On his weight loss journey, Bernd Holst from Kiel, Germany has learned a lot about nutrition and its effects on his body. Step by step, he changed his habits and lost an amazing 52 kg (114 lbs). Read more about his experience and get inspired by his triumph in the face of setbacks and obstacles.
During a hospital stay in 2012, Bernd Holst, 62 years old, decided to stop smoking. However, this important health decision turned out to have some unintended consequences. Every time Bernd felt like having a cigarette, he turned to what he thought were healthier alternatives, like yogurt. At the time, Bernd didn’t know that a 100 g cup of fruit-flavored yogurt contained around 13 g of sugar, the equivalent of 5 sugar cubes, so he thought nothing of it when he reached for a yogurt several times a day. The effects quickly became apparent and Bernd recalls: “My weight exploded. I could literally feel myself expanding.”
In no time, Bernd gained around 30 kg (66 lbs). By 2014, his weight had risen to 124 kg (273 lbs) with a height of 1.68 m (5’5 ft). These stats translated to a BMI of 44 — dangerously overweight.
During a routine doctor’s visit, Bernd was diagnosed with high blood pressure. His doctor also warned him of the dangers of diabetes and advised him to lose weight. This conversation ultimately led Bernd to decide he needed to make a change. His knees hurt so much that simple tasks such as tying his shoes or getting out of bed became very difficult. He said: “I realized this problem was becoming extreme. I wondered if everyone felt like this at 53. That couldn’t be right.”
By chance, Bernd discovered a calorie tracking app — out of curiosity he entered everything he ate and quickly realized that his daily calorie intake was far too high. His interest piqued, he began to look more closely at the ins and outs of nutrition through reading and social media.
As a result, he was now able to easily recognize which of his eating habits were more harmful than he thought. From then on, his kitchen was stocked with fresh, nutrient-rich foods instead of processed foods, and he shopped at the local market instead of discount stores. He cooked his meals from scratch, took breaks between meals and stopped snacking.
The first victory followed quickly and Bernd lost 20 kg (44 lbs) within 6 months. He felt more comfortable in his own skin and his desire to exercise increased. Activities like jogging and cycling were still out of reach due to the persistent knee pain and excess weight. So, he concentrated on strength training to prevent muscle loss. However, these efforts were halted by another hospital stay, after which Bernd was not allowed to exercise for a year.
This was definitely a setback on his health journey, but he didn’t let it defeat him. On a whim, he got out his old drum kit — “Something I hadn’t done for ten years,” he told us.
He started practicing regularly, met up with old musician friends to play together and even performed at parties. Of course Bernd found it fun and social, but it was a health win too because drumming increases stamina and boosts calorie burn.
At the end of October 2015, Bernd made another decision that would benefit his long-term health. At a Halloween party of all places, he decided to stop drinking alcohol. Bernd recalled with a grin: “Any halfway normal person would have gone full throttle at the party and said I’ll start on Monday. Not me. I took the party as an opportunity to stop drinking.”
This decision and a switch to a low carb diet helped him to overcome a weight plateau. He now weighed under 100 kg (220 lbs) and was able to maintain this weight for years.
But then came the Covid-19 years at the end of 2020. His morning and evening walks to work were a thing of the past, and the opportunities for physical exercise dwindled. On the other hand, the temptation to snack between meals increased, as the fridge in his kitchen was now in close proximity. To counteract these challenges, he created an Excel spreadsheet.
Bernd explained: “Everyday I wrote down how much I exercised, what I ate, especially how many carbohydrates, and how my weight changed as a result.” He was able to take his weight measurements directly from the Withings app, which was linked to his Withings smart scale.
By stepping on the scale every day, he recorded even the smallest changes in his weight and body composition. This allowed him to analyze exactly how certain habits affected his body.
Fortunately, Bernd had some exercise equipment at home, so he was able to stay fit and continue strength training at home despite the lockdown. In combination with a low-carb diet, he was able to increase his muscle mass from under 60% to 75%, while his body fat decreased from 40% to 23%. He was able to determine these specific measurements with his Withings smart scale, which also analyzed his body composition alongside his weight. Despite the restrictions in the outside world, Bernd felt comfortable with his new routine: “I really enjoyed my training at home and it really helped. It’s not just my arms that have developed, my entire musculature is stronger.” And the knee pain? Bernd proudly replied: “It’s gone. I can even do squats with 40 kg weights now.”
In total, Bernd lost 52 kg (114 lbs): from 124 kg (273 lbs) in 2014 down to 72 kg (159 lbs) as of October, 2023. But this remarkable success was not the only one, it was just the most obvious. Bernd was able to tick off many more boxes on his health journey including giving up tobacco and alcohol, as well as making the dietary changes that led to a reduction in his blood pressure and diabetes risk.
When asked how he feels now, Bernd says that he is very happy to have completely changed his life. In hindsight, he wishes he had a real-life community of like-minded people to motivate him and exchange ideas on his health journey.
We wish Bernd all the best for the future and hope that his story can inspire more people to take charge of their health.