That Was Then…

6.16.09 114-1

One of the first questions I ask new clients is “How much do you weigh?” This question is reserved for the part of the interview when I actually get them to say that they want to lose weight, working through the euphemisms “tone-up,” “get back in shape,” and “feel better” until they get to the REAL reason they’re in the gym. I almost never get a straight answer. It’s usually something like, “I used to weigh 120,” to which I respond, “So did I. How much do you weigh now?”

See, the past is the past. What you did in the past certainly affects what you can do today, but is rarely a predictor of what you will actually do. You are older now than you were then, almost certainly fatter, and you probably have “deserved” your way out of a few too many workouts. So, we start with a clean slate. We start with today.

I have always liked the Buddhists. At first it was the haircuts and the cool clothes, but more recently, I have come to like the idea of being present and mindful. Thich Nhat Hahn (It took me like 10 minutes to spell it right, and don’t you dare ask me to say it…) talks about our obsession with the past and the future, and out total disregard for the present. Funny, because the only one of the three we can affect is the present. You already messed up a bunch of stuff in the past, so put it behind you – you can’t un-mess it. In the future, you’re going to be better looking, richer, and smarter, right? Not unless you do something about it right-damn-now.

Also, you’ve got to take control of the things you can really control (yourself), and relinquish control over those things you can’t (everything else). So what if your wife bakes brownies at 9pm? Is it really her fault if you eat them? So what if your kids are begging you to go to McDonald’s? Even if you’ve not yet explained diabetes to them, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to get a McFlurry. Cultivate will. Make decisions in favor of your health. We talk a lot about how each decision either moves you toward or away from your goals. Only by making mindful choices that you’re certain will lead you in the right direction can you actually change your course.

You’ve got to stay on top of it, too. We hammer pretty hard against the idea that you “deserve” things. Just because you ran 4 or 5 miles doesn’t earn you half a pan of brownies (and I speak from experience.) Let’s see…4 mile run – burn 400 calories. Eat half a tray of brownies – take on 1700. Deserve too many treats and you’re gonna diminish your ability to run. OK, so you only do it once a week. Plus a glass of red wine to help you relax after sitting around all day at work. There’s your 3 pounds a year per person that Americans are expected to put on in the next decade. In ten years, and you know it’s coming like a runaway train, that’s 30 pounds. It’s going to take the world’s best trainer and a panel of nutritionists two years to get you back to today’s weight.

If you like where you are, build a house there. But if there are things you need to change, change them now, not tomorrow, because it’ll never be easier than it is today.

There Is No Easy Way

I love to bag on crunches. Hell, I’ll even throw in leg lifts and those “side” crunches people do to get rid of the fat on the “sides” of their guts. Oh, and exercising in the fat-burning zone, that’s another good one. Ahh…see that’s it, isn’t it. They’re trying to find an easy way to get thin.

See, training is a huge pain in the butt and only one in about fifty people seem to like exercising. So why do something that isn’t absolutely the most effective way to reach your fitness goals?  How often to you pick workouts because they’re hard? I’m willing to bet it’s not all that often, and that’s exactly why you’re frustrated with your progress.

You might remember a few months back when we told you it would take 44 hours to lose a pound of fat by doing crunches. If you ate nothing for those 44 hours you could probably double that number. Still, not a very economical way to progress.

Getting slim is simple. Eat less, exercise more and you’ll lose weight. It is not even close to easy. Let me make that a little more clear by giving you a list of things that are usually easier than losing fat and maintaining your ideal weight:

1. Getting along with only one kidney.

2. Getting along with your ex.

3. Running a marathon.

4. Getting off meth.

5. Making a living working for NOLS.

6. Doing the splits.

7. Being a woman, giving all your love to just one man.

8. Texting with one hand if you’re over age 25.

9. Reading the Unabomber Manifesto.

10. Justifying your crappy diet by convincing yourself you “deserve” a treat.

If you really want to lose fat, you’ve got to put on your war face. It’s not just a change in habit, it’s a battle. It’s not just something you kinda do, either…you have got to pay attention all the time, and be willing to suffer until the job is done. And you are going to have to keep working at it for a long time…like until you are old, really old.

Oh and here’s a list of things that make it harder still:

1. You are over age 35.

2. You are female.

3. You are overfat or obese.

4. You have bad joints.

5. You have thyroid or hormonal issues.

6. Your diet has included high levels of carbohydrate for the past 2 or more years.

7. Your spouse / boyfriend / roommate does not eat well.

8. Your spouse / boyfriend / roommate is sedentary or “gets all the exercise he needs at work.”

So what if it is harder for you? You still gotta do it. The thing you’ve got to get your head around is that you CAN do it. And that’s where this final list (the only really useful one in this article) comes in. Like I said before, it’s not easy, but here are a few things you can do to make it slightly less agonizing:

1. Start eating vegetables. Lots of them. Green ones. Do what it takes to get them in you, and it will pay off. These are filling, full of essential nutrients, and very low in calories.

2. Drink water. And if you really want to lose, drink nothing else.

3. Don’t think you’re special. OK, you’re special, but not when it comes to getting skinny. Everyone CAN do it. It’s hard, and you have got to saddle up. So saddle up.

4. If you fall off the horse, get back on. If you mess up, admit it, fix it, and go on. The defeatist attitude of “I ate badly yesterday so I might as well do it again” is not only foolish and wrong, but pathetic. Stop it.

5. Don’t eat anything you can’t spell. Except for maybe quinoa.

6. Alternatively, avoid prepared foods with more ingredients than you have fingers on one hand. That’s five.

7. Don’t make choices based on what’s easiest, choose based on what’s right.

Take it all one moment at a time. You are never off the clock when it comes to losing weight, until you have reached your goal. No treats. No deserving.

There is no easy way.