I remember the exact moment things crossed a line. I was out with my wife on a Saturday night, we’d had dinner, then some drinks, and now I was insisting on pizza. I wasn’t hungry, I just wanted pizza. But I couldn’t get my wallet out of my jeans, because they were too tight. I wasn’t a 32 inch waist size anymore.  I was eating food when I wasn’t even hungry.   I swore that I would never be in that situation again.

That was 5 and a half years ago. It took another 2 years to figure out what worked to lose weight.  Those 2 years were spent finding a way that made sense to me, and to really make the scale drop. Once the steps below became part of my life, I lost weight so fast my friends all thought I was sick. They kept asking me what I was doing, so I started telling them vague details without giving a complete picture. “I stopped eating salad,” I told them. “I quit beer,” I explained.

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t want to lose weight why it’s so important to you. It’s not just about being able to fit into your jeans from high school, or feeling good about yourself when you’re at the pool. It’s about control. I feel like when I’m in control of my weight, I can be in control of the rest of my life too.

Here’s my step-by-step formula to lose weight.

Step 0. Eat all the junk food in your house, right now. Go ahead, it will be fun. Eat all of it. Whatever you can’t eat, throw away or give away. Then, weigh yourself. Write that number down, then laugh at it mockingly, because you’re never going to see that number again. Lastly, take a shirtless selfie. It might be a rude awakening, but you’ll be using this picture to show the world your progress.

1. Weigh yourself every day, as soon as you get up (after using the bathroom, but before eating or drinking anything). Never weigh yourself at any other part of the day. Try to wear the same kind of clothing each time. This gives you a good, consistent base number to work from.

2. The scale will go down every 4 days if you eat less calories in those 4 days than you used to. Make sure you don’t eat anything salty, and only eat natural foods you cooked yourself.

3. Find ways to incorporate as much plain water and veggies into your diet as possible.  The more vegetables you eat, the faster the scale will go down.  Figure out which vegetables fill you up, which ones you don’t mind eating, and what ones you hate.  What works best for me is to steam frozen vegetables – my favorites are broccoli, peas, and mixed veggies. Occasionally I’ll eat raw string beans or zucchini for variety. Find what works for you. Try to get all your carbs from sweet potatoes.

4. Stop eating for taste, and start eating for fuel. Spend time figuring out what foods will fill you up and keep you satisfied for the longest period of time. In my case, sliced turkey on a rice cake is about 125 calories and keeps me full for about an hour and a half, close to 2 hours. That’s my baseline for comparing other foods to.

5. Throw out every bad thing in your house. You won’t be tempted to eat something you shouldn’t. When you want something bad, go to the store, buy a package (or even 2), and eat the whole package (or throw out the rest). Don’t save the rest for another day. If you don’t want to throw out the uneaten food, go to a neighbor’s house and drop it off as a “goodwill gesture”.

6. Plan ahead for your meals – both content and serving size. The most danger words about food are “I’ll just grab something”. If you “just grab something” for breakfast and lunch, you’ve already made poor decisions that the rest of your day will never recover from. Figure out what works for you to bring to work, to school, or eat at home. You might have to experiment with various foods, Tupperware, and reheating. Just make sure they’re naturally occurring foods that don’t come from packages.

7. Recognize that you might occasionally get off track or not see the progress you want for some time. That’s part of the process. When that happens, focus on how far you’ve come already. Remember that picture you took in Step 0? Take an extremely close look at that picture – you’re not that person anymore, and you never will be again.

Foods To Immediately Stop Eating

1. Bagels. A bagel can be up to 600 calories before cream cheese. After eating one, I always immediately want a second one. When I eat a bagel, I don’t even remember eating it – I remember the first bite, and nothing else.

2. Beer. It’s a drink that makes you want to eat bad foods. I can eat a meal, have a beer, and immediately want another meal, typically pizza or cookies, both. I just make bad choices after drinking beer.

3. Pizza. It’s the most amazing food ever. But the video below taught me that 200 calories of pizza is the first bite. I can eat 3 or 4 slices, easily. It’s a deceptive food that isn’t worth it. Save it for your cheat meal.

4. Salad. By itself, salad isn’t bad – it’s the fact that we all add dressing to it, still viewing it as a healthy food. If you can eat plain salad with no dressing, do it – otherwise, focus on steamed or raw veggies instead.

5. Any packaged “easy to cook” food (from a “healthy” or “organic” store). These are deceptively high in calories. My brain thinks “this comes from a healthy store, it must be healthy, right?” It’s not.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but the feeling of your pants being looser is the greatest thrill the world has ever known.