Ed. Note: I often forget many of you are new here — so, a nutshell: From Jan ’08 till May of ’09, I lost 70 pounds. The hard way. Myself — no trainers, diet organizations, nothing. Hard work, honesty, and self-awareness.
I burned out after 8 months with a killer back injury. So, I took the year off and gained 8 pounds back. But, I’m back, and knowing what it takes to be successful, here’s my reflection on beginning that experience for the second time. Hopefully some of my methods can sustain others, too.
After a disappointing first weigh-in because I’d gained two pounds — there’s only so much of that you can call “muscle tone”, methinks — I’m now down 2 pounds off my “starting” weight. So, 4 pounds, but I’m calling it 2.
But I’m down 6 inches off my waist! 2.5 inches off my hips! Yeah!
I know a lot of people have the “ohmigod, I’ve gained weight” experience at the beginning, so I want to share a few observations I can make after having been down this road successfully three times in the past.
First is, obviously I gained weight. For me, if I start exercising more, I start eating more. It’s simple math.
You get complacent and used to inhaling X amount of food when resting, so you psychologically think you need more when you start working out. It happens. Get over it.
That, for me, is where it starts. Let’s face it, becoming an active person is probably the most important goal any of us can set — the second should be eating truly healthily, and the third should involve weight/size.
People get the priorities wrong and think it’s about the weight.
It’s not. It’s about changing your life. Remember that, and it’s easier to deal with the weight hiccups that WILL come your way.
For whatever reason, I naturally gravitate to eating more when I begin hardcore workout phases. There comes a point where I realize my methods are broken, and I’m gaining weight from the muscle tone and eating all that I’ve been burning.
I buckle down and get serious, then I get true results.
“Buckle down” means that I get this epiphany of “HOLY SHIT, I’m working WAY too hard for THAT result.”
When you’re doing two hours and 15 minutes of cardio in a day like I have done a number of times of late, and you have a burger, fries, and two beers, well, on the one hand, yes, if you’re gonna have a burger, that’s the day to do it, man.
But think of the PAYOFF for not having that burger and beers!
Me, I’m NOT cutting out burgers or anything. I’d rather work harder, make smarter choices, and monitor what I’m eating so I know EXACTLY how bad I can be (and be bad much less frequently), and instead of downing Bad Food X with guilt and worry, I can enjoy it with the knowledge that it Fits into my day. It just fits. Therefore, it’s all good.
Weight loss is almost ALL head game.
It’s a head game when you think you’re too tired to cycle further.
It’s a head game when you think the wonky thing in your lower back means you shouldn’t exercise.*
It’s a head game when the numbers go in the wrong direction.
It’s even a head game when you’re trying to understand how you got to X-weight in the first place.
It’s ALL a game.
“Calories-in, calories-out” is an oversimplification of what I’m doing, but it’s about right. I monitor my intake, and I work like shit on the rest.
The difference, I think, between athletes, serious weight loss types like myself, and the average person who sort of works out and they don’t know why they don’t “see more results” for their “five hours” of cardio in a week, is just sheer effort.
I’m bone-tired when I’m done working out. When I get finished, I tend to know I’ve had myself in “moderate to intense” mode since the gate opened. THAT’S what it takes. It takes gasping, wheezing, and pushing forward ANYHOW.
Think you can’t go further and you won’t. It’s all attitude.
Exercise is supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to have you gasping and crying for Mommy. It’s supposed to make you think twice about having any plans for the rest of the week.
There’s a big difference between folks who have a weight to maintain versus if you want to lose it. You want to lose weight just through food? All right, well, that’s about 80% of the deal, if you listen to some folks.
You want a hot body? You’ll likely need to work for it. And I mean work.
I double what people do to “maintain” weight, when I’m losing it. It takes me 5–8 hours a week of working out, but that’s usually just the cardio of what I’ve done — then there’s stretching and here-and-there freeweights in front of the telly.
I hit plateaus, sure, but my body keeps improving, and my fitness does too. That’s my goal, not some number on a scale. Work through the plateaus. Change your food intake or your water, but try to work through it.
Not everyone’s gonna be a size four, so get over it here and now, and the journey will be a whole lot more rewarding for you.
It can’t just be “Did I lose weight this week?” It has to also be “How much better did I perform on that bike ride? How do I feel at the end of my day? Was climbing those stairs easier? Holy, look how much better my breathing is. And, damn, that bag of potatoes feels like air!”
Focus on what IS changing, rather than what you hoped you’d see.
Measure yourself. Monitor your fitness levels. Remember how hard that jogging was the first week you started. Think about the strength you feel in your back now, how much more symmetrical your body feels. Think about how much more lung capacity you have when you’re just sitting at your desk and working on the computer. Appreciate how those jeans feel, focus on that sensation you get with cool crisp clean jeans over just-worked-out-for-90-minutes legs. Damn, it’s nice.
Get over the fucking shit the media wants you to think about.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBER.
It’s about your body’s changing state, the acquisition of health and strength.
Know why Jenny Craig wants you on their diet? Because you WILL gain the weight back, but you’ll have “lost it before” so you’ll be a repeat customer.
All they’re doing is counting your calories. Take the power. Learn it yourself. Live with it for the rest of your life.
You wouldn’t take a road trip without knowing how far you had to go, how much fuel you need to arrive safely, and how long it takes, right? Then you know you have to drive, and there are no shortcuts between There and Here. Why is losing weight any different?
Work out as hard as you can a few times a week, and take lazy easy activity in between, with as many hours of sleep a night as you can get, at least one day a week off where you relax, and a balanced diet that’s respectful of the calories someone of your height/weight/age should be consuming on a daily/weekly basis. Enjoy a blow-out meal of things you love on your day off, and KILL IT the next day.
That’s MY secret. And, hey, it’s no secret. Every other system leads to a likelihood of repeating your past ills.
Learn. Act. Believe. Achieve. Simple.
Party on, Garth.
* I’ve learned a really hard workout resets all my back muscles and alleviates backpain, personally. Days when I thought I should rest, rest didn’t help — but cycling for 50 minutes did. Not walking and namby-pamby shit, but stuff where I’ve got to activate my core muscles and push hard. But that’s just me. Learn about your body, but don’t presume you KNOW.
**Disclaimer? Uh. I’m a blogger. Talk to your doctor about this shit. There are risks. I’ve had medical guidance (though not trainers, etc) through all of this and I’ve educated myself along the way. Proceed at your own risk.