A Post-it and a weight loss app were all Yuta Morinaga needed to lose 40 pounds. The 29-year-old software engineer, who lives in Los Angeles, tracked his calories using an app on his phone. Whenever he craved something unhealthy, he jotted it on a Post-it and stuck it to his fridge. On Saturdays, he allowed himself to eat whatever he wanted from the list.
Eating high calorie foods once a week did not affect Morinaga’s weight loss efforts, he says, and gave him something to look forward to.
“I think it acted as a delayed gratification,” says Morinaga, whose wife, Marina, also uses the Post-it system. “So, knowing that eating healthy now we get to eat all this on Saturday, definitely makes it easier to continue the lifestyle.”
Morinaga says he picked up the idea after reading “4-Hour Body,” a book by best-selling author and podcaster Tim Ferriss, who coined the idea of “cheat days” — one day a week where you can “cheat” on an otherwise nutritious diet.
But Morinaga says he and his wife rarely eat everything on their list — after one or two “cheat” meals, they are usually too full.
Morinaga, who took up indoor rock climbing in 2017, says he decided to lose weight a year and a half ago to get better at his favorite sport. He also wanted to get healthier. A blood test at the time revealed his liver was struggling due to his sugary diet, he says.
“It was surprising, because for me, personally, I thought I was on the healthy side,” Morinaga says.
Here’s how Morinaga, a blogger who originally told his story on Medium.com, took steps to change his diet.
He became aware of how much sugar he was consuming
Morinaga says the number-one step he took to losing weight was reducing the amount of sugar he consumed.
“I would snack a lot before I fixed my diet, and I might go out for drinks with friends and go to a cafe, and always eat a blueberry muffin or a scone,” he says. “Each muffin is at least like 200-400 calories.”
Morinaga had a habit of eating multiple bowls of granola cereal in the mornings, and drank bubble tea several times a week, which he says all added unnecessary sugar to his diet.
“This sugar is lurking everywhere, it’s pretty scary,” says Morinaga, “once you start reading the labels, but you could easily be eating 100-200 grams of sugar every day.”
He tracked what he ate
Morinaga says he started to carefully track his food intake on the weight loss app Lifesum. Once he started tracking his calories, he realized he was exceeding 2,200 calories a day — way too many for someone who spends 8 hours a day working at a computer, he says.
“That’s been eye-opening for me,” Morinaga says, “and I think just keeping track of how many grams of sugar I’m eating in a day helped a lot.”
Morinaga replaced sugary processed foods with high-fiber fruits and vegetables, cutting his calories to about 1,800 - 2,000 a day.
“I might have two poached eggs, some lentils, some greens — if I don’t have that on hand I might do like a protein shake, a coconut yogurt, and then a no-sugar granola [bar],” he says.
“For dinner, usually, on the weekdays, it’s lentils, some kind of greens or steamed veggies and protein, whether it’s salmon, chicken or just eggs,” he says.
He planned for “detours”
Morinaga knew his diet couldn’t be perfect all the time, so he developed his Post-it note system to help stave off his cravings and give himself something to look forward to.
“Ultimately, I want to enjoy my lifestyle,” Morinaga says. “I don’t want to be constrained.”
He also planned ahead for what he calls “detours” — holidays, vacations, and eating out with friends.
For example, if a friend invited him out to dinner, he would plan to eat only low-calorie, nutritious foods for breakfast and lunch, so he could consume more calories during dinner without going over his calorie limit.
“As long as you know beforehand, then you can sort of plan before how you might be eating,” he says.
He strength trained
Morinaga says indoor rock climbing helped him increase his muscle mass, which in turn helped him lose weight because muscle requires extra energy. He says he also strength trains at a regular gym several times a week.
“Just having more muscle, period, means that you’re going to be burning more throughout the day even if you don’t move as much,” he says.
He focused on small adjustments
Morinaga says he lost about 20 pounds in three months after changing his diet, but says the last 20 pounds came off more gradually. In total, he says he lost about 40 pounds in a year and a half.
“I feel lighter, that’s for sure, my climbing has gotten better,” he says.
“My blood results are very good,” he adds. “I don’t feel sleepy first thing in the morning, and I think I’m generally more happy.”
He credits his weight loss to making small adjustments to his eating and physical activity.
“I want people to be more aware of what they’re eating, how they’re living, how their body is acting, because a lot of these health issues, mood issues, can really be solved by a tweak in the diet and lifestyle,” he says.
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