LET’S FACE IT, lots of people out there are being held back from reaching their Awesomeness Potential due to their excess weight. Can you still be awesome while being excessively overweight? Of course! Just ask Chris Farley. Well–I mean–you can’t…ask…oh, this got awkward quickly. Oh dear.
But how many of you out there have struggled with your weight? Been disappointed when you saw a photograph someone took of you? Missed an opportunity to do something intense with your kids or friends? Felt out of place in social interactions?
Maybe you could drop a few pounds. Maybe your health is in danger. Maybe you’re worried that you’ll never get where you want to be, size-wise. Maybe it’s time to figure out what really works–what lifestyle changes you can make, and stick with, rather than yo-yoing or crash dieting.
STEP ONE: MINDSET
You’re not going to change until you’re ready to change. Period. You see this all the time with smokers, drinkers, addicts, procrastinators…you get the idea. It’s time for some introspection: are you willing to do whatever it takes, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone? Are you more determined to be healthy, or to be remain comfortable where you are? If you’re not ready, fine. You can take steps to lose weight, but you might not ultimately be as successful as you’d like to be. Perhaps you need an “Aha!” moment–a doctor telling you it’s now or never. Realizing you can’t make it up the stairs while carrying your child. Seeing someone you love deteriorate from weight-related health problems.
“Jeez, Anthony, I thought you were supposed to be helping me out here. This is awfully doom-and-gloom…”
No way! I just won’t lie to you. And you shouldn’t lie to yourself. Losing weight can be hard. When you’ve turned the corner, when you’ve adjusted your mindset, it’s gonna be way, way easier. Will you struggle sometimes? Yeah, of course–welcome to Life. But will you succeed with the right mindset? YES. So get there. Find your mindset, even if it means making meager goals to start. But get there.
Are you ready? Good. Saddle up.
STEP TWO: NUTRITION
That’s right: nutrition. Not diet. I don’t like the word “diet”. I think it’s an important distinction–nutrition fuels your body the right way; diet implies that you’re restricting yourself from things you may need. Also, when I say “lose weight”, we all realize I mean “lose fat”, right? No one really wants to lose muscle, do they?
I’ve coached competitive gymnastics teams for a long time. Even if you don’t know a thing about the sport, with any thought you’ll realize that in order to be successful a gymnast needs to have a great strength-to-weight ratio. Put simply, the sport gets exponentially more difficult if you’re trying to move excess weight around in complex and intense movements. Over the years, I’ve had athletes who clearly needed to get their weight down in order to achieve more. But you know what I’ve never, ever told an adolescent girl? That she needs to go on a diet. That’s a recipe for disaster, an eating disorder. In those situations, we talk about nutrition, and here’s how I usually break it down, since I like simple:
“Look, you’re a high-level athlete. If you look around your friends at school, most of them are cars. Not even awesome cars like Ferraris or sweet ’66 Corvette Stingrays. Just plain old cars. But you? You’re a fighter jet. With missiles and everything. Now, a car can run on regular gas just fine. It’ll get from point A to point B with pretty much anything out of the pump. But you know what happens if you put regular gas in a fighter jet…or don’t put enough fuel in it? It crashes. Fireballs. Explosions. Fighter jets need fuel, and usually a lot of it. But it’s high-quality fuel. It’s the same with your body.”
I’m saying be a fighter jet.
“Ok, so what do I eat here? Jet fuel? Right…”
Well…yeah, nutritionally speaking. Here’s the deal: there are, at last count, 4,239,753 “diets” out there. Shakes. Low fat. Beach Warrior, Life Blaster, Juice Monster, Ultimate Cookie, Miami Spinach Mimosa…you know the drill. Do any of them work? Sure, most anything can make you lose weight, at least for a little while. If you want to permanently (and affordably) get or stay lean, you’re way better off eating good, whole, natural foods instead of processed junk, bottom line. Natural foods keep you full longer, provide you with the vitamins and minerals that are essential for health, and don’t make you fat.
We’ll go over the best nutrition plans out there in a different article (this is the Basics section, after all), but start with this: Eat vegetables, meats, eggs, some fruits and nuts, a little dairy if you tolerate it well, and good fats like olive oil and coconut oil. Eat when you’re hungry (actually hungry, not just bored), stop when you’re not. And cut back on those grains and sugars. Seriously.
STEP THREE: EXERCISE
“Wait, exercise comes AFTER mindset and nutrition? Shouldn’t it be first?”
Nope. It’s hard to outwork bad nutrition. Can you do it? Sure, mostly, if you hate having a life. Look, I love exercising, and always have. I lift weights regularly, hike a lot, and will do almost any fun physical activity without hesitation. But if you’re relying on exercise to make you thin, you’re doing it wrong. Think about it: if you go pound along on a treadmill for an hour, you’ll probably burn a few hundred calories–about the same as a candy bar. A small candy bar. Not even a king-sized one. Eating properly will get you most of the way to where you should be; exercising will take you the last little bit.
Just like diet plans, there are bucketfuls of exercise plans out there. The key to exercise is to find something you either A) love to do, or B) can tolerate doing often enough to be consistent. Obviously, option A is going to be easier, but find what works. Some people do well with regimented training–keeping charts of weights lifted, logging distances and times, going to regularly scheduled group or individual training sessions. Some people don’t like having set schedules and would rather go for an impromptu walk or hike, or play some sports with friends, or crank out some pushups in random places. Whatever suits you, just do something, especially if you’re starting out.
Again, this is the Basics, so we’ll get into all kinds of exercise advice in other articles, but here’s a good general guide: every week do a good amount of low-level moving around of some sort, a smaller amount of faster moving around, and a decent amount of moving some heavy things (or your body) around. Walk, run, lift, if you want only three words to remember. Find what works for you in these categories.
SUM IT UP
In a nutshell, you can lose fat by starting out with this guide. First, get your mind right. Decide that you’re going to change, even if it might be hard sometimes. Second, eat clean. Third, move around. Once you see some progress, we’ll start dialing you in better in all three categories. You’ll get there.
Because you are awesome.