Diet and Exercise

On the anniversary post, I was asked for “diet tips” and exercise tips in the comments. So . . . here they are. YMMV.

Situps are a lot easier when you’ve lost 70 lbs. If you can do them at home, in the bed in the morning or whenever when you can grab a minute, you’ll find you can increase the weight you can pull on the crunch machine at the gym. That’s been my experience at least. And having less time to go to the gym, finding times where I can do plain body weight exercises has been a life saver.

Toe lifts can be done almost anywhere, at almost any time. Maybe you can’t run on the treadmill or go for a walk, but toe lifts can help with a lot of those muscles, and you can reach your maximum exertion quickly. There’s always time for toe lifts.

Pushups work a lot of major muscle groups at the same time (proceed with caution if you’ve got back issues). You can do them in all sorts of places. The goal I’ve got is 100 pushups a day. Eventually, 100 in an hour, in sets of 25. I cannot yet complete a full set of 25, but it’s amazing how many muscle groups are improved by developing strength with plank pushups. Haven’t got to a 100 a day, but I’m halfway there (I’ve topped 50, though I still don’t do that every day). But when I started, I was doing sets of 5 and not getting to more than 20 on a good day. It’s just very slow going.

Diet: don’t eat much. Some people go vegan, do Paleo, do Atkins. Everybody has a reason why there way works and radical calorie restriction does not . . . but radical calorie restriction actually does work. At least, it has for me. All I’m doing. Just not eating very much, but trying to get sufficient nutrition to remain healthy. I focus on calories and quantity, and don’t worry much about nutritional value, or whether there is protein or wheat or saturated fats in what I’m eating. I just don’t eat much. And I eat more of fruits and vegetables, if they are part of the meal.

The motivation game is the issue. That’s trickier. I just always keep in mind that the food will be there next week, next month, next year. I don’t have to eat it now. I also keep in mind that the way the brain works (and the reason I was fat in the first place) is that overeating trains the brain to always ask for more. Dopamine receptors go down and dopamine releases go up. So I always think about that, when I’m downstairs, and it’s late, and I’m thinking of snacking. It took three months of very light eating (most of the time) to retrain my brain to stop acting like I was starving because I wasn’t eating second breakfast. Do I want to lose that? I do not. So I skip the late night snack.

Best time of my life, I weighed around 180. I think about that, too. Not that it’s a causal relationship, but it certainly can’t hurt to recreate what components of that time that I can. I think about how I had felt trapped and miserable in high school (when I was fat, out of shape), and how that had seemed to stretch out for decades rather than a few short years. Then how much and how dramatically so much in my life improved during my college years, and just how awesome they were. There were lots of reasons for that, of course, but being slim and fit certainly helped.

And as the quality of my life deteriorated after college in many important ways, I was putting on weight. Hmmmm. Does make a man ponder.

But the improvements in my life, back in the distant past, didn’t happen right away when the needle on the scale first dipped below 180. So I need to maintain, and then judge how things are in my life generally a year from now and two and three years from now. So I keep that in mind as well.

The other bit as regards motivation is spending time (now that I am much skinnier, and generally more fit) enjoying it. Dressing well, admiring myself in the mirror, jumping down the last five or six stairs and landing lightly on my feet. Running a mile on the treadmill, and reflecting on how that would have probably killed me 9 months ago. Thinking about the difference in squeezing through tight spaces or running out to my car or riding rides at the fair. The quality of all these experiences are dramatically better. Do I need to eat dessert that badly?

The answer is no.

Plus, it’s fun, at 43, to be physically fit and attractive. I get looks from, and flirted with by, women half my age. I got the flustered oh-my-gosh-this-an-attractive-man reaction from my daughter’s dance teacher last night, a reaction that I got very familiar with in college. It’s a reaction you only get from women (if you are a man) when they knew you before, and you show up suddenly transformed, for them. They’ve watched you move (abruptly, in their experience, because they have not see you for awhile) from asexual blob of generic humanity to a fit and attractive man radiating strength. It’s not flirting, but it’s an unmistakeable “Wow!” reaction. And one you never get when you’re overweight and out of shape, and not one you get when you move in the other direction. “Wow, you’ve gotten fat!” is a completely different experience.

We’re going on a cruise in November. I weigh now what I weighed when I went to London in college (best trip of my life, for many reasons). I haven’t been this skinny or fit on a nice vacation in 20 years. That’s exciting. I’m going to buy a new suit for the trip, the kind of dress suit that looks great on thin, fit people. And I’m going to look awesome in it. Would I want to spoil that with a cheeseburger (and then another, and then another) or snacks and sugared soft drinks all day long? No, no, I would not. Would it be nice to lose another 5 or 10 lbs before the trip begins? Yes, yes it would. Can I see myself running half-a-mile on a treadmill on the cruise ship each morning? Yes, yes I can. And I couldn’t do that without having done the ground work, or maintaining it. So . . . that’s what I focus on. Because that’s what’s working for me, right now.

A great deal of it is where I keep my mind. Hopefully, I won’t be back here a year from now reporting I’ve gained 50 lbs! I’ve lost weight (I topped out at 300 lbs in high school, bottomed out at 150 lbs 2.5 years later). I got down to 225 before a trip to Mexico in 2008, then shot back up to 270 in 6 months. But I weighed in at 185 lbs this morning. I haven’t weighed that since early 1990.

Now, if I could only will away the perma-flab that comes from having weighed 300 lbs in high school and 270 lbs a year ago. But perma-flab was a problem even at 150 lbs in college, it’s not the kind of thing you fix without surgery. And, at 43, I think I’ll pass on cosmetic surgery. Because I still look drop-dead gorgeous in a suit. 😉

I’m not sure any of this will be beneficial to anybody else. But it’s working for me, for now. And that’s my story.

Or, my story, so far.

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