The following is written by my good friend and training partner, Isaac Glendening:
I’ve determined that our generation was spoiled by Nintendo. Hear me out here…in Contra we had cheat codes for unlimited lives, Mario Bros had all sorts of secret shit hidden in it to make the games go easier. Don’t even get me started on “Game Genie.” What I think that did for those of us in our mid-20′s to our 40′s is steer us wrong, because in life there are rarely any such shortcuts.
I’ve dropped over 100lbs of body fat in a relatively short time, and a lot of folks have pulled me aside and asked me on the sly, “What’s the secret?” I’ve been accused of everything from doing drugs to starving myself. The only people who haven’t questioned me are my wife and those I train with. So let me break it down for you, here’s my sort of “Contra Code” to losing weight and getting fit….diet & exercise….and lifestyle.
Go Paleo. No arguments. It works across the board. Dairy? No Dairy? Go “Primal” or “Orthodox Paleo”…it almost sounds like picking a religion. I’m currently reading Adam Farrah’s book e-book titled “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link” (http://practicalpaleolithic.com/paleolithic-diet-blog/paleo-dieters-missing-link) and love how he advocates a sort of trial-and-error approach to finding which works best for you. I went super strict and then tweaked it based on my body’s tolerances of various food items. Read and research as much as you need to. Dig into every facet if you feel so inclined. I’ve said it many times, but it sickens me that most people invest more time into choosing a new computer or car than what they put into their bodies and how they treat themselves. Dig into various recipe sites as well…it will make things more fun and interesting. I’ve gotten some great ideas from a few recipe resources online and in print. Check out www.fastpaleo.com for recipes, this is where I post a ton of stuff. Also, www.marksdailyapple.com is my go-to resource for all of my questions. The articles are awesome and the search engine is really helpful.
Planning and prep are key in consistently eating paleo for the first few months until your lifestyle adjusts. The other half is exercise and monitoring your activity. Be honest with how much work you put in and keep that “leave nothing behind” mentality when it comes to working out. Using an interval timer and snagging workouts from various resources like Crossfit and the book Cardio Strength Training by Robert Dos Remedios has been helpful to me.
Keep in mind that I train for a combat sport, Muay Thai. Not softball or even football but a sport where my actual physical well-being is in more direct danger, which elevates certain hormone levels and causes some wonderful physiological (not to mention psychological effects); so part of what’s pushed me is not wanting to get my ass kicked (as much) and be able to keep up. Whether I compete or not, I’m always gearing up to make progress for if/when I do. It’s not for everyone, and may not be for you, so look into group exercise classes that will encourage you to push yourself harder. Look at your instructors and the people in the class. Are they fit? Are others in the class pushing themselves and motivating those around them? As my trainer always says, “you’re not going to get any better playing kickball with a bunch of 9yr olds.” The bar before you must be raised high, and you must have a desire to reach it…but here’s the trick, you have to understand that it will continue to be raised for you….and you must come to love that. Even if you train alone, lifting weights or running, you can always be better and you have to come to love that fact and let it motivate you in a positive manner. It is within yourself. As the great trainer Ross Enamait says, “Pick Your Passion”.
Groups/gyms such as CrossFit are pretty rad in that respect and the community/team dynamic can be VERY helpful. CrossfFit gyms are EVERYWHERE. You’re never gymless. I’ve managed to get some sick workouts in with just bodyweight exercises and a timer.
Gear up! Wear clothes that make you feel good, that you feel you look good in when you go to the gym. You’d be surprised at how much this helps. Nothing drives me more nuts than seeing folks at the gym wearing their crappy sweats and doing an equally crappy workout. Get the proper gear. Make training a specialized occasion in your day. Make Playlists for your workouts on your mp3 players and only listen to them when you train.
I believe in the power of ritual. I know on my most ass-dragging days if I run my fave gym playlist on my ipod while getting dressed in the locker room I’ll be pumped and ready to rock by the time I hit the gym floor. If I’m heading to Muay Thai training, it’s the smell of the Thai Boxer’s Liniment and the sound of the bell that gets me going. Sometimes it’s a combination of both, run a little ointment under my noise, listen to “Bring Da Ruckus” by Wu-Tang and I go from 0-120mph in no time. I AM PAVLOV’S DOG AND DAMNED PROUD OF IT!
Obesity is not just about diet and exercise—a lot of it is about your overall lifestyle. Health issues, especially manageable health issues such as type 2 Diabetes, are rooted in everything you do. It may sound kinda harsh, but ditch your unhealthy friends. People who only get together to drink and sit on their asses watching sports most nights, hit up bars as their main source of recreation on the weekend or just eat out too much and also have weight issues need to hit the road, if only for a little bit until you get yerself in check. Who knows, you may value your time with them even more when you do see them and encourage them to be more active.
People who think that sort of lifestyle is “normal” or commonplace are only contributing to the problem. At the end o’ the day it is not normal or acceptable to be sick. Obesity is an illness. Even if one is just a little overweight (and that’s kind of relative, but let’s say above 18% body fat for shits and giggles here), that extra weight only opens us up to more disease. It’s like having an open sore on your hands….bound to collect germs, get infected and make matters worse.
Treat yourself like an athlete, even if you have no sport. I came across this mindset when I trained with the folks over at Delaware Valley CrossFit; crosstraining with them to prepare for a National Karate Tournament a few years back. I learned that working out is a job, but one that can be enjoyable if you keep healthy goals. It should be scheduled into your week as you would any other errand and have top priority. Keep track of what you did in terms of exercise and on which day, space these things out logically and learn to be selfish with your training? Selfish? YES! BY ALL MEANS! Your health is important. Training is just as important as dinner.
People will change their plans around like mad to make sure they get to dinner with friends, they will go the extra mile just to hit up their fave lunch spot and make all sorts of sacrifices to go out for a night on the town and drinks on the weekend. Apply that sense of importance towards your training, see it as a necessity such as time with family, food, bathing…whatever it takes. Ask yourself at every meal, did I earn this? Not emotionally. I don’t give a shit how “hard” your day was. How much physical activity did you honestly do. Did you earn the right to eat the amount of calories you are about to consume in terms of how much energy you put out during the day? Be honest. It’s hard. Keep a diary of what and when you ate if that helps. I have a spreadsheet. It works.
Is it ok to cheat? That depends on a few things, I look at it like this, I plan one cheat meal in the week and one dessert. For example, Thursday will get me two slices of my fave pizza and maybe Sat will be a small amount of ice cream. The next Thursday will be another cheat meal I am sure to enjoy and the same with the Sat dessert. I chart everything, even if I mess up a tiny bit over the week…..and adjust my cheat accordingly. At first thought, keep it to 1-and-1 and not close together. The Thursday and Saturday rule works for my schedule and took some time to figure out. I will also purposely go weeks without one or the other or both. Keep it simple, something guaranteed to satisfy or else you may feel “cheated” by your cheat and that’s a very aggravating feeling.
In short, LIVE RIGHT and DO WORK! Good luck!!!!
Isaac Glendening is a Muay Thai practitioner, CrossFitter, education administrator, great dad, and has lost more than 100lbs and battled back from poor health through a healthy paleo lifestyle. And while doing all that, he manages to be the sound designer and front man in the synthpop band Cesium_137—proving, more than anyone, that through good health, all things are possible.
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