On January 1 of this year, I stepped on the scale and looked down. 203 pounds. Yikes.
I told a few friends about this. They didn't believe me. They said I carried it well. Still, crossing the bicentennial mark didn't have me feeling too hot about myself. So, I decided to go on a deliberate diet and exercise plan.
In six months.
So in June, I got serious. I'd been a runner since college, when I completed two marathons. But since traversing 26.2 miles nearly seven years ago, a lot has happened. I got married. I got a job. I started a company. I started liking the taste of beer. I got digital cable with DVR. I got burned out on running. None of those alone made me gain 40 pounds since I graduated, but I think all of them together formed some sort of mafia that kept me happy and full and the remote in my hand.
My friend Bier also pointed me to this post by Tim Ferris. I'm always suspicious of anything that promises fast results. I believe that real change, whether it's personal or societal, takes real time and real work.
Then, another friend told me he tries to do The 300 Workout. Again, sounds neat, but 1) I don't have access to things called kettle bells and 2) that looks really tiring.
And then, my sister didn't want her treadmill anymore, and since my family trades furniture like I used to trade baseball cards, it found its way to my guest bedroom. This triumvirate of fitness events combined and allowed me to make a commitment and stick with it, which is why I stepped on the scales today to a respectable 178. Over the last six months, I dropped 25 pounds, added muscle mass to my biceps and chest, ran my fastest 5k time ever (25:50) and feel fantastic. Here's how:
I ate more vegetables.
This happened mainly because they were always in my house. My wife and I joined a CSA with some other friends. So, each week, my fridge was stocked with peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cabbage and squash. I've also become a very creative chef. I can work a cucumber into a pasta dish and you won't even know it's there. I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm nearly there. Eating more veggies than grains or meat will have you easily tossing a few pounds out the window. Salads – which I use to despise – are now a welcome sight at the dinner table.
I started sweating.
My wife wants to leave the house when I boot up the treadmill. Because after 20 minutes on that thing, I smell worse that Bonnaroo. But sweating a lot means I'm burning calories, which means I'm on the way to losing weight. When I first got back into running, I'd been well on my way to drenched after 10 minutes. Now, it takes about 30 to work up such a sweat. I'm steadily building my mileage and am planning on doing a half marathon every month in 2009. I love running once again and I see the results of my time spent on the streets or on the treadmill. Whatever your bag is, just make sure you're sweating for at least 30 minutes a few times a week. Play basketball, go for a walk, hop on the rowing machine – just make sure you get drenched.
I passed on the extras.
Not only does not picking up a six pack each week at the grocery save me money, it also saves me over 1,000 calories (the equivalent of a 10k). So does passing on dessert, choosing an egg-white omelet rather than French toast, and just eating one cookie at the birthday party. I was cramming whatever was available down my throat, thinking it would be easy to work off or that it would disappear naturally. Then I realized my metabolism drastically changed once I got my diploma. So, I go sparingly on the extras and order small portions at restaurants. I still treat myself every now and then (Ferris advocates one 24-hour period each week to eat what you want, and I agree that this is a good strategy); I just don't guzzle drinks and scarf brownies like I used to.
I made a commitment.
If you want a beach bod by spring break, this post isn’' for you (unless you're thinking about spring break 2010). Nothing of value usually comes immediately or overnight. It's the same with our health and bodies. What's also happened over the last six months is that I've developed lifestyle habits that I plan on continuing, whether I become a father, go back to school, move, change jobs – no matter what happens, I'm now used to liking veggies, looking forward to a run, and easily passing on seconds.
I'm no guru when it comes to eating or exercising. This is just what worked for me. I wish I could conclude with some cheesy before and after shots, but since I wasn't so deliberate about documenting this journey, I dug up what I could on Facebook. Enjoy.