By Tom Conrad, as told to Allison Goldstein
My name is Tom Conrad, and I am 52 years old. I split my time between New York City and Sonoma, CA, and I am Big Sky Health’s new CEO.
Heaviest Weight: 229 lbs
Current Weight: 171 lbs
As far back as elementary school, I was conscious of my weight. My family talked about weight a lot, and it was always sort of this thing hanging over me that I weighed a little more than I wanted to.
My pattern through the years was: Some chapter of my life would push me five or ten pounds over what I felt was already overweight, and I’d think, “I’ve got to do something about this.” After a number of tries I would eventually summon enough willpower to lose a bunch of weight, but ultimately I’d lose traction. As a result, my weight has fluctuated pretty significantly over time, with the general trend line creeping upwards.
In my 20s and 30s, when I lost weight, it was all about caloric restriction and less fat. I was allowed to eat as many pretzels and nonfat yogurt as I wanted, but when I managed to stick to this, while I’d lose the weight, I would be starving all the time. It was miserable and unsustainable.
Then about a decade ago I discovered low-carb diets. The big unlock here for me was that I could lose weight without feeling hungry. However, without the added ingredient of intermittent fasting, I found extremely low-carb diets hard to sustain over time. I could give up carbs for a few months, but eventually they would sneak back in, and pretty quickly I would end up back where I was before or worse.
Then COVID arrived. What happened for me probably happened for lots of people: I wasn’t getting much exercise. I was eating really poorly, almost as a distraction from what was going on in the world. Plus, it was so hard to separate the professional and the personal that I adopted a bad habit: After my Zoom calls were finished, at six o’clock I’d have a drink or two, almost as the psychic equivalent of the drive home from the office. I used those drinks to signify, even just to myself, that I was no longer “at work.”
In the meantime, my weight was going up and up.
Finally, eight months into the pandemic, I not only began to dislike how I looked, but I also started to feel unwell. All the other times in my life when I’d made a decision to lose weight, it mostly related to vanity and not really any sense that I was doing myself harm. This was different. I was the heaviest I’d ever been, at 229 lbs, and I felt awful.
Fortunately this was one of those moments where instead of just mentally beating myself up about it, I was able to successfully make changes. And one of the most important changes came from using Zero.
I started using Zero on December 1, 2020. A trainer I’d worked with was an advocate of intermittent fasting, so before Zero I’d done some casual fasting, which essentially amounted to skipping breakfast (sometimes), but I was still snacking late at night. With Zero I stuck to a 16:8 fast every day, which for me really just meant finishing eating between 7 and 8 p.m. and then starting to eat again the next day between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.
At the same time I went full keto and cut out alcohol for a couple of months. For my metabolism this was a nice way to kickstart the process: I could see gains really quickly and feel like I was doing something effective, all without getting hungry. I also started walking four miles a day, and in those first 90 days, I lost about 40 lbs.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:
Lunch: Something low-carb and straightforward like a salad, or an almond butter smoothie, or some eggs with cheese and avocado
Dinner: Fish, chicken, or steak with some vegetables. We also love to make “rice bowls” with cauliflower rice, a protein, and toppings like peanuts, sriracha mayo, chili crunch, and sesame seeds
Snacks: full-fat Greek yogurt, homemade “keto” granola, nuts
Now that I’m maintaining my weight, I’ll drink a little bit on weekends and eat carbohydrates occasionally. I still won’t choose pasta as my entree, but I’ll eat cheese and crackers or potato chips at a barbeque. I still work out the same amount, and I stick to my go-to 16:8 fast on Zero.
These three changes contributed the most to my weight loss success:
- Fasting through my “bad choice” meal.
I love carbohydrate-rich breakfasts: waffles, bagels, bowls of cereal, donuts. (I am truly an addict when it comes to donuts.) My most catastrophic carbohydrate decisions always happened at breakfast, so by not eating breakfast, I eliminate a whole category of bad choices.
- Treating lunch as “fuel” rather than “fun.”
During COVID, I was using lunchtime as a break and also as a reward. I’d cook myself grilled cheese, hot dogs—all sorts of comfort foods. Now, I try not to make lunch an indulgence; I treat the meal simply as something to keep me going.
- Exercising regularly.
I’m not crazily athletic; I just stick to a moderate amount of exercise—four or five miles of walking—and do it every day. Combined with the other fasting and food choices, for me that’s what it takes.
Routine is such a helpful tool, and Zero has helped me stick with what works for me. I’m excited for the day the app can observe my patterns and guide me through experimenting with some other, longer fasts. But for now I’m having success maintaining my weight, and I’m really pleased with that.