Weight Loss: Everything I’ve Learned About How To Get And Stay Fit, part One

March 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

And with all of his effort complete, he had to come to some conclusion.

I like conclusions.  I like wrapping everything up.  Maybe to some people conclusions sort of take away all of the effort you put in up to this point (why didn’t you just say this to begin with?!) but as much as I loved the ending to The Sopranos, this is my way of giving you a final perspective on what I’ve learned in 29 years of being fat.  And no matter how much weight I lose, I will always be fat.  That’s why it’s good for me to never forget the following.

There’s something so deeply ingrained in the mind of a person that constantly struggles with weight problems.  There is a part of us that can never let go. Whether it’s bad metabolism, bad habits, addiction, depression, or a combination of all of those things, we have a hard time just moving on.  When thin people made fun of me as a kid, the only part that really bothered me was that they had no fucking idea what they were talking about.  They’d tease you for what they thought you could control.  They thought it all amounted to a Big Mac and an inability to get off of the couch.

But it’s deeper than that.  It’s an unidentifiable part of my psyche that won’t allow me to just rest, or to just be, without gaining weight.  I have to consciously think about my eating habits and my dieting habits, otherwise I will gain weight.  And I’ll gain it rather quickly.  That’s why I have to stay on top of the situation every day of my life or I’ll go right back to where I was before.  Like a recovery heroin addict that can’t have a single slip-up, I can’t just wake up and live my life and go to bed without knowing that every decision I make could negatively effect me.

A person who has been in shape for their entire life, whether that’s because they’re working out or because “they just have one of those bodies” doesn’t have to think about it.  They are just living their life.  But a person that has always had a problem with their weight, whether they have lost it or not, will always have to think about it.  That’s my life.

I guess sometimes I gain weight just as a way to ease some of the load off of my brain.

Through it all, through three major losses of weight and at one point losing 150 total pounds, I’ve learned a lot.  I haven’t yet found out how to just be, but until I do these are all of the tips I can hope to share that help me lose weight when I need to lose weight.  In diet and in exercise, this is what I now know.  I hope that it helps because I don’t want my experiences to just be for me, I want to help others as well.

This is what I’ve learned, starting with working out:

EXERCISE

Just Do One More

You’ll learn a lot about yourself when you first start to workout or diet.  Good things and bad, probably.  I’ve got my faults but one good thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m always willing to go further.  This is mostly because I’m very impatient and I go pretty hardcore when I want to lose weight.  If it can be done in six months, what can I do to get there in five?

One thing that I always do when I workout is “Do one more” and it’s something that you have to be able to hold yourself accountable for.  Sure, if you have a workout partner, someone who is experienced and knows a lot about training, they’ll push you.  If you have a trainer, he or she will push you.  But I can’t afford a trainer and I’ve not always had the opportunity to have a workout buddy.

So that means that the majority of the time, I have to be my own motivator.

Most of what I do now is cardio, but “Do one more” still applies to running or other forms of cardio.  Usually, I’ll set myself a certain amount of time that I want to spend on the elliptical.  Let’s call it “30 minutes” since this is usually what I start at.  So you finally finished your 30 minutes and you’re tired as fuck but are you really in a hurry to get out?  Do you have somewhere else you need to be?  Why not do one more minute?

Ellipticals: Where the Ladies Are At!

The way I see it, you’ll only be here in this moment once.  Sure, I’m exhausted and when I was at 20 minutes I could hardly even envision myself finishing the last 10, but you’re here now and you’re “done” but why do you have to be done?  You’re here now and you just did 30 minutes, so why the hell can’t you do 31?

Sometimes, you’ll just do that one extra minute.  Sometimes I’ve told myself “just one more” and then I’ll end up doing another 30.  Whether or not you do 30 extra or 1 extra, the point still remains that you’ve pushed yourself further than you expected and that’s good for you both mentally and physically.

Physically, doing one extra minute of cardio (or one extra rep in muscle training) might not seem like a lot.  Hell, it’s not a lot.  But if you consistently tell yourself “just one more” then that’s going to add up.  Like cutting out 100 calories a day, eventually that extra step will add up to perhaps an extra pound or two of fat loss per year.  That’s certainly significant to me.  And what I’ve found is that the “just one more” will usually amount to at least five extra minutes of cardio, which is that much more significant in your efforts to reach your goal.

Mentally, it can mean so much more.

You might have started this workout not believing you could do 30 minutes and when you accomplish that you feel good about yourself.  Now you’ve done 35.  You’ve set a new bar and you’ve gone further than you believed you could.  Every time you do something for the first time, you’ve now found out how far you actually can push yourself.  You’re not going to get very far if you set a low bar and then just do that each and every time.  In fact, even if you run for 30 minutes at the exact same pace, eventually you’ll just be running circles.  Your body needs to be pushed.

Don’t do what’s easy, do what’s possible.  You’ll find out that you’re capable of doing more than you could have imagined.

Over time, I find myself starting at something simple but after six months or a year, I can’t believe what I’m actually doing.  The only way to get there is to push yourself, because at first that means you’re doing 31 minutes and by the end of it you’re doing 2 hours.  The body needs to be pushed if it’s going to advance, so take it easy on yourself by taking baby steps, but never stop moving forward and re-setting the bar.

It’s only one more.

Pay Attention To Your Heart Rate!

I can’t emphasize enough how much more important heart rate is than anything else.  Well, I can probably over-emphasize it because I am just a novice workout guy, but one thing that I have learned is that your heart rate will be the indicator of the effort.  It’s not so much about how far you’re running, how hard your resistance is, or how steep the incline is, but it’s about how much effort your putting into it.

What I have found out is that I like to keep my heart rate above 150 for at least 30 minutes.  Usually, based on my efforts I will be at around 160, but talk to a professional about what’s best for you.  I’ll go onto the machine and workout and after 10 minutes I’ll check my heart rate.  Don’t monitor it the whole time, keep your arms moving and focus on your intensity but make sure that you’re heart rate is at a good place, otherwise you’re either in danger (too high) or wasting your time (too low.)

I hate wasting my time at the gym.  Work hard or don’t work at all.

I’m a Music Guy

I was working out on a elliptical machine back in 2009 when I had just joined the YMCA and it had been awhile since I worked out on a consistent basis.  So at first, I didn’t pay much attention to things like “What am I listening to?” or “What am I watching?”  That particular Y actually had personal TVs on all of the machines, and I would usually just put on Wheel of Fortune or something and do my thing.

It was a fine workout.

Then one day I decided to try listening to music and I turned the TV to the Music Channel that was playing 90s Rap.  There was no conscious effort on my part to workout differently.  I was just listening to Snoop and Dre and going about my business.  By the end of the 30 minutes though, I was exhausted and sweating unlike I ever had previous to that.  My heart rate was off the charts and I kept it up consistently throughout.

I don’t know what music will work best for you, but find out your perfect workout routine.  It doesn’t have to be music, but whatever it is that helps you work out hardest, listen to it.  There’s a real correlation between how you keep your mind occupied while you workout and how much effort you’re putting in.

Bring a Buddy, If You Can

Like I said before, I have done much of my exercise without a workout buddy.  Therefore, it’s not a necessity.  But having someone to hold you accountable is never a bad thing.

The first time I ever started working out, I had a workout partner.  Even though I had to get up at 5 AM, I never missed a day because I knew that someone was waiting for me.  I knew that there would be someone to tell me “Where were you yesterday?”   I think it’s always key to hold yourself accountable, but that doesn’t mean that having others hold you accountable is a problem either.

As far as trainers go, I have never had one but I probably would have one if I could afford to spend the money on one.  I’m not ashamed to have someone guide me and as far as muscle training goes, I could definitely stand to learn more.  When you’re trying to better yourself, never be afraid to ask for help.

Alone Or Not, You’re Accountable For You

I still want to emphasize that no matter how you work out, whether you got a buddy or you don’t, you still have to hold yourself accountable.  You’re only going to get out of it as much as you put into it and when you give up you’re only hurting yourself.

I used to watch The Biggest Loser and think “Those ungrateful fucks.  Put me on that show and I will dominate this shit.”  It’s unbelievable to me to watch people have this amazing opportunity where they are: In an environment that’s set up for success, with highly trained professionals, healthy food provided for you at no cost, and on top of that an opportunity to win money for something that you should have been doing for free, and yet they still complain?!

Be one of those contestants that makes Bob and Jillian tired.  Be one of those contestants that makes the other contestants look like shit.  Push yourself further than anyone else thought you could do.  Surprise people.  Even if you have a trainer, and the trainer says “Okay, give me two more!” then you give them four more.  Do more than you’re asked to do.  Don’t bitch about it when you’re asked to do more, tell them that it’s not enough.

If I hire you to do a job and you fuck up, then you’ve let me down.  But bettering yourself isn’t something that’s usually going to matter to anyone else.  You’re the one that has to look in the mirror.  You’re the one that has live in your head.  You’re the one that has ask yourself “Did I do enough?”

At the end of the day, weight loss is a one-person operation.  I can mentally handle it when I let a girl down during sex (obviously) but I can’t handle it when I have to say to myself, “You let me down.”

Have A Routine But If You Have To Break It, Make The Effort To Do Something Once A Week

It’s really important to have a routine, no matter what that is.  Whether you’re going Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or you’re going Monday-through-Friday, setup the routine that works for you.  However, sometimes life happens and we aren’t able to make it.  We have to break that routine.  Don’t let it break your stride.

Every time I have stopped working out, it’s been because of one week missed.  Every. Single. Time.

You know how you can stop that?  Just don’t miss a week.  No matter what happens, it’s hard to come up with an excuse for why you missed a whole week of exercise.  Usually, if I’m in the routine of Monday to Friday (and that is my routine) then there will always be times when I miss a day and if I’m going hard, then I’ll make it up on Saturday.  But let’s say that you’re having a terrible week and you’re sick or you’re exhausted or you just don’t feel up to it because your favorite contestant was voted off of American Idol.

Just go once.  For fifteen minutes.  Do something.  That’s it.  Don’t sit there at the end of the week and look back and see that you did nothing because its going to A) Justify you missing next week and B) Make you feel like shit.  You don’t want to feel like shit about yourself when you’re trying to do something to make yourself feel better.  If you miss a week, then you’re going to miss another.  But if you made an effort to go even once, then you’ll still be in some sort of routine of, “I made it to the gym last week.  Don’t quit.”

The dropoff from “gym rat” to “lazy boy” is not a slow one.  It’s a sudden one.  You go from “five days a week” to “zero” in absolutely no time.  So keep yourself going to the gym.  Keep your routine.  Even if you have to miss a day or two and can’t make it up, make some effort to be there in some capacity otherwise you’ll start to justify the reasons for missing the gym the next time.

I am not a trainer.  I don’t know that much about “How to” exercise.  I’m just a regular guy that’s dealt with weight problems his whole life and these are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.  Next time, I’ll discuss the dieting tips that help keep me from being the giant person I know I can be.

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§ 3 Responses to Weight Loss: Everything I’ve Learned About How To Get And Stay Fit, part One

  • Bob Johnston says:

    Hi Kenneth,

    I don’t know how my comment will be received, you’ll most likely think I’m a bit of a nutjob but oh well, it won’t be the last time.

    So I followed your weight loss story with a lot of interest as diet is of huge interest for me. As a former fat kid and someone who in my early 30′s found himself getting heavier and heavier as time went by following the recommended low-fat, whole grain mantra it was a great skepticism when I heard about the low-carb diet. I initially read about it and thought “This is crazy” but seeing as I was pushing 240 lbs and exercising a great deal and still getting fatter I was willing to try anything.

    And the low-carb diet worked! Soon I was down to 200 lbs (at 6′-3″) eating little but protein and fat and my energy levels and health were great. That was 10 years ago and I no longer struggle with my weight, unless of course I fall off the wagon and eat things I shouldn’t.

    Anyhow, as I was reading your 5th installment of how you lost weight and I was wondering “Does Kenny realize that he was doing a low-carb diet w/o realizing it”? I don’t know for sure but I imagine at 500 calories a day you weren’t eating a whole lot of carbs. Even if 50% of your calories were carbs that would still only be 60 grams a day with the rest protein and fat. Sure your calorie restriction was severe but you were eating low-carb nonetheless. One of the great things about low-carb is that is that cravings for food usually don’t happen as was your experience (despite the low calories).

    Anyhow, a lot has changed over the past 10 years in terms of knowledge and despite the conventional wisdom that low-carb is unhealthy, the science is slowly changing course away from “everything in moderation” mantra. Anyhow, I have no idea what your philosophy is on food but I figured I’d put my $.02 anyhow. If you’re interested Gary Taubes has a fascinating (to me at least) book out called “Why We Get Fat” detailing what’s actually proven regarding nutrition and why low carb is probably the way we should eat. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who’s curious about what’s really going on in their bodies. I’m not meaning to sound like a zealot, I just get frustrated by the conventional wisdom of diet and exercise that’s not really based on much of anything at all.

    Thanks,

    Bob

    • Hi Bob, Thanks for your comment!

      Yeah, I did realize that I was cutting out carbs. When I write about the “Diet” post in addition to my earlier “Exercise” post, I’ll make sure to point that out. I just haven’t really explicitly said “Low carb” up to this point, though it’s fair.

      In cutting out calories, I also cut out a shitload of carbs. If I ever dared to even eat a sandwich, it was the grainy, brown, as far from “normal” bread as I could get. Goodbye Rice :(.

      But definitely it was a lot of chicken, veggies, and almost no carbs just like sugar and soda pop.

      Thanks for reading!

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