How Russell Lost 80 Pounds Using an Online Calculator

By Jim F


Russell was aged 34 and weighed 268 pounds when he decided enough was enough. Over a year later (and sitting at 163 pounds) he shared his story with us and showed that you can change, and often without spending any money on fancy programs or diets.

So how did it happen?

What was the turning point?

After years of indulging in fast food, candy, donuts, candy — and beer and wine — Russell’s body showed the results. “I started taking medication to deal with the arthritis I was getting… The final straw came when it became apparent that I couldn’t even fully participate with my kids anymore. I didn’t have the energy. ”

Russell faced up to his situation and stopped making excuses – “I basically took a step back and said, ‘I got myself in this position… I’ll get myself out of it.'”

How did your diet change?

The first thing Russell did was research, and his main issue was determining how many calories his body really needed. Russell says he used the calorie calculators at to find a basepoint. He then plugged the results into a spreadsheet and aimed for a 9000 Calorie per week diet. “However, twice a week I would reward myself by having an additional 300 calories.”

I decided that I would only weigh myself one time a week… the same day at the exact same time. I choose Sunday mornings.

Facing up
Before beginning change, Russell spent a week noting down everything he ate. What he found was shocking – “I was consuming essentially all of my calories from sugar and fat. Even more disconcerting was the fact that more than half of those calories were coming from liquids.”

Could you really endure sudden restricted calories?

Russell went from 4000 Calories per day to 1200 — and it wasn’t good. It was horrible! I was miserable. I was starving. I was a completely cranky jackass.” Knowing that he couldn’t go on like this Russell (cleverly) researched out all the low-calorie foods that he could eat a LOT of over the course of day. This naturally lead to more whole foods and less added sugar. After this, the results started coming.

What about exercise?

“I DID NOT EXERCISE AT ALL for the first month” says Russell. At month two he added 2000 steps per day. He admits he took things very slowly so as not to stress his body any more. He did this for 6 days a week – walking briskly. Later on he would start “working out” with his wife on a Nintendo Wii. This amounted to “silly exercises for about 30 minutes three of four times a week.”

Is that it?

“That’s it. No special secret. I lost weight by accepting the challenge to change my lifestyle. In the process I learned how to shop, how cook, how to eat, and how to teach my children good healthy habits. I haven’t even become a crazy person. I still go out to restaurants. I still goof up. I still drink some beer. ”

Russell is coming up on 2 years since the beginning.

Well done!

Note: Russell declined to show before/after photos to protect his anonymity.


  1. Albert123

    Firstly, I want to congratulate Russell for fulfilling the fitness goals. I loved the fact that he chose the healthiest way to lose weight and did not resort to any fad diets. He made smart choices as far as cutting calories are concerned and managed to stick to a healthy diet. Eating more of fruits and veggies and less of junks, along with physical exercise is the best way to drop the pounds.

  2. Susan

    Okay Dan…you make a good point. I guess what I meant is that when I am not really controlling my calorie intake at all but still exercising (which happens when I get off track) my weight trends upward. But when combined with proper nutrition exercise is very helpful and an integral part of my healthy lifestyle.

  3. Dan

    I don’t know what you meant that exercise was not effective for weight loss. My experience is that it is not so effective if I am eating voraciously, and at fast food restaurants daily. It greatly aids weight loss as long as I eat moderately and mostly healthfully, but not too sparingly or too lavishly. The exercise also has to be very consistent, intense and of a long duration. I also did not find diet alone or mostly that effective either. Diet alone became a lot less effective as my metabolism decreased as I got older. I found the number of pounds I could lose this way was limited. Diet alone for a great number of people necessitates severe caloric restriction as well. I would guess both exercise alone on a crappy, ultra high calorie diet and diet alone without much exercise at all are not very effective for a great number of people.

  4. Susan

    Wow, I agree with almost everything Dan says here! I had been planning on congratulating Russell, but also asking whether he had increased his daily calorie intake. Maybe eating about 1,200 calories per day and not exercising feels okay, I wouldn’t know. I cannot handle 1,200 calories per day – I’d be so hungry and miserable. I eat anywhere from 1,700-2,700 calories per day and exercise daily and feel wonderful, and I’m currently losing about a pound per week. Exercise has benefits beyond weight loss – in fact, I don’t really think exercise is effective for weight loss at all, but I would never give it up because it makes me feel strong, energetic, agile, balanced, and accomplished!

  5. Jim F.

    Yes this surprised me too, but even Russell commented at how hard it was and how it made him irritable. He ended up varying it. Some days 1300, other days 1600 etc.

  6. Dan

    Hi John,

    I read your last posting too quickly and you do agree that going under 1500 at least for a man is a bit extreme- that was my basic contention. Russell did go under this at 1200.

  7. Dan

    I think it said 1200. I have been told by some that it is not advisable to go below 1500 calories a day for a man, perhaps 1200 for a woman. I lost a lot of weight virtually never going below 2000 for the day.

  8. John W. Zimmer

    Hi Dan,

    I did think less than 1500 calories is a bit extreme. For me I am 53 and shoot for 1500 to 1800 calories and with a baseline metabolism reportabley of about 2100 calories – that should allow a pound a week to come off.

    I also shoot for an hour of exercise of some kind a day. Mostly walking, biking or kick boxing bag work and my problem is trying to avoid injuries because every injury slows down my weight loss plan.

    I sure know about a slowing metabolism. So there are naysayers saying exercise is not part of an ideal fitness/weight loss plan? If their are – I don’t listen to them.

  9. Dan

    My point is that there is nothing wrong with Russell’s method for himself, but rather that the severe calorie restriction without exercise method does not work for everyone. I tried this method for years and it did not get me very far. I am now 50 and part of the issue is that persons lose muscle mass as they get older. This slows down a person’s metabolic rate. No amount of calorie restriction without exercise resolves this and in many cases, if carried to the extreme and without exercise, accelerates the loss of muscle mass. I believe both resistance and cardio can raise a person’s metabolic rate. I do more cardio than strength, but I still use dumbells and do pushups. I also eat a very high fiber diet which cleans me out and keeps me from experiencing excessive hunger from the exercise. Healthy eating is very important, but regular exercise spares a person from having to severely restrict their calories, even in the weight loss phase. Contrary to many naysayers, exercise enabled me to get down to the lowest weight I have been in thirty years.

  10. John W. Zimmer

    I guess I don’t have a beef with what way Russell chose to take it off. A calorie deficit is what matters, now if one chooses to do it mostly with dieting over exercise – that does have a lot of health benefits because of the lower BMI.

    I fully agree that exercise is optimal for cardio vascular benefits and such.

  11. Dan

    I may have stated in a previous post that I count calories. I did not mean that I practice calorie restriction as such, but rather calorie balancing- certainly not eating as few calories as possible, but rather eating the right number. Counting calories also keeps from me not eating enough food as well. It is taking the golden mean between stuffing and starving myself. Today, I ate a lot of food at a restaurant and therefore I exercised by bicycling over 16 miles to this restaurant and 16 miles back home. Most days I bicycle about 19 miles altogether. Possibly you take an intuitive approach to eating- if this means you don’t practice severe calorie restriction- then I was certainly with you on that. To me, as I said, calorie counting just makes sure I am eating the right amount, and with all the exercise I do, the right amount is pretty comfortably high- and that is one reason I love exercise.

  12. John is losing weight

    And I agree on that with you. I went even further: except very beginning I am not counting calories at all.

  13. Dan

    I guess my point is not that *he* should have done it differently. It is partly if *someone else* wants to lose weight, they have an alternative to drastically cutting their calories. If a person finds a form of exercise they enjoy, it can be sustained a lot longer and they can still lose fat and gain muscle without eating so little, or so strictly (eating only raw fruits and vegetables with few starches or fats). It is unnatural for me and many others to eat so few calories. Of course, some people lose weight this way and seem to enjoy it. There is also a danger in lowering the body’s metabolic rate in eating so few calories. Exercise, if done in sufficient amounts, tends to raise a persons metabolic rate slowly over time. I swear that is what I have achieved. I seem to be able to eat more calories than I did when I was really heavy and not gain an ounce. I emphasize greatly increased expenditure of calories along with the improvement of the nutrient density of the calories I eat, rather than strict calorie reduction.

  14. Tiana

    Good for you keep it up.and God Bless you from Tiana

  15. Dan

    Exercising on an indoor machine can be boring. However, outdoor exercise like bicycling and perhaps hiking can be a lot funner. I like outdoor bicyling a lot more than riding my stationary bike. Perhaps John Cloud’s problem with exercise was that he didn’t enjoy indoor gym exercise machines. I think you, too, Spectra, can consume more calories than that same calculator says you can at even highest activity level.

  16. John is losing weight

    I do not agree. If he does not like to exercise (it looks like that’s the case) he would probably stop doing that right now and would put himself in worse position. Now he faces the worse part of the process: he has to keep it.

  17. Spectra

    I tend to agree with you about the exercise, Dan, but some people really hate exercise, especially when they first start losing weight. I think he probably could have lost weight faster and by eating more if he’d done more exercise, but then you run the risk of burnout.

  18. John is losing weight

    Right :-))) Too much work today! 😉

  19. Tiana

    I cut back on my cakes and pies from Tiana

  20. Dan

    I have heard so many arguments against exercise for weight loss, but I think this case is one for exercise. I commend Russell for losing his weight. However, I lost weight on about twice the number of calories, because I exercised everyday at least an hour, and I did something that was more strenuous than brisk walking. I bicycled to work everyday, and bicycled everywhere I went on my off days as well. I haven’t gained back an ounce, mainly because I have continued to bicycle, as well as paying close attention to the quality of my diet- keeping it high in fiber and nutrients. It sounds like Russell did not exercise nearly as much as I have been doing and that is why he could only consume 1200 calories a day- when I lost my 90 pounds starting two years ago, when I was bicycling everyday, I lost weight rather quickly on 2000 calories a day, and even lost weight eating close to 3000. Of course, if Russell is shorter than me, then that would make a difference. Generally women cannot eat as much as I could and still lose weight, even if they exercise just as much. I do think, however, that being a man, he probably could have lost weight consuming more calories if he was exercising a lot more. The argument against exercise is that it does not enable a person to eat *all* they want, but many cannot eat very much at all in order to lose weight without exercising. I am all for improving the nutrient density and quality of our diet, but cutting calories so much makes healthy eating more difficult. It is hard to consume many healthy nuts on 1200 calories a day. It is hard to fit healthy resistant starches on that calorie level, either. By the way, I went on the same online calculator that he used and it calculated the number of calories I could eat to maintain my weight of 160 at 6 foot at 3075 and that was at the very highest activity level. I DO recommend monitoring what we eat, and I do it, and I usually can eat between 3200 and 3500 calories to maintain my weight. Even at a higher calorie level, it is important to eat all the healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. But good work, Russell.

  21. Spectra

    Way to go Russell! I lost weight in much the same way–I utilized the basics of the WW program and made it my own using a lot of online calculators (I used I also recommend tracking what you eat BEFORE you diet so you are aware of how much you’re eating. I was flabbergasted when I found out I was eating a good 4000-4500 calories a day and yet never felt very satisfied. Eating veggies and fruits and lean proteins kept me full for fewer calories and I felt so much better too.

  22. Jim F.

    AS in the title, he lost 80 pounds, and has managed to keep it off. What’s impressive after interviewing Russell is the amount of motivation he managed to throw at this thing once he made the decision that it was time to change. A big user of spreadsheets — he really kept focused.

    ~Jim (Diet Blog)

    • Kevin

      I have taken a similar approach by using the iPhone App “Get Fit Club”. It has the calorie calculator, huge food/exercise data base, and great progress charts. I totally agree that tracking your calorie intake and calories burned is a great approach to losing weight. It is also an awesome motivator.

  23. John

    He lost weight, according to the title 80lbs.

  24. John is losing weight

    And he lost…?