Updated: Sep 16, 2021
I am not a medical professional. I do not have any medical training. I am just a man that realized little eyes were watching him, and little feet were following him. A man that made trial and error a way of life. A man that decided that the obstacle is the way.
That being said, please talk to your doctor before you start any exercise or diet program. I did. Once he said to do whatever it takes, I knew I could put my usual level of enthusiasm into it. He was the one that actually encouraged me to write this article so that he could show it to other patients struggling as I did.
In this article, I am going to walk you through the process that led me to my goal of overturning this disease. However, there are two other critical things I need you to know before we get started.
Your goal is not a finish line. It's a checkpoint.
None of this will work for you unless you actively want it, pursue it, and set your self-discipline to 11. This, and the fact that you know you can fudge here and there—everything in moderation... even moderation.
The Tough Talk
The doctor's warning wasn't enough to jumpstart me. I thought I had everything I needed, so why put any extra effort into fitness when all I wanted was some downtime to relax? Sure, my daughter watching my every move and imitating my every habit was enough to get my mind rolling. However, it wasn't until I came face to face with that guy on the left side of the image up top that I stopped my rationalization.
Who was this fat guy looking back at me? I didn't remember this absolute tub coming home with me. I looked down at the sink and then slowly met his eyes once again.
"You owe me an apology," he seemed to smirk.
"Why?" I retorted angrily.
"I'm just the reflection," he deflected gently. "You're the one that made it look this way."
He was right. I had made a million little choices that had led to this waxy-skinned, sick, and tired man. I looked back down at the sink in disgust. I wasn't this guy, deep down. I knew I wasn't. I used to live so differently. Those million little choices had quietly led me down this path that I now found myself. Those choices now beckoned me to stay on that path. Whispered to me that this was the easiest way, and hadn't we earned that? I looked back up.
"You owe me an apology," my reflection hinted again.
"I know," I admitted.
About that time, my wife and daughter came upstairs.
"You owe them better," I said to my own reflection. "They deserve better."
If you haven't had that "tough talk," whatever that might be, then it may be time to head to the mirror and see if you're happy with who is staring back at you. When you realize that the reflection isn't the image you had of yourself, then you'll find your greatest "why" you have to get started right now.
For some of us, the doctor's warning would be enough. For others of us, it takes hitting rock bottom, surgery, loved ones confronting us, loved ones leaving us, or some other seeming point of no return. Mine was realizing I had become what I swore I never wanted to become. The mediocre 30-something that didn't even have the gusto to take care of himself.
At that moment, I realized that I had should-ed my pants—Should-ed myself right into a bad situation that was going to take great effort to get out of.
The same day I bought our family gym membership, I mentioned that we all went there. I assured the girls that I knew what was up. I mean, I had exercised all through high school and some in college. So this gym should have the same type of equipment.
As we stood there looking at the complicated cables, pulleys, and more handles than I still think they need, I realized I was in over my head. Learn from my mistakes and make sure that you have a plan of attack when you head into the gym. It cuts down on time spent standing around wondering what's next and increases the number of calories burned by staying in a constant state of lifting or cardio.
To be honest, I couldn't find an online workout that met me where I was. So instead, I pieced together my own set of dumbbell workouts that set me on the path of the second picture up top.
Once my body adapted to these workouts, I sought out other workouts. It's important to change your training up, mix your training (i.e., cardio AND weights), and don't let your body get used to things. The best thing for weight loss or muscle gain is to constantly keep working your body in new ways. Here are a couple of guys I take advice from, use their workouts, and laugh at their "off-brand" sense of humor.
The Dad WOD (HIIT workouts, body weight, light weight/high rep)
Ryan Humiston (LANGUAGE!!! Pain... lots of pain) (Also, note that I don't totally agree with this guy's dietary musings)
If you think those will give you abs in 30 days, then bless your heart. However, they'll make you lay there in your own juice and think about all of your past sins and realize you're paying for them now.
Well, That Didn't Work.
I promptly saw no improvement to my hard-earned love handles. I'm talking seven days a week at the gym. Sure, I felt a bit better, but I thought I would have seen bigger gains by now! However, as you may have anticipated, I had completely neglected to change my diet. I was still eating the same old crap expecting my exercise to catch up with my bad habits.
Well, it doesn't work that way. Instead, I went the complete opposite direction and severely limited the number of calories I took in by downloading the MyFitnessPal app. Then I started noticing some weight loss and some serious strength loss. I was fatigued all the time, and I had trouble even finishing my workouts without feeling absolutely wiped out! I had made that classic blunder. No, nothing to do with Sicilians or land wars in Asia. I had once again neglected my body, but just oppositely. My body needed fuel to run, lift, sprint, jump and climb.
Not only that, it needed healthy fuel! If you wonder what I started eating, just check out some of the recipes on this site. I'll be adding more sporadically. So, just keep checking back. If you want to peruse a fantastically stacked recipe site from which I take my inspiration, please check out FitMenCook. Don't worry, ladies; you can use it too. It's no He-Man Woman Hater's Club or anything. I HIGHLY recommend the Meal Prep App! It has a shopping list function that is the bee's knees.
How Many Times Can One Dude Mess Up?
Yeah, I really wish I hadn't asked that. The answer? A lot. I'm talking small missteps to waking up in the morning covered in Door Dash Mexican food. I weighed myself incessantly and would despair when the needle would creep up. I would eat too much for a couple of weeks and then too little for the next couple of weeks. I would do nothing but lift weights and then see no weight loss. Then, I would do nothing but cardio and wonder why I never gained any definition.
The list could go on, but luckily I compiled this list of my biggest mistakes.
Suppressing The Fat Kid Within
Ok, so my love of all things food is a double-edged sword. I had grown this fat kid inside of me that was craving all of the bad crap I had cut out for my own health. However, I hate to admit it, but sometimes that greedy little snot won out. I would binge, overeat, feel guilty, and then take much too long to get back on track. So then, I read up on some ways to identify and prevent overeating.
The next item on the list was starting my first meal prep menu. I have always been most comfortable in a kitchen. Mostly raiding the fridge for things I probably shouldn't eat. However, I've always cooked. Meal prepping, however, is another beast entirely. That beast is the one that saved my liver. Prepping is the single greatest tool in my arsenal. When folks offer me leftovers or fast food at lunch, I can easily say no because I already have lunch. Mornings are less rushed because breakfast is waiting on me in the fridge to be warmed. Dinner takes no time at all because all of the ingredients are just waiting to be compiled.
Leaping Barriers For Dear Life
Even after you light that fire, even after you are on the path to the best you, even after you've come so far, there is a voice in the back of your head begging you to take it easy in mediocrity. Since taking others on as training partners and even training some coworkers and friends since completing my Certified Personal Trainer certification, I've heard (and even made) some of the excuses on this list.
Excuses can carry you nowhere. However, they can totally derail the efforts you make each day. The negative self-talk in your head needs to be silenced so that inner badass can jump out and demand a better you. I can't begin to tell you how often I've had to shut myself up so I could put the work in.
Healthy Food Is Freaking Expensive!
No big news here to those who frequent the supermarket. Seriously, I bought a pack of toilet paper that was $25 today. Yes, I know that's not food. However, it's important to have it on hand when you up your fiber intake!
This site literally has the name pauper in it for a reason. I am not a man of great wealth, and like anyone, I love a good deal. That's why I came up with a backward way of shopping that saved me tons of money and time. If you do the coupon thing, then good on you. I applaud your effort in snipping and saving. I simply do not have the patience.
Please keep in mind that I didn't start doing this method until after I had amassed an arsenal of meal prep recipes and the know-how to handle grocery shopping for them.
A Typical Weekday
5:00 AM: Wake up. Trudge downstairs to let the dogs out and start my coffee (2 cups a day)
5:30 AM: Let the dogs back in and begin cooking my breakfast (6 egg whites, 3 whole eggs, 1 cup of chopped mixed greens (kale, collards, turnip greens, and spinach), 1 cup of oatmeal, and some chocolate milk.
6:00 AM: Pack up breakfast and take lunch out of the fridge. (Korean Beef Bowl)
7:45 AM: Arrive at work and tuck into breakfast.
10:00 AM: Pre-workout snack (Rx Bar)
10:30 AM: 1 Scoop of Delta Force Pre-Workout (if you have caffeine sensitivity, I suggest non-stim)
11:00 AM: Workout 1 (Weights)
12:00 N: Lunch and protein shake. (Usually, chug while waiting for lunch to warm)
2:00 PM: Snack Time! (3 oz. baby carrots, 1 stalk of celery, and a snack cup of hummus)
6:30 PM: Workout 2 (Cardio, usually walking 3 miles)
7:30 PM: Dinner (Taco Wacky Mac, a family favorite)
9:30 PM: Bed Time
Of course, the recipes change, except for breakfast. My schedule is always apt to change because... life. However, I do not fail to take in all of the things above. It is my routine, and my body lets me know if I vary from it with ravenous hunger. Stoking the fires of metabolism is very, very cool.
This particular day would be around 2,500 kcals for me. That's due to portion sizes. You can adjust your portion sizes to reflect your own goal. It takes some getting used to, but it's easy once you get the hang of MyFitnessPal (I promise they don't pay me. I sincerely love their app).
I would give you a weekend schedule, but I haven't even been able to get a handle on that one. However, know that I am a bit more flexible on the weekends. I made a deal with myself. If I got at least a 4-mile run/walk done on Saturday and Sunday, I could be a bit more flexible with my diet. Most of the time, I will take Sunday off from weights and keep it cardio only. We all need rest.
Don't believe me? Check out this article on why rest is important.
Overtraining hurts WAY worse than training hard. Take it from a guy that thought more was better and then couldn't do anything for a couple of weeks.
That's it. Though, admittedly, that's an awful lot. It was and continues to be a struggle of epic proportions each and every single day. Especially when folks are slinging chicken minis, Crumbl Cookies, ice cream, and the like around at work. Plus, today is free taco truck day... Stay strong. Stay strong. Is that a roasted jalapeno? STAY STRONG!
Seriously though, please visit your doctor for regular blood screenings. Those helped me immensely on my journey. I could see exactly what my body was doing and adjust my diet and activities in the direction I desired. Any doctor worth their salt is going to be thrilled to see you taking such an interest in overcoming your demons rather than asking for the newest prescription. (Again, not knocking meds. Please listen to your doctor for prescriptions and ask how you might be able to work your way down in dosage, if not completely coming off of them in the future).
I'm happy to report that you'll see my daughter lifting with me if you read my blog. She is a two-sport athlete, has taken an incredible interest in the kitchen, and is comfortable in her own skin—a miracle for any middle-schooler. Likewise, my wife continues to expand her palate and try new foods that I inflict on her.
Me? Well, I'm just getting started. Like I said at the beginning, a goal is a checkpoint... not the finish line. So get in the race; let's run together!