A Short Walk to Healthy. Lessons From a Former Fat Guy

I was overweight. Scratch that I was obese!

With a BMI of 40.2 I was labelled morbidly obese.

When you fit into that kinda category you obviously haven’t been ‘living healthy’ and trying to make a change to a healthy lifestyle is pretty bloody hard.

But, it’s not impossible! I’m going to show you how to start losing weight and give you the tools to transform your life.

 

How I went from fat to fit

Straight up, this will be a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no quick way back from obesity and anyone telling you otherwise is not being honest with you!

There’s roughly 1 million and 47 gorgeous looking personal trainers online that will sell you a 12 week body transformation programme, but I promise you that’s not the best place to start!

A Short Walk to Healthy. Lessons from a Former Fat Guy

I’m not sayin their programmes don’t work. Kayla Itsines has a whole section of her website dedicated to her customers body transformations. That’s cool. That’s really cool! For $69.97 you can earn your bikini body in 12 weeks or less!

But really, are you ready for Bosu Burpees, or Straight Leg Jackknifes?! Again, I’m not saying these workouts don’t work. It’s just that doing them when you’re carrying a lot of extra weight and not used to exercising is a recipe for disaster. It could be a fast track to an injury, or end with you saying “fuck this, I hate it and I’m done”.

I know how that feels, it’s awful, you feel ashamed and left wondering why you even bothered to try.

Keep in mind, that these 12 week style programmes are designed for people who are just a few kg’s overweight and have a reasonable level of fitness. It’s much easier for these people to push through the burn and get results. When you’re 40, 50, 60kg overweight these exercises aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re painful and potentially dangerous.

The first time I set out on this mission to lose weight and get healthy, there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to be sporting a bikini after 12 weeks! One. I’m a guy and I’m not in the habit of wearing bikinis! Two. It took me approximately 11 weeks less than 12 to figure out I hated running, AND every other exercise that had been recommended to me! Three. I was obese! A 12 week body transformation would be asking way, WAAAAY too much of me.

How do I get Started?

How to get started losing weight

Step 1

Repeat after me:

“It’s not gonna happen in 12 weeks.

BUT SO WHAT?! IT TAKES AS LONG AS IT TAKES”.

Most “experts” will tell you that you need to eat less and do more. Adopt a low calorie diet and do at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday and you’ll lose weight. Just like that!

I don’t need to tell you that this advice is missing a few vital ingredients, such as an actual plan. Not to mention you’re being asked to make massive changes to your lifestyle in one giant leap. Big sweeping changes don’t work. I tried and it’s too hard!

Step 2

Let’s start by proving to yourself that you can change.

Stay with me here, coz this is important.

I want you to focus on making two tiny little changes to your daily habits. That’s it, just two. One will be a food goal and one will be an exercise goal. Now don’t freak out. When I say tiny changes I really do mean tiny. I want you to start out by making two changes to your lifestyle that are so small you barely even notice.

I know what you’re thinking- “How can changes I don’t even notice make a difference? ” Maybe it sounds too easy. Well, that’s the point!

I want you to succeed. I want you to avoid the biggest mistake I made when I first attempted to lose weight and failed.

I call it the fantasy gap. I hear ya ” WTF is the fantasy gap?!

It’s the gap between where you are right now, and where you want to be. If that gap is too big, it’s almost impossible to see the path that’ll get you there. What happens? You fantasise about what you want, but never focus on how you’re gonna get there. It’s way too easy to get overwhelmed by a task that seems just too big.

So here’s how I want you to start: Pick 2 REALLY small things this month, and ONLY work on those.

Make one about food and one about exercise. I started by taking one sugar out of my coffees every day. That was my food goal. My exercise goal was to get off the bus two stops early and walk the rest of the way home everyday after work. That’s it! That’s the change that put me on the path to losing 60kg.

I want you to do the same. Look for one really small food habit that you know is unhealthy and change it, and add a really small amount of exercise to your daily routine. Remember, these changes should be so small you barely notice them. This is about changing habits.

I don’t want you to focus on a goal weight, or running 5km in 3 months, or anything like that, and I don’t want you to feel like you’re missing out on the things you love.
I encourage you not to wrap big numbers and deadlines around your goals. It’s just not helpful. It’s way too easy to get overwhelmed by a task that seems too big.

What do tiny food changes look like?

  • Maybe you have a can of Coke every afternoon at work? Swich it out for a Coke Zero
  • Do you buy a small bag of lollies to eat at your desk most days? Change that to dried fruit
  • Do you have 2 sugars in your coffee every day? Knock it back to 1

I know it doesn’t feel like much, but this is first to step towards building new, healthier habits. When I look back on my own weight loss and fitness mission, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that small changes add up to big results. Big sweeping changes aren’t sustainable and usually result in short term success and long term failure.

Living healthy isn’t something you just wake up and do one day. It’s a learned skill, it’s a series of habits that eventually all come together for a healthy lifestyle. Over time you learn more and get better at it.

Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Unless you were some kind-of bike riding prodigy I’m guessing you didn’t just pick the thing up and take off, right? You might have had training-wheels and most likely had the help of your Mum & Dad for a while. Eventually the training-wheels come off and you’re away, you move on to bigger and better bikes and eventually you’re riding no-hands.

Healthy living is the same deal, it takes practice but eventually you nail it!

What do tiny exercise changes look like?

  • Do you catch the bus? Jump off a couple of stops early
  • Do you drive to work? Park a little further away
  • Do you have stairs at work? Ditch the lift a couple of times everyday

If you’re battling with your weight and you’re more than a little overweight, exercising can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Where do you start? What exercises do you do and how often? How do you know it’s working?

My advice? Forget all the questions and simply start by walking. Don’t focus on results. Remember the fantasy gap? Stop thinking about results and focus on what you’re doing today. We start by building new habits. Find a way to build a few minutes walking into your day, everyday. A lot of fitness “experts” and “trainers” will tell you you can’t lose weight by walking. That’s bullshit!

Walking is the single-best way to start exercising.

When I first set out on this adventure I thought I had to become a runner. I tried it, I hated it and I quit. It wasn’t until I started walking that I realised I COULD enjoy exercising. It’s also important to know that over time, as you become fitter, stronger and start to see results, you’ll want to do more and more and push yourself harder. Today, I am a runner, but I had to learn to be a runner!

Still got some doubts? Here’s what happened for me:

MONTH 1:

How to go from obese to fit

How to go from obese to fit

 MONTH 2:

How to go from obese to fit

How to go from obese to fit

MONTH 3:

How to go from obese to fit

How to go from obese to fit

The Results:

I’d consumed approximately 9,900 calories less than I did in the previous 3 months and I’d walked 66km more. By making barely noticable changes to my daily lifestyle I lost 12kg. The point is, small changes add up to big results.

Don’t freak out

If the progression in months 2 and 3 scares you, don’t worry about it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your body adapts to small amounts of regular exercise.

Don’t push yourself too hard, too early though. When you’re just starting out you really don’t want to ‘feel the burn’. You gotta build up to that. Over time you’ll get more and more comfortable with this.

When it starts to feel easy, walk a bit further, or walk a bit faster. I started timing myself, everyday trying to get home just a little bit faster than the day before.

 

Let’s Recap:

  • Don’t buy into the ’12 Week Body Transformation’ trap
  • Stop focusing on where you want to be and focus on what you can do today
  • Start with really small changes and don’t deprive yourself of the things you love
  • Living healthy is a learned skill, it doesn’t happen overnight
  • Walking is your best starting point for exercise

 A few words on motivation

A lot of people will tell you that you really oughta have someone to exercise with,  ya know a ‘workout partner’.  There’s roughly 26,700,000 web pages that tell you why you do need a workout partner. I’m going tell you why you don’t.

If you think about it there’s a few good reasons fitness professionals will recommend a workout partner. If they can reinforce the idea that support and external motivation equals success, you’ll be much more likely to buy gym memberships, workout DVD’s and 12 week programmes.

 ‘Workout partners’ are cool but they’re also a trap.

Exercising with others is cool, but don’t let it be the only time you see any physical activity. Don’t rely on other people to be your motivation. If you are lucky enough to have someone you can exercise with, treat it like a bonus workout. Circumstances change and life happens. You don’t control that. You don’t control that in your own life, so you have bugger-all chance of controlling it in someone elses. Make sure you’re responsible for getting the exercise you need, make it part of your daily lifestyle. If exercising is part of your daily routine, like walking to work, you won’t have to be worried about finding motivation.

Observations from two years walking:

Over the last two years my walking has evolved from 6oom after work everyday to walking all the way to-and-from work everyday. In two years, that 600m has progressively turned into 9km per day.

In that time I’ve seen a lot of people, I’ve chatted with a few and said “heya”, or “morning” to dozens of folk. There are three, or four people I see nearly everyday, these people inspire me. These are real people, just like you and I.

They don’t do leg lunges in a bikini at the beach before knocking back a kale and ginger detox smoothie and posting the whole experience on Facebook.

They have jobs, responsibilities, ya know, real-life shit. They are all very, very different but they all have a few things in common. They’re fit, and look to be in great health. They each walk on their own, and they’re consistent, THEY WALK EVERYDAY.

People that I see walking in groups, or with a partner are inconsistent. I see them most days for a week, then just once a week, then nothing for a couple of months. I never see any of these people from a group walking on their own.

The lesson here is that it’s too easy to let your exercise goals rest on the availability and willingness of others.

The biggest motivator is seeing results and witnessing a change in yourself.

When you nail these tiny changes in your daily habits the whole process starts to become addictive. You start to see results and you see yourself changing. You want to do better and you strive to do more. You are inherently motivated!

Track your progress

Track your weight loss progress

Looking back at your fitness data can be a great reminder that actually, YOU’RE AWESOME!

Finally I recommend tracking your progress. Now I’m not talking about keeping an exercise and food journal or anything like that, but there’s something to be said for looking back and celebrating your success and looking at how far you’ve come. Apps like RunKeeper are choice for giving you a different view of your activity and reinforcing the new, healthier habits you’ve developed.

Technology can give you feedback that looking in the mirror, or standing on the scales can’t show you. It can also highlight gaps in your routine and give you clues as to why something isn’t working.

On top of this, there are times when your head will betray you, there will be times when you think you’re just not getting anywhere. Looking back at your fitness data can be a great reminder that actually, you’re awesome.

Remember you’re in control

You’re in total control of your choices- no-one else. You don’t answer to the latest bullshit diet, or some gorgeous online trainer selling you their lifestyle through a 12 week programme. Start small and look for the easy wins, avoid big sweeping changes. As you get better, do better.

What you did yesterday can’t be changed, but what you do today is entirely up to you.

What’s one change you plan to make? Let me know in the comments below.

-Shane

image credit: DonJinTX, El Scrapeo, Katerine Lim

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