A Lifestyle in Review. More Lessons from a Former Fat Guy – Part 1

Each year Prime Ministers and Presidents like to give a State of the Nation Speech to their people. You’d hope that it would be inspiring, motivating, honest and insightful. The sad truth is it’s often what’s not said that proves to be more revealing.

While I can hardly compare myself to a President or Prime Minister, I do consider you my people. I feel responsible for your progress and invested in the state of your overall health. I launched this blog because I felt like there were so many people that didn’t know where to turn, what advice they should follow and which of the so-called truths out there they should believe. Donald Trump might call them ‘Fake truths’, I dunno.

Regardless, I launched this website nearly three years ago and my sole intention was to help people. If you’re taking the time to read this, it’s likely that I started this blog to help YOU.

Consider this part 1 of my State of the Nation Address. Not just for the past year, but a complete review of where we’re at and what I’ve learned in the past few years.

More Lessons From a Former Fat Guy

My story is pretty well documented: A fat kid that grew into an obese adult. An unhealthy lifestyle that led to a blood clot and pulmonary embolism. 18 months of blood thinners, injections, blood tests, appointments and a constant message from medical professionals:

“You have to lose weight”

Sadly, throughout this entire time, not one of those medical professionals gave me any advice on how to lose weight. Not one of those doctors ever thought to schedule me an appointment with someone that knew anything about nutrition, fitness, fat loss, or the psychology of what it means to be, and to have become an obese person. Just a few words at the end of every appointment… ”you need to lose weight, the nurse will schedule your next appointment on your way out”.

I don’t blame the medical profession for my weight, I don’t blame anybody other than myself for how close I came to a very final outcome. I do however believe that the system is somewhat broken. Don’t just tell people they need to do something, empower them with the tools and the knowledge to help themselves.

Don’t just tell people they need to do something, empower them with the tools and the knowledge to help themselves.Click To Tweet

 

I guess that’s why I’m here. Through a slow process of trial and error, I have found the tools and gained the knowledge and, I want to share it with you all.

Going Back In Time

Let’s step back a few years. It’s 2010 and this is what a (food) day-in-the-life of Shane typically looked like:

6.45am: Get out of bed. Make a coffee (flat white, whole milk, 2 sugars)

7am: Shower, get dressed

7.20am: Make another coffee (flat white, whole milk, 2 sugars)

8am: Catch bus to work

10am: Morning tea – Flat white (whole milk, 2 sugars). 2 hot savouries, or a bumper bar, large muesli bar, whatever.

1pm: Large filled roll, chocolate caramel slice (or similar) and a small bottle of coke.

3pm: Moro bar (or similar), flat white (whole milk, 2 sugars)

4.30pm: Catch bus home

5pm: A couple of pieces of toast or a couple of biscuits, whatever is in the pantry, flat white (whole milk, 2 sugars)

7pm: Tea. Could be anything but nearly always home-cooked

9pm: Something sweet. Probably a couple of biscuits from the pantry.

I haven’t done the math but that’s somewhere between 3500 – 4500 calories. Every. Single. Day!

When you write it down or look all this food in one place, it’s kinda obvious that I wasn’t just overeating, but eating poorly. However, when you’re living in this reality, when it’s part of your everyday lifestyle it’s much harder to recognise. I always had this bizarre delusion that because I rarely ate takeaways, and nearly always cooked tea I was essentially eating pretty well. Yup, there was the odd chocolate caramel slice and Moro bar that weren’t ideal, but for the most part, I thought I had a healthy relationship with food. I thought I was just an unlucky person destined to be fat.

This is why I recommend tracking what you eat. At least for a little while.

So many of us live in denial about the unhealthy habits we have. We’re often happier to blame the genes we inherited from our parents, plead ignorance, or conjure up some unsubstantiated medical condition rather than accept the fact that we might be responsible for the current state of our health.

When you write down your daily food consumption or track it with an app, and you’re absolutely honest about it, you might just be blown away by choices you’re making every single day. I don’t say this to make you feel bad about it, I say it because I know from experience that sometimes we just don’t recognise the choices we’re making until it’s laid out in front of us.

Note: I don’t want you to track your food consumption for the rest of your life (that would be a shitty way to live), just a few weeks. Laying it all out in front of you may be a reality check you haven’t experienced before. If you do this with an app like MyFitnessPal, it can be a surprising education about food and nutrition. On top of that, it’s pretty bloody hard to manage what you don’t measure.

Imagine setting out on a road trip not knowing how much petrol is in the car. Or, trying to save money but not knowing how much you’re spending. Or, saving for something but you don’t know how much it costs. It’s all valuable information that informs your decision making.

What I Learned From Tracking What I Ate

Yup, Moro bars aren’t a great choice. We know that we don’t need an app to tell us that.

When we think of unhealthy food choices, unhealthy meals in particular, most of us immediately jump to fast food, ya know: McDonald’s, KFC, Fish & Chips, Carl’s JR etc. Sure, that’s a lifestyle for a lot of people, but there’s plenty of us just don’t live this way. We cook our meals and because of that, we’re baffled as to why we’re overweight. I mean, if we cook our own meals it can’t be our fault, right? Obesity is to blamed on fast food chains and confectionery manufacturers, isn’t it? Well, that’s what I thought anyway.

In reality, we’re all responsible for the choices we make, and we’re responsible for informing ourselves about those choices. We are all individually responsible for the state of our health.

Some people will look at that list of daily food choices and think, “stop eating Moro bars, caramel slices, and savouries every day and you’ll lose weight, dumbass!

On one level that’s kind of a fair statement, and, it’s entirely true but you and I both know it’s not as easy as that.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last few years is that healthy doesn’t happen overnight. And, attempting to simply stop eating the foods you’ve come to love and crave has a pretty limited success rate. Can anyone say, D I E T?

People that have never struggled with their weight love to tell us we just need to eat less and get off our ass and do more. Cool story bro, now fuck off.

Whether you regularly make healthy food choices or not, most of us eat the same handful of foods and meals over and over again. Here’s the kicker, some of those choices aren’t really choices, they’ve become habits. Decisions you’ve made so many times you no longer need to think about them. See, each time you perform an action it takes just a little less brain power to complete it the next time. When you repeat something so many times that you no longer need to think about it, it’s become a habit.

The good news is, our brains are amazing. The bad news is unhealthy decisions repeated often enough become unhealthy habits and over time that leads to weight gain. This is precisely why diets and dieting doesn’t work. You can’t just change a habit overnight, you need to go through the process of learning a new (healthier) habit that replaces the unhealthy one. Nearly all diets essentially ask you to make that change immediately and it doesn’t work.

You can absolutely build new, healthier habits, it just takes time.

When I tracked my food for a few weeks and then went back and looked at it, I saw the same few things popping up every day. These things represented a few of my unhealthy habits.

You might be thinking we’re back to Moro bars, caramel slices, and savouries but we’re not.

You don’t need to go big to get results.

So yup, removing Moro bars, caramel slices, and savouries from my daily diet would have helped me lose weight, BUT, they represented too much of a reward for me. I liked them too much and I couldn’t bring myself to not have them, at least at the start.

Whatever changes you make they have to be sustainable, if you can’t maintain the change it’s too big, at least for now. If the change relies on willpower or motivation to keep doing it, it’s too big, for now.

There’s literally millions of books, websites, programmes and personal trainers that will tease you with promises of fast weight loss, a flat stomach, and a bikini body. And, they all have one thing in common: They demand massive changes from you in a ridiculously short space of time.

Let’s look at one day of a meal and exercise plan put out by one incredibly popular Australian weight loss and fitness personality.

Breakfast: 100g of natural muesli and 120g of berries

Lunch: Lentil Salad

Dinner: Ginger salmon stir-fry

She has done the math on this and it’s 1200 calories per day. Well shit, that’s a hell of a long way from the 3500 – 4500 calories that I was eating every day. Yup, it’s perfectly healthy but have you got any idea what it’s like to go from a lifestyle that includes 4000 calories every day to 1200 in the space of just one day?! Queue every scrap of willpower and motivation you’ve ever had because you’re hungry ALL THE TIME!

With hunger comes grumpiness (maybe that’s just me) but rest assured it’s not just you that’s gonna hate this diet, it’s the people around you too.

Oh, my bad, I forgot about the 40 minutes of sit ups, push ups, leg lunges, tricep dips, towel pulls (whatever the hell a towel pull is?), and side planks you’re expected to do every day too.

So, you’re not just hungry and grumpy now, you’re also bloody sore too. Suddenly everything is hard. You swing your legs outta bed in the morning and wonder why someone is holding a blow torch to your hamstrings. You reach up to pull a shirt out of the wardrobe and it feels like your arm is being torn off by a pack of carnivorous gremlins. This day already sucks and you haven’t even made it out of the house yet. Finally, it’s lunch time, your starving and looking forward to food. Oh wait, WTF is that?! Oh yeah, it’s lentils. Fucken lentils!

A programme like this is kinda like being given a rubbish truck and told to go and break the track record at Bathurst. Or, expecting your kids netball team go out and beat the Silver Ferns. It’s just not gonna happen. It’s possible but the odds are stacked against you.

I’m not saying you won’t lose weight, you absolutely will. The question is, how long can you sustain it for? A week? Maybe two at best.

This is the kinda lifestyle you might achieve two or three years from now, not in a day, a week or even a month. Remember, these weight loss and fitness personalities, these supposed role models have trained for years to get to where they are. Being at peak fitness is their profession. Asking you to replicate that lifestyle at the drop of a hat is unrealistic. Sure, we all want change but this ain’t the way to do it!

As much as you want to change your situation as quickly as possible you have to accept it’s gonna take time and that’s precisely why you need to make changes you can live with. Not just today, or tomorrow, but for months and years to come.

What eventually worked for me was making tiny adjustments to what I ate and how I often I moved. One teaspoon of sugar here, another tiny change over there, and a slow but consistent increase in how often I moved.

Perfection Doesn’t Exist

There is no perfect diet. There is no perfect exercise plan and there are no perfect people. Fuck perfection, because it doesn’t exist. We all have quirks and we are all imperfect. That’s what makes us unique and that’s what makes us interesting. In fact, the people that allow us to see those quirks and imperfections are typically the most interesting people you’ll come to know.

In my opinion, one of the worst and most broken aspects of the health and fitness industry is the endless desire to portray perfection.Click To Tweet

 

I lost 60kg and I’ve kept that weight off for a few years now. Am I perfect? Hell no! I simply do the best I can and my best is different every day. You can’t see my abs, I have some loose skin and I don’t give a shit. I’m far more interested in the fact that I can now run for 30 minutes without stopping. I can hold a plank for minutes rather than seconds and I can buy clothes that I like instead shopping for anything that will fit.

Most of all I love the fact that my risk of another blood clot, pulmonary embolism, and premature death is massively decreased. I’m in love with the fact that if I do have kids one day I should be around to see them grow up. Screw perfection, I’m here to live.

In an attempt to sound smarter than I really am I’m gonna quote Stephen Hawking:

 One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…..Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist. “

The image of perfection that the health, weight loss, and fitness industry like to portray is actually a carefully and sometimes dangerous deception. It’s mostly smoke and mirrors. These people we’re trained to idolise on the covers of magazines, billboards and bikini commercials are fitness models and the process they go through to prepare for a photo shoot is insane. Sure, in their daily lives these models are fit to an extreme level, but in the days and weeks leading up to a photo shoot, the process that takes them from fit to ‘photo ready‘ is dangerous and unhealthy.

These photos are designed to motivate and persuade us into action but what’s behind the photo is not even close to real life, it’s not healthy, and it’s not something we should aspire too.

Forget about perfection, focus on improvement.

Whether you’re just starting out and have a lot of weight to lose, or you just want to improve your health, forget about perfection and focus on improvement.

  • My diet looks like this right now, how can I make it a tiny bit better and still enjoy my day?
  • I get this much exercise right now, how can I do a tiny bit more without hating the experience?

As you get better, do better. When you no longer have to consciously think about whatever tiny adjustments you’ve made, they’ve become a new habit and you can move on to the next tiny adjustment. Continuous (tiny) improvements. Apply that thinking over a period of months and years and, HELLO you’re pretty bloody fit, pretty damn healthy and will have lost weight to boot.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll look at specific changes I’ve made in last few years and focus more on exercise. What I’ve done, what I’ve stopped doing and how I reduced the amount of exercise I do without gaining weight.

If there’s specific stuff you’d really like to know, hit me in the comments below.

-Shane

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