I lost over 100 pounds with this simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet

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Jez Weight Loss Tshirt (Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

Weight Loss Graph 2022 Jez

Source: Jez Corden / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Jez Corden / Windows Central)

This will be a bit of a personal article, so if that's not your bag, feel free to skip over. However, I wanted to share some of my experiences, with the view it might help a few people out here and there. This is how I've lost 100-plus pounds with Microsoft Excel, and a bit of old-fashioned willpower.

I've struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I just didn't really have the "I feel full" mechanism that other people seem to have, basically eating until I hit a wall of nausea to know whether or not I wasn't hungry anymore. This is something I carried with me through my teens and my adult life, made all the more worse by getting a work-from-home job. Coupled with the pandemic, and disposable income to spend on daily junk food, my weight went all the way up to around 420 pounds (probably higher — it was only when I dropped to 415 pounds that I could find domestic weighing scales that would actually weigh me).

The pandemic has a lot of people re-evaluating their priorities. The data around the world suggests that obese people are more susceptible to getting seriously ill with COVID. Even beyond that, I'd been dealing with a mysterious stomach illness for the past couple of years that made me want to improve my health in general.

So, here's an overview of how I lost 100-plus pounds in around 10 months by simply using Microsoft Excel, and good old calorie counting.

My spreadsheet and weight loss methodology

Essentially, all I've done here is create a range of tables that allow me to input what I've eaten, and roughly how many calories per day, by tallying up all of the calories eaten throughout each day. I've done it on a weekly rolling basis, then created a weekly average at the end of each seven-day block.

I also have a line graph at the top where I log my weight every Saturday for the past year, which offers an overview of my progress as soon as I open up the spreadsheet. The first time I was able to weigh myself was when I'd already dropped to 415 pounds (and when the scales stopped returning an error message for being too heavy). In the beginning, losing weight was incredibly easy, but as you can see from the chart, it dropped down a bit over time as my body got more used to the new diet plan, and the (fairly minimal) exercise I was doing.

Excel has seen me steadily and gradually lose weight over the course of a year, to a point where I'm almost below 300 pounds for the first time in decades.

Since Christmas, I've stopped tracking my food intake so aggressively because I'm trying to build up habits without having to log everything down. Admittedly, for me, it has certainly been a bit more difficult to consistently lose weight without actively counting, so I may go back to counting again this week. Either way, actively counting and measuring helps you figure out where to create a deficit. I find that if I eat around 1,600 calories per day on a weekly rolling average, I will probably maintain my weight. If I want to lose weight, I need to create a deficit that goes below 1,600 calories, which accounts for my relatively sedentary work-from-home lifestyle. I could certainly do more exercise to increase the number of calories I can eat, sure, but this is what works for me, and has worked for me thus far.

I've tried all of the restriction diets like keto and just found that none of them really worked for me. This method allows me to account for "cheat days" like going out for a pizza and drinks with friends, because I can average out the extra calories by eating less the next few days, as I target around 1,200-1,500 daily average for the week. It also helps me target calorie-sparse foods that are filling but contribute fewer calories overall to the average, such as lettuce and salad with a low-calorie dressing for flavor. Simple tactics like switching from bread to low-calorie crackers, or swapping out cheese for tuna on pasta has also helped immensely. What may otherwise seem like small changes do add up, contributing to a big overall difference.

Excel has seen me steadily and gradually lose weight over the course of a year, to a point where I'm almost below 300 pounds for the first time in decades.

The psychology of direct involvement

Source: Jez Corden / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Jez Corden / Windows Central)

I've tried a lot of dieting apps like Noom, for example, which encourage you to build habits using psychology. Weirdly, none of these kinds of apps or services has ever worked for me. I think Microsoft Excel works for me because it feels like I created the project, and am fulfilling the project, using my own system and my own data. Excel even has a more granular diet plan template you can use, but it didn't give me the flexibility nor the weekly average tally I wanted to account for social events and cheat days.

There are no doubt technical methods I could use to improve my spreadsheet, like creating a database of food that will do calculations for me. I am most definitely an Excel novice, but I feel like my setup gives me a level of involvement that I feel some apps remove from the process. Calculating calories has been a bit harder in Germany, since their packaging often lists calories per 100 grams, forcing me to do annoying calculations and weigh food out. U.K. packaging more often lists calories per portion, which is far more friendly to this kind of method. Having to make those calculations somehow contributes to the sense of participation, though, in a way I'm not really sure how to explain, even to myself. There's something about building your own plan that existing apps and services don't really account for — at least for me, and my unique mentality around food.

Obviously, everybody will have something unique that works for them. Weight issues and overeating represent complex medical issues that governments and scientists around the world are fighting to understand. The intersection of social and genetic factors can make weight loss difficult to achieve for many, despite how debilitating it can be. I can't express how good it felt to be able to get on a plane without needing a belt extender for the first time in well over a decade. And sure, I still have quite a ways to go, but it's a great feeling to have made this progress. Simple things like getting up the stairs, or standing up in the shower are now pleasant tasks, rather than arduous missions.

If you're struggling with similar issues and would like to give my calorie-counting method a go — you can use my spreadsheet as a base with this blank version. If you don't have Microsoft 365, Excel and Office on the web are free to use via OneDrive.com.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I did not know this. how tall are you? This sounds srsly impressive, well done.
    I've struggled with overweight <__> obese issues most of adult life, not an issue as kid or in teens.
    also in midst of losing it all, again. About 2mths away from being back to bmi range.
  • 5"8', pretty short! congrats on your weight loss too!
  • Wow, okay, that's even more impressive then,
    to lose that much, when you're that overweight,
    a lot of folks don't realise, how exceedingly difficult that can be.
    Keep it going mate, I'm cheering for you!
  • keep up the great work! It's a life-long change for the better!
  • thanks for the kind words!!
  • Congrats man! Keep up the great work and be proud of how far you've come! 👏👏👏
  • thanks mate, still wanna lose round 75~ lbs or so!
  • You will, you are dedicated and hopefully you will be able to develop and maintain lasting food and life style habits. Did the mysterious stomach illness ease up with the changes you made to your diet and exercises you mentioned?
  • Congratulations! That's a great accomplishment.
    If you so desire, excel can look up food information (calories, macros, etc) https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/get-calorie-and-nutrition-fac.... I present that more for your excel knowledge than your dieting, as you have already done so well.
  • thank you mate, I'll check that out!
  • Good job Jez. If you or anyone else is interested in learning more about your personal health situation check out https://sciencewellness.net/our-philosophy. My personal Dr. referred me to him over 7 years ago. What's unique about him is he understands your system though blood tests. Note, there is a very good chance your insurance will not cover blood tests, but if you use a HSA like I do then you can use that. I've learned over the years trying to stay healthy that insurances are not concerned about me being healthy which is why I opened a HSA though my company.
  • Insurance is definitely concerned about your being healthy. That's why they cover vaccinations, regular checkups, and preventative therapies. If they didn't nudge you to take care of yourself, their benefit outlays would be higher in the future.
  • Do not believe a word what the insurance says. I've work for them before. They are not what you think. They work for the drug companies. If you are not sick then a Dr. is out of a job and there is not need for insurance.
  • I'm not "believing" what insurance companies "say." Insurance is a low-profit business and if they don't push people to be as healthy as they can as early as they can, they lose money.
  • "if they don't push people to be as healthy as they can as early as they can, they lose money". That statement there pretty much sums up exactly what I have been saying. If you are not sick they loose money. A healthy person is not going to need insurance. My initial comment was for each person to take their own heath into their hands because the insurance will not. They will push the treatment that gains them the most profit which is not always the best.
  • "As healthy as they can as early as they can" means encouraging preventative medicine, vaccines, and even exercise. In other words, they want you to be healthy.
  • I'm not sure you know how insurance works. A healthy person is paying the insurance company the same amount as a sick person and is why they can turn a profit. It's simple economics.
  • I'm not sure you know how insurance works. People pay into an insurance scheme because they may be sick in the future. It's about managing risk, not fleecing gullible healthy people. The healthy people who take out insurance (now required by law in the US and most if not all advanced countries) are the smart ones. The healthy people who don't get health insurance are either poorly informed or plain dumb.
  • Great job Jez. Awesome accomplishment! :-) Very encouraging article! Keep it up. I put on some extra poundage over the pandemic and haven't put forth enough effort to do anything about it. This pushes me a bit to do better. :-)
  • thanks Jason!! yeah i put on a ton of weight during the pandemic ahhaha. you can do it!
  • Congratulations on your accomplishment! I think that it's very inciteful of you to recognize that one of the reasons for your success is that you were in control of keeping score. We use this same concept when it comes to motivating our sales teams to achieve specific goals - they create the rules and the scoreboard and then fill out the scoreboard every day. As you go forward in your journey, you might decide to create a similar tracker for physical activities, like walking or standing. I have found that to be super helpful to me. Good luck and keep up the good work!
  • yeah ive thought about including an exercise thingy, i have an oura ring which tracks active calorie burn but it honestly doesn't seem to hve as much impact on losing weight as the calorie deficit. maybe cus it builds muscle too? complex lol. thanks for kind words mate
  • Well done my friend!
  • thanks for reading man, hope you're doing well!
  • This is really cool. Congrats! I am a strong believer in the use of Excel to track and graph things in order to keep tabs on trends and to strategize. It could be anything, weight loss being just one example. I like tracking our coffee data, specifically brewing notes related to particular products. If I come across a bag of coffee that's very similar to one I've had before, I can look up my old brewing notes instead of just guessing grind settings.
  • yeah excel is really useful for all sorts of random stuff. i need to learn how to get better with it.
  • Mynda Treacy on YouTube is full of good Excel tips, beginner and advanced. Check her out!
  • Congratulations. I know how hard it is first hand. In ‘98 I tipped the scales at 324. I only know this because I went for a physical. Today I am steady at ~175 and have been for 10 years. From a 56” jacket, 52” waist to 46” and 36”. A few things I did
    - weigh myself everyday just before the shower. This gave me a good reference. Don’t worry about a couple of pounds as water can do that.
    - drink the recommended amount of water or more every day.
    - There will likely be a setback or two. I got back to 230 in 09.
    - LEARN TO READ A NUTRITION LABEL - not all calories are created equal. Balance the carbs, fat and protein correctly.
    - Exercise at least a bit everyday. Try to build muscle mass you will burn more calories at rest.
    - Leave food on your plate. Make a conscious effort to do this.
    - Have a cheat day. This kept me sane. Even then watch portion size but the cheat helps to keep things like a piece of cake from becoming the forbidden fruit. There were times I knew several days in advance what I would eat on the cheat day.
    - DON’T GIVE UP. It took me 3 years to get to 175 the first time. One year to get it back after the setback.
  • great tips good sir. one thing i cuoldnt do was reduce carbs, made me feel sooo lethargic at 420 lbs, could barely stay awake on keto. i could prob do with getting more protein and veggies into my diet even now. kinda hovering around 308 lbs atm, need to turn it up a notch. thanks for sharing and for reading!
  • The one thing I learned a long time ago is not to call it a diet but to instead call it a lifestyle change. Most people think a diet is temporary which is why so many have set backs. Adjust your eating habits to the things you like then you will stick with it, and to learn what foods work best for you that tells your system when you are full. Also, food prep for the week that way you have your meals all ready for the week. Also, here's some info on protein. I learned as we age we loose muscle so protein is very important.
  • Have you tried substituting a portion of your main source of carbs with another source. For example, Let's say you need 200 grams of Pasta to avoid lethargy, you could reduce the pasta to lets say 150 grams and add Cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, bok choy) which have carbs in addition to fiber and other vitamins and minerals to make up the remaining grams?
  • Congratulations! Great work on the weight loss. It's really an important investment for your life. I hope you will keep going.
  • thank you!! that's my aim!
  • Congratulations Jez, I remember doing the exact same thing getting out of High School by doing exactly what you did in keeping track of calories. Of course 20 years later I have now gained it all back and need to do it again. Food in New Orleans tastes too good to stop eating though. 😜
  • ahah well ye did it once, ye can do it again!!
  • I'm so glad you were able to meet your goals. That's such an awesome feeling. :)
  • thank ye sir!
  • Thanks for sharing your story and the spreadsheet!!
  • no worries, do let me know if it works for you!
  • Fantastic work. Keep it up. Huge congratulations on this achievement.
  • cheers mate, the kind comments are super motivating!
  • F-ing way to go, dude!
  • Gawt dang dude. Great article. I don't know what's harder. The weight loss or opening yourself up on the internet. Regardless. Congrats and way to crush it.
  • Congrats man. At some point we all wake up as adults and realize our health is not some future concern, but a present and ongoing reality. I've lost almost 60 lbs this year too (after losing it several years ago and gaining it all back), with only light exercise as well. It's really tough to exercise with all that extra weight, plus it always made me hungrier. At some point I realized I needed to establish the habits of a healthy diet first and then get fit. So that's my next goal. Thanks for sharing your story. It's the type of thing people need to hear from regular Joes to hopefully let them know they can do it too, with the right mindset and determination.
  • Keep it going Jez! I'm on a similar journey and I'm excited to see others making progress in their journeys. For me I'm 25lbs down and still have much to go, but I'm gonna keep pushing. Congratulations to you!
  • Great and very personal article and great you lost so much weight. You made a good point, you created "your own project" and that is what helped me lose weight (110kg > 85 kg) using excel, to control my own diet plan (and cheat rules).
    Really try to do some exercise because that will help you better fight cheat days. You will get to a point, when you feel hungry, reducing more calories to compensate a cheat day. But if you do some exercise instead it can help. I startet by watching my favourite TV series ("24" at that time) or simply the daily news not sitting on the couch but using my exercise bike in front of the TV. Again, I used excel to build an exercise bike plan (time and intensity). So maybe this could be your next project.
  • Very recognizable article...
    I always struggled keeping my weight in balance, and after the lockdowns and no physical activity whatsoever 'clocked in' a extra 12 kilos.
    I was not as heavy as you are, but same height though.
    Started keto and workouts (again) in September and already lost 11 kilos at the end of December. Still have a couple of kilos to go, but feeling much, much better overall. I used MyFitnessPal as a basis for my total calories intake and macro's, and bought one of those 'smart scales'.
    Now, after 5 months of keto, I'm going to switch to a 6-2 schedule.
    So 6 weeks of keto, and 2 weeks of 'resetting' your metabolism and eating slightly above maintenance.
    There is some scientific evidence this will help your body burn extra fat, and keeping it easier to keep the lifestyle as you can slightly 'off menu' in those two weeks.
    As one said, don't think diet, but lifestyle choice. ;) But thanks for the article, and keep going! Also, keep us informed on your progress. :) Rob
  • Congratulations! As I looked at your spreadsheet, I thought about the ones that I have built and use to keep track of my daily medications (yea, that happens when you get older), as well as the ones that I built to keep track of my Blood Pressure, Weight, and Oxygen levels. the sheets use Conditional Formatting to let you know when your Blood Pressure and or weight either exceeds normal limits, or gains that you have set. I would like to offer these to people, but don't really know how one would go about that. Again Congratulations.