Getting back in shape is pretty basic. It’s a simple combination of the quality of your excercise, rest, and food.
The devil is in the details.
I recently received this inquiry, “I am at the beginning of the realization that I need to get out and be active. I have been cycling about 5 miles a day 5 days a week for almost a month now. I have not seen the weight loss that I was hoping for but really haven’t changed my diet and I know deep down that is what is to blame. What advice can you give a guy who wants to get back down to his ‘fighting weight’? I’m at 195ish and would love to be be back down around 180.”
First of all, getting back out there is probably the hardest step, so that’s commendable!
But here’s the problem, gotta change the diet! Our bodies are engines and we’re either putting in good fuel or bad. The hard part is, our bodies literally get chemically addicted to bad fuel. The chemicals, dyes, overprocessed sugars, etc. in most American’s diets are addictive and deadly. Treat it like you would heroin.
Skeptical? Google ‘processed food more addictive than drugs’ and see what you come up with, read a bit, and than get back to me…
The Huffington Post ran a recent article that gives a really good summary of how bad processed foods are for you. In “Food Addiction: Could It Explain Why 70% of Americans are Fat?”, Mark Hyman, MD writes, “New discoveries in science prove that industrially processed, sugar-, fat- and salt-laden food — food that is made in a plant rather than grown on a plant, as Michael Pollan would say — is biologically addictive.” It’s a disturbing article, and there are many more like it.
#1 – Eat Real Food. The more processed your food is, the less it’s doing you any good. It’s hard to avoid all processed foods of every kind, but use your head. If the ingredients list sounds like a chemistry lesson than don’t eat it. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, they’ll fill you up and give you the right kind of energy. Grill a chicken breast instead of tossing the fried popcorn chicken in the microwave for dinner. Make more of your food from scratch rather than buying pre-packaged food.
This is a hard step for most folks because they think they’ll end up eating tofu and munching on almonds. The truth is, you’re body will thank you and so will your taste buds. Food made with fresh ingredients tastes far better than something pumped full of salt, vaccum packed, and thrown on a shelf. Maybe you’re not a good cook? Teach yourself. Involve the kids too, it’s time well spent, a lot of fun, and you’ll be modeling good habits for them. I’ve gotta say that one of my absolute favorite things is getting home from work, grabbing a glass of wine, and cooking with the family.
The other misperception most folks have is that eating ‘real food’ costs more. It can, but it doesn’t have to. Our family of 5 eats very well on about $70/week. It’s very doable. In addition to your grocery store, buy from local farmers and at local markets. You’ll save money and get fresher, healthier food.
#2 – Don’t Eat Too Much. This is where I fall flat on my face. Did I make that grill-fired pizza from scratch with real ingredients? Yup. It is healthy? Relatively; all the ingredients were real and fresh. Is it tasty? So tasty I’ll go ahead on that 8th slice, thank you very much! You get the picture. Use your head. You know how much “too much” is. If you’re out to lose weight, it’s simple math. 3,500 calories is a pound. You’re either burning more than you’re eating or eating more than you’re burning. It’s that simple.
#3 – Be Patient. Truly the hardest part about making the switch to ‘Real Food’ is getting the junk out of your system first. Your body is literally addicted to processed ingredients and will crave more of them. But as you transition to more wholesome foods (i.e. – real ingredients), you’ll feel those chemicals flush out of your system.
The change that myself and my family has experienced by switching to real foods is nothing short of night-and-day. I don’t “crash” anymore, ever. And I have a lot more mental energy and focus. But it took time. It took a good 2 months, probably, until I felt like my body had made the transition. But it’s worth it because it means mastering your habits. And if you can master your habits, you can make any change in life that you need to!
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.