Have you ever heard the phrase “Vegas wasn’t built on winners?” The same can be said for the fitness industry.
Each year, people spend billions of dollars on weight loss products and gimmicky fitness equipment they see on late night infomercials because they are looking for the quick solution. If you’ve ever watched one of those infomercials with the amazingly fit guys and gals with their already rock-hard abs bending, twisting and lifting, have you also read the disclaimer they put right there along the bottom of the screen? It reads, “Results Not Typical.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I don’t care what the infomercial tells you, but, losing weight and getting in shape isn’t easy. There isn’t a miracle drug or random piece of equipment that, all by itself, is going to fix shed the weight and build the muscles. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take time. And not all of it is done with a huge smile on your face like those folks in the infomercial.
Getting in shape doesn’t have to be miserable
Over the past 15 years or so, my weight has fluctuated up and down like a yo-yo. But over time, the weight wasn’t going as far each time, and it was taking longer and longer to see results.
About 3 years ago, my wife and I decided to go for a walk each morning. We started out with short 20-minute walks that grew into the 45-60 minute range during the week. Our weekend walks were even longer. I absolutely loved these walks. First off, it was a great way to spend some time with my wife where we could just chat without the interruptions of phones, emails, or work. Second, we were both seeing results! So here we were doing something that we both enjoyed, and as a totally secondary thing, we were both losing weight.
We started cutting back on our walks once we both joined a CrossFit gym and started working out 3-5 times per week. Even though at CrossFit we weren’t able to stroll and chat like we did on our walks, we both enjoyed being able to go to the same class and do the same workout but scaled to our individual fitness and skill level. On the ride home, we would chat about the workouts — Which parts we liked, which parts sucked, and which parts kicked our ass the most. There was a sense of accomplishment in doing the work, but even more gratifying was the value we took from the shared experience.
Getting my eating under control
Even though I have been in pretty decent shape the past couple years, there has always been one piece of my fitness that I’ve never been really good at; Eating right.
After a few months of walking and then a few months at CrossFit, I was seeing some pretty decent weight loss results. I would go and workout super hard and then get home and eat the entire refrigerator. Portion control? Haha, yeah right! My weight wasn’t going back up, so I figured everything was great. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain wait. Isn’t that everybody’s dream? Well, unfortunately, that only lasts so long and it eventually caught up with me.
Earlier this year, I took part in a nutrition challenge. This isn’t one of those things where you’re on your own to go about losing weight over the course of a month or two and then as soon as it’s done, you go right back to eating whatever you want. No, this was more of a class where we were taught the fundamentals of eating properly.
During the week leading up to the start of the challenge, our instructor had us fill in a spreadsheet every day with everything we ate or drank (other than water) each day. He wanted to get a sense of what our current eating habits were like so that he knew which areas to focus on for each competitor. He asked that we don’t clean up our eating, but of course, I did. I expect others did as well. I lost 4 pounds that first week, and we hadn’t even started the challenge yet!
Over the next 5 weeks, we learned about whole foods, nutrients, timing our meals, the wonders of veggies, and meal prep. I was petrified of meal prep, but I was in it to win it, so I was going to listen and stick to the plan. And, throughout the entire competition, we had to track all our eating in that spreadsheet. By the end of the challenge, I had dropped around 15 pounds and several body fat percentage points.
It has been several weeks since the challenge ended and I’m happy to report that I’ve been sticking to the meal prep and generally following along with the same plan I was on during the challenge.
It takes a villiage
Losing weight and getting in shape is hard work. Doing it by yourself is even worse.
Even though I had tried several times in the past, nothing worked quite as well as when I was walking and working out with my wife and friends. I knew that if I didn’t show up each day, the next time I walked in, somebody was going to ask me why I missed class. I know that when I asked somebody why they missed a class, I’m not asking to shame or guilt them. It’s about wanting that person to make it to class for those shared experiences and to make sure they’re staying true to their fitness journey.
I was successful in the nutrition challenge because there was somebody on the other side watching. Each week when we’d meet, he’d look at the spreadsheet and we’d talk about what I had eaten. He’d never try to make me feel bad about it, but he’d instead try to help each of us make better choices. just knowing that somebody else was paying attention made it that much easier to choose a banana over a Snicker’s bar as a snack.
If you’re a member of a gym, see if they offer any sort of nutrition training. Workouts alone will not get you in shape. And a crash-course diet isn’t a solution and may cause more harm than good. If not through your gym, ask around for a referral to a nutritionist.
Now, go find yourself a walking partner or a gym buddy. Better yet, find a group of them. You’ll find that working out together is a lot more fun than going it alone.