Andy Hawthorne

Andy Hawthorne

Projects, photos and running

13 May 2020

How to Lose Weight by Running Part 1

Reading time: 6 minute(s) - 1200 words

How to Lose Weight by Running Part 1

Running is hard. So it will help you to lose weight, of that there is no doubt. But it’s not as easy as you’d think…

It was the best sandwich I’d ever eaten. I was sat on a fold-out stool at the boot of my car. I was in the middle of a 24-hour ultra marathon in rural Worcestershire.

I’d been running/walking for hours and in the end, hunger demanded a pitstop.

I was careful not to eat more than I thought my stomach could cope with - I needed to be back on the trail soon.

The rain had eased and then stopped. Leaving the day grey and the ground muddy. I would end up running 70 miles.

Which was amazing considering how overweight I was at that time.

To me, running long distances was what I needed to focus on. And to do so, I figured it was ok for me to consume some serious calories. I needed them for energy, right?

I was a big unit. I knew that. So fast running was not an option. Long, slow distance all the way. That’s what big fellas are good at, right?


Big fellas should shed the excess timber. That way, running those long distances would be easier. And take less time.

In training for the 24 hour event, I ran a 20-miler every weekend for weeks. I say ran, more like shuffled and hobbled 20 miles.

There was a distinct lack of intensity. All I cared about was going the distance. So after each 20-miler, I’d fill up with a large full English breakfast.

And in so doing, I stood no chance of getting any fitter (or faster). Nor did I stand any chance of losing weight.

My mistake was thinking that running lots of miles would keep the timber off. The truth is simple: it doesn’t. Not on its own.

Since August 2019, I’ve lost 35 kg. I’ve done that by controlling calorie intake on a daily basis. And by running (with body-weight resistance exercises, too) 40+ miles a week.

I use an app called Lose It! That lets you record the food you eat and it’s calorific value against a daily budget.

The daily budget is set by you telling the app what target weight you want to get to. And how much you want to lose per week.

I should say: it won’t let you set dangerous weight loss targets. It has limits built in to make sure you lose weight in a safe way.

When I first started, I was appalled by how many calories my favourite food items were. In some cases, I stopped eating certain types of food.

I don’t do pizza or burgers — well, maybe once in a while. And it’ll be a vegetarian pizza, not the meat feast, filled crust monster a used to eat.

Likewise, if I do have a burger, it’ll be the best quality meat we can afford. And I’ll have it with salad and no dressings.

I don’t do full English breakfasts anymore. Which is hard because it’s my absolute favourite meal. Or it was.

I don’t eat ice cream or cake very often. And I only eat dark chocolate — a couple of pieces, not a whole bar.

These are the kind of changes that are necessary for you to hit your weight loss goals. You can’t continue to eat big meals and carb-loaded food.

I’ve lost about 10 inches from my waist. And I wear size medium shirts instead of XXL. So it’s all good. But there’s more…

The great thing is: I’m running faster now, than ever before.

So, the point here is this: running and losing weight do go together.

Any exercise and losing weight go together, but not automatically.

There are other things you have to do. There are other things you have to get right. Doing the exercise is great. And you will lose weight. But you won’t lose enough weight.

What’s enough weight? Enough to bring down your BMI to a healthy number. Enough to make a significant change in the way you look and feel.

The only way to do that is:

  1. Exercise - hard.
  2. Reduce your calorie intake — big time.

The honest truth is, dumping lots of timber takes a big effort. I was already doing a lot of running. But it made no difference. Did you read that? No difference.

I was still overweight and losing no more weight. In fact, I put some weight back on. More running didn’t fix it. Different kinds of exercise didn’t fix it.

The only thing that fixed it was to keep running and reduce my calorie intake.

Things to note:

Notice I didn’t say change what you eat. I mean, unless you live on doughnuts and burgers, what you eat isn’t the biggest fix.

You will need to change what you eat. But the first task is to cut back on the calories intake. Trust me, that’s hard enough.

Regarding calories, let’s look at some numbers:

An adult male can consume 2500 calories per day to maintain weight. As a general guide, consuming 2000 per day should be enough to lose a pound a week. For women, it’s 2000 and 1500 respectively.

My current target intake per day is 1500 calories. And I’m still trying to lose another kilo. Oh, and to confirm, I’m an adult male aged 55 years old.

Does 1500 a day sound low? Perhaps. But it’s what’s needed to dump a kilo a week. I’ve been dropping my daily target since August of last year and it’s worked.

Because for the plan to work, a pound a week will not be quick enough. You’ll die of old age before you feel like you’ve lost a lot of weight.

For a big chunk of time, I’d burn more calories than I consumed. So the daily balance would be a minus figure. It was hard, but by always burning more than I consumed, the weight loss began and continued.

Now, it’s hard for me to even shed a pound. That’s because I’m close to my optimum weight. The point where I won’t be able to lose any more weight.

Last week, I ended up being 7,331 calories under budget for the whole week. I lost about a pound. I’m down to very small margins.

But over the months I’ve been doing this, I was losing a kilo or more (sometimes) a week. It does make a difference.

Running to lose weight works. I’m living proof. But you can’t so it with running on its own. You have to get those calories under control, too.

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