How I lost 70 lb / 32 kg / 5 st while ill with (severe) ME/CFS

Blog entry posted by Tom Kindlon, Dec 4, 2018.

(This is an updated version of something I wrote in July 2017)

I am fortunate to have managed to get my BMI down to a healthy 21.7 by losing 70 lb / 32kg / 5 stone while ill with severe ME/CFS. (I hope to lose a bit more again: I feel I have the habits now to be able to do that slowly, without it being too demanding).

It took me nearly 4 years so I didn't break any records.

I thought I would share some techniques I used to lose the weight as a few people did ask me.
Note that I am not qualified to give medical or health advice. Also there are lots of other ways to lose weight.

I'm not saying that this will work for everyone as people can be in different circumstances to me. Also it probably takes a certain frame of mind to lose weight so I'm not going to tell everyone to lose weight. I was overweight for around a decade before I set my mind to it. (I gradually put up weight over a decade without trying to lose it during that period). Being ill, particularly severely ill, with this illness is tough.

Anyway here's what I did, for what it is worth. I might add to these points if others occur to me.

[Like most people in Ireland, I use "calorie" when I really mean kilocalorie. So when I say 1 calorie, I mean 4.184 kilojoule]
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What I eat now (*optional* reading)

My diet has gradually become healthier. For example, I have reduced my intake of red meat quite a lot. This wasn't the priority for me in the earlier days, but I have now been able to do it I think partly because I didn't try to make too many changes in one go (I also became more knowledgeable about the problems red meat can cause on average which increased my motivation).

These are the sorts of food I eat now on a daily basis. They have changed a bit over the years. I hope people don't just read this section as the specifics of the food I eat I don't think are as important as the general principles I mention above.

A lot of these are 50-60 calories or 100-120 calories because as I mentioned above I had my own calorie system, where 50-60 calories was one of my units: I think it is useful to be careful about portion sizes, but they don't have to be the same size as the ones I use.

- 3 or 4 items of fruit (incl. generally small- or medium-sized apples as they have fewer calories than larger ones)

- (x2) 100g of 0% fat yoghurt (unsweetened) or 80g of 2% fat yoghurt (unsweetened)

- (x2) 90g of 0% fat yoghurt (sweetened with sweetener or a little sugar); (or some other brands of yoghurt)

- 18g of nuts (some are directly from packs and some I mix together and weigh out)

- 2 rice cakes or 2 rice-based crispbread crackers or 1 slice of gluten-free bread with soft cheese (the laughing cow/la vache qui rit)

- 2 rice cakes or 2 rice-based crispbread crackers or 1 slice of gluten-free bread with peanut butter or almond butter (with no additives) or occasionally paté

- 2 rice cakes or 2 rice-based crispbread crackers or 1 slice of gluten-free bread with no added sugar jam

- 20g of seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, chia, sesame) (I generally mix these together myself)

- 66g cooked legumes/pulses

- 5 portions of raw and cooked vegetables (including low-fat Philadelphia cheese on 3 celery sticks and 5cm/2inches of cucumber)

- 1 x small boiled potato (occasionally fried) or, occasionally, boiled brown rice

- 10g of 85% dark chocolate

- 10 g of 78% dark chocolate

- (occasionally) 10 g of 70% dark chocolate

- fluids: herbal tea (kept in a flask) and plain water

- supplements: I estimate that my supplements such as fish oils and evening primrose oil may contribute 100 calories per day, which is frustrating as you don't get to enjoy any taste from the calories.

- Around 100 g of grilled/oven-cooked/tinned or occasionally fried fish/chicken/2 fish fingers; or beef lasanga or shepherd's pie. Occasionally: A vegetarian option; Roast lamb or pork or a joint of ham/bacon. [I have cut out pork chops, lamb chops and various types of steak to reduce the amount of red meat I eat; I might be able to reduce it more eventually]. My dinner is influenced by what my mother likes to cook.

- 200 g of refrigerated shop-bought soup

- Occasionally (generally small portions): treats such as my mother's Pavlova; gluten-free cake or biscuits.

I'm eating around 1650-1700 calories a day, though the odd day (e.g., a family occasion), I eat a lot more.

I am trying to eat a balanced and varied diet, now. However, it wasn't always as varied. I wasn't, for example, reaching the daily target for dairy products, so took calcium supplements. I have heard dieticians say that trying for too varied diet often causes people to eat more calories than is ideal. So perhaps supplements are the/a way to go, particularly during a weight loss period.

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Edited to add:
You don't need to aim for the same figure as me. Different total calorie intakes would work for different people. A woman asked me how would it work for a woman who would require a lower intake of calories. My response for what it is worth:

I'm not trying to sell anything so don't have any definitive answers. I imagine women would just need to eat slightly smaller portions; or alternatively eat fewer items.

I have severe ME so use very few calories physically while most women, even those with ME, would be more active than me.

I would just aim for what works and what you can manage. For example, I imagine most women would lose weight on (say) 1500 calories a day, which wouldn't take too much adjustment from what I mention.

People would not need to eat the items I mention to lose weight; some of the general tips might lead to some reduced calories while eating a completely different diet.


Edited to add:
Somebody elsewhere said that I should point out that having a calorie deficit of 3500 calories below your "breakeven point" will result in a loss of 1 lb (454g). I previously looked at this a bit and some people think that the actual deficit required may be more, possibly as much as 7000 calories. Anyway, I think the general principle is reasonable that if you cumulatively create a big enough cumulative deficit of calories your weight will go down.

Edited to add:
Basal metabolic rate calculators:
Here are some calculators to enable you calculate how many kilojoules or calories are required on a daily basis to maintain your weight based on your lifestyle.

Then aim for a lower amount and you will lose weight. Sample quote: "This figure is useful to know if you wish to lose or gain weight. For weight loss or gain you should aim to consume 250-500 calories or 1000-2000 kilojoules above or below your BMR."

Unfortunately, as many of you will know, as you age, you can eat less. Also, if you are female you can eat less than a male.

Calories:
https://manytools.org/handy/bmr-calculator/go
https://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/bmr
https://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html

Kilojoules:
http://www.thefoodcoach.com.au/tools/bmr.asp
Jennifer J, jesse's mom, Plum and 5 others like this.
  1. StarChild56
    Thanks for sharing. I have been struggling, going off and on and it just reinforces what I know works for me. Although I have to be around 1200-1500 cal a day to lose. I use MyFitnessPal which helps me a lot. I just have not been consistent.
    Tom Kindlon likes this.
  2. Starlight
    Thanks for posting this Tom. I have to begin this battle which I m dreading. But reading this has given me a sense of possibility. Thank you for going into the minute details about the issues and what you did to solve them. These are the parts which I find motivational and which I can identify with. I'm going to print this off and start looki g in a more detailed way,, at where I could make some changes. And then actually follow through with them. I know that I would be healthier if I lost weight and I would feel better about it. Have you felt any improvement in your ME as a result of the weight loss?. I think that your article wold be really appreciated by anyone trying to lose weight. Your honesty makes it powerful and I can identify with all of it. Thanks
    Tom Kindlon likes this.
  3. antares4141
    By the way word count isn't limited to 2000, I tried to post a paragraph just under 500 and it was rejected. That might be a good thing though.
  4. antares4141
    That's pretty good, sounds like all you need to do now is maintain! I've done a lot of the tricks you have also. Healthy maintainable habit's over time beat all the diet fads every time.
    MTpockets and Tom Kindlon like this.