Diet: Practice – Success & Failure (The End)

Want to know how to succeed at weight-loss?  Want to know how to make the pounds shed away without ever coming back?  How to conquer that evil, delicious looking cookie?  Want to know how to never fail at losing weight?  Well . . .

It’s Inevitable.

Sorry, but it is.  Someday, the cookie will win, and you’ll find yourself breaking your diet and overeating.  If you’re trying to lose the weight without the assistance of a personal trainer, odds are you are going to a) lose motivation; b) lose the energy; c) get fed up with the restricted diet; or d) all of the above, plus a pie and a few hours of crying into it.

Incidentally, you can make pie with tears already baked inside.

I don’t want to discourage you, but it’s important that you get used to the idea that you’re going to fail a hell of a lot more than you succeed.  To say something like, “Failure is not an option,” or, “I can’t fail,” is unrealistic because it’s not just about weight, it’s about how your mind and body work, two things that are not easy to alter.  Saying those things doesn’t set you up to lose (because, again, it’s going to happen anyway), but it does make losing detrimental and puts a lot of pressure on you.  If you hinge your entire success and emotional stability on a single meal, you are asking to be toyed with.

ADVICE – PLAN A DAY OFF.  Give yourself a day, an entire day, where you don’t follow the diet.  I’m not talking about short-changing yourself (“I can eat one small slice of low-calorie, carb-free, cheesless pizza”) nor eating as much junk food as you can (“I’ll have fourteen pizzas, cheesy sticks, buffalo wings and 2 liters of Dr. Pepper”).  I’m talking about planning a day where you don’t have to plan every single thing you eat.  Healthy, unhealthy, give yourself the option of both.  Will this set you back a little?  Yes, but we’re in this for the long haul anyway, and while one day of bad eating can ruin a week’s worth of eating right, no damage is irreversible.

It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan.

You know why?  Because this isn’t some magical fairytale island where the monkey butlers serve low-fat banana daiquiris that get you really fucked up but you’re always good to drive, which doesn’t matter because the island has no roads, just a pristine river that runs through the entire island that no one ever pees in, and it ends in a waterslide where baby hippos and really cute puppies dance and serve you lasagna, and everything is perfect everywhere all the time.  This is life, and it’ll happen to you no matter what you got going on.

There is going to be a birthday party at your work where they serve cake, or your friends are suddenly going to some concert you’re invited to and hit up a few bars after, or some of your family is in town and you want to show them a good time; there are many things that can happen to you in the course of the day that can screw up your diet and you can’t always plan for them.

ADVICE – SUPPORTIVE FRIENDS.  This is where asking for a little help can be good.  Having the support of the people around you can make those hard times of temptation a tiny bit easier.  I’m not saying they have to be hard on you or act like a coach . . . and in fact, kick them in the nuts if they do.  It’s your job to be hard on yourself, not theirs.  Most of their support should come in the form of simple encouragement (e.g. – You can do it!  Don’t give up now!) Or better yet silence.  When saying, “I’m on a diet,” some of my friends will reply with unending scorn, ridicule, and claims that I must have lost my balls somewhere because I’m clearly a woman.

Which is hard to refute sometimes.

A friend noticing that all you’re getting is a small salad and a club soda and says nothing is sometimes the greatest gift of all.  For the others, learn to go deaf and let the jeers roll away.  Or start planning to slash their tires.  Whatever works for you.  Just don’t be one of those people who says, “OH, I’M ON A DIET,” every time you sit down to a meal with others.  This is just a gigantic plead for attention, and tantamount to that guy at house parties who brings a guitar in the hopes someone will ask about it and give him a chance to play a shitty Bush cover.  Only say that you’re on a diet when asked, and sometimes not even then.

They will not help you get laid, or help you lose weight.

It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan and Give Into Temptation.

At some point, you’ll probably give into temptation.  The cookie will look too good, or the jeering of your friends will win out, or the smell of bacon wafting through the air will be so delicious that you’ll break into your neighbor’s kitchen by jumping through the window just to get some.

“Hey Bob, is that bacon you’re having for breakfast?”

Frankly, I think this is a good thing.  Despite all that I have said on the issue, I don’t want you to stop living and having fun.  I don’t want your life to be about plain and boring food.  Food is about nourishment, but it’s also about life and love and pleasure, and sometimes it’s better for you to just let go and see where the wind takes you.  If we learned anything from The Shining, all work and no play makes Jack go and ruin another’s creative work while simultaneously creating a cornerstone of American cinema.

I got a bunch of hits on one post because I featured a picture of Jack Nicholson.

ADVICE – Compensate BY Working Out.  I know I spent a lot of time going on and on about how you should be exercising more for your heart and organs than your waist (you totally should), but all I’m thinking about when I work out is what I ate the day before.  I imagine that the food I ate is a giant ice cube, and every step I take, every drop I sweat, every pant I heave is just a fire melting away at all the crap I shoved into my mouth.  If I ate well and healthy the day before, then I’m even more enthusiastic because instead of working away the ice cube of yester-food, I’m melting away the ice cube of my fat content.

See above.

However, don’t eat more than you should because you tell yourself you’re going to work out harder tomorrow.  We’re trying to break bad habits here, not reinforce them.  Use this method with “Repairing the Damage” in mind instead of “I’ll Figure It Out Tomorrow.”  And don’t compensate for what you eat today by not eating anything tomorrow.  Starvation is an epidemic, not a weight-loss plan.

It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan, Give Into Temptation, and Not Compensate For It.

You may have an injury, be really hung over, or run out of time.  Sometimes you just don’t put on those sneakers.  We will always need to eat, but we don’t always need to work out, and sometimes getting off the couch is just too damn hard.

“You rack disciprine!”

ADVICE – EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY.  Think of every day as the first day of your diet.  When you completely screw the pooch (eat a lot and don’t exercise it off), you haven’t completely failed – you just get to start again tomorrow because that’s what you were going to do anyway.  Don’t let your entire weight-loss plan go to shit just because you spent a day to a week not doing what you were supposed to.  If you see success as going through the entire span of the plan without any hiccups and errors, you’re crazy.  Instead, let your plan reset every single time.  It will take all the pressure off of having to constantly do everything right which can make your overall outlook more positive, and that will make staying on your plan much, much easier.

It’s Inevitable That You Will Break Your Plan, Give Into Temptation, Not Compensate For It, and Continue To Do So . . . and It’s OKAY.

So you have stopped eating right and working out all together.  But you know what?  That’s all right.  Seriously, I mean it.  Fear of failing is one of the Fat-Voice’s biggest weapons.  It can make you give up after only one attempt at losing weight and dash your self-confidence to dust.  Even worse, it can make you never even try.  But think of this?  Do people learn to play the guitar in a single try?  How about how to ride a bike?  Or how to do their taxes?  Weight-loss is exactly the same as these.

People think that losing weight is simply about following the formula and voila!  But it’s not; not for you and not for me.  For us, it’s about learning, and one learns by doing something, failing, and then doing it again.  I have been fighting my weight for the past ten years (and continue to do so) and most of that time was getting over my fear of failing and learning I’m going to fail a whole bunch of times before I get it right.  That I have to fail so I know what is right.  When I finally got that, that failure is not an option but a requirement, is when I gave myself a break and started losing weight.

Failing is not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying.  Take a look at your meal plan and find what was working against you.  Take a look at your schedule and see if exercising at a different time would be better.  Switch things up.  Think of it all as a puzzle, with every part of the plan as a piece, and that failing just means that one piece is misplaced.  My advice is to give yourself a break and keep going.  The Fat-Voice is something that isn’t beaten once – you have to beat it over and over and over again.  And each of those times, you’re not failing, you are in the process of succeeding.

And thus we come to the end.  We’ve shared a few laughs, cried a few tears, slapped each other around a few times, and had to strangle that bear so we could use its fur for warmth that one time when we got lost on that mountain for 27 days while hiking (note – some of that may not have happened).  While this is not everything I know about nutrition, exercise and weight-loss, it should be enough to help you start on your own journey.  And this entire time I have been talking about weight-loss is time that I haven’t spent doing it, and I’d like to take another go at a new plan to see what else I can learn.

If you have any questions, objections, or want to share your own story, please leave a comment.  Hearing what other people have learned is very encouraging to all parties, I think, and I want to help in every way I can.  But most importantly, remember that if you are struggling with your weight, or are going to struggle, you’re not alone.  Even if you do it all by yourself, there is a league of former fat people behind you, me included, cheering you on.  We want to you to be healthy and happy.  You are never alone.

Diet: Practice – Evolution

Look at this plateau.  LOOK AT IT!  Pretty, isn’t it?  What with the light of the setting sun, the color of the red rocks, and the view going as far as the eye can see.  So serene, so inspiring . . . okay, so it’s technically a mesa.  Or perhaps a butte, I forget which.

Heh heh . . . BUTTe.

In any case, you better get used to that view, because at some point you’re going to reach one of these and have no idea where to go afterwards.  If I may beat a metaphor to a horrid death for a moment – Trying to lose weight is like climbing a mountain covered in thick fog.  You can’t see the top and after a while you can’t see where you started, and if it wasn’t for gravity you’d lose your sense of direction all together.  But after awhile you get into the swing of things, and you find yourself climbing faster and taking fewer breaks.  “All right,” you say to yourself, “I’m doing pretty good at this.”  And you sort of lose track of time after the first couple of weeks, and then you reach a point; a nice flat area.

I’m getting to the point. Just hold your horses.

And you’re happy because you don’t have to climb anymore.  So you start walking, thinking that the rest of the way up should be easy.  But after awhile, you start to realize that you’re walking on level ground and not making any progress.  Soon, you start to see your own foot prints and realize that you’ve been walking in circles.  WELCOME!  You’ve just hit your first weight-loss plateau, and I declare this metaphor thoroughly murdered.

“Oh metaphor, you served us well.”

Everyone on a weight-loss plan who aims to lose fifty pounds or more is inevitably going to hit one of these spots.  You’ll start to find that, although you’re doing the same exact things that helped you lose the first chunk of weight, you stop losing any more weight. But this is a good thing.  Getting to this point means you are actually losing weight, gaining stamina and building muscle, and you should be proud.  Most people don’t even make it this far.  But it can also be very frustrating, especially if you want to lose more.

The human body is a resilient and highly adaptable thing.  If put in a constant state of stress, the human body will change, grow and compensate in other areas to be able to handle the strain that is being thrust upon it.  This is what we’re aiming for; to not just change how your body looks, but to change how it reacts to the world.    But as your body adapts, and you find yourself not being so hungry all the time, or find that your can run five miles before getting tired, you will stop losing weight because your body has adapted to suit your new lifestyle.  It no longer feels the strain of your efforts, and no strain, no weight loss.  So what’s the answer?  Well, we’re just going to have to bump it up a notch.


To keep shedding pounds off of your adapting body, you will need to change your meal plan and exercise regime to ensure that you always have to work hard.  This is where all that ‘Setting Goals’ hullabaloo comes into play: You must always be striving for goals that are just out of your reach.  By retooling your diet and exercise regime to be a little more extreme, you can once again start losing weight.


There’s some good news and some bad news with changing your diet to overcome a plateau.  The good news is that it’s not all about eating less food.  I know that to make it this far, you feel like all you’ve been doing is drinking some water and licking some fruit every now and then, so the prospect of having to eat less can be daunting to say the least.

“I’ll kill you! You ate my peanut I’LL KILL YOU!”

But it’s not all about eating less, it is also about reexamining your meal plan and finding the foods that are working against you.  When I first got serious about losing weight, my meals consisted of rice, chicken and vegetables, which is a perfectly healthy diet.  But once I reached my first plateau, I realized that the carbs from the rice were causing me to keep on some weight, so out they went.  Then I switched to a diet made almost entirely out of protein and I was able to lose some more weight.  Now my diet is mainly comprised of fruit, salad and vegetable soup and I’m getting past my current dry spell. It’s why keeping a food journal can be so crucial to weight-loss.  If you hit a plateau, you can go back over the last six weeks or so and start looking at exactly what you are eating that could be tossed aside.  Do you really need to be eating five whole chickens a day?  I think not!  Do you really need to drink an entire bottle of tequila before you go to bed?  I do, but you may not have to, so get rid of it!

The bad news is, while it’s not all about eating less, it’s mostlyabout eating less.  I have found that over the years, my portion sizes have gotten smaller and smaller.  You have to be very careful to keep a balance between portion sizes and calorie content (e.g. – Eating a small amount of a high fat food, like peanut butter or . . . I don’t know . . . bacon) so you’re never undereating.  This is where counting calories can help as the numbers don’t lie.  But you will have to put yourself in a pretty monkish type of head space because every time you alter your diet to compensate for your new body chemistry, the stronger your cravings for ridiculous amounts of unhealthy foods will become.

“Well, this is what I’m having. What are the rest of you going to order?”


Pumping up your work outs may seem easy (run a bit more, lift some heavier weights) but when it comes to getting over the weight-loss hump, it won’t be enough.  It’s not just about jogging a few extra miles or staying on the exercise cycle a bit longer because it’s not just about how much you exercise, but how intense your exercise is.  BACK TO THE HEART RATE CHART!!!

I love, love, love this chart.

Working out for longer is one way to overcome the hump, but to make it really effective you will have to work out for twice as long to burn that much more calories.  On the other hand, you could work out for the same amount of time but burn twice as much by raising your heartrate into the next exercise zone.  If you’re working at 60%/Weight Control Zone, start working to get into the Aerobic Zone.  If you find yourself in the Anaerobic Zone more, go balls to the wall and get into the VO2 Max zone (although if you can last a half hour in the Anaerobic Zone, you’re in terrific shape).  By getting into a higher exercise zone you can burn twice as many calories in half the time it would take you to at in a lower zone.

Did it just get redundant in here?

If you run, run faster, or advance from running/walking to sprinting/running.  If you climb stairs, start skipping every other step (or every two steps, if you can do it safely).  If you swim, don’t take a breather until after ten laps, instead of five.  If you lift weights, try to do more reps with heavier weights with fewer breaks.  Another option is to start wearing weighted clothing or filling backpacks with weights.  Adding back on the weight you lost and then some will instantly make your work outs more intense.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t be working out more.  At my most insane, I was working out twice a day, five times a week, and for an hour one day on the weekend. Some of them were very intense, while some of them were simple and easy and just enough to get my heart pumping a little faster than normal.

And always, always, always push to surpass how far you got the day before.  But don’t hurt yourself either.  The point is to set your goal just out of reach, not 18,000 miles away.

But would you like some advice? TOO BAD, YOU’RE GETTING SOME ANYWAY!  When you hit a plateau, take some time to rest.  I’d tell you not to let your rest time last more than two weeks, but frankly each of my plateaus has lasted at least six months.  I have found that I simply can’t keep a weight-loss plan going for more than three months.  After that, I get the itching feeling that I am missing out on life while I’m in my room doing push ups.   Dedicating a season to losing weight and sticking to it is a big accomplishment, and hitting a plateau is your body’s way of saying, “Good job there, buddy!  Now take some time for yourself because I’m going on vacation.”

Which conjures up this image in my mind, for some reason.

But it’s more than that; it’s also about learning to reintegrate with the rest of society.  After a month or two of doing nothing but working out and eating right, a person can tend to become a hermit.  Taking a break will get you back out on the town, giving you a great chance to show off your progress (and trust me, even if you don’t see it, there’s been progress).  This will also give you a chance to work on your will power.  It’s easy to eat right when you have everything prepared beforehand, but it’s not just about your body.  Becoming and being fat (as hard as it may be to admit) is a lifestyle and has a lot to do with how you interact with the rest of the world.  Yes, putting yourself into an environment where you can slip back into your old ways of eating everything you can get your hands on is dangerous, but so is putting on a weighted backpack and sprinting up a flight of stairs, and you were getting ready to do that not but three minutes ago.  There is danger everywhere, and you’ll never be truly free unless you meet it head on.

As you get closer to your goals, the more your body will adapt and evolve.  To actually obtain your goals, you’re going to have to evolve everything else about you:  Your methods; your mindset; your aspirations.

Diet: Practice – Food Preparation

It almost seems like a cruel joke that when you start on a weight-loss plan, you’ll be eating less food but thinking about food for almost the entire day.  Part of that will be the phantom hunger pangs (e.g. – your brain make you feel hungry when your body isn’t) and the mix of sugary/salty/awesome foody withdrawals; but it’s also because you no longer have the luxury of eating on the fly.  The moment you get serious about your diet you will have to plan every single meal.

“6 am – Hit The Snooze Button and Continue Dreaming about Bacon. 7 am – Chew on Pillow While Asleep. 8 am – Eat half an apple. 8:05 am – Cry.”

Now if you’re one of those people who uses Jenny Craig or Slimfast or one of the many other services that makes all of your meals for you, then I ain’t talking to you.  It’s not that they don’t work, but apart from my inherent distrust of all such services, I see the “Pre-Packaged, Pre-Made Meal” like drinking liquor to wean yourself off of heroin – technically it’s better, but it’s still not really fixing the problem.  Getting a handle on your diet means understanding and controlling everything you put into your body, and the pre-made meal only gives you the illusion of that control.  Seriously, they could be putting anything in there.


Cooking your own food gives you complete control, and you’d be amazed at how much dieting can teach you about the culinary arts.  I think it has something to do with making sure your salad tastes better than the row of bushes on the side of your house.  Excuse the hippy, new-age phrasing, but preparing your own meals really “gets you in touch” with your food.

That’s not what I meant, and you know it.

But cooking takes time and if you’re cooking your food for the entire week, there are things you will want to keep in mind.


I hate it when I write myself into a corner and the only way out is to repeat something I just fucking said.  Cooking takes time.  Not only are you going to have to plan all of your meals to a pretty set schedule, but you’ll also have to dedicate a block of your time to making those meals.  By not doing so, you leave room open for either a) not having enough food every single day, and/or b) overeating or eating something unhealthy out of desperation.  Because there will be many obstacles on your journey, you need to make things as easy and convenient as possible and having your next meal all ready before you need to eat it is a prime example.

  • Daily Meal Prep.  Every morning before you start your day, you can make your meals and put it into a meal box.  The joy of this option is that you have more room to design a meal for that particular day.  I am a special breed of person who can literally eat the same thing, day in and day out, and never mind too much.  All of the big changes I have made in my life have come through developing a routine and then sticking to that routine come hell or high water.  But if you’re one of the normal people who don’t have OCD and would go bonkers facing an entire month of the same goddamned salad with the same small amount of shitty vinaigrette, then prepping your food everyday will allow you more room to customize.  Wanna have a sandwich?  Go for it!  Wanna switch that apple out for an orange?  Be my guest!  Wanna trade in that protein shake for punching your passive-aggressive boss in the face?  It’s all you, although you’ll still be hungry afterwards.

“But I’m burning calories!”

The downside of it is if you find yourself in a rush a particular morning and don’t have time to make the meal.  You could make your meal before you go to sleep, but if you happen to get in late you’ll be faced with the same problem.

  • Weekly Meal Prep.  Instead of making your meal every single day, you can condense the time and take care of it on the weekend.  This means you won’t have to worry about preparing anything during the week; all you have to do is put everything into a lunch pail and off you go.  The con to this option is that you will lose part of you customizing abilities, and it will eat away at your free time on the weekend.

“Look, you wouldn’t understand. I can’t go to the movies because I’m making a sandwich for next Thursday. See, I told ya you wouldn’t understand!”

But this isn’t an either/or sort of choice.  I myself prepare things like my dinners, meats and soups for the week, and then leave room for myself to change up my snacks on a daily basis.


I’m not sure if you’re aware, but food costs money, and you will find yourself returning to the grocery store in a given week more than you have before.  That’s because you’re going to eat a lot more fresh produce, and that kind of stuff doesn’t have a long shelf life.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself with a growing food bill along with a sort of panic that sets in when you realize you’ve spent your entire paycheck on apples.  Sooner or later, you will need to find ways to cut corners with how you stock your fridge.

  • Frozen Produce.  While you will want to get things like apples, oranges and fruits that act as snacks, as well as salads, straight from the fresh section of the store, buying frozen produce is a great way to save on money and time.  A bag of frozen berries used for protein shakes/smoothies can last a few weeks rather than the few days you get with the fresh stuff.  It can also save you some prep time as frozen produce is usually cut for you.  Broccoli, strawberries, peaches, carrots, peas; all of these are great frozen.  Just stay away from canned produce as they have a bunch of salt and sugar added to prolong shelf life.
  • Bulk Items.  This country is already in a bulk-buying craze, so I shouldn’t have to explain why getting a big bag of whatever for a discount price is a smart buy.  A huge bag of potatoes will last a life time, as will popcorn kernels for snacking, and a big bag of meat like chicken or fish will cost a hell of a lot less than normal.  Just make sure you don’t buy things that’ll go bad before you are able to finish them.  Throwing away an entire bag of spoiled spring mix salad will make you feel lighter, but only in the wallet.
  • Do I Seriously Not Have a Third Tip?  Hmmm, I guess I don’t.


The only thing more depressing than throwing out spoiled food you didn’t finish is throwing away spoiled food that you spent time preparing.  I have thrown out countless amounts of veggies, rice and chicken that I spent hours preparing all because I wasn’t able to store them properly.  It’s more than just buying good Tupperware (buy good Tupperware, by the way), it’s also about storing things in the right part of your fridge.


Other than salad and the fruit I use as snacks, all of my food goes into my freezer.  It’s not just because frozen foods can be cheaper, but frozen foods also lasts longer.  I don’t have many tips for this one, but –

  • Cook your food, THEN freeze it.  Frankly, this changed my life.  Instead of cooking a bunch of chicken and then quickly eating it before it spoiled, or cooking one frozen raw piece every single day, I cooked the meat then froze it.  All I had to do it pop it in the microwave and with a ZIP ZAP, my meal was ready.  It also works with batches of soup, milk and bread.
  • Stick Some Paper Towels in With Your Salad.  Part of what makes salad god bad quickly is that moisture builds up inside of the bag and causes the greens to wilt, and wilting is one step away from rotting.  A wad of paper towels will suck in whatever extra water is floating around in the bag, prolonging the life of your salad.  Just make sure to change the paper towels at least once a week.  I know this one has nothing to do with freezing, I just feel stupid only having one bullet for the category.

Preparing your food ahead of time can take the pressure away from choosing what you are going to eat, and by cooking your food at a time when you’re not hungry you can ensure that when you are hungry you are eating right.

Diet: Practice – Time Management

I fear that I’m beginning to sound like a business consultant; The plan is to have a plan; Setting honest goals will lead to honest results; Manage your time so that your time does not manage you. The only difference is that the subject is your body and not a business.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the profession, but I feel like an asshole when I make a joke now.

“We must start thinking outside the box . . . the mallomars box, that is! Hahaha, NOW GIVE ME $900!”

But even though they be grossly general truisms, they still are true (in a kind of gross and general way).  Because we are working on creating habits, a feat sometimes akin to crossing the Gobi with only a bag of whistles and a single, dirty tube sock, we have to break down our weight-loss plan to the nth degree as we can’t trust ourselves to remember to do it.  So open up your copy of Microsoft Excel because its time to make SCHEDULES!  . . .  Okay, you can close Excel; we’re not actually making schedules, but you are going to have to start planning your entire day around your workout/diet if you are serious about losing weight.

I know that doesn’t sound like much fun, and it isn’t, but you have to consider how much free time you actually have in the day.  On average, I am awake for about 17 hours.  With work, transit, shower, and cooking/eating, I am left with about five hours of free time to work with, which is more than enough time to fit in a workout.  But this is only the bare bones of my day and doesn’t take into account that life doesn’t give a shit about your schedule.  What if there’s traffic?  What if you are supposed to go to a movie with friends?  What if you get entrapped by the soulless, gaping abyss that is the internet? Any of these things can and will happen at some point, and they all eat away at your remaining time.  And even if you are left with an hour or so for freedom, there is no guarantee that you’ll get that time in one solid chunk.  There’s a term for people who try to change their lives by flying from the seat of their pants: Bullshitters.  You have to have a plan if you are to ensure that you will get the workout done and follow your meal plan.  So STAND AND DELIVER!

A cookie to everyone who gets this reference.


Did I say cookie?  I meant celery stick.  Planning your meals isn’t complicated.  If you have a hard time remembering to eat, I don’t imagine you would have a weight problem (unless you’re on the ‘Too Skinny’ side of the scale, in which case go back and eat that cookie). Eat five to six meals spaced two to three hours apart, with portions that can fit inside the palms of your hands.  Simple?  Yes.  Easy?  Not always, and so you must plan your meals to make sure you don’t eat an unscheduled meal or make your portions too big.

To lose the most weight, you have to look ahead and foresee yourself straying from the diet, and plan accordingly.  I don’t want to say that you can’t trust yourself, but the temptation to eat is everywhere.  Every time a coworker of mine brings in a slice of pizza for lunch, I want to run to the street to the grocery store to get eight frozen pizzas that I will eat straight from the box right there in the store.  And don’t shake your head at me!  You will feel the same way when you start your diet.  But you can take away as many of the opportunities to slip up as you can by following a few of guidelines:

  • Set That Alarm – By setting an alarm to go off every two or three hours, you take away some of the responsibility of keeping track of the time, as well as some of the power to eat before you’re supposed to.  If the alarm hasn’t gone off, you’re not allowed to eat.  It can also help garner support from those around you, as people will catch on you’re on a diet when you make a mad dash for the refrigerator every time your cell phone goes off.
  • Bag That Shit Up – Preparing all the food you eat in the day before hand will keep you from rationalizing a poor lunch decision (e.g. – This lasagna has broccoli and tomatoes in it.  I’M PRACTICALLY EATING A GARDEN!), and limit your options. It will also save you a load of money, which you will be able to roll in whenever you are feeling hungry.  You’ll still feel hungry, but it’s fun to do.

“Having all of this money just makes me want MORE pie.”

  • Don’t Shop Hungry – “Oh my GAWD!  New chicken and beef taquitos!  And what is this?  Chips that taste like a BLT?!  Let’s give that a shot!  A years worth of Mac n’ Cheese?  WHAT A DEAL!”  Sound familiar?  Going to the grocery store on a full stomach will keep those impulse buys, not to mention the buyer’s remorse and all the calories that come with it, at bay.
  • No Need, No Buy – My fridge has been practically empty for years now.  I buy the food items that are in my meal plan, and not much else.  This keeps me from splurging in the middle of the night on whatever is in my fridge because, one, I know that if I pig out on what I have, I’ll only be taking away food for my meal tomorrow; and two, who wants to eat a fucking salad at 3 am?!

Another good idea is to keep a food journal.

Stop sticking that baby in my face.  Keeping track of every single thing you eat and drink during the day is not so much a planning endeavor as it is a method of changing your outlook.  By seeing the reality of what you have consumed over the day, you will begin to realize just how much food you have actually eaten. If you create a good meal plan, your body will have everything it needs to survive, and you can start to focus on why it is you really feel so hungry.  Keeping a food log can also help you pinpoint foods that may not be working.  You can download a Food Log Template here, and read about some healthy low-cal snacks to battle hunger pangs here.


Who are we kidding?  This whole post is mostly about trying to fit in time to exercise.  When you get down to it, there are really only four choices of when to work out, and I’ve done them all, so I’ll give you the ups and downs of each.

  1. Morning.  Get your work out done right when you wake up.  PROS –You don’t have to worry about fitting it in because you’ll get it done before anything else.  Also, nothing wakes you up like sweat.  CONS – Waking up an hour early just to exercise can seriously throw your game out of whack, and you will be tired for the entire day for the first month or so.  You also run the risk of hitting that SNOOZE button, and sleeping right on through.
  2. Mid-Day.  Instead of going somewhere to eat your lunch and read the paper, take a jog or climb some stairs (if you work in a high rise) on your lunch hour.  PROS – You’ll find you have much more energy in the middle of the day, which means you can exercise harder.  You can also get outside and breathe in some fresh air if you are forced to sit in front of a computer all day, and win the admiration of your coworkers.  CONS– You have to go back to work after, which means you also have to schedule in ample cool down time so you’re not sweating at your desk.  This also means bringing a change of clothes and maybe taking a “French Shower” in the bathroom.

    Trust me, you’re not as cute when you do it.

  3. After Work.  Hop straight from the office to the gym.  PROS – You can travel on the momentum from the ride home to go straight into the work out.  It can help you unwind, and also lift up your energy for evening activities.  CONS – This is also the time that almost everyone else goes to the gym, and you may find you don’t have the energy to exercise after a long day.
  4. Evening.  Get your blood pumping before jumping into bed.  PROS – You have enough time to rest a little and gear up for the activity.  You also get a chance to eat dinner for an extra energy boost before starting, and even though it’s a contradiction to an earlier statement, nothing can make you more tired than sweat.  CONS – If you workout too close to going to sleep, you can screw up your sleep cycle.  You are also at the mercy of life and all of its fucking-plans-up glory.

Also realize that you don’t have to commit a full hour to exercise at first.  Twenty minutes three times a week is enough to start with.  You also don’t have to work out at a gym or even hit the pavement.  Some of my best workouts have been done in my bedroom in a space about 4’ wide by 10’ long with no equipment.  What you do have to commit to is planning whatever days you do exercise around the workout.  If that means you give up the weekly poker game, or miss out on some television shows (although watching tv while exercising is a good way to pass the time) then so be it.  I never said weight-loss is without sacrifice.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying the exact opposite from the beginning.

Understand that time management is a skill.  It takes practice, and it’ll be a while before you find the time that works for you.  But once you do, you will discover that after awhile you will be scheduling your day around your weight-loss plan not because you need to, but because you want to.

Diet: Practice – Measurements

Sorry, sorry!  I sat down to start writing this post but I didn’t know how to begin and I panicked, hence the picture of the fucked up clown.  Sorry.

To think that there is a right or a wrong way to weigh yourself seems a little absurd – There is a scale, you step on it, try to turn away from the three digit number glaring back up at you, and then curse the man who invented the scale, or gravity, usually both . . . along with the man who invented delicious chocolate cake . . . and also that guy in the Mercedes that cut me off the other day on my way to Autozone, since we’re already cursing a bunch of people (cursing burns calories, you know).  But the scale isn’t always the best way to track your weight-loss progress.  This is because the loss of weight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get thinner.  To geek out for a moment, it is like what makes speed different from velocity: there are more factors involved.

Oh shit, a physics reference. We better get outta here . . .

First off, we have to expand our idea “weight”.  It’s no good to judge a person’s obesity by weight alone; sure, that main is 400 lbs, but that’s because he had that rhino grafted to his face.  And that woman is 80 lbs, but not because she exercises a lot, but because she’s dead.

“But I’m sooooo svelt!”

The actual weight of your body isn’t always directly proportional to the fat content in your body, and there are many other factors to consider – height, age, sex – which all dictate what is a healthy (or unhealthy) weight for you.  We have to stop thinking of weight being the be all and the end all in measuring weight-loss, and instead start thinking of it as only one of the factors in the shape of our bodies.

This is where we come to things like the Body Mass Index (BMI).  Created in the mid-1800’s by this guy –

“Good morrow.”

– it’s a ratio of weight and height that reveals just how fat you might be, ranging from very severely underweight (the ‘very’ is important, I guess) to Obese Class III, which sounds like a kind of starship.  By putting in your weight and height into the equation, you can find where you land on the BMI scale and get a rough idea of how much weight you need to lose.  But ‘rough’ is the key term in that last statement because the BMI index is lacking in that it does not take into account how much muscle is on your body.

I am sure I mentioned it in my muscle article, but muscle tissue is much heavier than fat.  Many bodybuilders and professional athletes technically fall into the obese category because they are far too heavy for their height, even though all of their weight comes from the large amount of muscle mass on their bodies.  It also sets one very strict standard for body sizes that isn’t practical when applied to the real world because the human body comes in so many shapes and sizes that trying to condense them all into one standard measure is impossible.  I have lost 80 lbs since the beginning of my weight-loss journey, and if you saw me on the street you would not think of me anywhere near obese.  And yet, because I am 5’5” and 180 lbs, I am still technically very obese.  To get into the normal weight class, I would need to lose 40 lbs (which I can tell you ain’t fuckin happening because I actually likefood) or grow seven inches (which I am currently working on).

No pain, no gain.

This is the same reason why judging your weight-loss success by weight alone can be deceiving; if you are putting on muscle at the same time you are burning away fat, then your weight will not change as drastically as you might think even though your body may be melting away before your eyes.  But that is not the only reason weight can be deceiving.  There is also something called water weight, which is the weight of all the water your body has retained through eating foods that have high sodium contents.  By changing to a healthier diet and starting moderate exercise, you will lose almost 20 lbs in a few weeks . . . but it’ll all be water, and your body will not look 20 lbs lighter.  And if you have a lot of weight to lose (more than 50 lbs) you’ll notice that you are losing weight and yet you still look the same.  This is because your body is most likely still storing as much fat as it can because that’s what is has been trained to do.  The more weight you have to lose, you are going to have to work longer/harder to change the way your body responds to food and it’s hard to lose weight at the same time.

A more effective way to measure your weight-loss is through actual inches.  By measuring the size of your arms, thighs, neck, chest, waist and hips with a cloth tape measure, you will get a more accurate idea of how your weight-loss is going.  It will also get you touching and feeling your body more.  This may seem like an unpleasant prospect depending on your size and confidence, but it’s important that you be able to grab your love handles with a cold and clinical observation rather than shame.  You need to start seeing your extra weight as a mere byproduct of a certain lifestyle, instead of how ugly and useless you are (because you’re not . . . unless you are . . . but then that has nothing to do with your weight), and you start that by looking at fat straight-forward.  It’s also fun to see your arms get thinner and firmer via the tape measure.

You’re still allowed to hate it, though.

But judging by the scale does have its benefits.  While measuring the actual inches can give you a better idea of how your diet is going, using a scale can be more helpful in setting goals.  As I said last week, setting goals that you can actually achieve is important to not only your morale (making it more likely for you to continue working out and eating right) but also to the overall success of your weight-loss as splitting up your overall goal into smaller objectives makes it easier to accomplish.  You can’t say that you plan to lose two inches from your arms because losing weight from one specific area (also called spot-reduction) is a filthy lie told by filthy liars, so setting your goals via inches will be difficult.  But if you set your goals through weight, you will find yourself accomplishing more often.

The best way to weigh yourself is on one of those tall scales that you find at the gym, but since those aren’t readily available (or cheap) buying a simple on for you bathroom floor is fine.  And don’t go wasting money on an advanced scale either!  Forgo scales that say they can calculate your fat content, or track your weight loss, or sing happy songs if you lose weight; none of these things help you keep track of your weight, nor do they help you lose more weight.  Just get a normal scale, either analog or digital is fine.  As for other tips:

  • Stand up straight, with both of your feet firmly planted in the middle of the scale, and put your hands to you sides.  Any other pose and you run the risk of getting an inaccurate measure.
  • Always set your scale on a hard surface.  Placing your scale on carpet means the carpet is going to absorb some of your weight and make you seem lighter than you actually are.
  • If you can manage it, be bare-ass naked when you weigh yourself.  Clothes may not weigh much, but you want to get as close to your true weight as possible.  If you can’t be naked, at least take all the shit out of your pockets (keys, cell phone, that copy of the oxford dictionary that you say is lucky but we all know it’s so you look smart).
  • Don’t weigh yourself after a big meal.  You have just put a substantial amount of food into your body, and it’s going to weigh you down.
  • While you don’t want to weigh yourself after things go in, weighing yourself after they come out is a good plan.  After using the facilities, step on the scale and record the progress.  You’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes.
  • Don’t weigh yourself right after working out.  After working out you are probably going to be dehydrated, and while water weight is something you want to get rid of, our bodies are supposed to have a certain amount of water in them.  Take a shower, let your body temperature lower, and drink a glass or two of water, then go ahead and weigh yourself.

These methods should all be used together to give you the best idea of how much weight you have lost.  Figure your BMI to get a general idea of where you stand (you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are, said the Zen-master Nic), measure your loss with the measuring tape and set your goals with the scale.  In the end though, the best way to measure how you are doing is by how you look, and more importantly, how you feel.  Losing any amount of weight will have you feeling better, more energetic, happier, and at that point the actual weight of your body may not matter as much to you than when you started.

And since I’m big on coming full circle, I guess I better end with a pic as fucked up as that first one.



Diet: Practice – Goals

While on Wikipedia researching for the benefits of setting goals, I discovered a mnemonic device one could use when setting up objectives – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted.  If one makes sure that their objectives contain each of these criteria, they have made a S.M.A.R.T. objective.

Then I promptly smacked myself in the face with a wet towel for considering using such tripe as the basis for this article.

I have a profound distaste for any method which boils down and filters all the effort and constant diligence it takes to change your body/life into bite-sized, Dr. Phil-ish, McTaoist, “The Secret”-esque, self-help bullshit.  The road to significant weight-loss is plagued with fad diets, plastic contortionist machines that only work the muscles of your pocketbook, and an attitude that losing 50 lbs will not only be easy, but also very fast and make you look like a swimsuit model who lifts themselves out of a pool and let’s the water slowly drip down their supple, succulent body.  And then she gives you that smile that says, “Yes, I do want to share a strong cocktail or four with you over in the clothing-optional part of the spa . . .”

I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought there . . .

Can you lose a lot of weight in a single season?  Yes.  Will it be as hard as you dread?  No.  But that does not mean you will go from having lot of fat on your bones to Cosmo cover material in six weeks.  Anything that promises that you will – hell, even if it mentions that it might be possible – do not trust it.  A complete body overhaul can not be molded into a neat little package that can fit in your pocket.  I also find that whole “self-help” genre kind of twisted.  If you need help to learn how to help yourself, you need to get out of the Barnes & Noble and into a shrink’s office.

By Gary Larson

And yet, though I hate to admit it, that S.M.A.R.T. device does carry some good points.  A large part of my weight-loss journey had more to do with planning, organization and honesty than food or exercise.  Being able to set proper goals will not make the hard work any easier, but it will have you succeeding at weight-loss far sooner.

So let’s go down the S.M.A.R.T. list and cover the things to keep in mind when setting objectives.  But first I’m just going to cut off some of the fat.  The Measurable portion is very important, so much so that it’ll get its own post next week, and Achievable and Realistic are pretty much the same to me, so let’s ditch one.  Now, I’ll agree setting a S.A.T. goal doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I don’t like writing anything past a first draft and we’ve gone too far for me to change anything now.


One of my favorite daydreams is what I would do if I had a batcave.  Of course, I would have an armory, full of superhero suits and advanced weaponry.  I would also have a workshop to build exciting and dangerous sculptures, a full obstacle course with moats and ziplines, and a large, open area for me to just jump around naked.  Now, can you describe to me, in extreme detail, every facet and aspect of one of your favorite fantasies?  Of course you can!  When it comes to our desires, we get very specific because every detail matters.

That is the kind of detail you need to bring to your weight-loss objectives.  It’s not enough to be general about your ambitions because you do not create any pressure to obtain them.  If “Lose 10 lbs in three weeks” is your goal, then you know every time you do not follow your diet or exercise everyday for the next three weeks, you are going to fail.  If “Lose Weight” is your goal, then it’s more than okay to skip the gym and eat a package of oreos because you don’t realize that every day matters.

Being specific with your goals also means you will have to be specific in how you are going to obtain them.  “I want to rig my front door so that every time I open the door A Fanfare For The Common Man plays on a music box!”   By being specific with my goal, I already have a rough outline of my game plan to achieve it.  I know I’ll have to buy a music box that plays that certain song; I’ll probably need to install a shelf somewhere near the entrance; and I will be opening and closing my door a whole lot.  With a detailed plan in place, all I have to do now is go out and do it.


Sigh.  No one ever likes this one.

With all I have said about dieting, with as much as I want you to know how attainable effective weight-loss is, there may be a possibility that you will never look exactly the way you want to.  Sometimes it’s genetics, sometimes it’s age, and sometimes it’s because to get to that ideal body in your mind, you would have to put in a lot more work than you’re willing to.

I’m not saying that you won’t be able to get to your dream body.  I’m just telling you to be realistic about it and set your goals accordingly.  Understand that the further away from your ideal body that you are, the more work and time it’s going to take to get there. 

Yes, but you don’t realize that the more weight you lose, the harder it is to lose more weight.  For reasons I will get into in a later post, the amount of effort it takes you to lose weight grows almost exponentially the closer you get to your goal (did I just use the word I’m defining in its own definition?  Jesus . . .).  If you’re more than 250 lbs and less than 6 feet tall, you are not going to find yourself looking like Brad Pitt or Jason Statham within a year, or with a single diet plan and exercise routine.  You must set your sights on a goal that is closer, that is more feasible for thismoment.  If you are focusing more on the fantasy of weight-loss rather than the reality of it, then you are going to be failing a lot more than you are succeeding.  Human beings were not meant for that constant barrage of losing, and constant failure leads to all-out quitting.

I’m talking baby steps here, people!


What came up when I googled “Time-Target”

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I work best with a deadline. I don’t like it, but then I don’t have to if it’s effective.  Setting a time limit to your goal helps you make a plan that caters to your schedule, and can also help you divide up the labor of the task at hand.  But more importantly, setting a time limit means that some day you will get to stop, which after three months of eating nothing but salad and hard boiled eggs while working out for forty minutes every single fucking day will sound like a gift from the heavens.

You’ll look like this on that day.

CHALLENGE(So I guess it would actually be a S.C.A.T. goal . . . that’s a little better)

Sing it Ella!

Don’t set the bar too low.  Make sure that, while your next goal should be reachable, it should be just out of your reach.  This way you will have to grow to get there.  If your objectives are too easy to accomplish, then you won’t lose weight because you’re simply not working hard enough.

Set specific goals.  Set realistic goals.  Set a due date.  Don’t slack off.  And now you can take that $16 you would have spent on The Secret and go make a kite, or buy a loaf of bread to feed the birds, or get new windshield wiper fluid.  You know, something useful.

I really do hate this book.

Diet: Practice – Food + Exercise = FANTABULOUUUUUUUS!

We have looked at these two subjects separately, but just as you can spend a lot of time making a fire and a lot of money buying narcotics, it’s not until you put them together that the magic happens.


Despite all I have written, there really is one single key to weight loss: Use more calories than you consume.  A normal guy of average height and weight needs to consume about 2,000 calories a day to maintain his weight (for the ladies it’s about 1,800), so if you end your day having taken in less than that you will lose weight.  This can be done by working out or by not eating as much.  The weight-loss will be slow (which is not a bad thing) and your overall lifestyle won’t change that much considering that a doughnut is about 250 calories.  All you have to do is not eat that damn doughnut.

“Just back away from the pink box, Larry . . .”

Oh, but isn’t that easier said than done.  It’s not the one doughnut that’s the problem, it’s the entire box of them that you eat without getting up from bed because you always keep a box on your nightstand . . . . not that I ever did anything like that . . . . . . . ahem . . .

“This snooze button is delicious.”

Using the slow method above will lead to losing about one pound per week, which is absolutely fine.  But if you want to lose more than 50 lbs., going the slow route will have you completely changed in a year or more.  I know I have said you have to be in this for the long haul, but you should also feel like you’re accomplishing something without feeling like you have to give up everything you have ever loved about food for the rest of time.  Because the overweight and obese have a surplus of fat on their bodies, the only way to burn through it all effectively and feel better about yourself sooner is to work on both fronts: have a controlled, low calorie diet that provides you with the bare essentials for, like, staying alive or whatever, and a rigorous exercise regime that will start eating away at all extra body you have.

But tackling these two subjects (three when you count all of the mental stuff you’re going to have to go through) can be daunting and make the road ahead seem more like a completely vertical climb up five miles of smooth glass.  For instance, walking one mile burns about 100 calories.  One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories.  You’d have to walk 35 miles to lose one pound of fat.  If you’re aiming for 50, that’s about two and a half months of continuous, non-stop walking.  And we haven’t even started talking about food!

It takes 50 lbs of fat to get from Los Angeles to Des Moines.

To lose a lot of weight, you must marry the two sides, combine your battles of the bulge into one fight.  I am sad to say, seriously, that one of the best ways to do this is to count your calories.  I used to rail against this practice as I thought it was too nit-picky: if you eat right and work out, you’ll be fine.  Incidentally, I was fat at the time and stayed that way until I took my head out of my butt.  This practice not only helps you keep track of everything that you consume (the importance of which I will talk about in a later post), but also starts to link your food with your actions.

Let’s take that donut that I was talking about and use it here.  A normal glazed donut comes out to around 250 calories.  On the flip side, jogging at a steady pace for a half hour burns about the same amount of calories.  One donut = 30 minute jog.  This is an important change in perception.  Start looking at all the food you eat in terms of how long it would take and how hard you would have to work to burn it off.  Once you’ve got a balanced, low-calorie diet, understand that anything you eat/drink on top of that will have to be exercised off for you to lose weight.  This is great for me as I am far more lazy than I am hungry, but it’s still hard to put into action.

Water + Exercise

Why I should have to tell anyone again, or ever, is beyond me, but you need to be drinking water before, during, and after working out.  You should be drinking water ALL GODDAMNED DAY, but it is especially important when exercising.  Staying hydrated helps your body maintain its temperature, and by “helping” I mean “entirely depends on”.

This bird has got the right idea.

Let’s use that “Your body is a car” analogy from my post way back when:  When your coolant system is completely shot, do you continue to drive your car?  No, because if you did your engine would overheat, seize, and your car would be out of commission while it’s getting fixed at the mechanic’s.  And it’s a good chance it’s ruined altogether.  That’s what will happen to you if you don’t drink water while working out.  But instead of an engine, it’s your heart.  Instead of a mechanic, it’s an EMT.  Instead of “seizing”, it’s “dead right there on the pavement with you face in some dog doo-doo”.

Drinking water before exercising insures you don’t run out of steam (steam?  Water?  Oh ho, I’m so clever) before you’re done; drinking water during will help you cool down and give you a boost of energy; and drinking it after will help you replenish all the disgusting liquids that have seeped out of you during the work out, and that way you don’t faint later.  Just make sure to not drink too much water all at once.  It’s not that it’s dangerous so much as it is uncomfortable exercising with a belly full of water.  A medium mouthful every now and then will suffice.

Carbs + Exercise

In theory, you don’t need to eat anything before you work out.  If you’re on a balanced diet, your fat and muscles contain all the glucose you need stored and ready, so eating before exercising is not necessary.  But when you exercise your blood sugar level drops tremendously within the first 15 minutes of working out, and if you are sensitive to the changes in your blood sugar (and the odds are if you’re large), that drop is going to make you feel extremely fatigued even when your body has ample enough energy to finish the job.  So to counteract this effect you can eat some carbohydrates before working out.

In general, you want to stay away from simple carbs as they turn into sugar and storable fat easily, but in this case that is exactly what we want.  We need food that is going to be digested and metabolized quickly so that it is the first thing that is burned when working out, and simple carbs fit the bill.  This doesn’t mean you get to “load up” on carbs, however.  We’ve all seen movies showing people eating huge plates of pasta before exercising, but unless you are an athlete who is going to be training vigorously for 90 minutes or more, carb-loading is doing nothing except working against yourself.

Yeah, kinda like that.

Instead, go for something light and simple: A piece of toast (but not whole grain), pretzels, or high-glycemic fruits like pineapple, bananas, and watermelon.  You want to make sure it’s no more than 200 calories, and that you eat it a half-hour to an hour before exercising.

Protein + Exercise

As I said here and here (I’m getting all meta up in this joint today), muscles are protein.  They are made of it and need more of it to stay healthy.  When you work out, you tax your muscles something fierce and they will scream out for a little rest (aka – sore muscles).  Eating protein within a half hour after working out will make your body direct all the protein consumed straight to your muscles to sate those screams.  You will still be sore, but you will recover faster and your muscles will grow stronger.

Protein bars and shakes can be a good way to do this, but beware – many protein shakes and bars have as much (and sometimes far more) calories as an actual milkshake or candy bar.  Look for protein powders that are made of whey and a bar that offers about 5 grams of protein, few carbs and very little fat.  In the end, your body doesn’t care where the protein comes from, so also consider a hard boiled egg or a salad with chicken.

Food During Exercise

In a normal routine lasting about half an hour, you won’t need to have anything more than a bottle of water.  If your routine goes on longer than an hour, you might want to consider a small snack or perhaps a sports drink (basically a mixture of water, salt and carbs) to help you reach the end of the work-out.  You should be eating even less than the pre-game snack but it should still be made of simple carbohydrates.  You can also switch from water to a sports drink if it’s a hot day or you tend to sweat more than a normal person, but the same warning with the protein shakes/bars goes here as some sports drinks contain loads of sugar.

I know it’s a lot of math and calculating and may seem somewhat complicated, but the food/exercise combination is a natural pair.  Food is energy, and energy is meant to be used.  If you want to lose weight, you’ll never think of these two as separate entities.