“Every great diet begins with a single step… and there’s like a bunch more steps and eventually the journey ends up sucking and at some points you’re pretty sure you would be thinner if you hadn’t even tried... Doritos?” – Scott Keenan
Welcome to the mindset of the out of shape. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attempted some diet or exercise regime that ultimately resulted in complete failure. For some people it’s ok. They just didn’t get the abs they wanted, or their arms are still a little flabby. For the rest of us, it usually results a quick loss of about five pounds followed by a gain of ten pounds, some mild depression and a lot of cream cheese.
I could manage to lose 10 to 15 pounds every year by giving up junk food for lent only to gain it back immediately upon reintroducing crap into my diet. I also made several attempts at exercise regimes, which never worked out…mostly because I hate exercising. At some point reality has to sink in. You will not do your body any good by just taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk at lunch. Adjusting only your diet or your exercise regime only does so much. Eventually you have to suck it up and take the plunge with a plan for long term success.
The first step is admitting that you suck. At some points during your diet you are incredibly dedicated, forcing yourself to run an extra 10 minutes after your tired and eating an entire notebook of unlined paper (this is healthier than loose-leaf) in order to extinguish the craving for chips. You have to identify at what point during the day you are an Olympian and force “the you that doesn’t suck” to make the decisions about the rest of the day.
If your gut hangs out over your belt, you have already proven that you cannot be trusted with food. My recent attempts at eliminating junk food proved fruitless as a result of discovering easy pastry recipes. Do you know of a food that you can’t stuff in a pastry and fry, because I don’t. Replacing junk food with chilli pockets did not result in any weight loss. My diet needed a more thorough plan than just “no junk food” in order to overcome the diet hurdles.
Hurdle 1 – Portion Control
It came to my attention that the type of food I was eating was not the problem. I like eating healthy food, I just eat too much of it. When you come home from a long day of work you are in no position to make decisions about what or how much you’re going to eat. The fact is, making something healthy is usually harder than Kraft Dinner or picking up a burger on the way home. Decisions about food intake should be made by the you that doesn’t suck. I found that cooking a big meal at the beginning of the week, portioning it out into Lunch and Dinner sized portions and freezing them made a huge difference. If I spend a couple hours not sucking on Sunday, I don’t have to think about food for the rest of the week. This allows me to focus on work, the gym and my social life without sacrificing my diet.
Hurdle 2 – What do I eat?
The next issue is making sure what you are eating isn’t that bad. I’m not a lot of help here. I’d go see a dietician. I know you’re supposed to snack often so I started carrying around a bag of fruits and vegetables, divided into portion sizes and snacked at least twice in the morning, and twice in the afternoon. I also hated eating breakfast, so I started taking toast and peanut butter with me to work, so I would at least have something in my stomach in the morning. Carry water with you. If it’s on your desk, you will drink it.
Hurdle 3 – Ignoring the Gym Bunnies
Everyone at the gym is more attractive than I am. Do they really want to see me there?
The answer is no. You make them sad. I found a gym in my area that has significantly fewer attractive people, so I’ve been going there. My first trip to the gym bunnies’ location was extremely depressing. I immediately start sweating when I bend over to tie my shoes, so after the first 10 minutes on the treadmill, I look like I’ve become severely dehydrated. The people at this gym don’t appear to sweat. They’re all sporting Lulu Lemon’s “no pit stain” collection, with perfectly coiffed hair, reeking of perfume and cologne. They still have perfectly chiseled bodies and tiny little waists. I assume they do the bulk of the workout at home, and just come in for a little warm up, followed by a lot of looking at themselves in the mirror in public. This made me uncomfortable. If these people intimidate you, try finding a gym with a homelier clientele. Though, I think all of us regular people should infiltrate these locations and see if we can get them to just stay home.
Hurdle 4 – Motivation
I don’t want to go to the gym.
Duh! Nobody who isn’t completely full of themselves enjoys going to the gym. There are a couple different techniques for getting yourself there.
The Buddy System – Schedule regular times for you and your friend to go. This way, you know if you don’t go, your friend will be irritated. Also, your friend could be more athletic than you. This could motivate you to try harder and they could give you some tips on how to use the equipment. If you’re like me, this didn’t work because your friends can’t stick to a schedule and when they tried to encourage you to run faster or longer, you gave them the finger and stopped talking to them for a while.
Escalation of Commitment – This is a common error made in business. Basically, you continue to invest time and money into a failing business unit only because of all of the time and money you’ve already invested in it, regardless of its potential for success. In this scenario, the failing business unit is your physical appearance. Buy yourself some expensive running shoes, and some fancy gym clothes that are supposed to be good in all types of weather, and are odour resistant. You’ll have invested enough at this point to keep you going for a couple months. P.S. you still have to wash the odour resistant stuff….it does end up stinking….no matter how much you paid for it.
The most important thing is to not think about the fact that you’re going to the gym before you go. Just put your clothes in your bag and get there. Then it’s too late to go back.
Hurdle 5 – Not Looking Like A Tool
Won’t I look like an idiot trying to use everything for the first time?
Yes….you will, and those people ARE laughing at you behind your back. My gym happens to have orientation sessions for new people (or old people who just haven’t taken them before). When I decided to get serious about going to the gym, I took these courses. The trainer and I decided that I’m probably not coordinated enough to use the free-weights on my own, so I should stick to the machines that don’t actually work your core muscles. I think this was a good compromise.
If your gym does not have orientation sessions, you might think a personal trainer is a good alternative. Nope! A personal trainer is a sadistic sub-human who enjoys watching you suffer AND you pay them for it. If you’re really that hard-up to have your self-esteem undermined, move back home with your parents.
Hurdle 6 - The Relapse
You will most likely lose all motivation and revert back to old habits...possibly even worse than your old habits. I recently put two pieces of pizza between two pieces of toast. I added some mustard and mayonnaise and a little bit of party mix. It was pretty much awesome. When you hit bottom like this, you have to give yourself two weeks of disciplined, back-on-trackedness before you'll feel motivated to start your healthy-living up again.
Remember, we can't jump every hurdle, but together we can strategically maneuver around them.