Someone smart asked me in all seriousness, “If life is so short, why do you persist in doing so many things you don’t like? Is it that you don’t like life or that you don’t like yourself? You’re losing a little bit of both each time you do it.” Of course, I pithily answered back and received this barb: “An occasional compromise is totally normal, of course, because so much of life is doing exactly that, but why would you let another person frequently put you in the position of using the finite minutes you’ve been given doing things you don’t like to do.? That’s not their issue – it is yours. And the longer you wait to learn how to get out of this sort of thing is more of your life flying past. It’s gone forever.”
A few people hit me over the head about the ‘no exercise’ component of my weight loss over the last few months.
Naturally, I never advocated a ‘no exercise’ mantra for myself – or others. What I said was, “No additional exercise,” as in no gym, no weights, no byzantine series of micro-exercises that I wasn’t already doing. Part of my system was to avoid doing anything that I might not be able to do for the rest of my life. Having a long history of yo-yo weight loss behind me, I knew this would be a critical component to still be under 175 in a year. Not that I planned on it, but I also developed an alternate plan to take into consideration additional weight if I were to surprise myself and start weight training. Muscle weighs a lot more on your body, but it also burns more calories. It’s folly to compare all body types and exercise components as equal where weight is involved.
In my case, my job is very physical: lifting, walking a lot, and a wide variety of motions.
It’s true that I walk for pleasure. Given that the majority of my weight loss happened when I was not walking for fun, it’s a moot point. When I set out on my weight loss journey, I was experiencing a new foot pain that sidelined me. I could still work, but it wasn’t comfortable. The same is true for the intermittent shoulder pain and back pain that has accumulated. Weight loss has largely reduced all those pains. I try to be grateful that I woke up before my back or knees worsened. It’s a certainty I was headed for something terrible had I not.
Given the warmer weather, I have been walking more. It’s been fun this year, especially since I’ve done a lot of urban walking and seeing the places around me with new eyes. I walked a lot last year, it’s true, but I walked around with 65 extra pounds saddling me. It’s a substantially different experience and at times I feel like I’m walking on clouds. The difference is that striking.
The science is clear: walking is ALMOST as good long-term as running. You can also walk in bursts throughout the day. Science also tells us that doing bursts of exercise cumulatively yields the same health benefits as walking in a single, longer bout. This is also true for other forms of exercise. It’s a shame that most of us are hoodwinked into believing that exercise must be a long session in an artificial setting.
You don’t have to set aside an artificial amount of time for exercise, much less travel to a gym to do so. If you’re creative and committed, you’ll get results, even if you do a series of exercise bouts during your day. If “gyming” works for you, do it. I’m just reminding people that there is another way, one that won’t rob you of your time.
Another thing that always gets stretched when I mention it is that people try to say that I believe that exercise isn’t important. I don’t. It is. What I said over and over is that exercise isn’t viable as the primary component of weight loss and weight maintenance. Exercise has a lot of benefits, socially, physically, and psychologically.
IF you can do so, you can maintain your weight solely by consuming fewer calories than you burn. It’s simple math.
I don’t recommend it. I recommend that you be active. Were my job not intensely physical, I’d have to incorporate other ways to stay active. If I had an office job, I would walk in increments throughout the day. I’d do pushups or resistance exercises. Working from home, I’d do step exercises, walk on a treadmill, or get an exercise bike if that helped my knees and back.
Speaking out of privilege, I know that many people can’t simply eat well and exercise. Economics and social issues affect a lot of people, as do medical issues that make being healthy or weigh less a lot more difficult. One of the knee-jerk reactions I get on the internet is that people insist that I’m talking to everyone, or that my generalizations are for everyone. They’re not.
For those who aren’t restricted by those issues, all that is missing is for you to open your mind a little and recognize that your attitude is a lot of the problem. You don’t ‘need’ a gym, a lot of equipment, or even an hour a few times a week. You need a commitment and a change upstairs. You can walk a few times a day, or ride an exercise bike, one suited for your conditioning. You can eat less, or at least learn new eating habits. You can confide in a friend or family member, in hopes that you can work with someone needing to make a change like you.
You can choose supplements, energy drinks, or any of the thousands of systems out there to help you lose weight. You don’t need any of them, though, not if a commitment gongs in your head. I’m living proof. If a system helps you, use it. While you’re figuring it out, follow the literature and simplify your efforts. You’ll probably see that you’re going to have to choose a path that you can sustain without spending a fortune or spending a lot of hours that you could otherwise live differently.
You can achieve a lot through incremental effort. A word a day. One snack less. Choosing things you love that are also better choices. All of them hinge on something changing in your head. Once that happens, excuses stop being nooses.
“It’s not about intelligence. Think about it. How many intelligent people have chosen drugs or alcohol? Or had an affair? Or ran their careers into the ground? Or became fat? Or smoke? Make a list of all the pitfalls you’ve done or watched other people do. Intelligence helps us in unimaginable ways. But it also arms us with rationalizations and ways to convince ourselves that everything is fine, we’re not wrong, or that we’re somehow strong enough to handle it or react differently. Look at lawyers who embezzle, bribe, or commit fraud. Doctors? They succumb to the same drugs they are prescribing – and hurt or kill people in the process. Teachers sleep with their students or teach intolerance. Therapists who commit suicide or become addicts? Spouses, who forego a relationship for excitement? Or, conversely, those who stay when they shouldn’t. If you think they’re stupid, you’re wrong. If you can ever figure out the alchemy of the human mind, you’re going to be the salvation of humanity. We all do it – questioning someone’s intelligence for stupidity or misbehavior. In almost every case, the person doing the stupidity has an entirely different narrative running in his or her head. Knowing this, we attribute weakness or folly to others while telling ourselves that it is for a good reason when we do it. Human minds are incredibly complex and simultaneously very basic. A parting note is to remember that no matter what people tell you was going on their heads and hearts when they were doing whatever it is that looks questionable, they mostly either don’t know or aren’t going to tell you the right answer. We all want meaningful lives, great relationships, and health. And we commit the same mistakes over and over, all around the world. We are hard-wired to be both intelligent and stupid. If you can understand your mind, you’re way ahead of the rest of the crowd. And if you can translate that understanding into better and more satisfying and honest behaviors, I will ask you to do my job for me. Instead of labeling misbehavior from others, give them a pass so that you can ask for one for yourself when you do something equally stupid. Let time be a big part of your solution. If you can hesitate before speaking, before acting, before reacting, you have a better chance at being happy or at least comfortable.”