Four years ago, I lost a bet and as a result I also lost 80 pounds and changed my life completely.
In my previous job, my boss and I were both overweight. He was 6'2" tall and about 290lbs. I was 6'0" tall and about 268lbs. We both needed to lose weight and knew it. We were also very competitive with each other. We were always arguing, sometimes loudly, about some programming issue at work. One day during our arguments, we decided to make a bet over whomever could lose the most amount of weight over a certain period of time. I was serious about losing weight. He wasn't. I spent the entire time eating right (or so I thought), working out, and doing everything I could think of to lose weight. Finally the deadline approached and it was time for the final weigh-in. The contest lasted 3 months during which I worked my butt off trying to get it shape. He did nothing until the last day before the weigh in. On that last day he went out running and just ran and ran until he nearly passed out. When all was said and done, he lost 8 pounds in ONE DAY and I lost 6 pounds in 3 months!
I was so pissed that he could do nothing for 3 months and still win, while I worked hard and failed. I decided right then and there, that while I may have lost the battle, I would win the war! I'd keep working to lose weight while he went back to his old habits of happily eating and drinking whatever he wanted. The fact that I was only able to lose 6 pounds in 3 months meant I obviously didn't know what I was doing, so I set out to learn everything I could about getting in shape. For the next year, I read everything I could get my hands on which talked about how to lose fat and get in shape. I am writing this article to share with you all what I learned, so that you can enjoy all the amazing health benefits I've received as a result of this effort. There were several lessons I learned over these last 4 years. I'll talk about each one briefly below. In future blogs, I'll go into each one of these in detail.
The first lesson I learned was that what you eat and when you eat, is everything. I had spent those 3 months of the bet eating what I thought was the right stuff, and getting lots of cardiovascular exercise, but nothing happened. I didn't lose any weight. The lesson here is simple - It's easier to never put it on, then it is to work it off! You can burn about 500 calories in an hour of running on a treadmill - or you can simply not eat that Big Mac (which has more than 500 calories by itself.) What would you rather do to get rid of 500 calories - sweat and work hard for an hour on a treadmill, or just say to yourself "I don't want to eat a burger." That second choice sounds like a much simpler solution don't you think? This is a fairly easy lesson to learn. All it takes is a little willpower to force yourself to resist temptation and to follow a sensible, organized eating plan. Once you start eating right, your daily calorie intake will drop, causing you to lose fat. This will also have the benefit of naturally lowering your cholesterol without the need for any drugs.
The second lesson I learned is that you must get regular cardiovascular exercise. You should get at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Now when I say 30 minutes, I mean 30 minutes of hard work. I don't mean 30 minutes of sitting on a exercise bike at the gym, pedalling slowly and reading a magazine. I mean 30 minutes of an intense interval training program on the treadmill. For 30 minutes, alternate 1 minute of walking at a leisurely pace and 1 minute of running as fast as you can manage. You'd be amazed how fast this will wear you out! If you aren't covered in sweat and nearly out of breath when you left the gym, you wasted your time. If you find yourself, unable to handle much running at the beginning, don't worry about it. The more you do it, the better and faster you'll get at it. You'll be amazed how fast you improve in this area. Doing cardio exercise will not only burn additional calories, but it will drasticly improve the health of your heart. You'll find that after a while your resting heat rate will drop, and your blood pressure will drop.
The third lesson I learned is that you must work out regularly. You should work out every major muscle group in your body at least once a week. Between this workout requirement and the cardio requirement, this means you will likely be at the gym 5 days a week. Yes, that's right, you have to drag your butt to the gym every day of the week. Getting is shape is not easy. It requires a lot of effort, time and planning, but it is possible. The way I look at it is, going to the gym is part of my job. I can't go home until I've finished my job for the day and gotten my workout/cardio in at the gym. While you may be inclined to think that working out will cause you to get bulkier and gain weight, don't be concerned about this. While you may 'gain weight' from working out, the weight you gain will be muscle. This is a good thing! Muscle is metabolically active, whereas fat is just dead weight. This means that the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn just by sitting around doing nothing! If your body has more muscle to maintain, it will have to burn more calories to maintain it. Don't live your life as a slave to the scale. As long as you see physical signs of your fat reducing (smaller wasteline for instance) you will know you are doing well. Frankly, if you are heavily over weight, you will still be losing more fat than gaining muscle anyway, so you will still be able to tell you are making progres. Weight is a bad indication of your overall health. Body fat percentage is a much better indication. Join a gym. Many gyms offer free body fat percentage readings to their members. Also, do not trust those body fat reading scales. They don't work. I've found them to be very inaccurate.
The fourth, and final lesson I learned, is that you MUST be obsessive about this effort to get in shape. I've discussed this particular lesson with others and they don't agree with me on this one, but I feel it is essential. Until you go into this effort hell-bent on getting in shape at any cost, you won't succeed. Getting in shape must be the first thought on your mind at all times. Everytime you consider eating that donut at work, you must remind yourself that it's not on your diet and so you can't have it. Everytime you go out to eat, you must remind yourself that you must only eat something that is on your diet. Everytime you consider skipping the gym *just this once* you must not do it. Once you fall out of the habit of going to the gym every day or out of the habit of eating right, your efforts will fall apart and you will fail.