I’m one of you. September 21st, to be exact.
Last year, a wise (and older) friend told me something that stopped me cold.
At that point, most men are who they are, they aren’t learning or growing much, and they start to coast.
Gentlemen, we’re almost there.
On the physical front, like most of you, I had put on a few pounds since college. (And here, “a few” means “like about 20.”) Then a routine physical revealed that my cholesterol and triglycerides were too high. It wasn’t dire or urgent. But it rattled me a bit.
I’d been trying to change how I ate and exercise more for over a year. But with little result. So I started to get a bit more serious.
Here’s what finally got me moving in the right direction:
Measure the inputs.
“What gets measured gets better.” Quaint. And true. I started using MyFitnessPal to track what I ate. This was mostly to learn how many calories were really in things. I couldn’t believe how many calories were in cheese and rice, not to mention cheesy rice.
Measure your output.
You need to know what’s going in, but you also need to know what’s going out. I was doing this, too, in MyFitnessPal, until I found Argus. It imports my food data from MyFitnessPal, and can also track water, tea, coffee, heart rate, and most importantly, exercise and steps. Which brings us to…
As I’ve moved into my most sedentary job ever these past four years, I’ve tried to exercise. But I’ve underestimated the importance of doing anything physical beyond just sitting. This was brought home to me by an article title: Sitting Is the New Smoking. I’m loving going for a daily walk to start my day, standing for part of my workday, and doing active things as a family. But all that isn’t enough…
A friend in his 50s dropped 20 or 30 pounds. I asked him what happened. He recommended Younger Next Year. The gist of the advice? You have to exercise hard almost every day of your life. That sounds extreme, but once you start doing it, it is hard to imagine any other way.
Reprogram your brain.
My friend Mo is 14, weighs about a hundred pounds, and is usually “starving.” I remember that stage of life. For me, it lasted a decade. It was impossible for me to get full. I could not overeat. I feared not having enough calories. And even as I rounded the bend into my 30s, I continued to think that way, long after my body had changed and no longer needed so much fuel. I’ve had to learn how much I actually need, and to get over my fear of not having enough to eat. Slowly, my brain is catching on.
I was shocked to find out I needed as few (or fewer) calories than my kids. They are 9 and 11 and weigh 58 and 68 pounds! But they’re active and growing and thus need the same 2100 calories per day that I do now. Crazy. It’s not hard to find blogs and feeds on health, but I find books to be less hype and more trustworthy. I’m currently reading What to Eat by Marion Nestle of NYU.
Clear your head.
This a biggie, and I learned about it by reading! (I told you to start reading. I TOLD YOU.) Apparently, when you’re stressed, your body wants to hoard energy reserves. So stress makes you fat. To drop some fat, drop some stress. You’re already exercising more. Drop some non-essential commitments (and very few are essential). Get the right amount of sleep. Cancel your cable and Netflix. Turn off notifications on your phone. And only check email and social twice a day, max.
Bring a friend.
My pal Brian asked if I would go in with him on a video workout series. Knowing that Brian was working out, too, even on the other side of the planet, made me much less likely to skip workouts. It also helped me push through the initial hard days. I got to share with someone, “Can you believe that one? I am so wiped out.” That sort of shared experience helps a lot.
Get to know Tony Horton.
Tony does the P90X workout videos. There are some intense ones (90 minutes a day?!?!), but Brian asked me to do P90X3, which I like to call the one for real human beings (not cyborgs or mutants). It’s 30 minutes per day, six days per week, for 90 days. In doing this, I’ve lost about 15 of those 20 pounds I mentioned. I think I’m as fit as I’ve been since high school. I think my share was about $70, and it was totally worth it. (Oh, and I didn’t spend for the weights, the bands, the shake mixes, the pull-up bar, or the app. You can usually make do in another way, like how I use full water jugs for my weights.)
Think about the real goal.
You don’t want to be healthy just to be healthy. You want to be healthy to do other stuff. You want to be there for your family, not get winded going up stairs in the parking garage, go on a canoe trip, not feel self-conscious, and so on. Know that these initial steps are the hardest, but every step of progress you make will be easier to maintain than it was to achieve at first. And this growth will lead to a ton of other benefits. I have more energy and thus productivity. Therefore I have more time so I have gotten on top of our finances, for example.
Make a million little decisions.
All of this boils down to tons of tiny choices. Will I eat this or that? Will I run today? Will I go to bed at a reasonable time? If you can keep your perspective on what all of this is for—feeling better, having fun with your kids, enjoying life with your wife—you’ll make enough of these decisions in a good way.
Agree or disagree?
What did I miss?
Leave a comment below, and thanks for speading the word.