Weight Loss Tips

How I Lost 26kg over 15 Months

Deborah KayBy Deborah KayJanuary 3, 202014 Minutes

Over the last 15 months, I lost 26kg and went from 81kg to 55kg with 21% body fat. (Eventually to 52.5kg with 16% body fat – see photos)

When I look at what I did over the year, there are several tactics that I employed that I think worked to help me lose the weight.

All these tactics distill down to two factors:

1. Calorie deficit
2. Consistency

So whatever works for you, just remember, you need to create a calorie deficit, and you need to be consistent.

Here is what I did!

  1. Ketogenic Diet + Intermittent Fasting
  2. 15,000 Steps a Day
  3. Daily Fasted Zone 2 Exercise
  4. Strength Training and High Intensity Cardio
  5. Fastidious Tracking
  6. 1,000 Caloric Deficit per Day
  7. Cheat Days did not Work for Me
  8. Two Glasses of Red Wine
  9. No Social Life
  10. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency


1. Ketogenic Diet + Intermittent Fasting 

I kept to a strict ketogenic diet (healthy keto: avocado, salmon, cod, fish roe, nuts, olive oil, and lots of vegetables), measuring my level of ketosis with my Biosense device. I also did 16:8 intermittent fasting for most days.

Part of my problem is that I felt hungry ALL THE TIME – possibly due to leptin resistance or reactive hypoglyciemia stimulating ghrelin release. A year later, when I wore a CGM, I discovered that my blood sugar tends to overcorrect after a spike, dropping to very low levels. This would cause my body to release ghrelin to tell me to eat more to counter the hypoglycemia (see my post on Wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor to learn more).

The ketogenic diet was the only diet that helped to regulate my hunger hormones (leptin and ghrelin) such that I didn’t feel like I was starving all the time.

Healthy keto means no butter, no cream, no bacon, no excessive amounts of saturated animal fat. I was also eating more vegetables than typical keto diets recommend, but was still able to remain in ketosis. It was more like a healthy mediterranean diet with zero non-vegetable carbs.

To regulate the hunger, I would also 2 tablespoons of drink apple cider vinegar in sparkling water whenever I felt hungry. ACV isn’t a magic potion that magically dissolves fat or helps you to lose weight but it worked very well in getting rid of the hunger pangs, which would stop me from snacking.

For most of 2019, this allowed me to consume about 1,000-1,200 calories a day, which worked out to about 1,000 calorie deficit a day. This is quite low, especially for my activity level but I’m quite small (156cm).

The ketogenic diet also reduced the amount of water weight fluctuations that come with eat a varying amount of carbs every day. The smaller fluctuations in weight made it easier to stay motivated.

As I am not on a ketogenic diet any more, my weight fluctuates between 1-2kg every week depending on how much carbs I ingest. This can be quite demoralising if you are trying to lose a large amount of weight.


2. 15,000 Steps a Day

I started walking more in December 2018 when we moved next to the Botanic Gardens and increased my daily steps target from 10,000 steps to 15,000 steps a day.

Walking from the Tanglin Gate to the Bukit Timah Gate would be about 4.5km and would take 60 minutes. This would work out to ~8,000 steps and would burn 200-250 calories.

In order to make up the rest of the steps, I started taking the bus everywhere. On most days I would be able to hit 15,000 steps. Occasionally it would go as high as 20,000.

In 2019, my average steps worked out to be about 13,000. I’ve been able to maintain this over the last three years with 14,000 steps in 2020, 13,000 steps in 2021 and 12,000 in 2020!


3. Daily Fasted Zone 2 Exercise

Every day, I would do low impact, Zone 2 exercise in the mornings before my first meal. This would comprise of either a 60 minute walk in the Botanic Gardens or a 120-180 minute Ashtanga Yoga session.

While studies on fasted exercise show that it does not help you lose more weight, other studies show that fasted exercise does improve fat metabolism (which is something that gets impaired with age).

How does that work? If you do fed exercise, your body metabolises the glucose in your blood or the glycogen in your muscles for energy. When you exercise fasted, your muscles are depleted of glycogen hence your body has to metabolise fat for energy. When you eat after your exercise, the food may turn back into stored glycogen or fat – hence no more weight loss than fed exercise.

However, I do believe that improved fat metabolism is better for long term metabolic health and will help you to burn more fat over the long term.

(See my post on Zone 2 Training for more on Fasted Exercise.)


4. Strength Training & High Intensity Cardio

On top of my daily Zone 2 exercise and 15,000 steps, I would lift weights twice a week with my personal trainer Benny to build up muscle mass.

I would also do two high intensity cardio sessions each week (at Crucycle or Crubox).


5. Fastidious Tracking

I tracked my weight with a MiFit smart scale from Xiao Mi. Each morning, I would step on the scale which would send my weight (and other readings) to My Health Kit and sync it with a bunch of apps (My Fitness Pal, Happy Scale, Polar)

I tracked my activity, workouts and caloric expenditure with my Polar A370.

I tracked my sleep with my Polar A370 and my Oura Ring.

I tracked my diet and caloric intake with My Fitness Pal.

I also tracked other metrics on a massive spreadsheet (activity, weight, meals in, meals out, poop, energy levels, water intake, caloric input, caloric output, Oura Ring sleep score, Polar sleep score, sauna, pain, predicted weight loss, actual weight loss).

I am a firm believer in “if you treasure it, measure it”. Tracking helps to monitor my progress and keeps me motivated. It also helps me make better, data-driven decisions. For example, I know if I fail to lose weight whether it is because I expended less or took in more calories.


6. 1,000 Caloric Deficit per Day

With my level of activity, I would burn about 2,000 calories a day (according to my Polar). I would try to consume 1,000 of calories a day, creating a 1,000 calorie deficit.

Based on the calculation that one pound of weight comprises of 3,500 calories, this, in theory, would allow me to lose ~1kg a week or 4kg a month. I ended up losing closer to  1.5-2.5kg a month, which implied that my Polar A370 would overestimate my calorie expenditure, and I likely under-tracked my caloric intake.

In reality, I probably ran at a 600 kcal deficit a day. But for me, the sweet spot would be to aim for a tracked 2,000 caloric output and 1,000 caloric input.

It is important to generate a big enough calorie deficit to shock your body into burning fat for weight loss. If I ran at a 300-400 calorie deficit, I would not lose any weight (likely because of metabolic adaptation, where your body just expends less energy to compensate for your reduced caloric intake.) I needed a large enough calorie deficit to push my body into fat burning and weight loss mode.

It does get harder.

As I lost weight, my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) decreased. I also began reverse dieting so as not to get stuck in with chronically low metabolic rate.  By November / December 2019, I was expending ~1,900 kcal and consuming ~1,300-1,500 kcal calories a day, and my weight loss stalled.


7. Cheat Days did not Work for Me

I struggled with cheat days. If I ate carbs indiscriminately, I would gain weight the next day and feel demotivated. I would also start craving the carbs I ate, whether it was cooked rolled oats, bread, brownies, ice cream, pasta, rice.

It became harder to maintain my discipline once I gave in to these cravings, especially with cookies, brownies and other sweet desserts.

I would allow myself a small amount of carbs on weekends, but not enough to throw me out of ketosis.

To treat myself, I would have a very small piece of sugarless dark chocolate with almonds each night (50 kcal).


8. Two Glasses of Red Wine

I would also drink alcohol. Two glasses of red wine would not throw me out of ketosis. I would try to limit this to 3-4 times of week, and it became was essential to keeping me sane.


9. No Social Life

In order to maintain my caloric input at 1,000 kcal a day, I pretty much gave up my social life. It is impossible to eat out and keep to 1K kcal a day. I also eliminated my binge drinking sessions with dear friends.

If you want to lose weight, you have got to make some sacrifices. This is one of them.


10. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

The most important factor was that I was able to maintain all of the above 9 points for over 15 months. There would be days where I ate more or exercised less but in general, I was able to maintain this for the full period.

Consistency in diet and consistency in exercise is the name of the game, if you want to lose weight and to keep the weight off.


There were other factors: making sure my gut microbiome was in good shape (with lots of preserved foods), drinking 2-3L of water a day, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night, but the above 10 tips are what I believe to be the most important reasons for my success.


2022 Note: As at July 2022, I have still been able to maintain the weight loss. Between 2020-2022 my weight has fluctuated between 52-57kg, averaging around 54-55kg. I now eat carbs, consume about 1,500-2,000 kcal a day and have a social life but am still able to maintain my weight while adhering to all the other tips (walking, exercising, etc).