An Open Letter to the Newly Motivated

Posted: September 27, 2013 in Lifestyle
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I get asked, a lot as a matter of fact, how I accomplished my transition from fat guy to Ironman and acquired my new found ‘fit’ lifestyle – if you want to call it that.  I suppose these people are interested because they are genuinely starting to get themselves motivated to perhaps make similar changes in their own lives.

Of course, not everybody is going to have their hearts set on qualifying for Kona but, at the end of the day, any switch to something resembling a healthy and active lifestyle is a huge victory in and of itself.  To those people, I applaud you for taking that first step towards changing your lifestyle for the better and reaching out.

Congratulations!

However, there is lot’s you should still know and be prepared for and, since you asked, I’ll tell you quite frankly – it’s certainly not all rainbows and cronuts.  It’s hard!

Damn hard.

Hard with a capital ‘H’.

Sorry, I hate to burst your bubble but the truth is that this transformation you’re planning is going to be a long, perilous journey through uncharted territory full of sweat, aches, pains and lots of poop.  So very much poop.  It’s definitely no walk in the park; although there may be plenty of them in your future.

But fear not, when you come out the other end you will no doubt be tickled pink with yourself, and so should you!  You rock.  But, still, as I said before, you’re not there yet and there’s still plenty you should be mentally bracing yourself for.

For example, you will need to learn to like your vegetables.  Yes, you heard me.  Fruits and vegetables are your friend.  I know how you love your Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, hot dogs, pizza, Frito chips, et al., but they’re all going to have to go curbside eventually.  As a matter of fact, you can expect to kiss 95% of all your favorite processed and pre-packaged convenience foods goodbye.  Transforming yourself does not lend well to being finicky or cheap.  It’s true.  There’s a reason why there’s nothing on the market called the ‘Mars Bar Diet’.  You may not instantly love everything you make, or make yourself eat, but be satisfied that what you are putting into your body is, in fact, REAL food and your body needs real food in order to function, not crap.

Crap is just that…crap.

It’s what comes after a healthy meal.

When I first made the decision to eat more healthily, I made myself eat things I haven’t eaten since a kid when my mother would all but force feed them on me at the dinner table.  Brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, you name it…the nastier and greener you remember it being; the better it probably is for you.  Know, however, that eventually you will reacquire a taste for these things and perhaps even learn to love them, but it will take some time.  Be patient.  For example, I had an inexplicable fear of beets as a child.  I can remember many stubborn hours sitting at the dinner table alone refusing to eat them.  Maybe it was the funky smell of them being boiled (yes, I am a product of the 70’s cuisine after all), or the way they stained everything else on my plate but, whatever, my mother and I had many a Mexican standoff over these little crimson beauties before bedtime.  Now, I love them.  Roasted, cold, baked, whatever, I love me my beets.  The good news is that beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called ‘betalains’  which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support; all very important for health.  Who knew?  The same could be said for asparagus, chick peas, and Lord knows I would never have given Fiddleheads a second glance either.  But now I love them all…except Brussel sprouts (nasty, vile Devil balls).  So, while I appreciate your honesty in telling me ‘I don’t like vegetables’, suck it up, buttercup!

You don’t get skinny on pizza pockets and Mountain Dew.

Likewise, be prepared to spend a little more at the grocers.  Yes, there are always shortcuts but, all in all, real food costs money.  It’s absolutely shameful but it’s a fact nonetheless.  When I first starting buying real food, and not that shit from the Whole Foods section either, I was shocked at how much my grocery bill was.  I almost curled up into the fetal position right there in the checkout aisle and cried.  It’s amazing how much we can spend on basic fruit and vegetables.  No wonder so many people rely on processed shit.  It’s cheap!  Beats the hell out of me why this is or how it ever got this way, but it’s as depressing as a Tori Amos cover band.  Regardless, spend you must…well, a little more anyway.  And, remember, real food goes bad…quickly.  So make sure you’re eating that shit.  Oh, and get familiar with your local penny saver and Supermarket fliers that get stuffed into your mailbox too.  Turns out they’re good for other things than just lining your bird cage.  Maybe you can walk (or bike) down to the local farmers market and see what deals can be had on local produce?  Burn calories AND save money!

I know, I’m a genius.

Another excuse I commonly get is “I’m tired after a full day of work”.  Well, duh, yeah!

Who isn’t?

Maybe the real reason you’re tired is because you’ve been existing largely on a steady diet of Ring-Ding’s at work and what you’re experiencing by the time you get home is the inevitable low of a sugar crash.  You’re not really ‘tired’, per se, you just have the making of type 2 diabetes given your regular poor diet choices.  Fear not, you can fix that but know that.  Life doesn’t reward the lazy (lottery winners aside that is).  It beats them into submission, so be prepared to get past being tired and forget about looking for the latest convenient home exercise system; the world needs another fad exercise program like it needs another Andrew McCarthy movie.  It’s just going to end up collecting dust under your bed anyway.  Just make a point of getting outside and doing something…ANYTHING!  It’s that simple.  Being tired isn’t an excuse and neither is being lazy.  Any idiot can walk around the block.  And forget that you have a ‘bad back’, or ‘weak knees’ or whatever.

Boo-fucking-hoo!

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Maybe you’re experiencing these physical problems because you’ve allowed your body to get weak over years of being sedentary.  Nothing will get better without taking that first step to improvement.  Any runner will tell you that the hardest step they ever take is the first one out the front door.

To this end, I recommend is forgetting about all your favorite television shows (unless you have DVD of course, in which case, tape away).  I know you love getting home from work and plopping your buns down in front of the TV to watch endless reruns of Judge Judy, Big Bang Theory, Survivor or whatever latest chapter of CSI happens to be on.  Losing weight and getting healthy equates to burning fat, i.e. calories.  Do you know how many calories you burn watching television?  Nada.  Zero.  El Zilcherino.  You know what burns calories?  Walks in the park; bike rides around the neighborhood; Aquafit; Pilates; squash; or, heaven’s forbid, RUNNING!

Whatever floats your boat really as long as you’re moving.

Find out what you like to do, and then get out there and actually do it.  Getting sucked up into a dozen prime time television shows is only going to distract you from what really needs to be your hobby…burning calories like it’s your job.

Now, I’m not saying you have to give it ALL up, Lord know I enjoy me some TV time as well, but sitting in front of the boob tube from 5:00pm straight through to bedtime, Monday through Friday is not good.  Not good at all.  If you must, find one TV show you can enjoy and then plan the rest of your week’s activity around that show.  Consider it your reward for a weeks’ worth of being smart and productive.  Don’t ask me to help you create a detailed workout schedule and then give me a shopping list of television shows you absolutely cannot miss.  I’ll beat you to death with your TV Guide and consider it a mercy killing.

While I’m on the subject, you might want to consider getting a gym membership while you’re at it.  I know how you “hate”  the gym and ‘gym types  now (I did too) but, consider this, what other plans to do you have now for utilizing and developing all those flabby underused muscles?  Without developing what’s underneath all that fat, later, when it starts to drop off, you’re going to look like one of those ridiculous Shar Pei dogs.  Don’t get me wrong, going to a gym is not absolutely necessary, but it sure as shit helps.

I also appreciate how intimidating a gym is on your first visit; believe me, much more given what you’ll inevitably be wearing.  I know it’s unflattering.  Hell, it’s amazing to me what some people will wear to the gym but, hey, the important thing is that they’re there, right?

Your local YMCA will also provide you with a literal three ring circus of new activities to try from Cross-fit to spin classes and everything in-between.  Consider it as an investment in your new healthy lifestyle.  The most important thing to remember is that nobody even cares that you’re there or what you’re wearing, just that you stay out of their way and are respectful and not acting like a total douche.  To help you along, here’s my own personal guide to surviving and coexisting peacefully at your local gym (click HERE).  Hey, take it from me: going to the gym isn’t so bad.  You know what’s bad?  Heart disease; cancer; type 1 diabetes; osteoarthritis; gout; high cholesterol; or, hey, not even being able to see your balls in the shower.  Now that sucks!

I bet the gym looks a little more attractive now when you compare it to the lobby of your family practitioner or Oncologist, right?

Now I get that a lot of the things I’ve said in this particular post might come across to some as being very cynical, jaded, or even downright assholish at times.  It’s just remarkable to me how many people have approached me for help and then proceeded to poo-poo just about everything I either suggest or recommend.  That tells me they are not ready to change, like, at all.  They’re looking for some simple get-skinny-quick scheme the likes of which, I hate to tell ya, doesn’t exist.   They are still stuck in that destructive mindset that they ‘can’t’.  It’s no different than the chronic smoker who keeps saying they’re going to quit but then goes outside to light up.  If you’re not ready to eat your vegetables and don’t want to try or purchase healthy food, or exercise regularly, or give up your precious television time, then there’s not much I can do for you.  You’re a lost cause.

However, if you’re ready to give these things a genuine go, then there’s nothing you can’t accomplish and nothing I won’t do to help you along the way.  Trust me!  Despite what I’ve said, getting healthy is a pretty simple formula that’s pretty much attainable for just about anyone provided they are committed and smart about their choices.

What I suggest, is to make a list of every foreseeable fear, misgiving or excuse you might have for starting on a new healthy lifestyle and then light that bitch on fire and use it to roast your last hot dog.  From that point one, don’t look back.  Instead, look ahead to the new you and the endless possibilities that come with being healthy and positive.

Good luck and ‘may the sweat be with you’.

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