This is not something I’m normally interested in writing or reading about but as someone who has twice lost a significant amount of weight, I thought I’d give some advice to those interested. I’ll also have a follow-up post that is tangentially related. Feel free to skip the next six paragraphs if you’re not interested in my background. I feel this is important to share as it is hard to give concrete answers to people because all our bodies are different however all but the rarest exceptions can maintain a healthy body weight with discipline.
Growing up I didn’t have any problems with my weight until I was in the second last year of high school. I don’t have a naturally athletic body and up until this point I never really cared or watched my weight. I’m not sure exactly what caused me to gain weight but I believe it was a combination of soft drink and idleness. I remember around that time that Dr. Pepper was being marketed (very unsuccessfully), in Australia and you could get cans dirt cheap. Drinking enormous amounts of Dr. Pepper combined with spending my weekends playing video games naturally led to significant weight gain.
As I was in high school, I became very conscious of this and I remember kids saying things like, “jeez, you got fat!” when they saw me. I was already a socially inept and relatively unpopular student and this made it much worse. I didn’t know how to deal with it and my parents just made excuses for it. I was even told the old classic that I was “big boned” a few times. I don’t blame anyone for this as it’s the usual response and it’s very normal for people to offer neutral encouragement or reassurance rather than serious advice. This is not good, just true of most people you meet.
I continued to have a high weight until during my first year of university when I made some big changes. Now, this will make me a little vulnerable but I believed a major reason for my lack of success with women was related to this. It was certainly related but I had a lot more to learn as I may share later. In any case my motivation was to not only lose weight and meet women, but I also wanted to train to enter the military; something I was seriously considering at the time.
My original weight loss was draconian and involved cutting most high fat foods out of my diet. I also reduced my sugar intake and stopped drinking altogether for around two or three months. I began regular exercise which included sit-ups, push ups and 1-2km jogs. There were errors in this that I see in hindsight but the main principles that are important is that I became far more active and avoided high sugar and fatty foods and alcohol. Don’t take this as advice though as I’m getting to it.
The results of this were significant. I lost somewhere between 15 and 20kg in a few months. My highest weight I recorded was I believe around 100kg. I think when I began weight loss I was between 90kg and 95kg. Which went down to 75kg and I ended up losing an additional 10kg from there as my diet had become a habit that I kept at it. This was also so for exercise despite my not joining the military (another story).
Now there are a number of things to draw from that first story that you probably noticed. In the years following that original weight loss, my weight generally remained in the healthy range but I got sloppy in my mid-20s and my weight slowly crept up again, getting as high as 90kg before I again had to change my habits and have since learned what applies both today and the first time I lost a significant amount of weight.
DON’T LISTEN TO OTHER PEOPLE OR SOLICIT THEIR ADVICE!
All-caps was necessary. Seriously though, don’t ask other people if they think you should lose weight or for health advice. Think about how you would answer. Body image and health is a delicate subject to most people and chances are they will say anything to avoid hurting your feelings. Any advice you do get will likely be the “mum” advice or reassurance which are just nice-sounding excuses. So just don’t ask. Even gym employees are going to be reluctant in this way because they’d rather have you in there happy then risk scaring you away with the necessary hard work. Chances are that unless what you’re hearing is brutally honest and makes you feel bad; it isn’t helpful.
A more sinister reason not to ask could also be related to the pathologies of people you know. An interesting experience I had once I lost weight, was a friend who said he liked me the way I was before. He didn’t compliment me or even say “well done” because he liked me liked me fat and miserable. Why did he like me like that? Because he was the kind of “friend” that likes to keep people around him down so he can feel good. He was also the kind of friend whose mood set the tone for any night out. You may or may not have people like this in your life but if you do, you can be sure that they’ll be against seeing your self-improvement.
So if you ever feel like asking someone if you need to lose weight, then you already know the answer and it’s time to do something about it. Rather than ask someone, look on the internet or better yet, use some common sense.
Don’t buy diet programs or exercise machines.
Generally speaking, if you think you have to pay money in order to get results, you have already failed. Think about where they advertise diets and especially exercise machines. On TV! So whoever is watching such advertisements probably already has at least one bad habit and probably more.When you see diets and exercise machines shown on TV, they are usually getting advertised by professional fitness models. No one diet or machine can possibly achieve general health and fitness. I don’t mean to be insulting as it’s something I used to think as well.
Diets are programs that end and exercising in front of the TV without also looking at what you eat will be almost useless. As an example, I ran a half marathon successfully when I was around 86-88kg which means I was at least 5kg overweight. I trained hard for that run but my diet wasn’t much different so I saw little weight loss despite increasing my overall fitness.
I will qualify this by saying that dieting and using exercise machines are not bad in themselves. Diets have their uses, as do treadmills. The point is that you don’t need a diet to eat healthy and you don’t need a treadmill to go for a jog. Achieving good health takes more than this though. If you are already significantly overweight, something else has to come first which brings me to the next piece of advice.
Change your habits.
My first two were negative but this final piece of advice gets to what I really want to encourage. It is important to remember that many diets are fads and that more specific health recommendations are constantly changing. Look for example at what people say about carbohydrates, sugar and fat. You need all three so it’s silly to look at any one as particularly bad. The reason I haven’t and am not going to give any specific health advice is because you already know what’s healthy and what’s not. What you almost certainly need to do if you want to lose weight or become more healthy is to change your habits.
Do you drink a lot of soft drink or crave junk food regularly? Do you snack at night time? Do you spend significant lengths of time at rest while doing these things? You need to change your habits. This is hard and it requires thinking long-term. This is hard because people want to see results soon. I mentioned not to do diets but many people do get results. The problem is you have a diet and then you stop a diet. You keep the same habits, your weight will come back no matter how successful the diet was. The process is neverending and there are no easy answers or silver bullets.
What you want to get to the point where not exercising feels the same as not showering. If not showering isn’t a problem well you need to address that first. This may sound strange but I feel dirty when I haven’t exercised – sometimes even irritable. That’s a good problem to have.
You also want to feel some revulsion at eating particularly bad foods. I used to crave junk food on most weekends usually following a night of drinking. I used to really feel like drinking soft drink. Now I walk past junk food restaurants, vending machines and the same sections in supermarkets without even thinking of buying them.
Getting out of bad habits and forming good ones both take time and discipline but they are key to good health and fitness. The best part about it, is that because they take time, you can take time to adjust. Start by slowly changing your diet and slowly beginning a more active lifestyle. Many people make harsh cuts to their diet and try to force strenuous exercise on their body when it isn’t ready. The first time they fail, is usually the time they choose to give up. Begin slow and work your way up. A good habit is a virtue.