Right out the gate, let me be clear about one thing: I don’t believe in the term ‘weight loss’ as a healthy mindset. Lots of things add up to your body weight — organs, muscle, bones, fluids that keep you alive. And believe me, you wouldn’t want to trade your heart to weigh a few less pounds.
But realistically, a lot of people gain muscle when they lose fat, and then they get discouraged because the scale they check daily says they’re ‘gaining weight’. I don’t own a scale. Instead, I have gone from a size 18 to a 16 to a 14 (with 2 new belt holes I had to create ’cause I’d run out of old ones). And that’s just been in ten weeks. Even more dramatic is how I look and feel.
So stop chasing a weight goal and start pursuing your best, most perfect self. Believe me, weight from muscle looks SEXY.
So, when I decided to FINALLY get to my perfect shape I knew I needed to do something I’d never done (because I wanted to get something I’d never gotten before). Some goal-setting plans talk about assuming it will be HARDER than you think. I do believe that’s a good way to go. I assumed it would be the hardest task of my life (so far) to achieve one of the greatest successes of my life — and you should too.
Which is why you need to make sure you know your goal and really, really want it — for yourself. Don’t do it just because your friend’s going on a diet, you want to impress some hot guy, or you think you ‘should’ for health. You have to want it in your marrow.
You have to be willing to do anything (that’s healthy and safe) for this goal. If you want it, you CAN achieve it. After my success with earlier goals this year (getting my first tattoo etc), I went about this from the viewpoint — ‘They can slow you down, but they can’t stop you.’
I’m hungry right now. I’m sitting in a car dealership getting my oil changed (this was true for the first draft). I can’t eat their free popcorn or walk over to the Sonic for a shake as was my tradition — and I LOVE it. I got myself an unsweetened tea before I came here and I’m so, so excited about how I’ll look and feel by my birthday (Nov. 1st).
I don’t even want the shake — I want the change.
So, here’s what I’ve been up to, but bear in mind that the successful diet is the one you can stick to. There’s nothing magic about what I’m doing. The magic comes from the dedication, the excitement, and the positivity with which I’m pursuing this goal. So banish ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary, and know that the math works and you can do anything you set your mind to — you just have to want it badly enough. And if you say you can’t give up a favorite food, imagine if your children or whomever you love most would drop dead if you took one bite of refined sugar. You would NEVER touch sugar again — it just wouldn’t be a choice; you’d find another way to live. So don’t say you ‘can’t’ — say you choose not to, or that you choose to. Because you can do this.
Clean Eating —
This is the way you lose excess fat: a calorie deficit. That’s it. And while exercising can help the process, you basically have to eat less while your body reverses years of bad eating (in the early days of this plan, I sometimes liked to say ‘today my good eating and exercising will make up for June 2002’ or ‘November 1998’. This made the day seem big and important and reminded me what I was doing at a certain month and year and how I eat better now than I did then.
Now, I don’t like counting calories and I’m a world class exception-maker (‘a customer yelled at me; now I deserve a shake’).
So I decided to ‘go paleo’ — 100%, for six months. You can learn more about paleo here, but the main gist is that (before agriculture) our bodies spent hundreds of thousands of years adjusting to us being hunter-gatherers — so vegetables, lean meats, fruits, nuts, and eggs tend to make our bodies happy and healthy. By the same rational — grains, dairy, and refined sugar are not foods our bodies have yet evolved to process well, and so they can make us sluggish, fat, and sick.
What does this means for the modern diet-seeker (because a GOOD diet is something you want to be on for the rest of your life, not a fad to be discarded as soon as you goal is reached)?
It means that you can eat almost as much as you want if you’re paleo — just the kind of foods you can eat are limited. So a lovely homemade meal of salmon, kale, and broccoli? Eat as much as you want. For me, having good food always available (even a can of tuna), means I never really, really feel deprived.
So I’m eating smoothies or eggs for breakfast (yes, I drink a little fruit juice and kefir which isn’t quite paleo). I’m also loving salads, and having great dinners of fish, shrimp, and chicken along with copious servings of veggies.
For sweet snacks, paleo pancakes with honey, paleo chocolate pudding, 100% juice pops, and chocolate milk (almond milk, raw cocoa, and a bit of honey), and smoothies with raw cocoa, are all good options.
My sister Sarah and I have also got in the habit of taking vitamin C, D, E, Magnesium, and Fish Oil — I don’t know if it helps, but it seems nice.
I know it’s easy to think — bleh! Salads and fruit, oh joy. I’ve felt that way in the past too, but keep in mind one thing: your palette is used to unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and heavy flavorings.
After just a few weeks, you body resets (even after a lifetime of fast food eating), and suddenly you don’t want or need sugar in the same way anymore. I remember just a few weeks into my no-sugar plan a co-worker was leaving and they had a giant cookies-and-cream cake for her going away party. I was trapped in a tiny room with this giant cake — and already, I didn’t want it. Not really. Those cakes were always such a sugar-high treat, but already it didn’t look like REAL food to me.
NOT REAL FOOD:
I’ve been looking for my next sugar ‘hit’ most of my adult life. That’s sad to admit. But even when sipping a shake I’d be wondering what was next. So, at least once in your life, take a break from being addicted to sugar, eat real, recognizable food for a few weeks, and see how you feel.
You owe it to yourself to know what feeling awesome feels like.
Strength Training —
In a recent large study, two groups both lost weight while exercising, but the first group did only cardio and lost equal amounts of fat and muscle, while group two only did strength training and lost only fat. Strength training can make that big of a difference.
Basically, strength training makes your muscles grow and that tells your body that you need strong muscles and are using them all the time, so then your body grabs fat instead. With cardio, you’ll lose more, but more of everything. For me, a balance is good and I enjoy both.
I have a friend who has lost a LOT of weight over the last nine months. That’s great, but they only reduced calories and did no exercise so they look a little ‘wasted away’ right now. It’s great to get the dangerous weight off, and now he has started exercising, but for myself I want to feel strong AND sleek, every step of the way.
So I’ve found some core exercises online to strengthen my torso and I’m also lifting free weights. I do three sets of the five exercises (all of which are done while lying down, so it’s hard to say I’m too tired to lie on the floor 😉 ). It takes about 20-30 minutes.
I’m looking lean and feeling very strong. I really like seeing my arms and torso get hard and sleek. And please forget the ‘myth’ of getting too muscular, you’re not gong to wake up one day and look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger — but you might wake up one morning with a killer bod.
Ah, I love me some cardio. Specifically, I love me some cycling. Sarah and I cycle three times a week (heat waves depending) going anywhere from six miles to thirty miles at a time. And it is giving me strong, slim legs, great lungs, and a great heart. That said, even though I think cycling is a perfect exercise, you need to find the perfect exercise for you.
Anything that gets your heart rate up, and you’d love to do for an hour or more at a time can be great — I just ask that you keep trying activities until you find at least one you love.
Actually, the secret to all this is filling your life with things you love, and cut out the things that stress you out.
- Any healthy diet (based around veggies) can work; you just need to find real foods you can enjoy eating, day in and day out.
- Find strength training exercises that are fun, make you feel kick-ass, and get the results you wouldn’t want to live without.
- Do cardio that you would do for fun even if it wasn’t good for you.
In the end, just never give up — either on yourself or your potential. It’s taken me a long time to put all the pieces together, but I never gave up on improving myself. Don’t see yourself as ‘having’ to diet and exercise, see yourself as getting to train up to be stronger, sleeker, and more awesome than you’ve been in your whole life. I’ve been working toward improving my body for over ten years. I’ve had setbacks but I’ve never been in such an exciting place as I am now.
So do a little research, steer clear of too-good-to-be-true promises, and get prepared to work harder than you ever have before.
And then get ready to change everything — starting with yourself.