Ultimately fat loss is easy, change your habits and wait.
But focus on the results and obsess about the outcome and it’ll be torture. If you got into running because you want to lose weight and that’s what you think about all the time, you’ll quit. (and I’ve said this before) You’re comparing imaginary future feelings of good to current feelings of suck and you’ll quit.
If you focus on the habits, on the here and now, what you’re going to do and not-do today, then time will just breeze by and then you’ll look up and notice you look a little better. Then you’ll really want to keep going and it’ll be a pleasure.
So at the start I say no announcing that you’re starting, no before pictures, no first weigh-in, no nothing just coffee
Stop making coffee (or morning… ugh… tea) at home. Get up at the same time everyday, get dressed, and walk to the store for a cup of coffee. For almost all of us coffee is mandatory so you’re not going to skip this, in fact you’ll notice you feel driven. Sooner you’re out the door, sooner coffee.
Then, even if you have music or a podcast going, be mindful. Take in the air, cool or warm, the sunshine or lack therefore, the quiet streets or the bustle, but take it all in and let it feel good. Especially after you’ve gotten the coffee and you’re taking those first sips (It’s an interesting question to ask if you could live in a commercial what commercial would it be? I say coffee commercial, it’s always a beautiful morning where you’re not tired in the least and you’re usually out at a cabin or something). I learned this in reverse, in a way. I was committed to wearing suits everyday for a year and when you get up and put on a suit you don’t want to sit around the house drinking coffee. So I got out and became a morning person after years, decades, of being an up all night sleep past noon drunken songwriter.
You will enjoy these mornings, enjoy it for it’s own sake, it’s self-rewarding. Much better than trying to jump into running as an awkward beginner and fight through hoping it’ll feel worth it once you’re skinny.
But speaking of awkward beginners, step two of running is actually running. Well, actually step two – phase one of step two – is buy an new outfit.
A terrible one.
Don’t think that your dirty old sweats are good enough and don’t matter anyway because you’re just going running. If you wear your loser clothes you’re going to feel more like a loser. And if you go buy cool sports cyborg branded super science clothes you’re also going to feel like a loser. When you actually run. In the store you’ll tell yourself you’ll feel (and look) super cool and then… you won’t. Reality is a hard bitch.
I new I’d feel stupid running for the first time so I leaned into it. I bought bright green runners, white shorts with palm trees, and a yellow tank top. I’ve always found that if you feel stupid (or silly, or awkward or whatever) and you acknowledge it, embrace it, it goes away. Don’t be afraid to be a character.
When I started swimming I had no problem imagining the life guards saying to each other hey it’s the drowning guy again.
After you’ve moved from walking to get coffee to running in bright clothes then it’s time to start setting goals. Just arbitrary ones. Run 20 minutes a day, run barefoot on grass every other day, see how long you can go for at comfortable slow place, do some sprints. Don’t have pro goals like marathons and training splits. Don’t think it has to suck to be effective.
Accept it: You Are A Beginner. Embrace it, you get to make mistakes, you get to look dumb, no one has expectations, no one gives a shit what you’re up to. Goof off. Just find good feelings, that’s all you’re up to for the first months of whatever you’re doing.
Except with food. Sorry. You’re going to have to give up all your comfort foods, all your convenient foods, even tons of things you thought were healthy.
The first thing I learned about losing weight is that weight doesn’t matter. If you start working out you burn fat and build muscle and your weight won’t really change. You’ll look fantastic but you’ll weigh the same. And this is about how you look ultimately. If you get healthy you’ll look good.
So the first action I took came from Tim Ferris. Don’t eat anything white or that could be white. Meaning bread, pasta, rice, etc. I thought I was good because I ate whole grain bread fortified with quinoa or flax or any such shit. Nope. Gave up bread and pasta 5 or 6 days a week and started shedding belly fat. Plus having more energy through the day and feeling less sluggish less often.
Next I started strength training. We all think, and I did too, that cardio burns fat, you just run yourself thin. Nope again. To get your body to burn fat takes a shit ton of effort. You gotta get your heart rate near max for 20 minutes just to start burning any serious fat with cardio. And people doing fasted cardio just eat more later throughout the day (as does anyone skipping breakfast – don’t skip breakfast).
But muscle burns fat. Building muscle channels nutrients that might get stored as fat into useful areas. Plus strength training let’s you eat garbage bags of food. If you want to eat yourself thin you basically have to eat one meal a day. Switching to healthy snacks is still fueling your body, and your body burns carbs before it burns fat. A small bag of carrot sticks has enough sugar to fuel your body most of the day if you’re not training. Fat cells are your body’s savings account, it doesn’t want to dip into that, it’ll spend what you eat long before it reaches back and opens up the fat cell bank account. But if you burn those carrots for fuel and use the nutrients to repair the over-worked muscle? Go to town, get your carrot stick on, you can have almond butter on your celery, girl.
There might be some women reading this thinking they don’t want to work out with weights because they don’t want to get bulky. You won’t. You see all those bizarre, intense ads and huge tubs of protein powder, and tropes like Rocky drinking raw eggs? There’s a billion dollar industry and whole areas of science based on dudes trying to get bulky. It’s not going to happen to you by fucking accident.
And if you just stop eating your body will adjust. It’ll lower your metabolism and your NEAT (non-exercise thermogenesis), if you just eat less food over all rather than giving up carbs and beginning exercise your body’s maintenance calories will go down and down. It’s known as persistent metabolic adaptation or The Biggest Loser effect.
So let’s review: Exercise and don’t eat flour everyday.
Booze ruins it all too. Sorry. We all knew it.
In studies one daily drink contributed to better health than zero. So hurray, drinking is good for you and everyone uses the totally fraudulent glass of wine with dinner example to justify drinking. But while one is better than none, two is worse. All the purported health benefits of drinking are undone by drinking.
But you know what? This isn’t about being a robot. Train hard and eat well during the week then do as you please. You’re not in competition, you just want to look and feel a little better. You still gotta live some life.
Beyond eating and training your whole life dictates if your gaining or losing abdominal fat (I’m focused on the that because abdominal fat is particularly a sign of a health problem and not just aesthetic) so get your sleep. Being tired makes you fat. Being stressed makes you fat. Being fat makes you tired and stressed which makes you more fat. Basically we’re always at the top of a point with slopes on either side, you’re either sliding away from health or towards it.
You can even find correlation (not necessarily causation) between smoking and a lack of intimate friendships. People who have one tend to have the other and they’re the number one and two predictors of all-cause fatality.
Any healthy choice has momentum but so does any unhealthy choice.
Even something as simple as eating a banana at breakfast because you’re going for a run spills over into other benefits like bananas containing tryptophan which is a serotonin precursor and makes you happy (in layman’s terms) and then the run also makes you feel happier, and then the fact that you ate breakfast means you’re going to eat smaller meals throughout the rest of the day so you’ll be leaner and you’ll be even more happy.
It’s a slippery slope in both directions, don’t let anyone tell you health is an all or nothing uphill battle, it gets easier and easier all the time as you make it your normal and keep finding good feelings.