The answers to the question I most frequently get asked: “How do I start?”


I’m asked that question all the time, in fact.  There are variations – how did you get started, how can I start, who did you consult – but I get enough curiosity to really make me think about what I’m being asked.  I’m not sure that it’s help they are asking for so much as a request for encouragement, so here is my pep talk:

Starting on January 1, 2010, I lost damn near 100 pounds in 12 months.I didn’t need a doctor (see one if you have a condition), I didn’t need a trainer (nor do you, necessarily), I didn’t need special equipment (nor do you).  I have kept it off (there is no secret – it’s diet and exercise). I did, however, need to completely reframe my thinking.

Bear with me, as the rest of this might seem preachy, but then again the truth you don’t want to hear generally does.

I will spare you the jokes that I give to those that ask me in person, but really, I did three things – and all of them were changes of lifestyle, there was no going back:

  1. I really did start listening more carefully to everything that everyone around me is saying all the damn time about eating healthy.  Sorry, you won’t lose weight while you still eat crap.  Our deep-fried society is so ridiculously dependent on fast-food technology like deep-fat fryers and adding cheese to everything that simple salads at many restaurants tip the scale at over 650 calories.
    • Eat less fat.  A LOT less fat.
    • Drink alcohol in moderation.  Always.  I cut back to 1 light beer a week – and didn’t miss it.  In fact, I still really don’t drink much at all, and don’t miss it much.
    • Eat more whole grains.
    • Cook with good quality oils.
    • Snack on fresh fruits and fresh unsalted nuts – especially almonds – daily.
    • Pay attention – actually care – about the food, the fuel you put into your body.  If you have a car that has one of those little stickers on the inside of the gas flap that says “Premium Unleaded Only” you probably get little chills when you are at the pump and think about saving the 10 cents a litre, and then you buy the premium because that sticker makes you fel guilty about feeding it lesser gasoline.  What if you had one of those over your mouth – because you should.  It would probably guilt you into feeding your body lesser fuel too.
    • THERE ARE NO CHEAT DAYS.  Cheat days are invented by people who invent fad diets.
    • Quit eating crap and wondering why it’s so hard to keep weight off.
    • Oh, and quit the damned smoking.  How many people have to tell you?  What picture are you waiting for Health Canada to put on that pack – your own black cancerous lung, perhaps?
  2. I really mentally prepared for what was coming.  I joined a competition that was set to start January 1, and from the time I joined it in November until December, I researched.  I read on-line.  I decided what I was going to do to get active.  I got mentally tough to do it – even excited to do it.  I couldn’t wait to start – and I had no idea what a journey it would take me on.
  3. I chose two things to do to keep active – one that exercised my cardio, and one thing that I loved to do.  I’m a big proponent of that.  I don’t think – not for one minute– that the folks that feel they keep fit by playing touch football, baseball, soccer or hockey once or twice a week really do.  I’m going to pick on the hockey players especially, as in their 60 minutes they get wonderful anaerobic shifts of perhaps 5 minutes.  They play between 18 and 25 minutes (most of them), and they don’t call it Beer League for nothing.  Once or twice a week won’t keep you in shape – Health Canada says it’s three times a week.  But the main thing is that you need cardio strength for everything else.  Any runner can tell you – their cardio and endurance – in all things – makes them feel unstoppable.

I’m going to encourage all of those starting out to pick a date that isn’t January 1.  I’ve got a really good friend who is helping with these posts, having gone through this themselves, and that is their one big suggestion – she believes that resolutions are set up for failure, that most don’t take them seriously, and they are therefore hard to be serious about.  Pick a date over the next 7 to 10 days – January 3 might be good, as that’s when most people get back to work, or maybe the 7th for the Ukrainians in the crowd.  Once you have that date picked, keep coming back here – over the next 2-3 weeks, we are going to go over goal setting, deciding what to do for exercise (I’m not a trainer, to be clear up front) and healthy eating (I’m not a dietician, to be clear up front).  What I promise you are some simple strategies to help you reach the goals you are going to set for yourself, as they are the ones I used.  There will be a lot of practical tips, and every Wednesday I’ll post something that will (hopefully) keep you inspired.

So – now the real question is: can you get yourself ready?  Can you get yourself psyched up for this challenge?  If you are here, you are probably reading other blogs for advice, which is good – it means you are doing your homework.  That’s a fantastic start. – most people don’t even bother before they open their wallet (for three years!) to waste money on a gym.  With this post, my friend and I wanted you to start getting mentally prepared – mentally tough – for what’s coming.  With the next post, we will help you with goal setting, covering not just what to cover in your goals, what you want to achieve, but also how to set them and why it’s really important to write them down.

When people find out how often I’m active, they sometimes ask me what I’m in training for.  I now answer them – with total honesty – that I”m training for the rest of my life.  I’m ready to take on anything I choose.  I’ve the confidence that nothing about my body will stop me from getting me to at least try, if not succeed wildly.  Want to get there?  Get prepped. Decide to change your lifestyle.  Let me see if I can’t help you achieve what I did, which has made me happy every single day since January 1, 2010.

Now, as a special treat for Canadians of “a certain age” that made it this far – a little inspiration from the federal government’s Participaction circa 1979.  Shamefully, I remembered the poem.  That means I sat on my ass and watched this commercial dozens of times.

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5 thoughts on “The answers to the question I most frequently get asked: “How do I start?”

    • Atta girl! Now when the going is tough, just remember that the results are SOOOOOOO worth it. I just know you can do it – you have been mentally preparing for months! Keep reading, I’ll keep posting.

      Thanks, and good luck Cheryl!

  1. On the subject of Diet – I really appreiciate Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food. His advise is simple…

    Eat food, less of it, mostly plants.

    I highly recommend the read.

    I lost a mere 40 pounds in 2011 and one of the big keys for me was signing up for an event. I signed up for the Delta Triathlon in April of that year.

    • Hi Scott. I rather liked his “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” for many of the same reasons. Diet is a massive part of it all but you have to *want* to change.

  2. Pingback: Set goals… not resolutions! « Big Man – Big Loser

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