Real talk about your goals.
You may want to set up a plan for yourself so you have a path. The maximum amount of healthy, sustainable weight loss is generally considered to be an average of 2lbs a week, at least according to people whose careers involve thinking a lot about nutrition and physical fitness and have names like Doctor Sexy and Nurse Handsome.
(And aside: The gibbering nutjobs who tell you to only eat six steaks a day and bam, it all melts away are more about selling you a book than helping you find a way to be healthy and they can do a lot more harm than good because they cloak their bullshit in the same sort of pseudoscience that holistic practitioners and their ilk have been using for years. Think about the healthiest people you know – how’d they get that way? Not by ignoring basic science.
You may choose to wing it like I have. I’ve not been weighing myself for purely psychological reasons. First of all, I can see myself getting really, really paranoid about those numbers and sabotaging myself. Also, I don’t like metrics like that and am instead aiming for the overall goal of feeling better and having more energy, which is directly tied to weight loss. This is what works for me but I know a lot of people out there love the weekly and monthly goal game because they get pride out of it, so hey, different strokes.
You’ve been slothful and that needs to change.
Let’s be frank: you’re not exercising. You may think you get some exercise when you walk to your local comics shop or take a stroll around the mall to pick up your Pokemans or whatever, but exercise is the conscious act of moving your body in an effort to improve your overall physical well-being. The problem is, of course, that the conscious act of moving your body in an effort to improve your overall physical well being sounds like work, which is exactly what it is a lot of the time.
I had to learn to suck up and deal, and so are you if you want to shed weight and keep weight off. To be clear, I’m not talking about developing a Bruce Wayne-like physique or turning into a whip-thin, ab-based engine nicknamed The Situation, but just fine-tuning what you’ve got in a way that allows you to burn calories more effectively. Of course, I have to do the obligatory “you should talk to a doctor before you embark on any exercise plan, especially one espoused by a guy who thinks Speed Racer should be put in the National Film Archives,” but c’mon, you know you need to work up to bench-pressing the rear axle from a ’57 Chevy instead of trying that on day three, right? Right.
In other words, go light at first!
If you’re anything like I was before I started out, you’re a bunch of bones in a flesh sack with things that are only called muscles because “gristle tendons” is not in the AMA guidebook. Getting everything moving again requires a bit of patience and the ability to resist leveling up too quickly out of boredom.
I started off by just taking a morning walk, just 30 minutes, then 45, then an hour along a local trail. The goal wasn’t to be the best or fastest at walking the little route I did, the goal was to elevate my heart rate consistently for a long-ish period of time and work to make it so I wasn’t dying when it was done. The nice thing about walking on the trail is that I learned to measure my improvement in distance, not necessarily time, which is a nice bit of mental trickery.
Honestly, for a lot of people, just walking is going to be enough. They’ll start improving their distance and time pretty quickly and maybe even work up to jogging or running because they’re not four tons of Hutt in an Ewok-sized sack. However, for those of us who have been seismically gifted through our careful observance of the slacker principles, there’s a…place that we’re going to have to talk about.
Go ahead and wince.
The gym is not your enemy.
A lot of people seem to hesitate about going to the gym because they’re not in shape already. I’ve found two things: 1) people are too self-involved to give two golden shits about you; 2) you’re at the gym and trying and that’s good enough for them, even if you’re just starting.
I live in Boston and don’t have access to a car, so my gym options are limited to the Boston Sports Club or places that involve a 30-minute bus ride. BSC runs right at $70 a month. The thing is, since I’ve changed my diet, I’m spending a lot less on unhealthy meals out, so I have a bit more loose change rattling around than I did before even after the new expense, so it works out. I’m not sure how other gyms handle it, but I set up an appointment with one of their guys, where we did some basic fitness tests and he gave me some suggestions about how to proceed, which I combined with my usual habit of just Googling The Living Fuck out of something to come up with something that seems to work for me.
What I do. You may want to do something different. That’s cool.
Currently, I alternate between intense cardio days (an hour on the treadmill, hard walking at 3.5-4 miles per hour at a 5% incline right now – which started as 30 minutes going 3 miles per hour at a 3% incline in September, so, you know, progress) and about 45 minutes to an hour of weight training with a half-hour on cardio. My current schedule is three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off because I like to fit things within a 7-day week.
“Weight training” sounds terribly intimidating and might make you think of those Danish guys who throw kegs over things on ESPN 5, but it’s basically about making sure you have more muscle to make doing everything else easier and as long as you’re willing to admit that 10lbs is heavier than you thought and you’re not going to try to be a hero, you should be fine. ExRx.net is a fine no-frills resource that’s aimed at the science of doing things with things and even features a nice collection of animated .gifs that show you what to do as the text helps explain what the basics are and why you should do them.
Free weights are perfect for curls and laterals and other basics, but beginners looking to advance (especially those without partners) seem to do better with weight equipment as it keeps their motion “honest” and helps develop your muscles properly. Also, I have always, always, always hated crunches and the Butterball I’m smuggling in my torso makes them even worse now, so I appreciate that the Nautilus-branded equipment dedicated to working the abs and back make it easier to focus on doing the work instead of spending my energy hating the movement.
Yes, I am just that petty.
Also, seriously, don’t be afraid to ask the people who work at the gym how to use something. That’s their job. Let them do it.
The unpleasant part.
Buy the right clothes and underwear for your workouts. If you’re a dude, the underwear you usually wear are probably just gonna bunch up and do horrible things as you do work out, even if you’re just taking a speedy walk. Good running underwear keeps certains things in place and keeps other things from rubbing against other other things and you just wear it under your regular shorts and go. I personally recommend avoiding t-shirts and the like with graphics on them as they can get particularly heavy when they’re sweat laden, but maybe you want everyone to know that you really like Spider-Man when you’re lying on the ground, gasping and praying for Crom to give you strength.
Chicks, just, you know. The same thing, but you’ve got other things going on. Talk amongst yourselves.
The most important thing.
Stick to it. Stick to all of it. It’s worth it. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I’m working on it and feeling better ever day and I’m a lazy son of a bitch, so I’m pretty sure you can too. Really, though the secret of weight loss is exactly what I said at the beginning: burn more than you take in, and make it easier by taking in the right things.
(And for real: if you have questions you don’t feel comfortable asking in public or just want boosterism and some attaboys, feel free to email me about this junk – email@example.com. I won’t bust your chops or tell anyone else you’re trying to join the Sweathogs. )