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.

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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.

BAM!

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.

DIET

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?”

EXERCISE

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 – 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.

Sorry.

 

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.

SPECIFIC

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.

ACHIEVABLE

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!

TIME-TARGETED

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: Exercise – Anaerobic Exercise

No, I didn’t misspell aerobic; YOU misread.  Maybe you need some new glasses.

If you can't tell what this is, go see your optician.

While aerobic exercise gets its energy from a mixture of glucose and oxygen, anaerobic exercise says a big, “FUCK YOU,” to oxygen and gets its energy from only the glucose in your body. This makes sense since the word anaerobic (first coined in the 1880’s) means “in the absence of oxygen”.  Now this doesn’t mean anaerobic exercises are done without breathing; that’s as silly as it is extremely lethal.  All it means is that your body is not using the oxygen you are breathing in to trigger glycosis, which is the metabolic process that converts glucose, sucrose and other chemicals from the –crose family, into energy.

Through something called anaerobic metabolism (what clever names these scientists give these things), your body accesses energy stores that are only found hiding in your muscles.  The amount of oomph anaerobic metabolism creates is enough to help you punch a charging rhino into next week.

Accurate depiction.

So if it burns more fat and creates such high amounts of energy, why don’t we just tell aerobic exercise to screw off and simply do anaerobic exercises?  Well, let’s take a look at that heartrate chart I showed way back when I still felt blogging everyday was going to be fucking easy.

See where anaerobic exercise falls on our chart?  See how it’s labeled “Hardcore Training”?  That isn’t a bullshit title, it really is hardcore.  Anaerobic metabolism is only set off when you start driving your body with more intensity than aerobic exercise requires.  Aerobic exercise is about longevity; it’s about running a marathon at a comfortable pace so that your body doesn’t give out long before the end.  Aerobics is the normal, hardworking Joe of exercise.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is the total badass of exercise; it comes in wearing a leather jacket, drop kicks a cop off of a cliff, has relations with every woman in the room, and then paints a mural of Bruce Lee by spitting Bacardi 151 on the wall and then lighting it on fire.  But if you have ever been that person at a party, you understand that unless you are fueled by some outside source (cocaine), you simply can’t live your entire life at that break-neck pace.  While the fuel that anaerobics draw from creates high-octane energy, you have a very limited supply of that fuel.  While a person can continue to do aerobic exercise long past forty minutes, the human body can only keep up anaerobic exercise for about five minutes.

This is partly because anaerobic exercise creates a build up of lactic acid.  Lactic acid is a byproduct of glycosis and other metabolic functions, and it is normally released or reprocessed by the oxygen you consume.  Anaerobic exercise doesn’t use oxygen though, and the lactic acid that is produced during these exercises just sort of hangs out in the blood stream until your body starts using oxygen normally again.  While raising the acidity of your blood seems awesome because you take one step closer to being like the xenomorph in Alien –

"Yeah, I've been working out."

– it can also lead to acidosis, which, if we all remember A Few Good Men, can lead to all sort of problems.

Problem #1 - I make Jack Nicholson angry.

Acidosis can cause a number of physical maladies: Shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, dizziness, weakness, muscle failure, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea.  While the medical studies have shown that a build up of lactic acid is not the primary cause of acidosis (link), it is a factor.  The human body was simply not designed to maintain such a high energy output for a prolonged period of time.

Having said that, anaerobic exercise is a great way to lose weight.  It burns through stored glucose (e.g. fat) faster than aerobic exercise, and recovering from a build up of lactic acid makes your muscles stronger.  What exercises are considered anaerobic?  Any intense exercise that you can only keep up for a few minutes; sprinting, biking up a steep hill, maxing out while lifting weights (lifting the heaviest weight you can without injuring yourself), climbing up a stair case at a brisk pace with 50 lbs. strapped to your back.  If there was a scale that measured how hard you work, with laying on the ground at 0% and running from a deranged, chainsaw wielding killer at 100%, anaerobic exercise would be at about an 80%. 

And the good news is that you don’t have to do just one type of exercise in a single workout!  While jogging at your normal pace (aerobic exercise), you can start sprinting (anaerobic exercise) and after 30 seconds to a minute you can return to your normal pace.  Then after five to ten minutes later you start sprinting again.  This cycle is called interval training, and if you are serious about losing weight you will want to work it into almost every exercise routine.  Doing short bursts of anaerobic activity will get your heart rate way up and your body will burn through more fat, and the aerobic exercise will give your body time to recover by letting your body process the lactic acid and returning your heart rate to normal.  Because you are only doing the anaerobic exercise for a short period of time, you won’t work yourself into exhaustion, and you’ll still be burning fat during the aerobic exercise. And because almost every exercise can be modified to be anaerobic, interval training is easy to insert into any work out.  It’s a win-win situation.

The picture at the beginning was of a goat standing on a cow, by the way.

Diet: Exercise – Weight Training, Part 3 (with GIFS!!!)

The internet tells me there are approximately 639 muscles in the human body.  That seems like a pretty exact number to be approximate about, but whatever.  Most of these muscles connect and help stabilize your bones and don’t really come into play when losing weight.  I mean, sure, there might be an exercise to help you develop your temporalis (a thin large muscle covering your skull responsible for moving your jaw, which can be seen at the temples when someone is clenching their teeth), but it’s not going to help you shed a few pounds if you’re able to bite through a large chunk of wood.

Although, talk about a heavy dose of fiber.

While there are many muscles that should not go ignored when working out, there are a few major muscles that you will always have to focus on, and I have listed them below.

ARMS (Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid)
If you imagine your arm is like a camel, the hump of the camel is the bicep.

He must work out a lot.

The triceps are directly beneath the bicep, on the underside of the arm.  These muscles are responsible for moving your elbows, which might not seem like much until you find yourself trying to eat with completely straight arms and discovering new ways to get the food into your mouth (hint: bring your face to the food.  It’s messy, but it works).  The deltoids are the muscles covering your shoulders, and grant you the ability to lift your arms in front of you, to the side and above you head (a.k.a. the YMCA muscle).  They are usually grouped together with the back muscles, but it’s my blog and what I say goes.

LEGS (Quadriceps, Hamstring, Gluteus Maximus)
Quadriceps are the muscles on the front of the thigh and run from the knee to the hip.  Hamstrings are the same thing, but on the back of the leg.  Why the front thigh muscles sound like a robot and the back thigh muscles sound like an instrument for a pig, I don’t know, but they are both crucial for moving your knee and swinging your leg which is only important if you like to go places and do shit.  There are also the calves (back of the lower part of the leg) which help stabilize and move your ankle.

We all learned what the gluteus maximus is in junior high, right?  You don’t need me to describe it, and I don’t need you making any childish jokes.  Some people have big glutes, some have normal sized glutes, and some people seem to not have them at all (you poor, poor bastards).  It gives us good posture and helps stabilize where our lower and upper bodies meet.  Now let’s just move on and keep our dignity.

Hahaha, just kidding. BUTTS!

CHEST (Pectorals)
What I have dubbed “The Superhero Muscles”, the pecs are the two large, thick, fan-shaped muscles that cover your chest (except for you ladies; you can find them under your awesome funbags).  While having strong arms helps you do things, it’s your pecs that carry most of the load as they help you lift, rotate and flap your arms.  All these actions in just one pair of muscles!  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  Along with all the arm stuff, they also help you breathe in deeper into your lungs in case you need to hold your breath for a prolonged period of time, such as jumping into a swimming pool, or running through the tear gas that the police just shot through the window while you haul a bag of rubies and doubloons and a shot hostage into an air vent that leads to laundry room where you hid a motorcycle early last week.

Listen, I don’t judge what you do on the weekends.

BACK (Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius)
Seriously, all these muscles sound like robots from Transformers.

"Don't just stand there, Trapezius! We need to defeat Lateralus Medialis!"

The latissimus dorsi (or “lats” for short) is a large muscle on the lower back, and extends from your arm pit to your spine.  Seeing that pretty much everybody was on the wagon, the lats also help with the movement and rotation of the shoulder.  This is also true for the trapezius, which is a huge triangular (or trapezoidal, if you’re getting all lexiconic on me) muscles that connect the shoulder to the base of the skull and almost all the way down your spine.  Along with moving your shoulder (specifically “The Shrug”), it also assists in moving your neck.  But both of these muscles also help your balance, and stabilize, support and strengthen the spine, which the internet tells me is one of the most important things in the body, which leads me to the next muscle group –

ABDOMINALS (Awwww, don’t make me list them all . . .)
There are a lot of muscles in your belly region and it’s important that you work them all.  Transverse abdominal, interior obliques, external obliques and the rectus abdominus all make up the abs (also called your core, although that term also includes some back muscles), and they are responsible for good posture and aid in the movement of the spine.  And while the pecs may help you take a breath in, the abs help you breathe out.

EXERCISES

There are many many many exercises that you can do to work these muscles, and I’m not even going to try to list them all seeing as I’m slothful and you’re already on the internet and can look them up yourself.  But I will go through some rudimentary body weight exercises that cover the basic gamut.

PUSH-UP

Also called the press up or a floor dip, the push-up is a magic exercise as it works the triceps, the pecs, the deltoids, and the entire upper body as a whole.  The exercise consists of lying on the floor with your hands placed on either side of you and lifting your body off of the floor with your arms while keeping your back and legs straight.  And it can be easily modified to increase the difficulty, utilize your chest more or target other muscles like your biceps by simply changing the position of your hands, using one arm or changing the elevation of your feet.

PULL-UP

Targeting your shoulders, elbows, back (specifically, your lats) and your torso in general, the pull-up (or chin-up) consists of grabbing an overhead bar and lifting your body off of the ground.  Much like the push-up, this exercise can be altered to target specific muscles, such as your biceps, simply by changing the placing of your hands on the bar and lifting so the bar goes behind your head.

SQUAT

This exercise works your entire lower body, although you feel it mostly in your groin.  And by “feel”, I mean that’s where it going to hurt for the next few days after you’ve done a few sets of these, but if there is any time where feeling discomfort in your groin is a good thing, it’s here.  Performed by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squatting down (hence the name) all the way to floor and then returning to standing position, all while keeping your back straight.

LUNGE

Another complete lower body exercise, although this will make your butt sore.  Excuse me while a giggle like an infant at the term “butt sore”.

. . . . . .

Starting from a standing position, step forward and lower your body to the ground while keeping one foot in place, and then return to a standing position.  Both the squat and the lunge and be modified by adding weights or other movements (lifting a leg, etc.).

SIT-UP/LEG LIFTS

Targeting the abs and hip, sit-ups and leg lifts help strengthen your core which will make your entire body stronger.  While laying flat on the floor with your knees bent and placing your hands behind your head, lift you torso off the ground and bring it to your knees, and then lower it back to the floor.  It is vital that you keep your back straight throughout the entire process (have you picked up on that theme yet?) as you can injure yourself if you don’t.  But a sit-up only focuses on a few of the ab muscles, so you’ll also want to do some leg lifts which are sort of reverse sit-ups.

Instead of lifting your torso to your knees, lift you legs straight up in the air and then lower them back to the ground.

As I said before, there are more exercises than these, and if you use weights you’ll be able target specific muscles more effectively.  But if you perfect these exercises, you’ll be in a good place.  In fact, you can create an effective routine comprised entirely of these simple exercises.

And thus ends my posts about muscles.  Is there more?  Oh, that’s a big “You betcha”, but since we’re in this for the long haul (that whole business of losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of your life) there’s no need to rush into all the information that’s out there.  If I added anything else, it would be to remember to breathe out when you actually lift the weight so you don’t burst a blood vessel.  Still, looking back over it, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. We’ve gone over the most important basic of strength training; and
  2. I’ve used parentheses far too much.

    But they're just so CUTE!

Diet – Exercise: Stretch, Lift, Move

I’ve been looking at this picture I threw up in my last post for a week now, and it’s sort of depressing me because it takes a lot of things I wanted to talk about and quickly summarizes it with bold capital letters and bright colors.  I need to keep these posts lasting for another six months, at least, and that graph is stealing my thunder.   Frankly, I relieved.  I’ve started to sweat just thinking about exercise so I am going to use this time to play some solitaire and maybe do some whittling.  Goodnight!

. . .

Trust me, that graph has everything you need.  Just keep looking at that graph, aim for one of the yellow zones, and go at it.  You’ll figure things out.  Good luck!

. . .

Look, just put on some sweat pants and start moving!  I’ll be back next week to cheer you on, or whatever.  You’ll get a lot of things wrong, but don’t worry, I’ll let you know what every little thing is in extraordinary detail.  NOW GO FORTH AND EXERCISE!!!

"But you said . . ."

All right, Mr/Mrs SmartyPants.  If you’re going to use my own words against me, then I’ll just have to put my whittling knife back under my pillow next to the brass knuckles and baby teeth (the Tooth Fairy pays up no matter where they came from), and talk about the different types of exercise so you don’t feel so “neglected”.  But this is a two-way street, fella; if you’re making me ignore my much beloved whittlin’ to talk about exercise, I’m gonna make you do some.  So start jogging in place.  I’ll even do it with you.  Right now.  I mean it.  START JOGGING!!!

Almost all exercises can be categorized into three different groups; Flexibility, Aerobic and Anaerobic.  Each one focuses on different areas of your body and each one is needed to make your body as strong as possible.  It is important to note, once again, that none of the forms of exercise are designed to help you to lose weight.  The main goal is to make your entire body be able to last longer, get stronger and move in every single way it can without causing pain.  It is also important to note that, although your body will be incredibly sore for a long time once you start exercising, it should not be causing real pain.  The saying “No Pain, No Gain” really should be changed to “No Hellish Unending Soreness That You Would Kill Your Parents and Most of You Loved Ones to Never Feel Again, No Gain” because anytime you feel pain higher than the ‘I Got An Owey-Boo-Boo’ level, you should stop and sit down.  Get used to reading this because I’m gonna say it as many times as I said that starvation is not dieting in the food portion.

It's an epidemic, not a regime.

HAVE YOU STOPPED JOGGING WHO SAID YOU COULD STOP JOGGING GET UP OUTTA THE CHAIR AND JOG, YA BASTARD, IF YOU THINK READING WHILE JOGGING IS HARD, TRY TYPING AND JOGGING.

So let’s start off on the three kinds of exercises you’ll need to be doing to make your body stronger, leaner, faster and more capable of helping you burn fat.  Let’s begin with the one I really should have had us do before we started jogging in place.

Flexibility

*Sniff Sniff* "Who smells like ass?"

Your flexibility refers to your body’s range of motion, which is how far your body can twist, extend and bend, and the act of exercising your range of motion is called stretching.  The image that probably pops into your mind is a person trying to touch their toes, or a gymnast performing splits, and your impression might be that stretching only has to do with muscles.  But I said at the beginning I’d point out when you were wrong as fuck and I’m not going to disappoint.  Yes, stretching has to do with muscles, but it also has to do with tendons, ligaments, joints and a slew of other things that all impact your range of motion.  If you have ever pulled a tendon or bruised a joint, you understand how much these things can inhibit (or allow) how well you can move.

The point is that stretching is not just something you do before and after exercising (which you should do each and every time, without exception) but something you should do for its own virtue.  Not only can stretching be a preventative measure against injuries and act as healing factor for sore muscles, but it also helps improve balance and agility which are things that a lot of large people entirely lack.

More importantly, and forgive the new age lingo, but it helps you to get in touch with your body.  When I was large, my connection to my body was something I tried to deny and forget; that it was merely a large and fatty vessel housing my brain.  The result of this was that I stopped sensing my body, stopped feeling it in real time.  Unlike many exercises in which speed is a big factor, stretching is meant to be taken slowly and the process of taking your time with a stretch will make you feel parts of your body you had not even realized were there.  This is a very important sense to redevelop if you are trying to lose weight because you can not improve something about yourself if you don’t know what it is.

Aerobics

Aerobic exercises are ones that are generally low in intensity and that get your heart pumping, but not too fast.  The term aerobic refers to how our bodies use oxygen to help give us energy when our heartbeats reach a certain rate.  These are the kinds of exercises people think of when you say exercising: Jogging, biking, swimming, jumping jacks, climbing stairs.  Any activity that is hard enough to make you breathe heavily and yet easy enough for you to be able to go at least twenty minutes without stopping is aerobic.  Hell, even sex can be aerobic.

And if you can keep the same pace for forty minutes straight, I suggest you exercise no other way.

But the key terms here are “low intensity” and “long lasting”.  Things like sprints, or jumping as high as you can over and over, are too taxing on the body.  Aerobic exercises have to be things that can keep your heartrate up for a prolonged period of time, which means your heartrate can’t get too high or you’ll end up vomiting or passing out or both at the same time.

FITNESS!

The main benefit of aerobic exercise is endurance.  The human body is extremely adaptable, and the more you push it the further you will be able to push it.  Today you’re jogging around the block and barely able to keep your breath, but in a couple of weeks you will be jogging around the neighborhood and wondering how much further you can go before you have to go to work.  This is because aerobic exercises strengthen the muscles that control your breathing, the muscles that pump your heart, your circulation and blood pressure, and how efficiently your body absorbs and distributes oxygen.  It can even stimulate bone growth, leading to a stronger skeleton than can absorb higher impacts.  Aerobic exercise is not so much about making your arms or legs stronger, but making your insides stronger and able to endure more strain.  I know it sounds like people who like aerobic exercise are madmen who want to run across the entire continent, but once you start you’ll marvel at how you ever went without it.

You know what?  Start jogging in place again.

Anaerobic Exercises

Unlike aerobics, which you do to help you last longer, anaerobic exercises are the ones you do to help you perform physical activities that require massive amounts of energy in a short period of time.  Things like lifting a 50 lbs weight over your head, or sprinting up a hill, or punching a charging rhino in the face, or swinging an axe into the armored skulls of you enemies, anaerobic exercises are the ones that bring you from 0 to 180 mph in the matter of seconds.

These exercises get their name from the type of metabolism that is caused by such strenuous activities, called . . . anaerobic metabolism.  I wish I could say there was something more romantic to it, but anaerobic metabolism is all pretty technical.  Whereas with aerobics, where energy is produced by a tremendous intake of oxygen, anaerobic exercises derive their energy from glucose and things called high energy phosphates, which I have no clue about as I just started researching them today.

The fools think I actually think I know things! MUAHAHAHAHA!

Lifting weights, resistance training (lifting your own bodyweight, e.g. push-ups), and eccentric training (which has to do with a specific stage of lifting weights) are all included in anaerobic exercise.  The benefits are increased strength, faster reflexes and increased accuracy.

You may think that you don’t need to do these kinds of exercises, right?  I mean, they’re only for bodybuilders and athletes and show-offs, yeah?

In all actuality, anaerobic exercises are more likely to help you in your day to day life than the other two categories.  When was the last time you jogged for twenty minutes to get where you needed to go?  Just use your car, stupid!  When was the last time you stretched your arm behind your back and grasped the top of your butt?  Only at Christmas parties!  Now when was the last time you accidentally knocked over a glass and caught it before it shattered on the floor?  Or the last time you tripped and corrected yourself before you fell face first into the pavement?  Or the last time you lifted a couch for a former friend who tricked you into helping him move by saying he’d take you to Disneyland?  All of those activities use muscles that are developed and trained by anaerobic exercises.

So there are the three kinds of exercise.  And yet I must stress again that the point of these exercises is not to lose weight, but to make you a stronger and healthier person.  To include each of these in your work-outs (in fact many exercises can fall into all three categories, or be easily modified to do so) will help you lose some weight, but more so it’s going to train your body to be able to lose massive amounts of weight.  If you are trying to lose a lot of weight (50 lbs or more), at some point doing jogs around the block and lifting a few weights aren’t going to be enough.  I will talk about “Amping Up” in a later post, but the human body is very adaptable and you will need to go far and beyond the norm to lose lots of weight.  Losing ten to fifteen pounds is one thing.  Losing more than fifty is not just changing how you look, it’s changing your life, and you’re going to have to sweat for it.