No, actually a more accurate way to say it is that I’ve been schlepping on the treadmill for a regular/reasonable amount of time.
I’ve always hated working out. I hate sweating, I hate counting, I hate moving. I hate being hot and I hate having to walk around in a wet shirt. I hate everything about working out and the gym. I also hate the ironic 80’s fad that people have been trying to bring back for the past five years. Neon spandex and porn ‘staches have had their runs, guys. Get over it.
But as I’ve mentioned countless times, habit formation has become a small interest of mine, ever since Ben and I tried to be habit buddies for a BJ Fogg experiment.
Plus, you know, that time where I went crazy.
Anyway, bottom line is that I was looking for a change in my routine, and I was really getting tired of my Asian relatives calling me fat in various condescending ways.
It’s been about four months now I think, but I’ve been doing surprisingly well. The thing I realized is that while the idea of losing weight or keeping your health on track are general common knowledge, it really does depend on how well you know yourself and your level of discipline.
#1 My reward was not food.
One of the largest discoveries I made about this whole deal is that rewarding myself with more food IS THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER.
The whole notion of “I’ve exerted X amount of calories today, so I can eat this whole cake” is the easiest way for absolutely nothing to happen. I won’t even get into the whole idea of self-entitlement from the least amount of effort on this one, but simply put, I just found a different way to reinforce my habit.
It is extremely embarrassing and I really took a while to admit. But I am mad bananas about Korean telenovelas. And while it started out as a quick trial experiment, it totally snowballed into an actual system that lasted for a couple of months.
The system was this: Each time I went to the gym, I get to watch one episode of one telenovela.
The original plan was to hop on the treadmill three days a week: M-W-F.
And as the telenovela in question ramped up with its psychotic plot, of course I couldn’t fucking wait a whole two days to find out if the father really did murder that kid who got raped ten years ago in an abandoned warehouse.
Slowly, M-W-F turned into M-T-W-F… and then it turns out the mother was not actually dead but was the aunt of the guy who turned into a cop to save his girlfriend’s life.
You know where this is going.
And suddenly I found myself going to the gym pretty much every day, and if I didn’t go on the treadmill, I’d make it a point to walk outside for at LEAST an hour (no less).
Turns out, the cop’s mother was not really dead and he was actually brothers with the limp kid boy who was kidnapped and ravaged by vicious dogs and became the girlfriend’s trusted confidant who turned out to be a total asshole and tried to kill them all as revenge for his mother who he thought was dead but as we later found out really wasn’t.
#2 I cut myself some slack
It’s kind of similar to that saying about holding a fistful of grains. The tighter you squeeze, the more you lose between your fingers. Or some shit like that. My dad said it once about raising terrible daughters like me and my sister, and how he didn’t want us to rebel any more by enforcing more dumb rules on us.
I found that the harder I was on myself for missing a day or not doing enough time, the more bummed I got about the gym, and the more bummed I got, the less I felt like going. So I adjusted my goals and tried out different variations.
What started to work for me was that I would reward myself in tiers. If I did X amount of time and lost X amount of calories, I get to watch an episode. If I was able to double that time/calories, I get to watch two episodes; and so on.
If I wasn’t able to get to the gym that day, no big deal. I can make it up the next day and even it out on average. I didn’t withhold any more food than usual, or beat myself up about it. I felt a little bit annoyed that I couldn’t watch my episode, but hung on to the idea that if I worked twice as hard the next day, I’d be caught up.
I didn’t take anything away from myself when I tripped up. So the idea is that I don’t lose something I didn’t have in the first place, but I gain something if I deserved it.
#3 I paid more attention
I had no fucking clue that orange juice had so many calories in a cup. I also did not realize what a cup of something actually was.
I had a vague idea that a cup was, like, maybe a mug’s worth? Like a cup of coffee, right? But my buddy Stokoe gave me measuring cups for my birthday and it BLEW MY MIND how differently I had things measured in my head.
The Urban Peasant would maybe cry.
A tablespoon of peanut butter in my head was actually like 1/4 of a cup.
Maybe it’s part of my own delusions, but for a while there I absolutely doubted everything about space, measurement, volume and distance.
Same with calories. Shit. I figured granola was safe and magic because it was all grainy and oat-y and had dried fruits and all that garbage in it. Turns out this shit is like LOADED with calories.
To be clear, I understand that granola and grains are still healthy options and are not something to be avoided, but strictly speaking about the amount of calories in a serving—WTFUUUUUU?
So anyway, after I recovered from most of these discoveries and threw out all kinds of crap from my fridge, I now find myself being more aware of my portions.
Seriously, I used to have very cartoonish portions of food, and a very loose definition of what “half a plate” of something meant. But now that I have points of reference and have more information stored in my brain, I find myself making better decisions about what I eat throughout the day, as well as how much I should really take in.
And touching back on #2, I didn’t go cold turkey on any of the things I like, but just cut down to realistic measurements. Such is the case with ice cream.
Past delusions of measurement had me eating about twice or thrice the amount of what I actually thought I was eating. And you know what? An actual single cup of ice cream is actually enough. I don’t feel like shit afterwards, and neither are there any stains on my shirt or smears of tears and vanilla on my face.
I’ve lost 2kg already so far, and am on a good road to where I want to get to. The first couple of months were mostly about figuring out systematic things and trying out variations of the amount of exercise and food to take in. The last month and a half was where I feel like I’ve really found my stride.
I’m just saying, as corny as all of this sounds, it’s working out pretty well.
EDIT: FYI, I have been measuring my weight in kg not because I am more pretentious than most, but because I cannot see that far down to the incremental pounds on my cheap Ikea scale.