Interview with Craig Engler, the man behind Weight Hacking
Happy Friday, SlimKickers. This past week, we had the chance to catch up with Craig Engler (who goes by the handle WeightHacker). Craig is developing a how-to guide called "Weight Hacking" for geeks who want to lose weight. He is currently raising funds for this project through an IndieGoGo campaign.
Since our site resonates very strongly with geeks, we wanted to learn more about his upcoming book, and his mission. Here's an interview we did with him:
SlimKicker Team: What's the mission behind WeightHacker, the blog and the book? how did you come up with this idea?
Craig: My mission is to help other geeks lose weight the same way I did.
I came up with the idea for Weight Hacking almost by accident. Like a lot of people I could lose some weight when I put real effort into it, but I couldn't keep it off. One day I sat down to figure out why, and I realized most of the traditional advice simply didn't fit my lifestyle. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't something I could sustain in the long term.
So I set out to create ways I could incorporate things like good nutrition and healthy activities into my existing lifestyle. That worked so well that everyone started asking me how I did it. That's when I realized the things I was doing could help a lot of other people, and I decided I should write this down and share it.
SlimKicker Team: What type of audience would find WeightHacker appealing?
Craig: Weight Hacking is for people who are naturally a little (or a lot!) geeky and who enjoy things like playing games, using gadgets and surfing the Web. I use a lot of analogies based on movies like The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as terms like "reformatting your body" and "overwriting bad habits." If those things resonate with you, then you're in my potential audience.
SlimKicker Team: I noticed you lost a lot of weight in the pictures in your blog. How long did it take you to lose that much, and what were some of the key things you did during that period?
Craig: I lost weight in 2 phases, first starting at 225lbs and going to 185lbs, which seemed pretty good at the time. (Hey, it was 40lbs!) I hovered in the 180s and 190s for a couple of years and was pretty satisfied but always thought I might want to lose another 10lbs.
Then I started reading up on nutrition and body composition and realized I should probably get into the 150/160 range. It took me another 6 months to go from 185 to 157, and I deliberately lost the weight slowly, because I think that will ultimately help my body adjust to the change so I can stay at my current weight.
The keys for me were eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods, moving more, eating the right amount of food for my body size, cutting out sugar-based foods, and making sure I kept track of my eating.
SlimKicker Team: What are some of your favorite hacks/tricks when it comes to losing weight?
Craig: My best tip is, track what you eat. Your brain simply isn't built to remember how much food you take in, and as a result it's incredibly easy to overeat. (Your brain is also bad with time and math, which is why we all use clocks, calendars and calculators).
Studies show that just by writing down what you eat, or logging it on a site like SlimKicker, you'll eat better and eat less.
My best hack is modifying the environment around me to help me lose weight: My desktop image is a gorgeous photo of fruits and veggies, which helps me remember to eat more of them.
I keep healthy snacks out on the counter at home and on my desk at work, so if I'm hungry they're the easiest things to grab. Simple tricks like that add up quickly!
SlimKicker Team: What are some of your favorite weight loss/diet/fitness apps and gadgets?
Craig: I love my Nike Fuel Band for tracking how much I move, my Withings scale for tracking my weight and wirelessly uploading it to the Internet, and my treadmill desk, which makes getting exercise ridiculously easy.
SlimKicker Team: What's your opinion on gamification? It seems every month someone is gamifying something. Do you think it's a gimmick, or is there some substance behind it?
Craig: I think gamifying weight loss is a fantastic idea. Nutrition is hugely important, but it can also be incredibly tedious, so making it fun and easy is the perfect solution. And the best part is that "leveling up" online means your body will also be leveling up in the real world. +1 for health!
SlimKicker Team: Is the book mostly going to touch on the psychology of losing weight? or will it also talk about nutritional habits, and fitness changes? I know you are consulting with a nutritionist along the way.
Craig: It's got nutritional and fitness information, but also a lot more because weight loss involves many different aspects of our lives.
The book explains why losing weight is so hard, why most people's weight loss goals don't work, how the environment around you influences how much you eat and how much you weigh, how to eat in a way that lets you lose weight without always being hungry, how you can be more active without spending ours in the gym and more.
So it covers not only A-Z but also 0-9 as well!
I'm working with a wonderful nutrition expert named Jessica Ess and I'm also consulting with many other experts along the way. Everything in the book is based on sound science and research, because that's hugely important to me.
SlimKicker Team: I notice one of the chapters in the book will deal with modifying our environment, to set us up for success. Do you have some examples on simple ways we can modify our environment to create a higher chance of success?
Craig: This is one of my favorite topics and I could go on and on about it! For instance, in your kitchen, put all the food you want to eat less of ouf of sight or in places that are hard to reach, and keep the food you want to eat more of in plain sight and readily accessible. You'll automatically eat more of the healthy stuff.
Use smaller plates, because if you put the same amount of food on a small plate instead of a large plate, your brain will perceive that you're eating more. Similarly, eat from heavier bowls, because the weight of the bowl will make you think you're eating more.
Personally, I'm on the Internet a LOT, both at work and at home. Instead of trying to log off and go to the gym, I got a treadmill desk so I can surf and walk at the same time. It makes it hard for me to avoid exercise!
SlimKicker Team: Lastly, how are you planning to market this book and get the word out?
Craig: To start with I'm reaching out to the online geek community, and the book has already been featured on sites like BoingBoing and LaughingSquid.
I'm also a huge social media user, so Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are a natural. The crowdfunding campaign currently on IndieGoGo is as much about getting the word out as it is fund raising.
And I created a free site for geeks who want to lose weight called Weighthacker.com. Eventually I want to explore real-world meet-ups and conferences, but first I want to finish writing the book.