I’m posting this because I get frustrated with people. It’s not because they want to see me fail (though some do); rather, it’s because I see them complicate the issue of being the weight they want to be. “Accepting and loving yourself as you are is the best. If you can’t, then DO something. Forget the gym. It’s all on the what-you-put-in-your-mouth side of the equation.”
I LOVE this picture of me. First, it was a fantastic moment in 2005 with my nephew and his friend. It’s not photoshopped. I weighed around 253. They gave me hell and laughter for challenging them to a balloon stomach challenge. Obviously, I won.
I didn’t add any exercise to my life when I dropped almost all my weight. I realized that I was fooling myself by eating way more than I imagined. The math (and results) proved it. I did add exercise because I was afraid my cousin would bludgeon me for not doing so. She was right. Exercise has its own benefits. But I continue to remind people that the best way to lose weight without upending your life is to control what you put in your mouth. It’s a lifelong commitment rather than a sprint. And it can be tough. Food is freaking amazing.
I went from the low 250s to the low 140s. It felt amazing. Now, my setpoint is 165. I’m not self-conscious at all. Because I finally learned that IF I want or need to, I can change the things about myself that are under my control. The rest? IDGAF. Being 55 has its privileges, and I’m so glad to be still alive. I’m not sure that this would be true had a lightning bolt not smacked me in the head a couple of years ago. The same bolt had unintended consequences, that’s true. But not being alive makes enjoying things a bit impossible.
People constantly talk about their weight. Or they needlessly feel self-conscious about it. It’s easy to know when they’ve hit their own fulcrum point because they finally try something different. Talk shifts to behavior. And that makes me happy.
So many beautiful people stress about their weight or how they look. Most of them don’t need to. We have them in our lives because we love them. We don’t see them as they see themselves. People are beautiful because of who they are. If they are unhappy, we want them to find a way to look and feel the way they want to.
Nothing is more astounding than watching someone do the things that give them success. I watch them get confidence – and invariably, they get their huge smile back. This is true about weight, and it’s true when they change their lives in other ways.
While I’m on the soapbox, I wish people would stop being timid about how they look. Especially when it comes to people seeing them or seeing their own pictures. Some of y’all are such tremendously beautiful people the way you are. Most of us do not care if there are extra pounds. We don’t see pounds or focus on the imperfections y’all perceive.
It’s in the eye of the beholder. If you’re not happy, then you can do something. Otherwise, don’t worry about how the rest of us see you. If you’re in our lives, believe me, you’re awesome enough.
Meanwhile, if you feel bad, just look at my picture from 2005 and imagine how many years I continued to make bad choices. And laugh!
Love, X .
PS I welcome smack talk if you want to be snarky. I’m being serious.
This is a piece of motivation. Nadine, if you’re reading this, imagine that I’m an expert and not the goofball you know.
Stress will never disappear from your life. Neither will the obstacles that frequently jump up and surprise you. You’ll always be tired at times and not want to prepare delicious food that feeds your body. You’ll always be tempted to stop at some place quick and delicious on the way home. Given the certainty of those variables, you’ll have to come up with incremental changes. They won’t feel natural at the beginning. Nothing does. Continuity and comfort work for us. But they also work against us when we’re motivated to do something different.
If you want to eat less or eat more healthy so that you’ll look better, embrace it. Anyone who tries to discount the vanity and self-esteem aspect of looking better is fighting human nature. If you think you look better, you will almost always feel better. It will translate to energy and optimism. If you want to eat differently just to be more healthy, that can be amazing too. We all know that the food we eat is the fuel that helps our body protect itself. It’s equally important to know that you can do everything perfectly and still have illnesses and unexpected calamity. As we get older, all of us are forced to confront that.
Everyone who tries something new eventually hits the wall of the reluctance curve. You won’t see as much progress as you would like. Or you will have days where you fail. It will feel like those days of failure far outweigh any progress you’ve made. It’s not true. You have to exercise that muscle of habit. If you do things incrementally, over time, even with days of failure, you’re improving yourself and your habits. There will be days when you will drink an entire bottle of wine and probably eat half a cheesecake too. But over time, you will see that there are simple ways to eat a whole lot of food and be happy with them. It does require you think and plan ahead so that you’re not creating obstacles. Chances are if you’re smart enough and motivated enough to make such a change, you will be able to do it. It will be easy to point the finger at the people around you, because Lord knows they’re going to be eating entire pepperoni pizzas and ice cream while you are choosing better options. At the same time, there are times when you should go crazy and a pizza with them. Because life is short and food is delicious.
Try not to start habits that you cannot do for the rest of your life. Because once you start them and have some success, if those habits fall to the wayside, you’ll start eating unhealthy and put the weight back on. Diet and nutrition is pure mathematics. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn long term. It’s not so much about the individual days as it is the arc of your progress. It’s one of the reasons I advise people to not weigh themselves more than once a week or once a month.
For most of us, if you don’t have underlying medical conditions, no matter how bitter the truth is, most of us can hit an ideal weight simply by changing what we eat. Our bodies have developed over thousands of years to survive. Exercise has its own benefits, ones that overlap into other areas of your life. But you do not have to do any exercise changes to achieve your goal weight. You have to swallow the truth that your weight is nothing more than putting more calories in your body then you are burning. No matter how many calories you burn through exercise, the physical truth is that the overwhelming majority of your weight is diet and daily activity. I can’t stress enough that I am not saying don’t exercise or go to the gym if that benefits you. I am saying that we only have a certain number of hours in a day. If you can achieve your goal without using those precious hours in ways you don’t enjoy, then try to wrap your head around the fact that you can do it without activity that doesn’t bring you joy.
If you don’t have any medical conditions, you can be the way you want to be.
Read the last sentence as many times as it takes to believe it.
Will it be hard for you to eat differently? That depends on how you use your intelligence to learn new ways of eating and stick with them.
Choose your hard.
When we don’t choose, we are pushing the consequences to our future. We still have to deal with them.
You can do it. But everything hinges on you making the decision to invest in yourself.
If you’re happy with the way you look and especially so if you’re mostly healthy, embrace it. Don’t try to lose what you see as extra pounds. You can be happy with that if you have a happy outlook. If it is about your appearance, find someone who loves you. That kind of adoration is transformative for your self-esteem. It becomes easier to see yourself as they do, even if you are plagued by self-doubt.
Whatever your goal is, do not attempt to go from 0 to 60. Incremental changes are best. You can experiment as you go and find the things that work for you and skip the ones you don’t. That is what we’re supposed to do in life. We often skip the second half and forget to remove the things from our life that detracts from it.
Don’t bother with spending money on supplements or anything you have to pay for. It can all be done with delicious food that you like. In this modern age, we have more variety than we ever have. Take advantage of it and use your intelligence.
People ask me what the secret is. The secret is… There is no secret. Simplicity in your life and simplicity in your diet. Eat fewer calories than you burn and live a good life.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re starting. No one changes until they do. No matter how you got to where you are or the way you are, it took a lot of years of habits to get there. If we thought things could not be changed, it would be a horrible cynical world.
One of my favorite things was my Die Hard ventilation shaft Xmas ornament, one I made. It even had a hole in the back of the fake ‘shaft’ to illuminate John McClane’s outstretched lighter as he crawled through. Because one of my neighbors is a Die Hard fan, I walked over and gave it to him. His face lit up. Even more in the Christmas spirit, as much as he was surprised and happy, he said, “Oh man, my mom LOVES Bruce Willis.” Without hesitation, I said, “Give it to her then and pay it forward. We can’t stand between Bruce Willis and your mom’s infatuation.” My neighbor’s son celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I’d already given him the decorated and painted ornamental box I made, for when his son is old enough to put his special things inside. I love imagining some future day when someone sees something I made and thinks about the randomness of strangers. And I think all the time about much I misjudged those neighbors when I was first around them. I like to be surprised and reminded that appearances can be so deceiving.
In my personal life, I am struggling so hard with another variant of “Choose your hard.” I’m stuck at the nexus of a decision that it is intolerably emotional. My therapist told me once to imagine that if I had died instead of surviving my emergency surgery. And from that vantage point, how hard would such a decision seem from there? She’s right. Have you heard this saying: “If you’re okay with something you shouldn’t be okay with, you’re not okay.” Experience tells me that it’s true but wisdom tells me that I’m weak. Such self-knowledge is not something that warms me.
Yesterday, I gave everything I had to try to run a mile in under six minutes. I didn’t quite make it; I missed by six seconds. Though I failed and for the last half of the mile I was sure I was going to make it, I look at six seconds and know it’s a stupidly small amount. P.S. My heart was trip hammering so hard I could s-e-e it beating through my shirt like a drum.
One of the advantages of living upstairs is well… the stairs. Between sets of exercises, I can go out and do ten floors at a time. It doesn’t take any time at all to accumulate a LOT of floors and stairs. I like to watch the law of increments add up. My goal is to do at least 50 flights of stairs by 9 a.m.
One of my favorite people recently compared me to another person and described us both as obsessive-compulsive about goals. She’s not wrong at all. This Fitbit accentuates it because I can see it in real-time.
Do y’all know what “you by default” means? It’s used by some interviewers now and it helps you figure out where not only you are in your journey, but also to measure other people in your life.
You By Default
A lot of people haven’t heard this line of thinking regarding behavior, usually involving exercise and sometimes healthier eating. It was powerful the first time it was explained to me by someone who walks the walk.
If exercise takes a lot of effort – or adds procrastination or stress to your routine – it’s not you by default. It’s something you’re doing rather than what you simply do. If you miss a day or several, it isn’t important in the scheme of things. You’ll go back naturally to it and without stressing that you might not ever return. All of us have weird and surprising enthusiasm and commitment cycles in every aspect of our life. Exercise. Diet. Love. Irritability. Dark chocolate.
If you need willpower and constant self-talk to avoid eating chips at 10 p.m. or fast food twice a day, it’s not you by default.
“You by default” becomes your natural process, one that doesn’t require a lot of cognition or secondary support to maintain. You’re active because you are an active person. You eat healthier because you are a healthier eater. You behave kindly, well, because you ARE kind. You’ve internalized natural or learned behaviors. It is possible.
You show love and lovingkindness because it’s “you by default.”
Find a way to become whatever goal or attribute you want in your life. It’s now a part of you, never to be stripped away or requiring intangible willpower. It is a type of discipline turned to automatic.
Whatever it is that you want to do or become, practice. Even if you don’t know the vocabulary to describe it. If you can overcome the natural reluctance slope that allows new behavior to become permanent, you will find that you can do this in other areas of your life, too. You will have shifted your default.
It’s also interesting from an interpersonal point of view. If people haven’t shifted their internal values, their behavior isn’t their default. They’ll revert almost every time and abandon their attempts to change. It’s not impossible, but it is a rarity.
The screenshot is of this week’s sleep for me. Months ago, part of my therapy was to learn to sleep again. My benchmark is 6 hours, which probably seems low to most of you. It’s not. I CAN sleep more, but my natural rhythm at this weight is six hours. At some point, I’m going to take a week and see if I can sleep for eight hours and see if it lowers my motivation again. It did before. I’m not sure I actually fell asleep as early as I did on some of those nights; the Fitbit interprets low heart rate and breaths as light sleep, even if I’m awake and listening to music or a podcast, or wrestling with my cat Güino.
In February, I wrote a post titled “Shirtless in February.” I never felt too weird about people seeing my body. We all know what people look like, more or less, whether they’re layered in two shirts, a tunic, and a bathrobe. It’s anatomy, not magic. (Although there is magic and chemistry in the process of seeing someone, that’s for another post.) 🙂 We fool ourselves by thinking we’re being clever. In my case, I wish someone had been creative enough to tell me to stop eating and lose weight twenty years ago, and in such a way that I would have HEARD the concern. We don’t have a way to lovingly talk to someone about this sort of thing without setting off a firestorm of defense or anger. That’s a problem.
As a side note, the world would also be much better off if you accept the compliment if someone thinks you are pretty, beautiful, handsome, or attractive. There is no universal standard for such things. Can we stop insisting there is? One of the most beautiful things is a quick smile and a sense of humor, even if the teeth behind it are crooked. I’m being serious. There’s no single formula for beauty or even attraction.
Yesterday, I had tons of energy. I ate an abnormally large lunch and then had a therapy session. We laughed a lot, which is always a good sign. As I often say, she can laugh easily because she’s billing me. I already knew I was feeling better due to the volume of pranks and creative things I’d been doing. After, around 4, I felt anxious. Having a Fitbit pays off in these circumstances. Because I have the premium option, I could see the metrics in real-time and progress. Seeing the physiological effects helps me deal with it.
Today, I woke up feeling like I was walking on air, which is becoming very common -and when I don’t feel that energy, I wonder what causes it. I realized that I expect that I will always wake up ready to ring the bell and step into the day. I wanted to go running all morning. Unfortunately, work intervened. Work “let” me walk 15-20K steps, though. It wasn’t until after work that I realized that not running yesterday affected my level of anxiety in the afternoon. It should have been evident to me. I’ve only missed a couple of days of running in the last couple of weeks. If I find myself incapable of constant running, I switch to running in intervals and burn through the miles or minutes that way. Anything incremental is better than not doing anything. I’m not sure I will continue running. I’d do it if someone agreed to chase me each day. Add a little danger and/or mystery to the equation.
I hit the streets this afternoon. I enjoyed the incredible 75-degree afternoon. Weirdly, I could sense this might be the last such incredibly temperate afternoon to enjoy – maybe for weeks. The Upper 70s in December? Yes, please! And so, I ran. After a few minutes, I took my shirt off. The slight breeze gave me wings. Even though I didn’t want to, I stopped. I felt like I could run ten miles, which would be a discomfort payment I wouldn’t want to make tomorrow. I did run up and down the apartment stairs a few dozen times when I got back, though.
An actual test of whether someone cares what they look like is if they can run without a shirt on. Forget swimming without one; the litmus test is running, where there’s no water to hide your body. For 54, I look normal. My scar left what looks like a second belly-button indentation a few inches above my real one. The surgery left a “pooch” between the two indentations. When I think back to how I looked and felt before, it is still hard to believe I fooled myself for so long. I’m not a fan of people being ashamed of their bodies, no matter what shape they are in. I understand it, but when you compare the vast variety of body types and shapes, everyone has something they hate about themselves. Except for me. I accept it all because it’s me. I did the work needed to remove the excuses I kept whispering in my head. Looking normal is something I hadn’t anticipated.
Don’t worry; I’m still not going to ACT normal, so you can cross that expectation off of your list.
I’m going to put a picture below. Not so that people could say something nice – or mean. Anyone who wants to snark is welcome to as long as it’s creative. I love creative snark, and I need to practice not caring that other people think I look like Danny DeVito grown up and thinner. I’m not sucking my gut in. I don’t have one. I have a weird pooch that can’t be fixed without surgery, which will not happen. I already lost a knife fight with a surgeon. He got the last laugh with the catheter.
People keep telling me to stop losing weight. I haven’t lost any weight since before my surgery. I’m just working to change my body mass. I ate a donut and seven Ghiradelli chocolate squares this morning.
I’m still experimenting with the ‘how’ of it. There are days when I’m glad I’ve done it all for no other reason than to know I did it. The future could hit me with any number of calamities or illnesses. It’s a question of when not if.
I’ve encouraged anyone interested in doing something to change themselves. No matter what else I’ve done, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I still weighed 230, 240, or 250+ lbs. The voice in my head answers: “Dead.” You don’t have to go to the gym, buy supplements, or do a lot of cardio to lose weight. You don’t even have to invest a lot of time. All it takes is a change of mind about how you want to look and feel. Small changes, constantly reinforced. Because I’ve learned to say so, I’ll include the caveat that there are exceptions. But I’m not writing about the exceptions. As the year winds down, the barrage of New Year’s Resolutions and commitments ramp up. And I reply, “Why wait? You can do one thing today to start. And you can do it right here and right now.”
If you’re happy with your body, stop struggling to worry about your weight. And don’t worry about how people perceive you. You can’t change that.
Despite what I’ve been eating, I still weigh about 148 lbs. There’s a ‘but’ here.
I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve stepped on the scale lately, expecting to be over 150.
I think back to when I had the vision of what I’d look like. I didn’t expect a huge abdominal scar. But I love that it’s there. Really.
I’ve worked really hard since surgery to change my body. It’s working. My muscle mass is increasing. That creates the issue of burning more calories at rest than I previously did. I was wrong about needing to incorporate more weight training into my routine. Wrong seems to surround me when I think about what I thought I knew. I’m so grateful that I can do pushups again. Before my surgery, they were like meditation to me.
Now that I have a Fitbit, I know how easy it is to surpass 20,000 steps just on a normal day, one without a “walk.” I was fat with the same amount of activity. For years. That tells you how many bad choices I was making with the foods I was eating. It’s the fundamental truth of losing weight. Generally speaking, it’s the only reason you’re not where you want to be.
Fitbit watches are great for metrics. I thought I wouldn’t find it interesting. I was wrong, as usual. I got the 3-month trial premium plan. It tells me my heart rate, O2 level, sleep patterns, snoring, and of course steps. The threshold is 10,000 steps. It’s obvious that I will always go over 20,000 if I’m working. If I take a long walk through the streets around me, I can hit 30,000, or 50,000.
The Banana Apple Rule has helped me. If I go into a store, even an inconvenience store, and there are apples or bananas, I buy one and eat it. It’s a bit simplistic, but it works. It might not stop me from eating a bag of something stupid; it reminds me of why making different choices is a necessity.
When I lost all the weight, I didn’t change anything except what I ate.
Now that I’ve eclipsed a year of different choices, I feel humbled. No matter what else has happened to me, I can’t resist running up the stairs or wanting to hurdle over the side as I go down them, wondering if I might float.
When I think about where I was thirteen months ago, I float.
Thanksgiving is approaching. I thank the universe every night that I’m still here. I’ll make a lot of dumb choices because I’m human. But I’ll also make a lot of moments better because I’m still alive and being me.
During the cheesecake fiasco at Whole Foods the other day, I bought a reasonably-priced jug of protein powder. I should have known!
Anything reasonably priced at Whole Foods is 100% a mistake. Trust me.
It’s like buying your auto insurance from a guy named Honest Pete. You just don’t do it.
This brand is plant-based. Today, I made ten servings of it. The label said “French Vanilla.” The flavor is so opposite the label that I decided it is a new form of reverse marketing.
I made mine with skim milk. When I took the first gulp, the truth is that I thought it tasted like a chalky fart.
Yes, you read that right.
You know how you drive past a weird part of town and realize that the municipal wastewater treatment plant must be nearby? It was exactly like that but without the nostalgia. You have to drive a mile to rid the smell from the interior of your car.
The grit and residue left in my teeth was remarkable. Had someone thrown an urn of ashes in my face, I wouldn’t have noticed, probably even if threw the actual metal urn in my face, too. I decided that it reminded me of a mix of flatulence, diet tonic water, black licorice, and the tears of Tibetan monks.
As I stood there drinking it, I read the label. I couldn’t find “bile” anywhere in the list.
By the time I finished the serving?
I realized that it tastes so terrible that I LOVE it.
Just ignore me if I swallow and shiver as I imbibe it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I grow horns or an extra ear after drinking this stuff.
It’s rancid. I’ll buy it again if I catch it “on sale” at Whole Foods. Or possibly in their dumpster. Yes, I’m conflicted!
“Your body reflects what you do habitually.” I’d add, “Your life is the same.”
Choices. Habits. Focus.
Stupid buzzwords that also are true. There’s no magic formula for most of it. It’s just consistency and using our intelligence and creativity to let our bodies do what they are supposed to. It also requires silencing that negative voice in your head. You are not your past or your past choices, even though that’s precisely what most of us think when we’re alone with our thoughts. Life would be staggeringly bad if we believed that we were incapable of striking out on a new path. I look at my hands each day and find it impossible to think that I bit my fingernails for 50+ years. It’s stupid. I look back at my pictures, and even during years when I was appreciative of life, I can’t help but wonder how much more life I could have experienced if I’d woken up sooner. I can’t recapture those years, but I can tuck them away as a constant reminder.
I’m a few days away from my original year-long health/weight plan. My brother died on October 5th of last year. Following that, I had the morning where I thought I had covid and felt like I would die. It seems like five years ago. But I still feel the gong of that day in my head when I remember ‘seeing’ my new self. Over the last several months, I’ve worked on reading, watching, and absorbing as much science-based material that I could about health, weight maintenance, and exercise. For me, it is painfully obvious why most people fail in their efforts.
I know people read some of my thoughts and wonder why I feel like I can give advice. All of us have our moments and experience. I know what I learned and what worked for me. Almost everything can be boiled down to wanting to change and then experimenting with what I thought I knew versus what works. I can’t help but be a little evangelical about it because not a day passes when someone doesn’t express a desire to get control of this aspect of their lives. I’m insistent on telling them that they can, even if they do so, without disrupting their days with crazy programs and “musts” that don’t hold up to science. Major change can be achieved incrementally, one little choice and habit at a time.
I started on June 1st with pushups. Within weeks, I was doing hundreds a day, culminating in me doing 1,500 some days. That makes me laugh. A week before my emergency surgery, I decided to limit myself to 500 a day for maintenance and modify my diet to add protein and more calories, in part to shift to more muscle-building. How ironic that I’d made the shift just three days before my surgery on Monday, September 13th. It is unfathomable to me that it’s been only three weeks. For anyone who doesn’t know, my surgery didn’t result from overexertion. I had a tiny bit of scar tissue that caused my intestinal loop to get lodged in the void created by the scar tissue and cut off. The only way I could have ‘caught’ it would have been to have a colonoscopy very recently; even then, surgery would have been required.
The surgeons look out the small loop. Pain saved my life, even though I will never forget rolling around on the cement floor of the ER for hours. Being thin made my recovery incredibly faster. Since then, I’ve followed the advice of surgeons and nutritionists. I’ve used dumbbells relentlessly so that my transition back to work will be less eventful. What happened to me could happen again – or to anyone. I’m thankful it wasn’t a tumor, a heart attack, or an aneurysm. After I woke up alive, I found out that my initial CT Scan had a mass that looked indistinguishable from a tumor. The surgeons thought it was going to be a complicated surgery. They were surprised to find it was straightforward. Life’s lottery gave me a pass for another day.
In a nutshell, here’s the gist: the simplest way to stay thinner is to control what you put in your mouth. (Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?) Beyond that, move around, preferably with activity. But while you’re at it, get rid of the idea that you have to artificially block off time or engage in rigorous (and likely boring) traditional exercise. Walk your dog, cat, or opossum, vacuum, play frisbee, walk across long parking lots instead of hovering by the door. Be creative.
Anywhere from 75-90% of every calorie you burn is from just living. You burn 10-20% of your calories exercising at most, and that’s pushing it. Yet, most people jump into health kicks thinking exercise is the critical component. It’s not. Controlling your diet and maximizing your ability to consume and burn calories when you’re not moving is key to any long-term weight maintenance routine. Since most of your calories are burned from everyday living, the biggest bang for your time is derived by taking the effort to control what goes into your mouth. The second biggest results from moving, no matter how you choose to do so.
Exercise is essential for a lot of reasons. But you’re going to have to get over the mindset that it’s the single solution to weight maintenance. You’ll note that most healthy people incorporate activity into their everyday lives. It does not need to include weight-lifting, running, or other dedicated activities. If you enjoy those things, knock yourself out! If you don’t, find something that works for you – things that don’t cost you a fortune, injure you, or make you resent activity. We have so many options to entertain ourselves.
Most people don’t stick to unnatural attempts to exercise. Much of the gym universe is predicated on taking financial advantage of people’s inability to stick to life changes that become habits. All that time you spend driving to and from the gym would be much better served walking or finding ways to stay active during your day. (IF you’re not going to stick to it long-term, I mean) And if you do enjoy the gym, by all means, go! If you find that the routine of the gym galvanizes you into continuing with exercise, don’t think I’m saying it’s a waste. It’s not. Any routine that works for you is worth the effort, no matter what it is. If you’re willing to learn new comfort zones, you’ll more likely stick to what works for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
And if you don’t, find inexpensive equipment to achieve the same result at home. Most of us are not athletes. Feel free to run if you want to. But a 180-lb person burns about 170 calories running a 10-minute mile. You burn roughly 100 calories walking a mile. This isn’t a cardio-versus-exercise post. The point is that if you commit to a sustainable diet and activity, you’ll be more likely to be successful. Sheer bouts of willpower don’t work very well. And they contribute to that creeping feeling of failure or disappointment when you fall off the wagon.
Quit fighting the science that tells us that slower-paced exercise yields almost the same benefit as intense bouts of bone-wearying exertion. If you do activity or exercise that builds muscle, you’re going to burn more calories when you do give in and sit on the couch. You don’t have to spend an hour at a time to get healthy. However, you have to commit to making habits that make staying fit and healthy an inevitable consequence. Taking six ten-minute walks yields almost the same health benefit as an hour-long walk.
If you do build muscle mass, you’ll burn a lot more calories than by simply losing weight. It’s one of the reasons you need to keep in mind that muscle will increase your weight and keep you healthier and adjust your metabolism. And you’ll look better and feel better. I’m not anti-weights at all. I’m anti-starting-what-you-can’t-always-continue-to-do. Every activity you choose pushes other alternatives out. If you’ve got the time and stamina for weight training, that’s great! I don’t want you blaming your perceived ‘failure’ for not going to the gym. You don’t need a gym if you have the motivation to do things differently.
Recently, someone I know was lamenting that she hadn’t “went to exercise the entire week.” I asked, “But if you’re at home on the couch, you can do 1,000 exercises. Pushups, dumbbells, walk in place, run in place, etc. If you can watch four hours of tv, you can definitely do 30-60 minutes of activity – and still watch tv while you do it.” She looked at me blankly, knowing I’d eviscerated her excuse. “Yes, but a couple of those evenings I was at sporting events or with a friend.” I paused. “Okay, but you can still do a lot of activity when you’re at a sporting event or a friend’s house. Or, heaven forbid, while you’re working. Instead of getting out your phone, do sets of exercises. How is that any ruder than ignoring your friend while you’re on the phone? You can still talk to your friend even if you’re on the floor doing pushups. You have to normalize your choices and stop normalizing your excuses.” My sermon was over.
Use incrementalism to achieve the same objective without devoting your precious time to artificially forcing yourself to exercise. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, you’re making it worse for your future self.
Pick something you know you don’t need. Doritos, for example. Eat less of them. Just that tiny step will, over time, reduce your weight and improve your health. Keep adding small changes by choosing differently. If you’re not hungry, stay out of the kitchen. If you can, don’t bring home things that you know you can’t resist. Use them as treats rather than staples. In our world, there are so many options we can choose from instead of empty calories. You’re not going to get where you want to be by doing the same things; change is mandatory.
It’s day one for you, rather than “one day.”
Keep moving. Eat less.
Find ways to make food both enjoyable and rational. If you don’t choose to do this, your hard choices are already made for you – and the person you’ll be next year will have to deal with your current inability to focus.
Food is not going to stop being delicious. Food manufacturers are beyond incredible at what they do. They design foods that make you want to eat more. Don’t feel wrong about being normal and loving such foods. Feel bad that you know it and won’t choose a different way to react.
So what if you binge on terrible foods? It’s more about the arc of your effort than a single day. Eat a large pizza or a pan of lasagna. A single day’s extravagance will not derail you. It’s all mental.
Choose your hard until it becomes easy.
I’m just a few days away from October. I started my journey and promised myself I’d take a hard look after a year. Despite having surgery, I’m more convinced than ever that I’ll never be fat again.
It’s just math: keep my intake lower than my exertion. It’s not much of a secret formula, is it? You already know all of this.
WW, Jenny Craig, and the hundreds of other programs are out there if you need them and if they work for you. But it is entirely possible to achieve your goals without paying for an extra program.
The secret is a desire to be the person you want to be and find a way to get there.
Put it into literal action.
P.S. Yes, that picture behind me is of a monkey seeing my reflection in the handheld mirror..