How I lost over 50 pounds while running my company (and kept it off)
Joshua Davidson wrote this article
Back in the spring and summer of 2014, I carefully documented my journey and perspective as an entrepreneur trying to lose weight. I ended up losing over sixty pounds, going from 220 lbs that March to only 155 lbs that November. The first portion of this article focuses on the original blog post in this entirely; though I have updated the bottom half to reflect what I’ve been up to since, how I’ve not only maintained my body fat percentage but have gained muscle mass too.
I’ve decided to give this post an update since a lot has happened in three years!
It’s not about just losing weight. It’s about being in tune with your personal health.
A warning to those who are neglecting their health:
You may even feel okay now, but it will catch up with you.
Neglecting my health caught up with me back in February 2014.
Now before I get into the nitty gritty details — it is important for me to go through a bit of legal crap first. I am in no way, shape, or form a doctor, nutritionist, or anything that should be taken word-for-word when it comes to figuring out your exact game plan for losing weight and getting into shape. This is simply my story, what I discovered, and the things that you should consider. Make sure to talk to a doctor or health professional before doing anything that I share below. Now that I’ve covered all of that let’s get started.
It isn’t hard to see in hindsight how I ended up gaining so much weight…
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Odds are if you are reading this post, you understand this better than most people. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Being an entrepreneur means that you dedicate every ounce of your energy, thoughts and time into building something that you can personally get behind. It is a humbling experience. It is an emotional roller coaster ride.
And for those who love the art of entrepreneurship, it is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever have the opportunity of doing in your lifetime.
With that said, you become obsessed. You want always to improve your productivity. You want to earn more profit. You want to find more people to help. You want to build an empire. Everyone obsesses over many different things — but it all has a clear correlation, that being your business, your venture, your product.
Personally, for me, it started five years ago when I lost the freedom of time due to my choice of wanting to dedicate every minute to my company.
I started replacing home-cooked meals with quick, on-the-go options. Sometimes. Sometimes this is a couple of pop-tarts. Sometimes a bag of microwavable pizza rolls, chicken tortillas, hot dogs, hamburgers, whatever you can think of. The point is that you do not want to spend a lot of time cooking because you have work to do. You’re busy. You want to focus on your business, continuing to grow it. That is exactly what happened to me.
The point is that you do not want to spend a lot of time cooking because you have work to do. You’re busy. You want to focus on your business, continuing to grow it. That is what happened to me.
Just one bad habit snowballs into a few. A few turns into many.
My company is a service-based business. Many of my meetings, when in-person, revolve around meeting at a place that offers food and drinks.
Restaurants. Outdoor seating areas. Whatever you can think of, you can probably imagine why. It is an ideal location for a social gathering. You’ll want food that gives you quick energy, which your clients will love — and again, poor habits are acquired.
This also jumps into exercising or the lack thereof. Honestly, I wasn’t big into physical activity before starting my company — so when I got busy, exercise was never on my mind. I don’t think I picked up a single weight nor ran more than ten feet in the four-year period between starting Chop Dawg and getting serious about my health.
Once again, you think to yourself — what is better with your limited time, running your company or focusing on you? You pick the former — though now in hindsight, I can promise you that the latter is just as important (we will get more into that below).
Why it took me 5 years to do anything about my neglected health
One of the things that I’ve thought about now going through this journey is why I didn’t notice and fix my weight-gain earlier? How did I not see a dramatic decrease in energy, lower levels of confidence, barely fitting into my three-year-old pair of jeans?
This one may be a bit more subjective to the individual, but I have a theory for why I never noticed my flagging health:
Most of my meetings are through Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. All that you truly see is your face when using a webcam. Outside of that, I always controlled how I am perceived by carefully curating the pictures that I used on my social media and gave to the press. It was my own, self-curated image.
In hindsight, I look at old pictures of myself and ask how in the hell I was not motivated to lose weight.
Hitting rock bottom in Las Vegas
It was late February 2014 — I was invited to fly out to Las Vegas to speak at the largest conference that I had been to at the time. It was my first time to the Sin City (plus I escaped a brutal northeast winter for a few days and instead enjoyed a comfortable life in the low 70s).
I spoke the first day of the conference and had an entire day to myself. I woke up early that morning, walked around the conference shaking people’s hands, hearing about all their exciting stories, making new connections. I spent the early afternoon checking out the desert, the Canyon, the Hoover Dam. The evening was spent checking out the strip, all the lights, sounds, noises — and of course the highlight of it all, a gourmet steak dinner, courtesy of the conference to say thank you.
I remember slowly heading back to my hotel room, shutting the door and looking in the mirror.
It was then that it truly hit me. I was out of breath. I looked like I hadn’t slept in weeks. My appearance was bloody awful. Above all, I was surrounded by mirrors, showing me in every which way or shape you could imagine (it also had a television in the mirror which was kind of neat).
It was then that the blinders were off, that all of a sudden my brainwaves told me — dude, you’re fat and completely wiped. I remember looking into the mirror for a few moments, but for what felt like hours.
That was the lowest I’ve ever felt. I knew that things had to change. I didn’t sleep that evening. I decided it was time to invest in myself for a change. It was time to change my lifestyle.
I decided that, if I was going to be successful with this new lifestyle change, I had to prepare in a similar way I do in my business.
I had to do the research, the organization, and the documentation. I mimicked all of these processes from building my business.
I spent early March reading the subreddits /r/fitness, /r/loseit and /r/progresspics. These are all great resources. There is nothing else like seeing real firsthand success stories. I could find out what people ate, and what lifestyle changes I would need to make.
The research phase felt like going back to my early days of entrepreneurship, reading books like The Lean Startup, The Four Hour Workweek, and Rework.
It worked for me before; so I was open to it working again. I already knew the playbook to success thanks to previous success stories. Plus it offered great motivation, so why not try to replicate it for my health?
One of the things you’ll discover is you have set amount of calories that you burn in a day. I learned calorie calculators such as this which informed me that to maintain weight; I needed to eat (at the time) 2,400 calories a day. If I wanted to lose weight, well, I needed to eat less.
It took the concept of losing weight and pared it down to the essentials.
The fewer calories you eat under that 2,400 calorie maintenance number, the more fat you burn off. If you start for example working out, you burn even more calories, meaning that maintenance number increases — and if you eat the same low number, it means you have now burned even more calories, which results in more fat being burned. Simple concept, huh?
I also needed a few essential materials to track progress. I set up a spreadsheet on Google Drive that I used to weigh-in every single Monday morning. I recorded the numbers that I cared about and nothing more (just like what we do for metrics at Chop Dawg — no reason to care about things that serve you no value, right?).
I bought the most affordable, reliable scale I could find on Amazon. This is the one what I purchased, for reference.
I made a mental note at the very beginning that I wouldn’t get calories from the stuff I drank.
That meant no alcohol (for the most part). That meant for me no soda. I only drank three items — water (and insane amounts of it), Diet Green Tea and occasionally coffee (and a five-hour energy) when necessary.
Lastly — and most importantly, I needed a proper diet in place.
I bought essentials that I figured would come in handy for me. Protein, I learned, not only helps with muscle mass — but it keeps you full for longer. I decided to purchase anything I could to help with that. I started purchasing protein bars and shakes on Amazon.
I set up a subscription to automatically re-fill me with these items every month.
But we all need solid food too.
I bought lots of lean chicken, ground turkey, salmon — food I knew I would enjoy, very low in calorie and would keep me full.
I spent three weeks planning, purchasing what I needed, figuring out my proper diet — and then, it was time to officially weigh-in and begin the journey.
My starting point was March 24th, 2014. I started at 219 lbs. My BMI was at 32.3, meaning that I was in the obesity category.
One of the perspectives I had when going into this was that it would take quite some time before I would notice the results myself in the mirror.
Here’s a great concept that I took away from my Reddit research:
Take two rolls of paper towels. Do not touch one. On the one next to it, pretend that one piece of paper towel is a pound. You take one away; you cannot notice the difference between the two rolls. You take around 30-40 pieces, all of the sudden, one stands out like a sore thumb. That’s what weight for the long haul feels like.
For me to accurately lose weight, I decided my ceiling for calorie intake at the beginning would be 1,700 calories. 3,500 calories burned in a week is meant to be a pound lost.
I gave myself a 700 calorie deficit per day, which would mean a 3,500 calorie deficit per week. Over time, I lowered my calorie limit as I was losing weight — until I reached 1,400 calories. I didn’t want to go any lower at risk of hurting myself and not giving myself enough energy for future days.
Don’t ever forget; calories are energy. They are like gasoline for your vehicle. As an entrepreneur, I need all the energy that I can get.
At the same time, I decided I wanted to try burning calories and getting into shape. Cardio was the simplest way for me to do this without needing a personal trainer. I already owned a treadmill, so I decided it was time to dust it off and try it out. Every day I would use it for thirty minutes. I would slowly increase my speed as I got myself into better shape. I started at a quick walk and soon expanded it to jog, light run, into a daily couple mile run.This didn’t happen overnight. Once you chip away at it, though, you’ll be surprised with how far you can go.
Every day I would use it for thirty minutes. I would slowly increase my speed as I got myself into better shape. I started at a quick walk and soon expanded it to jog, light run, into a daily couple mile run. Once you chip away at it, though, you’ll be surprised with how far you can go.
Once it started getting warm outside, I relocated from the treadmill to the outdoors. Also great to get a bit of fresh air vs. sitting in front of my computer desk all day.
Balancing your business while trying to lose weight
The answer to this isn’t as complicated as you might think. I had already been, for years, using a to-do list for managing what I needed to get done each and every day. Eating each meal and going on a run just became another part of my daily to-do list. It became a task that I would check off upon completion.
In regards to finding an hour of my day to run — that was the trickiest part. The solution, however, was rather easy for me. I always scheduled an hour and a half blocks on my calendar for meetings. I decided I would use one of these blocks per day to dedicate to my physical activity.
To not disrupt business, I would use either early in the morning or late in the evening to do this.
It depended on how busy I was going to be for that day and what I needed to focus on to determine whether morning or evening would be more productive for me. However, I refused not to include it on my schedule. I would (and still) run six days a week.
One of the biggest questions I still have is how I handle meetings in-person since they often revolve around food.
I haven’t changed that. I knew if I did, I would be hurting my clients and getting myself, my colleagues and my clients out of their comfort zone. That isn’t a smart business tactic.
Instead, I simply plan ahead. When I know I am going to have an outing like this; I will do things such as overcompensate on my exercising ahead of the event. I will research the venue and figure out the best meal option for me. I will try to eat fewer calories during the day to make up for the increase during the meal.
Hell, sometimes I just cheat. It’s okay. One meal does not ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. As long as you plan ahead, though, you’ll be alright.
My major milestone after 6 months
By September 2014, I lost 50 pounds. My goal, in the beginning, was to end at 160 pounds and, according to my Google Drive document I mentioned earlier, I did it.
With that said, about a month or so before, I decided I wanted to change my goal to 155 pounds. At the six month milestone, I hit a BMI of 24.2, which classifies me at a healthy weight, right around where I should be taking into account my height and age.
How this changed the way I felt about everything
The difference was incredible. My outlook completely changed. I wouldn’t say I was ever a depressed type of guy, but my state of mind became a lot healthier. I started sleeping better, and according to my Jawbone UP, I was sleeping on average thirty to forty-five minutes more a night.
All of this translated back into my business itself. It improved my client relationships, and I started completing tasks much quicker. I could process things more swiftly than before. I even started closing more sales.
Why personal health matters for your business.
Investing in yourself allows you to perform elsewhere better. Just like you use reading, such as this blog post, to become more intelligent — working out and eating healthy has the same impact on the way you do things.
What I said back in 2014:
“I am much more confident in social gatherings. I have made it a goal to dress better and to discover styles that I feel match my personality. I even had a woman recently hit on me out in public — which I won’t lie, was awesome to experience as I didn’t normally have that happen to me in the past. Overall, I am just a happier dude who happens to be a bit more skinny.”
These were the goals that I set going forward after my milestone in 2014:
“I’ve already begun the same process as I mentioned earlier in this post — planning ahead. I have been researching proper ways to train from weightlifting. Now that I am (just about) the weight level I feel I can be most confident with, be happiest with, and above-all, healthiest with — it is time for me to continue improving myself by adding muscle and becoming stronger.
I have a better attitude now. I am a happier person overall. I have more energy. I am more productive. Above all, I have a better outlook on the road ahead, personally and professionally.”
Ok, so keeping the weight off is HARD once you lose it. How am I doing in 2017?
It’s officially been over three years since I’ve embarked on my health journey. I’m proud to say, I’ve seen it through and have no intentions of quitting anytime soon.
The biggest thing mostly everyone notices right away is the fact that I style my hair differently and wear glasses now. Oh, and the fact that I’ve bulked up.
No, I haven’t gained more body fat, in fact, my body fat is the same as it was in November of 2014. However, I’ve added almost twenty pounds of muscle since then. I currently weigh in on a rough day at around 180Ibs, and on a good day, 175Ibs. It depends on what I ate the night before… 🙂
I’ve stuck to almost the same routine since the end of 2014. I’ve done a lot less cardio in my workout regimen but added a lot of weight training. Chest. Back. Biceps. Triceps. Shoulders. Legs. Abs (well, sometimes). I’ll dive deeper into my routine in a few minutes.
So, what exactly am I doing differently today?
For starters, I’m no longer using the Jawbone UP.
I’ve been on team Fitbit for awhile, and I heartily recommend the FitBit Blaze. It’s been an incredible asset to me.
Not only does it have real-time heart rate monitoring for the most accurate calorie tracking that you come to expect with a fitness wearable, but it also has sleep monitoring, notifications from your phone, and more.
In fact, my Fitbit has provided me more value than my own Apple Watch. Apple Watch isn’t that effective for fitness, honestly, especially because of its poor battery life.
FitBit Blaze has solved all of this for me. Even a year into owning my Blaze, it still retains 3-5 day battery charge, and the 24/7 monitoring has been one of the biggest utilities I have in any electronic device. Fortunately, with the notifications that I still care about, almost immediately after putting my Apple Watch in the drawer for my Fitbit, I’ve never once looked back or had any regrets.
My diet has also changed. I’m usually eating between 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, which if you recall from above, is slightly above my maintenance level. This is important.
You can’t gain muscle mass without eating a calorie surplus, though if you eat too much of a calorie surplus (and not the right macronutrients), it’s just turning into body fat anyway.
Specifically though with my diet, it’s still highly protein-based. However, I’m not blindly just eating anything with large amounts of protein like I did in 2014.
I didn’t even comprehend the concept behind macronutrients at the time, and I couldn’t have told you about what fat, carbs or protein did outside the basics. I’ve spent months studying this, actually understanding what the right breakdown for me is.
Overall, my focus is to eat somewhere between 160g-180g of protein, a day. I also time my protein intake. Every time after I finish my lifting routine, I have two scoops of Whey Protein. I drink an Isopure Zero Carb at least once a day.
I also eat and maintain a high protein diet of actual food; steaks, chickens, salmon, shrimp. I also try to have a higher fat content, which means, yes, bacon, butter and natural oils, and other healthy food. Carbs I try to keep to a minimum, though I had over the past three years experimented with diets such as the keto diet, paleo diet, etc.
I’ve pretty much ended with a moderately based paleo diet, though I am not too strict about it.
I do try my best to avoid starches, wheat, and other carb-like treats. I do sometimes cheat and eat sushi, but sushi is also one of my favorite foods. All of this though brings you to my biggest weapon so far.
Intermittent fasting and it’s incredible power
Though I didn’t realize it, back in 2014, I was doing IF (intermittent fasting). I would never eat after 8:00 PM, and would wait until 12:00 PM the next day to start my first meal.
I’ve never been one to get hungry in the morning for breakfast, so skipping that time of the day to eat worked perfectly for me. Plus, if you didn’t know, the saying breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a myth, and an advertising slogan that began by Kelloggs years ago (go figure).
I’ve maintained this since, and have loved it. It keeps me at bay and honest with myself when to eat, when not to eat, and not to give into temptations. I rarely break off of this, except occasionally when I go out to eat with my girlfriend.
Over the last two months, though, I’ve fallen in love with the science behind IF.
Kevin Rose released his application called Zero, which helps track how many hours you’re IF, and shows you the data. As you can tell from the many charts I’ve collected about myself over the last few years, I love this. It gives you your daily breakdown, your averages, and how well (or poor) you’ve been doing.
Kevin’s app also breaks down more into the science of IF, which in full transparency, I didn’t take the time to dive into until I discovered he had released this app into the app store. For example, IF is known for helping you prevent certain cancers, especially if you time your last meal around sunset and not eat during the evening/night.
I have much better sleep the earlier I eat the last meal of my day, as my body isn’t breaking down food and expending energy as I’m trying to sleep!
My lifting routine and what I’ve been doing to keep it in my schedule
My favorite thing that I’ve gotten into since the end of 2014, which I must thank Eddie Contento for introducing me to, is weightlifting. It’s addicting to me, and it is intoxicating to me, all at the same time.
My program is as follows:
15min of Cardio, Chest, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Back, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Triceps, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Biceps, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Shoulders, and 15min of Sauna
15min of Cardio, Legs, and 15min of Sauna
For the first two and a half years, my actual routine was simple when lifting. I was doing three sets of ten for every exercise. That’s it. I would track every workout, and when I could lift three sets of ten comfortable, I’d increase the weight. Rinse and repeat.
In the last year, I’ve changed my routine to challenge myself a bit more.
I do one set of twelve, followed by three sets of eight. The first set of twelve is incredible light weight to get into motion. The following three sets of eight are the most weight I can lift. Again, if I can do those three sets flawlessly, I know it is time to move up in weight.
I use these incredible red notebooks found on Amazon to track my workouts. I put my phone on airplane mode when at the gym to avoid distractions, and listen to Spotify.
My recent purchase of Apple’s Airpods has been lifesaving. My old headphones were ridiculously bulky and would always get in the way. I’d nine times out of time, yank it out of my ear at least for one workout. AirPods however, are the best of both worlds.
I’ll usually never take a day off from the gym unless I cannot physically fit it into my schedule or traveling.
I hired a Chief of Staff who runs my calendar now, and we’ve purposely placed lifting at the gym at a set time every day for a two-hour window (providing me thirty minutes for traveling to and from the office to lift, followed by an hour and a half workout).
Because of this routine, my body knows it’s about time to workout, no matter how awake, tired, frustrated or energic I might be at that time. Kind of like how your body know when it’s tired or hungry. Motivation turns to habits. Habits turn into routine. Routine turns into success. That’s been my motto to going at the same time, same place, every day.
I still do small amounts of cardio, 15min on a treadmill that is on a steep incline. I picked a gym that is within close distance of my apartment, so I’m able to walk there.
I also found a gym with a sauna.
Using my Fitbit, I monitor to get my heart rate as high up as I can and push myself for the 15min I am in the sauna.
I will use this time to either self-reflect or listen to an audiobook on Audible. Saunas have been a great way for me not only to burn calories, but also to ask myself deep questions, to learn, and to help reset my mood. I could be the most frustrated individual on the planet, but after a few minutes in the sauna, I’ve reset back to my default mode. It’s a lifesaver.
If it weren’t for my gym offering a sauna, I would have never discovered its benefits. The only time I ever break off my routine with the sauna or cardio is when traveling. Sometimes, I am forced only to use the weights, and for obvious reasons, most places do not include a sauna for you to use by default. That’s okay.
Eating in social situations does not mean eating poorly, as tempting as it might be
Eating in social situations been my biggest struggle in the over the last three years.
Let’s be real: most social interactions deal with food, drinks, or generally high caloric intakes.
It’s tough because if you take yourself out of this, there goes your social well-being. You can’t do that.
It’s also tough because you can plan ahead to eat healthily, but temptation can get the best of you once you’re out.
It’s even tougher when you’re in a serious relationship, as I have been for over a year now. You want to enjoy great meals with your significant other.
I still follow what I mentioned back in 2014 about planning meals out in advance to be healthy and making sure my workouts are extra intense when you’re sure you’ll be eating out for the night. However, this does not always work. Temptation sometimes breaks you.
That is okay; I’ve found it is normal to enjoy yourself now and then. It just needs to be in moderation
In the last six months, have I’ve gotten into the routine of what I like to call 1-2 cheat meals a week. Not enough to leave real damage, but enough to cure temptation and not make myself crack under pressure. I do not allow myself to indulge in something delicious for too long, I can go off the deep end, and binge eat everything imaginable. By giving myself enough leeway, but remaining consistently healthy and working out, I can allow myself an ounce more of wiggle room. This is something that when I wrote this blog post back in 2014, I truly did not grasp nor would have believed in. Some things can change!
Not practicing your moderation skills eventually encourages binge eating.
By giving myself enough leeway, but remaining consistently healthy and working out, I can allow myself an ounce more of wiggle room.
“Eat to live, not live to eat.”
Benjamin Franklin, my inspiration, and personal idol said it best. It’s a motto that I try to live by to this day.
My new goals as I move forward (in 2017)
My new focus is on adding lean muscle.
I plan to continue my focus of cardio, lifting and to the best of my ability, low carbs. The difference is that over the coming months, especially in preparation for my book release, I also need to cut back calories to begin cutting (trimming fat) again. My schedule has been getting tighter this year, especially with preparing for the publication of my first book. We’ll see how it goes.
The biggest takeaway that I can provide entrepreneurs with is this: take your health seriously.
Make it a part of your entrepreneurial habit. Put a lot of time into your fitness regimen, and your diet. Don’t get lazy and in return, become like I was once. Your productivity decreases, your mindset becomes more negative. You do not present yourself, nor your company in the best light possible.
Being fit has provided me not just with more productive advantages, but business opportunities. Between dressing a bit better and looking better, I know for a fact I’ve closed more work.
Don’t pressure yourself, but make a conscious effort.
Find a fitness habit that you love – you do not need to use my template, as I know weight loss is not one-size fits all.
You do not need to lift. You do not need to run. Find something you like doing and start from there.
Start with a brisk walk while taking phone calls. Hike at a local trail. Use stair masters and ellipticals. Crossfit. Whatever it is, find that out, and try to do it as much as you can.
Fit in your schedule. After that, just try to eat healthy as much as you can.
Remember, it’s not about crash diets.
You are creating a new lifestyle that is healthy for you in the long run. That’s how I’ve kept the weight off. Staying healthy is a pleasurable part of my life that I love doing.
I wish you all the best of luck – I will also answer any questions that you may have. Write your thoughts in the comments, send me a personal email, or better yet, ping me on Twitter!