Here is a contradiction:
I am twenty-five pounds over what I want to be. The reasons aren’t relevant; here I am. I can make excuses as is customary in situations like this. I have had one of the most stressful years of my life; circumstances with obligations kept me from my routine, I was pretty sick for a while, and my son constantly makes delicious bread. Whatever—here I am.
At the same time, I was a highly trained and practicing expert in exercise and weight loss. I ran a club for one of the most celebrated and accomplished exercise gurus in America, and I went through months of training, eight hours a day, five days a week, to learn about how to properly work every muscle in the body, how to eat, how to lose weight and keep it off. I helped work out everyone from college football teams to excessively obese women. Granted, that was more than thirty years ago, but I still remember the process.
I know, for instance, age has little to do with it. DNA plays a part, of course, but in most situations, adjustments can be made as we grow older. The metabolism slows making it more difficult to shed pounds as you age, most of the gain or lack of loss is environmental, and there are compensations readily available to make up for that. Schedules are another oft-referenced excuse, but the exercise aspect doesn’t take long and the eating, well, if you’re doing it right, takes less time than you think.
No, we simply don’t bother doing what is necessary because of lack of will power, bad habits, pressure from loved ones, bad associations, and a slew of other contestable dissents.
I am not trying to go back to being twenty-five-years old, though how cool would that be? No, I’m going to apply the knowledge of then-me to the increasingly discouraged now-me. This has nothing to do with how I look; it is about how I feel. I used to tell all people who came to the club that it is not about the scale, it is not about how it weighs on your mind. It is about how you feel about yourself. Friends say I don’t look like I need to lose that much; but it isn’t about what they think.
Since every other aspect of my existence is rebooting, I figured this was a good time for a complete renaissance. So here are a few guidelines I plan to follow to help me lose twenty-five pounds by Labor Day. I used these at the club, and they helped some members lose upwards of one hundred and fifty pounds:
1. It’s an old axiom but it is true: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.
2. Cut back the carbs, cut out the sugar, cut out the salt.
3. Plan the day’s food the night before and stick to the plan.
4. Drink a lot of water; often we aren’t hungry we’re dehydrated.
5. Cardio ten to fifteen minutes a day through swift walking or climbing stairs.
6. Get on the floor and do simple sit-ups, leg lifts, and a few others you can learn by Googling “lower body exercises” to work the waists and thighs fifteen minutes a day. And move slowly; speed during exercise is counterproductive.
7. Abdominal work 8 minutes every other day.
8. Arm isometrics for five minutes every day.
And the small things:
1. Park far away from anywhere I’m going (not too far).
2. Wear comfortable shoes.
3. Carry water.
4. Stop thinking about food, talking about food, and watching shows with food.
And the quirky things:
1. Brush your teeth when you start to feel hungry. No one ever enjoys following teeth-brushing with chocolate or sugars. That’s disgusting.
2. Eat food with natural sugars like oranges and apples, which are healthy and curb the desire for junk.
3. Leave your money at home. Empty the wallet except for what you need for gas. Carry no change and convince yourself that charging fast food is just pathetic.
4. Keep the list with you of what you’re going to eat for the day.
5. Avoid dairy; it screws with the digestive system.
6. Until you reach your goal don’t agree to go to the normal places with family or friends where you always end up getting something to eat.
7. Wear tight clothes. Everyone feels thin in sweatpants.
8. Choose one day (and it must be the same day—Sunday works for me) that you’ll allow yourself to not worry about what you eat (still worry about how much you eat, keeping the calories below 2000). This gives you something to look forward to instead of constant denial, which inevitably results in binge eating.
9. Set up a plan to cut back on bad habits. To cut out completely is always a mistake, just like with alcohol or heroin, there will be some serious withdrawal problems resulting in falling off the wagon. So if you’re doing ten snickers bars a day like someone I knew at the club was doing, go down to eight, then six, then four, in subsequent weeks until you’re only having one on one day a week.
10. Don’t check the scale. Stop worrying about how much you are losing; you’re going to go up and down for quite some time until the body adjusts and then will finally find the slope back down to what you are working toward. If you must must must must check the scale, do it once a week and laugh at the lack of results when they happen. If you have a deadline for losing weight, count on no more than two pounds a week, ever. If you do more, that’s great, but losing just two pounds a week insures you are seventy percent more likely to keep it off
11. Stop going to grocery stores; send someone else. Tell your son to stop making bread.
12. Stop STOP STOP!! Eating out!! The sodium alone in processed foods will keep the weight on and cause unwanted heart problems.
Do. Not. Quit. After three weeks if you stick to this, you’ll more naturally start to accept this way of doing things, and it will work. I’m using the second person here but really that is mostly so when I read this again I will talk to myself (which is more normal for me than you might think). I’m not trying to lose twenty-five pounds; I’m trying to lose five pounds in two or three weeks. At that point I’ll think about what’s next. Eventually it will be the twenty-five. Think about it: We are adamant about what type gas we put in our car but not what food we put in our body. That’s insane.
One more trick, and I am not trying to be mean. Find two pictures of yourself: one when you thought you were at your best, and one when you were at your worst, and keep them somewhere visible. If you don’t have any, find a picture of some poor slob eating a box of Krispy Kremes, and find another of some buff person. In both sets of examples, ask yourself which direction you’d prefer to go and are you doing anything to get there. Two picture; two ideas; two dreams of the once-would-be-now you waiting to emerge, and shelf any notion that starting over is more difficult. I won’t list examples from the club or from the world at large of people who made up their minds to see it through. In the end, though, it only worked when they did it for themselves. Just for themselves.
The first time I ever heard my boss at the club offer advice I was sitting right next to him and I not only never forgot it, I used it many times both at the club and in classes at the college:
Too often we do things because we are bored or depressed or because we aren’t getting along with someone we love or something isn’t going right at work, and we do something self-defeating because it is something we can control, such as eating. We can eat what we want and no one can stop us and it makes us feel good and empowered. The immediate satisfaction is worth the price of any long term problems. Sometimes when we eat it is the only time we feel alive. But you always have two choices. Always. You can do what brings you toward your goal or do what takes you further from your goal.
For me? Well, let’s just say I once again feel entitled to pursue my goals.