer, please reach out via my Ask Coach Tony form below, and I will answer it for you.

How much weight did you lose?

As I mentioned in the intro, I started at 325 pounds and forty years of obesity, and my goal was to lose over 100 pounds in under a year. Here is a pic from the month before I started.

I achieved my 100-pound goal in just nine months (four years ago today!) and kept going. I continued to remain in “loss” mode until the end of that year, a total of 18 months of starting my journey.

As I was approaching the end of my weight loss, I achieved a major milestone by completing my first half marathon. Transforming myself from 325 pounds to a half marathon in just 16 months was a proud moment in my life (See Week 71: 325 Pounds to Half Marathon).

By the end of my weight loss, I had lost a total of 131 pounds, and I had gotten down to 194 pounds. Here is a pic that I will call “skinny Tony.”

But, my story gets a bit complicated from here.

As you can see in the pic, after losing 131 pounds, I was pretty skinny. I was also pretty weak and had no muscle. A few months earlier, I started working with my personal trainer and struggled to lift more than an empty barbell bar, 45 pounds. My focus shifted from weight loss to improving my strength training and running.

This meant that I steadily gained about 25 pounds of mostly muscle in the three years since. I am currently hovering in the 100-105 pounds lost zone and am comfortable with that. Here’s one of my favorite, semi-recent pics of my trainer and me celebrating our anniversary.

As you can clearly see, I am not as skinny as I was at the end of my weight loss. But, I am very different than where I started. I am muscular and have a strong, toned (mostly, see the surprises section below) body.

What was your secret… did you do low carb or something?

When I kicked off my weight loss journey, I had no idea how I would be successful. Every time I made an effort to lose weight in the past, it lasted for a week or two and then it was done. Mostly because my prior efforts were tied to New Year’s Resolutions, which don’t work (see Happy New Year!?). This time had to be different!

Unsure of how to move forward, I turned to a strategy that had always worked for me before. I decided to use my talents and create my own path forward rather than following someone else’s strategy.

I explain my entire approach in the first half of my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year. But, I attribute my weight loss success to data and project management. I used project management to change my life. 

I am not going to share the whole story (you gotta buy the book for that… please), but I will summarize my plan.

I leveraged a six-step strategy rooted in project management. This strategy has become the backbone of much of my coaching and is the secret to making dreams come true.

I committed to a SMART goal: 

My goal, to lose over 100 pounds in under a year, was very specific and timely.

My results (weight loss) and my behaviors were clearly measurable (see below).

Based on my research at the time, most experts agreed that a rate of two pounds or less per week was safe yet aggressive, weight loss. So I believed it was an attainable goal.

I completed several exercises to define my “why” behind my goal. Once that was done, it was very relevant. Plus, after watching my dad die at 59, I knew my choices now would determine my future.

I built a plan that worked for me: 

My plan started with what I wasn’t willing to do:

  • Give up things I loved (including having drinks with friends)
  • Fad/popular diets
  • Surgery

Then I decided how to work within the constraints in my life, like my work schedule.

Finally, I knew I needed to use data to keep me accountable and make it fun.

I managed my food consumption (quantity and quality), increased my exercise, reduced stress slightly, tracked everything, celebrated every milestone, and melted away. Hence the name Operation Melt.

I tracked my progress every day: 

I used technology to track my behavior throughout the process. I used an app to log everything I consumed, a fitness tracker to monitor activity and a smart scale. Then, I had a daily standup meeting with myself to reflect on how I did as part of my journaling process.

I expected and planned for problems: 

I was very aware of some of the bigger obstacles, like my work schedule. So I created strategies to proactively avoid those problems. I also planned for surprises and was in a mindset to understand and resolve issues as they happened.

I didn’t go it alone: 

I built a team of experts, including my doctor, personal trainer (much later in the journey) and people who have had similar experiences, and I used this team as guides.

Then, I decided to be very public with my journey to help others, which led me to launch my OperationMelt.com blog.

I enjoyed the journey: 

By deciding not to give things up, I never felt miserable or like I was missing out on life.

I used my competitive brain to have fun with the process.

My successes along the way were celebrated both privately and with others.

I had an impact on other people’s lives and was able to tell my story along the way.

Plus, I really like the increased exercise and “me” time. Even when there were problems, I enjoyed the whole journey.

What were your biggest surprises?

In the second half of my book, I share my ten biggest lessons learned during my weight loss, so I won’t share them all here. But, I will summarize a few of my biggest ah-has since my decision to change my life.

Physical: every human body is different and is more complex than we think. Very few things with our health are as 100% black & white as we may hope. You would expect that consuming fewer calories and burning more than you consume would mean instant and consistent weight loss, but not always.

Our weight fluctuates every day, and my weight could increase or decrease five or more pounds with no explanation. For example, when I had COVID, I took several days off of any kind of exercise. I had my lowest daily calorie burn for a long time. I dropped ten pounds. Inflammation and over-training caused my body to hold weight, and it just let it go.

Plus, a significant weight loss means that every part of your body may change shape or size – I lost two full sizes on my ring finger. Unfortunately, it also means that my skin doesn’t neatly fit my new body and never will without surgery that I won’t be getting. So, extra skin hides some of my best body-building results.

Mental: the physical act of losing the weight was surprisingly easier than I had expected, but the mental side was not. As much, or more, of this journey happened inside my head, and it was a struggle. I was the last one to see myself changing and still sometimes see the old me in the mirror. I allowed a big chunk of my identity to get tied to losing weight, and then I stopped losing and had to reset my expectations.

I also got hooked on stepping on the scale and seeing the numbers go the right way, which wasn’t always the case (see the previous bullet). In any area of my life, numbers that go the wrong direction can be an instant happiness killer if I let them. And I have allowed this more often than I care to admit!

Social: people notice when you are losing weight and want to talk about it. Usually, this is fine, and I love to use my journey to help other people. Sometimes, these people say well-meaning yet inadvertently hurtful things. Statements like “you lost a ton of weight” or “wow, losing weight is kind of your brand, what are you going to do now” aren’t the most helpful.

I even got to hear some of the negative things said about overweight people behind their backs, see A bit of a rant….

Conversely, there are also amazingly supportive people through every step of the journey, like my wife Liz, and that makes all the difference.

Motivational: by conquering a lifetime of obesity and my biggest life-long embarrassment, I unlocked something inside me. I went from an average, climb the corporate ladder and be quiet while sitting in front of the tv at night guy to something more.

After proving it to myself time and again, I am confident in my abilities to do anything now. 

I found my passion along the way, helping people achieve their goals, and have built my portfolio of “job” activities around it. That’s why I continue to grow Operation Melt, write books, coach people, and stay in project management. My mission is to help people achieve their goals.

There you have it, a handful of the many lessons I have learned through this journey… so far. As I said, I share many more details in my book, and I am still learning lessons and having surprises every day.

How have you maintained your weight loss for so long?

This is a great question, and I want to start with a quote from a publication from the National Institutes of Health:

In a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, more than half of the lost weight was regained within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but keeping it off is even harder. I know several people who have gone through multiple weight losses. I decided very early in my journey that I only wanted to do this once.

I am very proud that I defied the odds in multiple ways. First, by losing 40% of my body weight in 18 months. Then, by not regaining the weight other than intentional muscle-building.

The way I keep my weight off is the same way I lost it. I track my consumption and exercise every day – 1732 days straight as of today. This isn’t hard for me to do, and I now have it down to a science. But, knowing where I sit from a calorie and nutrients perspective keeps me from slipping backward. 

Will I ever stop tracking? Probably not.

I want to add a little asterisk here… I probably could stop tracking and be just fine. I have changed my behaviors, and I am way more aware of what I am doing than when I was obese. But, I don’t want to trust my life to probably. So I will stick with discipline instead of relying on default behaviors (see Discipline Not Default).

I want to lose weight, what is one thing you would recommend to get started?

Despite the advice from Tony Robbins and others, getting started with any goal does not require massive action. By taking small steps, particularly ones repeated over and over, you can begin to pivot to an entirely new life. That’s why I recommend one small step if you want to get started with your own weight loss.

Switch off your autopilot.

 How can you conquer your autopilot? Data!

Starting today, make a note of everything you eat. What is it, how much of it did you eat, how many calories are in it and what nutrients? Consume nothing without logging it.

This strategy is powerful for two reasons:

  1. By tracking what you are consuming, you have the data instead of assumptions, and you can quickly identify patterns where you have an opportunity to make small changes. You’ll be surprised how you automatically start making different choices once you know the facts.
  2. When you pause to focus on something logical and factual, you temporarily interrupt emotional patterns in your brain that you don’t even realize are happening. You insert a pause, and you force your brain to logically evaluate the choices it is making. I can tell you first-hand that this is a trick that marketers know well. They try to make it easy for you to stay in that emotional zone because you’ll spend more money if you don’t pause and think logically about it.

I know, logging everything sounds like a pain, right? But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Many apps you can download to your phone make this easy and come with a massive food database where you can shortcut most of the heavy lifting. In just one minute or so, you can probably log your entire meal. While this will feel awkward at first, it will eventually become a habit and feel more comfortable.

This one, very small step, can be the secret to accomplishing your weight loss goals.

Do you do weight loss coaching?

Yes!

I am a certified professional life coach, goal success coach, health & nutrition coach and project manager. By combining those skill sets and my first-hand experience, I can help you set yourself up for weight loss success. Here’s how it works:

  • I will work with you to help you build a SMART goal, including a powerful why. 
  • I help you build the plan that works for you, whether similar to mine or vastly different.
  • I can help you get started with measuring your progress and will review your numbers to help you find your positive and negative patterns.
  • We can work together to proactively identify the things that might get in your way and brainstorm options to avoid or respond to those obstacles.
  • I can help you determine who needs to be on your team of experts (hint: your doctor is an important person) and how you will talk about your goal.
  • Most importantly, I will celebrate your successes with you and help you get past your setbacks, so you continue to enjoy the journey.

If you are interested in learning more, contact me via the Coaching section of OperationMelt.com.

Ask Me Anything!

Do you have a question you would like to submit for a future Ask Coach Tony post?

  • Do you want to know more about me? 
  • Do you want to know more about my weight loss journey? 
  • Do you want to know more about my books or my creative process?
  • Do you have a question about how to achieve your goals?
  • Do you want to know more about coaching?

Whatever your question, I am here to help. Ask Me Anything!

If you want to have a deeper conversation and get more one-on-one help, click here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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