How to lose weight the simple, sustainable way

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on October 21, 2011

in This is Life

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2016 UPDATE:

Full disclaimer, there are no affiliate links in this post, I have no business relationship with anyone mentioned, and I stand to make no money from anything shared here. This is just one man’s experience with losing weight and feeling better.

Five new resources I’m loving:

1. MapMyFitness – Great for tracking my walks and bike rides.

2. Freeletics – Best indoor bodyweight workouts I’ve ever done.

3. Mark’s Daily Apple – Primal diet and fitness, clean, healthy, and delicious.

4. Athletic Greens – Greens supplement that has helped me with pain, stiffness, eyesight, sleep, recovery, digestion, gut health, immune system, and more. Powerhouse nutrients.

5. Sleep – The better I sleep, the better I stick to my diet, exercise, and productivity plans.


What in the name of Richard Simmons does losing weight have to do with being a successful part time photographer?

Business bad boy Donny Deutsch said it best – “Pain or paunchiness can render you almost helpless. If most of your energy is being spent keeping you upright, it’s not going into the areas where you need it most keenly. Go to the flip side of that equation and you’ll see how being in tip-top shape can help you immeasurably.”

It’s safe to say that most folks would like to lose a few pounds – a few as in five pounds, 20, 100, some even more. Especially us Americans who have nigh unlimited access to the most fattening, unhealthy food in the history of mankind.

It’s entirely possible to kill yourself, 99 cents at a time.

If you’re like me and you’ve struggled for years and years with being overweight, over the course of this weight loss series I want to offer some words of encouragement and some resources that have proven invaluable in my finally succeeding in losing weight.

What does this have to do with part time photography? Just from my own experience:

  • Being overweight saps confidence, and confidence acts as a multiplying factor when it comes to success with marketing your work and staying creative and playful during your shoots. A lack of confidence causes both hesitation and anxiety when introducing yourself to new people, and it is a constant distraction when you’re trying to do creative work with the camera.
  • Being overweight literally eats your profits. Professional photography, especially in the early years, can be very stressful – surviving stressful situations can trick you into thinking you need a reward, and often with us overweight folks, that reward comes in the form of food. I can’t tell you how many times I would get through a photo shoot then take my family out for a big meal in San Antonio, about 45 miles from my home. Between gas and the cost of eating out, I’d blow a chunk of my income from the shoot before I even processed the photos.
  • Being overweight limits your artistic flexibility. I love shooting overhand shots, reaching to put my camera in the air and shoot down on a client – and I love shooting from super-low angles. This is a lot harder when you’re worried about your shirt coming untucked, or flopping around on the ground like a walrus, grunting to get back up. I don’t believe our subjects actually care, but still, it’s a state of mind that leaves you trying to protect your dignity instead of focusing wholly on the art and experience for your clients.
  • Being overweight is uncomfortable. I love shooting sports from a low angle, on a knee or seated or even laying down – but with all the extra weight, I get about 60 seconds in one of these positions before I start getting very sore and uncomfortable. And it’s both embarrassing and distracting when you’re sweating, huffing and puffing just walking around a location with a client.

It’s not that your weight has a direct influence on your art, it’s all the mental and physical distractions that come with that extra weight that in aggregate can have a profound influence on your work, on how you interact with people, on how confident you are in marketing your business.

Two months ago, I needed to lose 100 pounds to get in the vicinity of my goal weight. Today, I’m 25 pounds closer to that goal. By my birthday in April 2012, I’ll be at my target weight. I have never had such success with my weight as I have this summer, and I’ve never been so confident that I can actually reach that goal.

In this series I’ll outline what is working so well for me, all the ‘little things’ that add up to create success. I’ll continue to add articles to as I reach milestones on my way to losing 100 pounds, so you can see from the perspective of a fellow part time professional photographer all of the challenges and solutions along the way.

Know this above all else: you can lose weight, get fit, and both feel and look fantastic. It needn’t be torturous or miserable. You just have to find the right mix of resources and methods that work for you – here’s my greatest one:


Here’s the big secret nobody selling diets or exercise equipment wants you to know: if you eat right and exercise, you will lose weight.

You already know how to lose weight: you eat healthy (not less, but healthier), you move around more. Veggies, lean meat, lift some weights, hop on the treadmill. You already know that every “easy” and “quick” weight loss method is a scam. You already know what you’re doing right, and what you’re doing wrong.

I knew it. Heck, I learned this stuff watching PBS Kids as a child.

But knowing something and doing something about what you know are two hugely different things.

I knew it all the way to 270 pounds. On a stocky 5’6″ Irish frame, that’s a massive amount of fat for a human being to carry around.

It’s like watching grass grow, though – on a day to day basis, you just don’t notice it while it’s happening. Especially for us men, who have built-in rose-colored glasses when we look in a mirror.

You graduate high school or college and stop playing sports. You work your first real jobs, and the added stress both distracts you from staying healthy and causes you to eat more crappy food. You get in a serious relationship or get married and get lazy with your physical appearance. You and your spouse have a baby and you both put on baby weight, then a whole new world of stress and distraction takes over.

Your pants get too tight, you go up a size and tell yourself, “Meh, I’ll lose it when this stress at work settles down.” Then you go up another size. “I just haven’t had time to get to the gym, I’m going to start hitting it hard.” Then another. “I’m getting older, I’m married now, I’m focused on more important things in life than my looks.” Then another…and so on. Until one day you’re laid up in bed with back problems, or your doctor tells you you need blood pressure medication, because you’ve slowly let yourself balloon up to a wholly unhealthy weight.


I didn’t realize how unhealthy my lifestyle had become after high school until I got married and had kids. My sedentary job and lifestyle led to a back injury, my back injury led to putting on a huge amount of weight, but reality didn’t strike me until I was unable to hold my own newborn son for more than a few minutes because of my back problems – back problems greatly extended and exacerbated by my weight.

This kick in the pants took me to the gym to rehabilitate my body. I didn’t lose weight, but I rebuilt my muscle and gained strength all over, especially in my back. I can now lift and wrestle and play with my 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy. My 11 month old is light as a feather.

But my weight didn’t become an slap-in-the-face issue until my birthday in April of this year.

There comes a moment when you realize you’re the fattest person in the room, at a get-together, or in your entire family or circle of friends. This struck me at my birthday party, when I looked around and realized I had at least 50-75 pounds more fat than anyone at my party.

It was during this time that I made a bet with my two best friends: I wagered by my birthday in 2013, two years time, I would be in better shape than either of them. They would have to tone up and put on muscle, but I would have to lose 100 pounds of fat.

The bet got me started. My trip to the doctor for a sinus infection got me scared.

While checking my stats, my doctor looked at me and said over her glasses, “Are you on blood pressure medication? If not, you need to be.” I had to convince her not to write me a prescription right then.

I hadn’t felt “bad” in years, since I started hitting the gym with regularity. I’d never had heart issues or any symptoms of high blood pressure. But my weight was affecting me in more ways than just confidence and clothing – it was wearing down my heart at a greatly accelerated rate, and putting me at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and a very reduced lifespan on this earth.

I may end up on blood pressure medication anyway (my mother had hypertension), but I want to eliminate weight as a potential influence first.

With death staring me eye-to-eye for one of the first times in my otherwise charmed life, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had to make changes. I have too much I want to experience, achieve, and leave behind in this life to risk losing all opportunity to do so over cheeseburgers and milkshakes.

That visit with the doctor was two months ago. I’ve lost 25 pounds since. My clothes don’t fit. I’m about to punch a new hole in my belt because I can’t tighten it enough to keep my pants up. I put on and had room to spare in a nice shirt that I was about to bust the buttons on just a few months ago. People are asking me if I’ve lost weight. It’s greater motivation than I ever could have dreamed.

Weight loss is possible. Progress is real and tangible. If you stick with healthy eating and some exercise, weight loss is an inevitable, natural result.

In forthcoming articles on the topic, I’ll share with you all of the meals, practices, methods, tools, books, blogs and resources that have proven invaluable in my weight loss success. There are no silver bullets, there are no magic pills, and honestly, it’s not even been all that hard.

The secret is motivation. Identify your motivation, your reasons for truly wanting to lose weight, the tangible and real benefits you’ll experience from reaching your ideal weight, and you will have taken the first and biggest step toward the fitness success you’ve fantasized about for years.


  • Go to, sign up for a free account, and begin tracking everything you eat each day. It’s not a hassle, it takes almost no time at all, it’s free, and it will be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. In fact, it becomes addicting, and fun. You’ll thank me later. Please feel free to add me as friend – my username is BanderaOutlaw.
  • Buy a copy of Tim Ferriss’ “4 Hour Body” and start reading. I have both hardcopy and Kindle versions. The super simple diet and exercise outlined in this book is what has worked for me after every other diet and exercise plan failed, every single time for lack of sustainability. The diet is inexpensive, healthy, quick to prepare, easy (I’ve almost never cooked in my life), and with Tim’s suggested seasonings, delicious.
  • Brainstorm session: Why do you want to lose weight? Be brutally honest, dig deep, and tell all. Your motivations are valid, no matter how personal, unique, vain, or unreasonable they may seem. You have a right to your reasons for wanting to lose weight. How will your life be better if you reach your target weight? Brainstorm every reason you can think of, write it down, and file this in your Brainstorms folder.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. Iā€™d love to hear how you use the ideas here to better your part time photography business!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Cislo October 31, 2011 at 2:46 am


Wow – I stopped by this evening to see if you have posted any new topics, and to my delight was this article. First off- congratulations to you on your accomplishment. Secondly – I will be following this very closely, as I am in the same shoes as you are. I stepped on the scale 6 weeks ago, and for the first time in my life, it was over 300 lbs. I am 6’2″ so I never really considered myself obese, even though I knew I was “fat”. That was the eye opener for me. As a father of 3, realizing that at 305 lbs, I may not live to see my kids grow into adults. Fast forward to today, my weekly weigh in, I am at 281, a weight I haven’t been in years. My goal weight is 225, and on my 6’2″ frame, hope that it is enough to keep me out of the “overweight” category. I smiled when reading about your belt and shirts that didn’t fit just months ago. I wore a shirt out to dinner tonight with friends, that I have only wore once, because after washing it pulled on the buttons. Tonight I looked like I was wearing a shirt one size too big. I feel amazing, I look forward to going to the gym, and I have more confidence than ever before. I wil sign up for the site you posted, and send you a request. I look forward to seeing more posts from you on this, as you continue your journey. Good luck and Godspeed.



Outlaw Photographer James Taylor November 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Thank you for your kind words Craig! Congratulations on your successes as well in losing weight! It feels like a long road, but compared to the decades of life we’ll enjoy so much more because of our better health and fitness, it’s a small sacrifice to get there. It isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile.

Indeed, it’s amazing how little weight you have to lose to make a huge difference in how your clothes fit! One of my problems in my weight getting so out of control I believe was that I only went up – from high school forward, I’ve only gained weight, never really lost it. So things just got tighter, I’d buy new clothes, they’d get tight, rinse and repeat. I never experienced the opposite, of losing a dozen or so pounds, and realizing how much better I felt or how much better my clothes fit. Gaining weight became a natural course, expected, instead of the abnormality it should have been.

Thank you for your friend request on MYFP as well! Keep that food log updated daily! It will help keep you on track. I’ve had a week here or there where I just couldn’t make myself care what I ate, but I still kept the log, and it helped me quickly get back on track after seeing a week of red overindulgence. It’s that cognizance that makes this tool so valuable. It’s so easy to let “things that need to be done” slide for weeks, months, when not given attention on a daily basis. So it goes with weight as it does with cleaning out the garage or weed eating the lawn.

Thank you again for your readership, and please do keep me posted on your successes!


Valente November 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I just receive your mail!!! Thanks a lot for answer me and for all the advice about the business.
Now, about this topic the first week was hard, but fitting in the pants again is a good motive to follow in the right direction!
Muchas gracias!!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor November 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Awesome Valente, thank you for your readership! Best of luck in your adventures, and please keep me posted on your progress!


Holly Ladd April 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Wow. I just found your site today, trolling the internet looking for advice and encouragement. I have been in the same job for 12 years and am feeling quite stale, and bored. I made a commitment to myself to start my photography business and lose weight this year. While it is too bad that we are all the way into April today, it is still a great time to find you. I have 100 pounds to lose. I have my first paid session (made the arrangements before I read your advice about pricing) booked. I am shooting mom’s and their kids at a local homeless shelter as a mother’s day gift for them (for free of course – 56 portraits!).

How are you doing with the weight/health plan?

Thanks for all the energy you have put into this site!



Outlaw Photographer James Taylor April 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Holly, thank you so much for your kind words! What a wonderful path to take, helping at the local homeless shelter. It will be a wonderful blessing to you as a photographer and to your 56 clients as beneficiaries of your artistry. Continue down this path of helping when and how you can with your art, and I’ll grow an impressive client base of the board members and volunteers who serve those non-profits.

Having 100 pounds to lose is a great place to start! It’s a nice, round number, and all the more impressive within one year or two when you achieve your goal. It’s fully doable, and it isn’t even challenging beyond making conscious decisions about your eating and activity. You can do it. šŸ™‚

My own progress continues steadily! I’ve lost 36 pounds total, and that’s only half-trying (I eat so many cheat meals it’s a wonder I lose any weight at all!). As you live a healthier lifestyle, you start to learn what exercises and meals and snacks and activities you most enjoy, and you just lean toward those to maintain your momentum.

I greatly enjoyed visiting your web site tonight! Your photo of the sunset at Nantasket is just stunning – you do beautiful work.

Thank you for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures in both weight loss and photography! I look forward to hearing how this year treats you!


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