So you want to get in shape this year too?
I was having too much fun extending my holiday celebrations. It's already the 3rd week of January and I just got my shit together. The other week, I weighed in at 201lbs. Seeing that I walk around most of the year at 175lbs, I packed on a nice 26lbs over the holiday break. It's no surprise to me. I was in California with friends and family, and we celebrate with food.
In 22-weeks, I'm off to Europe to celebrate my 30th birthday. I don't have a problem normally dropping holiday weight, but I want to be in the best shape of my life. So It's time to man up. I'm logging my routine and process (and results) for my readers.
What you do with this information is up to you. Remember, a plan only works if you do the work.
A quick summary of my process to get you primed. The entire series will be broken up into 3 parts: psychology, food and training. Extra resources will be linked at the end of each post.
For the next 22-weeks leading up to my 30th Birthday trip to Europe on June 26th I will be focusing on these things:
Sleep/Recovery: Main priority. 7-8 hours of sleep. More on this in the upcoming training post.
Eating: "Paleo" diet. I have issues with wheat. Schedule "cheat" meals to celebrate some milestones (including my Anniversary) with consequences if I cheat too early. Both of which I will be talking about in the food post next week.
Exercise: Kettlebells and olympic lifts, 3-5x a week. 15-30 mins each. Little to no cardio (rejoice!), aside from some jumprope and rowing because it's fun. Again, details coming up in the training post.
This post is by far the most important. You can buy healthy foods and get a membership to the gym, but you can't buy a new mindset to get you going.
So it's time to have a real talk.
How to Unfuck Your Head
4 harsh truths you need to read if you wish to do this with me.
1. You Got Here On Your Own
Unless you have a real medical issue with your thyroid, the first part of unfucking your head is to accept that you got here on your own. Tacos don't magically fall into your mouth, get chewed, swallowed and digested (sadly). Nobody pointed a gun to my head and told me to order something off Denny's Hobbit-inspired menu at 2am that night in California. (See photo above)
The great thing about free will is that it goes both ways. You just have to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
2. Motivation is Overrated
If you ever told yourself you lack the motivation to do something like get in shape, I have good news for you. Environment and habit are what you really need to unfuck your head.
Let me present to you two scenarios.
#1 - You're taking the subway home from a long day at work. You forgot to go grocery shopping. There's nothing but a half eaten bag of chips in your cupboard you didn't toss out before you decided to eat clean. You know there is a McDonalds a block from your apartment that offers 2 Big Macs for $5 after 5pm, and it's already 6. You're home, crunching away at chip scraps. Stressed out from not having anything in your fridge, you hop on Seamless.com. You avoided the Big Mac's, but now that and the chips got you thinking about other terrible foods you can have delivered straight to your house. Pad Thai and egg rolls sound really good right now. You're fucked.
#2 - You're taking the subway home from a long day at work. You walk an extra block to avoid that cheap deal at McDonalds. Out of sight, out of mind. There's also a beautiful dry aged rib eye in your fridge tempting you to grill it. But maybe you're a little lazy. There's a pot of grass fed beef chili that's in the fridge too. It's there because you pre-cooked some meals on Sunday. You know you're sometimes tired coming home from work. Sundays are usually reserved for a Netflix marathon, but now it's a cooking day to help out future you. But maybe you're feeling even lazier. So you hop on Seamless.com, order some double carne asada, no rice, no cheese, extra guacamole and salsa. You know that's a safe and delicious option.
This isn't fictional. This is my own actual environment. Can you believe 2 Big Macs for $5?
If you wanted to stop using meth, it's probably not a good idea to be roommates with a meth dealer and/or user. It's a terrible environment to be in for that goal. So if you want to get healthier, you need to create an environment that not only makes it harder to go off the plan, but makes it ridiculously simple to succeed.
Imagine your job. You know if you don't show up and do some work you won't get money and you will ultimately get fired. Some days you won't feel like going to work, you might contemplate calling in sick, but you can only do that so many times before you get the axe. So you show up. Your job has become a habit. The payoff is you get money.
If you don't love your current job, this might be a bad analogy. If this is the case, you should read some these previous posts.
How am I working on my habits?
Create a schedule. Treat it like a job. If your friend's ask you to go drinking during the hours your boss tells you to be in the office, you're going to be in the office. So if you've set aside 6pm-7pm as gym time Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, you must treat it with the same respect. Aside from die hard emergencies, you have to show up.
Bonus tip: Get dressed for the gym. Your only goal is to show up and check-in. Then you can decide at the gym if you want to workout or not. You've changed your environment from the comfort of your couch to a place where people are getting shit done. You'd be surprised how just showing up will change your mindset. The humiliation of leaving after checking in sucks. You might as well do something.
Speaking of checking in, I'm using a great app called LIFT. It allows you to add habits you want to work on. When you complete them you can check them off. The app shows you your weekly check-ins, gives you props (along with other users trying to achieve the same goals) and you can set reminders for habits you often forget. You can also try using something like Foursquare or Instagram to check into your gym and post photos of clean meals. This adds a game-like element that becomes addicting. You might annoy some people with your constant check-ins and food posts, but we'll talk about that more on point #4 of this list.
Consequences There are two schools of thought when it comes to motivators. I know I just talked about motivation being overrated, but it does have a place in all of this. The old analogy of the carrot at the end of the stick begs the question, are people more motivated by the carrot (reward) or the stick (punishment)?
Dean Karlan, Economics Professor at Yale, discovered that people respond much more to the stick than the carrot. He drew up a contract that cited that if he did not lose the excess 20lbs he had gained over the years, he'd had for fork over 1/2 his annual income to a friend. He lost the weight and kept it off, and started a website called Stickk to allow people to put their money where their mouths are to achieve their goals. You can pick your poison. The money can go to your girlfriend, your worst enemy or donated to an "anti-charity" of your choosing (Scientology anyone?). All watched over by a third party.
You can opt out of putting up money. The success rate of contracts with no money down are 35%. The success rate of contracts with money stakes? 78%.
While I haven't yet signed up for Stickk and put up money (will be doing it this week), I do have one thing going for me.
I've scheduled some cheat meals over the 22-week period, about every 30 days. This allows me to celebrate things like my anniversary and my girlfriend's birthday. The caveat is that if I cheat anytime before the planned cheat, I will have to push the cheat day up another 30 days. Probably safe to say my girlfriend wouldn't be too pleased.
3. Embrace a Little Vanity
Sure I want to live longer. But we can be honest here. That's the concept of the first rule right? I want to look my best, look better in clothes and look better naked. There's nothing wrong with that when it's done in a healthy way.
"Appearance is a consequence of fitness." - Mark Twight, owner of probably the most badass gym in the world, Gym Jones. He's responsible for getting Gerard Butler and his army fit for the film 300.
I don't want to have nice looking arms and not be able to lift a couch because I have a weak back and legs. The goal is functional fitness. A strong body I can use. When you do work you love, the money becomes the gravy. In this case, an aesthetically pleasing body is the gravy on top of real fitness and better health.
4. You might lose friends. Scratch that, you will lose friends. Revision: You should lose "friends".
Be prepared to hurt some feelings.
This morning, the local owner of my coffeeshop offered me a free pretzel croissant. That's an actual photo of them above.
I turned it down. He cut one in half and insisted I just take one bite, I still turned it down. I felt bad, but I was prepared to hurt some people's feelings.
I know he was trying to be nice. Your friends and family are going to do the same. They'll ask you to hang out and blow off your workout. They might even do horrible things like have a birthday and decide to throw a party with delicious cake and alcohol! Those fuckers.
People aren't going to make it easy for you. You're even going to run into those people who will try to intentionally fuck your goals up. Why? We project our own failures and insecurities. Because it's much easier to burn down a house than to build one. We've all done this ourselves. We don't think other people deserve things we don't have. Ever question how some guy is dating a girl who is disproportionately more attractive than he is? Yeah, you know you've done it once.
But remember what I said about environments.
"You are the Average of the 5 People You Spend the Most Time With" - Jim Rohn
If all your close friends are lazy asses that do nothing but get drunk and eat pizza post bar hop, your likelihood of falling into this trap increases. Time to adjust who you spend your time with. Make some friends at the gym. Read some Gym Jones articles. Watch some Crossfit videos. Hell, join a Crossfit gym. Their whole business model is built on being a support group for people who enjoy a fit lifestyle.
For those looking for a little extra homework, here are some excellent resources to expand on these ideas.
The Angry Therapist - A great blog run by John Kim, a Los Angeles based therapist and Crossfitter who has great writings on breaking psychological barriers. I recommend picking up his book Mind/Set.
The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield - Steven spent years writing on the side while working half-assed jobs he hated. Finally in his 40s, he decided to take it seriously, resulting in his first acclaimed novel The Legend of Bagger Vance (Which was turned into a movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon). He wrote these two books on overcoming resistance and how to be professional. While they mainly discuss creative pursuits, the psychology behind the thinking (dealing with your ego, fear of failure, habits of professionals) can be applied to any goal, including fitness and health.
The Food portion will be up next week.
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