How To Lose Weight While in an All-Week Meeting (Alternate Title: You Too Can Simultaneously Lose Weight and Become Intensely Annoying)

03.27.2013 | 12:50 pm

A Note from Fatty: You all know The Noodle, right? Well she’s on the Specialized home page:


There’s also a cool story to go along with this photo. Read it here.

Congrats, Noodle!

“If I could have one wish in the world,” my daughter said last weekend, “It would be that you would make hamburgers on the grill like you used to.”

The Hammer replied, “And if I had a wish, it would be that we could go to an Italian restaurant.”

Such easy wishes to grant. Except they aren’t. Not when you’re currently obsessing at heretofore unheard-of levels in order to get your weight down from 183 to 158 pounds, in three months.

But my family had it easy, really. After all, while I haven’t  taken The Hammer out to a nice restaurant lately, I did fire up the grill and make burgers for the family — I even ate one myself (but without a bun).

Where I’ve really had to be outrageously obsessed is when I’m at work, where I am routinely sequestered in a conference room for eight solid hours at a time, four days in a row. 

And since this has happened thrice in the past quarter — all while I’ve been trying to drop this weight — I’ve learned a few lessons.

Which I shall now share with you.

Wherein I Make Many Mistakes and Learn Important Things

Just a couple weeks into my diet, I had my first weeklong meeting of the quarter. And these meetings really do go all day, in one conference room, for four straight days. These meetings are intense. They are packed with work that needs doing — to the extent that lunch is usually brought in.

They require a lot of thinking, and a lot of listening, and a lot of expressing of oneself.

They are quite often somewhat confrontational, which adds a moderator job to the person who leads these weeklong meetings (i.e., me).

But I figured I was up to the job. I’d order light off the menu, and would skip desserts. I would stay away from the snacks I had strategically placed all over the table for people to munch on at will.

I would, in short, be good.

And then, in the space of four days, I gained three pounds.

How did this happen? I rationalized.

Toward the end of the first day, as the conversation grew heated, I thought to myself, “I think I’ll just have one handful of the chocolate-covered raisins.”

Which I did.

Which I then followed with another handful. And then I went to the cashews, until they were gone, after which I went to the M&Ms. And in short, I was the very picture of a train wreck.

I made a resolution to be better the next day. But in fact I was worse. My willpower cracked before we even got to lunchtime, and by early afternoon I was eating with a vengeance.

It is not clear at whom this vengeance was aimed.

As I got on the scale the day after this weeklong meeting, I realized that I needed to do things differently the next time I had a meeting like this. So I came up with the following:

  • I cannot be trusted: My overarching insight was that when I am hungry and stressed and there is food around, I cannot be trusted to make a good food-related judgment call. I just can’t. I will break down and start eating with abandon.
  • All decisions must be made early: If I can’t be trusted to make good food decisions when I’m hungry and stressed, I have to make all my food choices ahead of time. 
  • There can be no exceptions: The decisions I make are not subject to revision or adjustment or tweaking or anything else. They are absolute.

Next Attempt

Working from these, I came up with a plan. I would purchase a stock of protein bars and protein shakes, and bring them with me to the meetings. I would have a certain allotment of these per day, and they would be all I would eat. No chips, no cookies, no pizza.

And it worked. I dropped from 163.6 to 160.8 during those four days. 

However, I was working from home during this meeting. The real challenge would come at the weeklong meeting while I was traveling.

Level of Difficulty: 5

Since I would be out of town for this final meeting, I needed to get my stash of protein bars and drinks to the hotel ahead of time. So I just had them shipped there, to my attention. Easy.

The hard part was explaining to my co-workers, “Hey, I won’t be eating any meals  with you guys. At all. It’s not that I’m anti-social, it’s that I am doing my best to get my weight down, and I know that once I’m in a restaurant, I’m not going to order the smart thing.”

“Also,” I continued, “I’m not going to be eating any of the snacks laying around. And if you see me look like I’m about to, I’d appreciate it if you’d smack me upside the head.”

To my surprise, everybody was very cool about it. Thinking back now, there’s no reason anyone wouldn’t be cool about it, but still. 

So with my intentions and plan made public, I had turned the tables on this scenario. Instead of it being difficult to stay on my diet for a week while locked in a conference room, I had made it so it would have been difficult to not stay on my diet.

Except the one time everyone else took off for dinner and I stayed in the conference room, working late. During which I ate half a bag of chocolate-covered pecans.

Still, when I got back from my Sunday – Friday trip, I had dropped a full two pounds. Yes, that’s right. I had lost weight while traveling.



  1. Comment by randy | 03.27.2013 | 1:25 pm

    -All decisions must be made early: If I can’t be trusted to make good food decisions when I’m hungry and stressed, I have to make all my food choices ahead of time.

    This is the single biggest factor for me. I must decide in the morning to make a healthy lunch and have healthy snacks with me. If I don’t, then its pasta for lunch and donuts for snacks.

    To back it up, I have to make an effort to go shopping to make sure I have all the right stuff on hand. Often, I just don’t feel like shopping, even though I need fresh groceries. Got to do it though.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Comment by EdwinH | 03.27.2013 | 1:31 pm

    Did I miss the “Intensely Annoying” part? Your co-workers handled it well. Maybe a Hammer guest post can shed some light on how intensely annoying you’ve been at home over the past three months…

    But congrats on shedding 25+ pounds!

  3. Comment by Brian in VA | 03.27.2013 | 1:51 pm

    Well done, Elden! I know how hard it is to remain strong in the face of yumminess.

  4. Comment by TK | 03.27.2013 | 1:55 pm

    Losing weight while traveling for work is most impressive. An expense account and a good sushi or Thai place is too strong of a combo for my willpower to resist.

  5. Comment by EL | 03.27.2013 | 2:11 pm

    The trick to maintaining your weight loss goals while traveling for work is preparation. You took a step in the right direction by shipping the protein bars and shakes out first, so they would be there, ready. The next step is to only use those items as supplements, and get your nutrition from whole foods next. Every restaurant has vegetables and chicken. Order the plainest, highest protein and fibrous carb source you can with no sauces, little added salt and pepper, and you’ll be well on your way to losing more poundage and being healthier.

  6. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.27.2013 | 2:15 pm

    I appreciate that you use the word sequester properly, even when under the stress of weight loss during meeting stress, as opposed to the politicians, who seem to have little idea of the meaning of the word.

    High fives for losing the weight and still got the half bag of chocolate covered nuts eaten!

  7. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 03.27.2013 | 2:18 pm

    Just a quick ‘Shout Out’ for The Noodle. For those that do not know her search Fatty’s site for her 100 miles of Nowhere report, 2009 edition(?). From there to her ride across America, and her posts about Levi’s Grand Fondo (I remember the word ’suckage’ a lot’), she’s been a great addition to the field of Fatty Correspondents. On strava you’ll find she just knocked off a double century on the west coast in about 12 hours. She is definitely specialized!!!!

    Now let’s see what Fatty’s talk’n ’bout today.

  8. Comment by Frank | 03.27.2013 | 2:21 pm

    I’d like to know how many miles you rode in the past 3 months. I’d bet that distraction from food helped along with the extra calories burned. Congrats on meeting your goal (and with days to spare).

  9. Comment by Wife#1 | 03.27.2013 | 4:30 pm

    I am going to share today’s post with my weight loss group. They are not into cycling but you have covered the critical aspect of planning ahead to a T mister. Bravo!

    Other than the pecans of course. But I suppose the tale needed a salty/sweet ending. LOL.

  10. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 03.27.2013 | 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the Specialized link Fatty….that’s VERY cool Noodle!! You’re certainly an inspiration (I vividly recall your last years 100MoN…never seen anything like that…determined doesn’t even BEGIN to describe you). Are you going to come to Davis this year by any chance?

  11. Comment by asdf | 03.28.2013 | 1:13 am

    are you sure noone thought you tried poisoning them?
    because in short, what you said was:
    “hey people, i’m fatty!
    i can’t be trusted.
    here, have some snacks.
    oh, by the way, i won’t be eating any. stop me if i’m about to!”

    sounds suspicious…

  12. Comment by Donal | 03.28.2013 | 2:44 am

    Great work Fatty! I feel your pain. I had a similar experience recently where I had to travel to Chicago (from London) to run a 5 day residential training course where there would be free food and snacks all day long. I resolved to get up early and run every morning, cut out all snacks, limit my evening beer intake and use a calorie counting app (myfitnesspal) and hope for the best. The hardest part was on the flights in and out… I was a sitting duck for 8 hours! I couldn’t have been happier when I returned home the same weight as a left. Result!

  13. Comment by buckythedonkey | 03.28.2013 | 2:56 am

    How lovely to hear from Noodle again. We rode the 100MoN with her in 2009 (albeit several thousand miles apart)! Her account of her ride across America was spell-binding. I seem to remember a great deal of pie at one point.

    Congratulations Noodle, you seem to have realised quite a few dreams in the last few years! Good on ya!

  14. Comment by Jason Murphy | 03.28.2013 | 4:37 am

    Among the worst things about offices is that whenever people get together, food choices devolve to lowest-common-denominator, industrialised, empty-calorie food.
    I suspect one reason your meetings are confrontational is that they are full of people surfing from sugar high to sugar trough and back.
    The cashews seem like a good idea. Next meeting, try bananas, apples, carrots, snowpeas instead of M&Ms.
    People will snipe at you on the first morning, but I bet everyone will be heaps happier by the last day!

  15. Comment by Jason Murphy | 03.28.2013 | 4:48 am

    I just read this article on the New York Times about how to influence people…

    My comment above would be more effective if it said:

    Many long meetings I attend these days serve low GI, healthy food, such as fruits, vegetables, as a way to keep people focused and even-tempered in the short-run. Bonus is that it helps make them healthier in the long-run!

    I think you’re right about the wisdom of healthier snacks. In my particular case, however, it wouldn’t stop the confrontation — that’s one of the primary purposes of a group of analysts getting together to look at three months’-worth of collected data. The confrontation is part of the process (I should have been clearer about this). – FC

  16. Comment by Chris | 03.28.2013 | 6:58 am

    Ah Fatty, I needed just this sort of story to motivate me. I’m trying to drop 30 pounds before June 1 for the Mohican 100 and then whatever I can drop before Leadville this year. My total goal is to get from 198 to 168 by August 10. To date (I began at Thanksgiving) I have lost 0 pounds. Well, I lost and then gained and then lost and then gained.

    Keep up the good work!

  17. Comment by wharton_crew | 03.28.2013 | 8:41 am

    Holy crap Noodle – you go over Mt. Madonna as part of your bike commute (daily??). That’s awesome. It’s a great climb, but I’m not sure I’d want to do that at the end of a long day of wordsmithing. Maybe that’s par for the course if you work at Specialized though, eh?

  18. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 03.28.2013 | 10:15 am

    on Biking…or to the Noodle: Dave Thompson sent me a link to something in your neighborhood to try: If Fatty gets back on his unicycle I’m sure by June he could go out on this ride as well! Command the wheel Elden, it’s in your court, and Lisa would be so proud!

  19. Comment by Carrie | 03.28.2013 | 12:54 pm

    Awesome post! Stress and travel are two of the biggest pitfalls that can derail us from our health goals and you just proved that they don’t have to be. The best thing was that you didn’t go swinging on the all-or-nothing pendulum when you gained the 3 lbs. You looked at what wasn’t working and implemented the strategies you needed to in order to set yourself up to be successful. It’s not just about being committed to a goal, it’s about having a game plan and navigating the inevitable setbacks that will come along. It was awesome too that you just explained what was going on and everybody was cool with it.

  20. Comment by Erin | 03.28.2013 | 1:32 pm

    “Among the worst things about offices is that whenever people get together, food choices devolve to lowest-common-denominator, industrialised, empty-calorie food.”


    On another note, moar Noodle, pls.

  21. Comment by Noodle | 03.28.2013 | 5:54 pm

    Well, that was a bit of a shock seeing myself on this site. I was taking a break from work for a second then that flashed up and I quickly closed it before being accused of looking at pictures of myself at work. (I save that for home when I have time to gaze longingly at myself). Anyway, thanks. I’m not on the homepage any more. My 15 minutes are UP!

    Clarification: I don’t do Madonna commute home every day. At least once a week and more in summer. It’s too much on the legs to still have something for the weekend shred. Also, someone asked if I’d be doing Davis – it’s not on my list. Triple Crown (three CA doubles in the year) is my goal this year. (Though I stupidly planted a RAAM seed in my brain yesterday and I’m trying not to water that.)

    Fatty, will you be changing your name to Thinny when this is over? I’m not sure I could stick to a plan like this. One of the hardest things about where I sit at work is it’s where all the bakers lay out their cookies and brownies. I… find a lot of cookies stick together. :) But that’s what lunch ride (race) is for.

  22. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 03.28.2013 | 10:58 pm

    Noodle, for your double challenge my tandem partner offers the following ideas(he tries to convince me: I know iI was born at night, but not last night)
    Santa Rosa Cycling Club Terrible Twos

    and that sweet little hill ride known as the Devils Mountain Double. Something I’m sure you can shred!

    As for Davis, do come, we can see who gets the bigger crowd Thinny or You. And if you don’t want to ride we can put you in charge of the PIE!

  23. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 03.29.2013 | 10:23 am

    153.8. NOW YOU’RE JUST SHOWING OFF!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Comment by Wife#1 | 03.29.2013 | 10:25 am

    153.8? Seriously? Did you decide to ingest a bottle of laxatives as your final sprint?

  25. Comment by eclecticdeb | 03.29.2013 | 10:41 am

    I had no idea that Noodle lived in my neck of the woods (kinda sorta, I’m in San Jose). I love the headline quote “I’m physically more capable than my body leads me to believe, and much braver than I think.” I need to tell myself that more often. Way to go Noodle!

  26. Comment by Ray Wright | 03.29.2013 | 4:57 pm

    Good job, I had to do exactly the same thing whee I work. Every year we do a 30 to 50 day maintenance outage (Nuclear Power Plant)this involves 12 plus hour days, 6 days a week. My manager has decided that he needs to stock our area so that it resembles a 7-11. On top of that they get food brought in a least once a week. Since I have ZERO will power and no sense of portion control, the only way I could prevent myself from bloating up like I have in past years was say no to everything. If I did not bring it from home, I did not eat it.

    It worked, instead of gaining the 5 to 10 pounds I normally do, I lost 8 pounds. Yay, me!

  27. Pingback by Day 455: 170.4 pounds | Diary of a Former Fat Man | 04.1.2013 | 1:43 pm

    [...] a similar note, Fatty talks a lot about how to lose weight while in an all-week meeting. He did it by avoiding restaurant meals and by encouraging social shaming at the snack table. [...]

  28. Comment by Gracie | 04.3.2013 | 3:50 am

    You must have amazing will power and a heart of a lion to achieve the results you are. Very inspirational!

  29. Comment by greenteax | 04.3.2013 | 4:07 am

    You know, losing weight and being healthy isn’t that hard at all if you know what to do. But it is near impossible if you don’t. I was overweight for almost 15 years and, no matter what I did, I just couldn’t lose the kilos. You name it, tried it. I trained like an Olympian, tried the calorie watching diet, no carb diet, the starvation diet, the meal replacement shake diet, detox diet and so on. None of it worked for me.

  30. Comment by Chris | 04.3.2013 | 5:09 pm

    I take food with me. Yes. I do. Even hard-boiled eggs in those super-duper-thermo thingies. (Low carb right now.)

    And I am embarrassing and I open them up right then and there, in the middle of the meeting. I’m the crazyperson (yes, all one word, in my case) who dips semi-cold hard boiled eggs in salt and pepper while everyone at the conference table while everyone else is having donuts.

    There is NO way I could ever make a “healthier choice” at the types of meetings we have. No way, no how, not in this universe, perhaps not even in a parallel universe — not out of the choices we’re typically given. “Healthy” sugar-filled yogurt v. “healthy” 1,200-carb-per-bar granola crunch ‘ems (only a slight exaggeration)…yeah, good luck with all that.

    Bravo for trying and by the way, I am dyin’ over some of the things you wrote here, you’re hilarious. Keep up the good work!

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