Changing Your Approach

Growing up, I was always an athlete, playing basketball, hockey, and running track.  I never had to worry about staying in shape or eating right, considering I was so active.  But things changed as I got older.  My life became more and more sedentary, mostly from having to do software projects to earn money.  I found myself spending more and more time on the computer, and less and less time being active.

I can remember turning 28, looking in the mirror one day before taking a shower, and I saw the beginnings of a pudgy belly.  I wasn’t fat by any means, but I’ve always had a chiseled physique, and I didn’t like what I saw.  I stared into the mirror and said to myself, “This is it.  This is how it starts.”  Most people accept that as a fact, and many give in to all kinds of rationalizations.  Love yourself as you are, and all that sort of thing.  I knew what I had to do — I had to change.

I figured I needed to lose roughly eight to ten pounds to get back to my athletic build, so I began cutting portion sizes in all my meals.  Did I see any results?  Nope.  Nothing.  I didn’t lose any weight.  I may have slowed down the weight gain process, but it seemed to have little to no effect.

I then ate even less.  Then less.  Eventually I cut my intake to 1/3 of what I had been eating, and everything was healthy.  Oatmeal, salads, and that sort of thing.  Still nothing.  I wasn’t losing any weight, at all.

I then started walking every day.  First it was for thirty minutes each day.  I remember feeling better, but I still wasn’t losing any weight.  I then increased my walking to an hour.  I was eating super healthy AND walking an hour each day yet still wasn’t losing weight.  At that point I was pretty upset.  I mean, geez, what do you have to do to lose weight?  It was insane.

Out of sheer curiosity, just to see what it took to lose weight, I practically starved myself for two weeks.  I only ate small salads for each meal, and I was sooooo hungry.  I was suffering from nasty headaches, mainly from low blood sugar, and I was walking for over an hour each day.  I was weak, tired, hungry, and completely miserable.  Then, finally, I lost like two to three pounds in two weeks.  Just imagine suffering migraines and starvation for two weeks, all just to lose two pounds.

I seriously thought I may die if I continued on that path.  It was nuts.  I realized why people gain so much weight and are never able to lose it.  You look at restaurants (especially fast food), or even most of the stuff in grocery stores, and it’s all unhealthy.  It doesn’t take many McDonalds value meals, cookies, or bowls of ice cream before you’re packing on the pounds.  It’s so easy to do.

I was discouraged and angry.  I went back to eating healthy, but not starving myself.  And, once again, I didn’t lose any weight.  I needed to lose six or seven more pounds, but I had no idea how.  Then over the course of a year or so, I gained the two pounds back.  It was hard to tell though.  That pudge was not going to go away without a fight.

All of this led me to start researching how many calories different activities burned.  Walking for an hour, at my weight, will burn like 200 calories, roughly.  Then I was reading online and saw that those elliptical machines in the gyms can burn 600-700 calories per hour, at my weight.  I realized that using that machine was like going for three or four hour long walks in a day. Since I’m a student at Missouri S&T, I just went to the gym one day and tried it out.  It wasn’t all that difficult.  You do a ski like motion for an hour, and it said I burned 550 calories my first time.  I was at a loss for words.  It was like I’d gone for three of my normal walks.  That’s a lot.

I noticed the elliptical machines each have their own screens, almost like a personal mid-size TV, and they have an iPod hookup.  I could watch movies, lectures, or anything I want.  I just download it into my iPod and bring it with me.  So I took advantage of that.

I put all sorts of interesting things on my iPod and have been absorbed in the material, completely losing track of everything going on around me in the gym.  My body goes into auto-pilot, and I don’t even realize that people are coming and going, on and off of the machines near me.

I used to just sit here in my study and watch lectures.  I was doing it anyway, now I just do it in the gym.  I’m not starving myself.  No headaches.  No suffering.  It’s not even hard.  I put the resistance on level 15 and just work out for an hour, or so.

Now for the crazy part.  You want to talk about losing weight?  I was already eating healthy, and then when I started doing the elliptical machine for an hour, I lost that pudge in two weeks.  I was losing about three pounds a week.  It was just a huge change for me.  Since I use that machine nearly every day, I have to eat more just to counter the calories I’ve been burning off exercising.

I looked in the mirror just the other day and had a six pack again, just like I used to back in high school.  It’s nice.

I’m not writing this post to brag about losing weight.  I know people struggle with their weight.  This really has nothing to do with weight loss.  The real message I’m wanting to convey is that life doesn’t care how much you struggle.  How hard things are for you.  How much work you put into something.  None of that matters.  I could’ve continued starving myself, eating salads, and suffering headaches for six months and maybe lost ten pounds.  That was an option, but I chose to change my approach.

The magic word is change.  Some approaches are just better in every way.  You get better results with far less effort.  That elliptical machine allows you to increase the resistance, so it’s like a special form of walking that burns a ton of calories yet puts no stress on your knees.  Engineers designed that thing as the ultimate calorie burning machine.   Combined with a heated and air conditioned gym, with access to an iPod dock, TV, and other pleasures, why was I bundling up in my coat and gloves, going for cold walks down the sidewalk outside, only to burn 1/3 to 1/4 the calories?

Isn’t it strange how we so often stay in these ruts which just go in circles, taking us nowhere?  People are afraid of change.  I was afraid of change.  I went to the gym and thought, “I’ve never liked these places.”  Then I said to myself, “What?  Where is that coming from?  Really?  I don’t like the gym?  And why is that exactly?”  Of course the voice in my head, Mr. Recluse, had no real answer.  If I have an enemy in this world, it’s Mr. I want to stay at home all the time, away from people.

We all have those inner voices telling us to just stay home, that it won’t work out anyway, what’s the use, and all that sort of thing.  You’ve gotten send Mr. Recluse packing.  It really is remarkable when you change your approach and all of the sudden the wheels stop spinning and you get traction.  After a long time of frustration, you’re finally zooming off at high speed, at a loss for words.

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