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Two Years and Counting…

Note: The following post is part of the Ordinary Times Food Symposium.  All symposium posts can be found here; an explanation of the symposium here

Several months ago, after reading Sam Wilkinson’s post discussing basketball and aging, I openly declared that I’d write a post discussing the experiences that I’ve had turning my 41-year old self from a couch potato into a health and fitness enthusiast.  Of course, given that it takes me forever and a day to get a post up here, here we are six months later and I finally got around to writing this, although the focus here will be relatively narrow.  Some background is in order:

I remember the day I decided to lose weight – November 30, 2012.  At that point, years of neglect in both diet and exercise caught up and the situation wasn’t getting any better.  By this time, I had put on weight and was carrying 200 lbs on my five-foot five-inch frame.  I felt awful.  I was well on my way to medications if I didn’t straighten things out for myself. Also, I had recently learned that my youngest son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  This also lit a fire under my ass and motivated me to get physically and mentally stronger so I can both feel better and tackle the day-to-day challenges to come.  The decision was spontaneous. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t broadcast my decision to the Facebook world. That morning, I rolled out of bed, walked downstairs to my kitchen.  My two-year began with a vegetable omelet, an apple and black coffee.

My goals were modest: to lose a few lbs and perform moderate exercise a few days a week, but modest goals were almost immediately replaced by my commitment to running a half marathon even though I couldn’t run to the end of the street and back.  However, 20 weeks later and 25 lbs lighter, I completely a 13.1 mile run in just under 2:20:00.  Since then, fitness and exercise, in addition to diet, have become a core part of my lifestyle.  After running the race roughly 19 months ago, an educational process began that took me through Tough Mudder training, high intensity interval training and, most important to me know, calisthenics (pull ups, push ups, dips, core work, bodyweight squats, etc.).  I currently train between 5-6 days a week at varying levels of intensity.  Since starting this journey almost two years ago to the day, I have been able to keep at least 25 lbs off my body.  Right now, I’m approximately 30-32 lbs lighter.

What does this have to do with a Food Symposium? Everything.  When it comes to health and fitness, exercise is, at best, 20% of the solution.  The remaining 80% is proper nutrition.  Two cliches come to my mind: 1) we can’t outrun our forks, and 2) abs are made in the kitchen.  Obviously,eating a proper diet doesn’t require one to have fully defined abdominal muscles or be able to run a marathon, but from my own experiences, people that have achieved a good level of fitness and have successfully gotten themselves very lean (by that I mean at or below the average body fat % of a male or female at that age) have done so with just as much zeal for nutrition as exercise.

I’ve been asked questions about what I eat and why I choose to eat it, but I’ve never shared the overall learning experience I’ve had over the past two years.  Before I go on, I want to make two things clear.  First, I do not have an academic background in nutrition, but it’s not necessary to have one to understand the basics.  I’m not going to bore anyone with citations to journals.  The only way that I can show readers that something has worked for me is, well, by showing people what I look like.  This was taken in July.  It’s close enough to where I’m at now.

OT After 1

I can talk about my results until the cows come home, but pictures do speak 1,000 words.  I’m not trying to toot my own horn nor am I suggesting that I’m the world’s biggest authority.  All I’m saying is that I’ve had success with the methods I’ve used.

The second thing I want to make clear is that I understand that everyone has different goals and everyone reacts differently to food.  My approach is for me and others don’t necessarily need to follow my approach in order to get the results they want to get.  I’m not here to moralize.  I’m not here to argue for something definitive. I am here to share my experiences and will try my best to do so in a way that’s most accessible for everyone.

When I started, I had no idea what the hell I was doing – probably because I had no plan.  If there is a reason that motivates me to argue that educating consumers is the first thing we ought to do in the event that we choose to tackle obesity, weight problems and the piss poor standard American diet including the absolutely god awful USDA food requirements (yes, ChoosemyPlate is a sick joke). it may be because the first time I ever went out to buy groceries for myself, I spent 90 minutes in a grocery store realizing how clueless I actually was.  As crazy as it sounds today, while I had a good idea what I shouldn’t buy, after that hurdle, I found myself struggling to figure out what it was I wanted to eat.  Because my decision was a spontaneous one, I never thought to go online and research diets, macros, health plans, etc.  I can’t say I did a terrible job making it up as I went, but I know that there were foods I bought back then that are no longer a staple in my diet today, most of them of a processed nature.

– Common sense adjustments are quite amazing. I’m going to speculate a bit here but I want to say that the first 15-20 lbs of weight loss were largely driven by some very easy to make adjustments to my diet.  I wasn’t at a point where I was counting calories or tracking macros. Rather, my focus on making sure that I didn’t eat certain kind of foods.  I was in my “Don’t Eat” phase. I avoided fast food, candy, processed snacks, heavy creams and other dairy products (not all) and, most importantly, made sure that the number calories I was taking in from my beverages was reduced to almost zero.  Prior to that, I was drinking sugary sodas, energy drinks and had plenty of sugar in my coffee.  I also made sure to eat less.  I didn’t need charts, graphs or plans to do any of this.

– Hey Dave, I want to lose weight by getting back in shape and exercising…what do I do?  The first thing to do is basic math.  Let’s assume the 3,500 calories per pound of fat rule and assume that a relatively untrained person can burn off, at best, 150 calories during an exercise period.  Assuming this untrained person exercises 3x a week, how many weeks does it take to burn off one pound of fat?  Answer – too many.

I think exercise is critical but for other reasons like the need to build muscle and not only lose weight but alter body composition; however, I’m not going to cover this here.

Make the calories out > calories formula matter as much as you can.  There are plenty of opinions on this subject and some people see this as a crude way to look at weight loss (I agree in some ways).  However, it was a good way for me to get started, even if my approach is different today.

 Weight loss supplements are bullshit.  I just read two posts that discussed how Big Food lies to people, plays on their weaknesses and profits accordingly.  This is an accurate description of companies that provide weight loss supplements and sell results in a bottle.  Not only do they not replace proper diet and hard work, but people with weight issues and related ailments may be putting themselves at grave risk ingesting substances that can spike the heart rate and blood pressure.

What do I usually eat? Lean meats (chicken and fish), lots of greens (I fill a one gallon Ziploc bag with salad – that lasts a day), some fruit, sweet potatoes before workouts, sometimes black beans after workouts, nuts, seeds water and a little decaf coffee.   I keep it simple.  If I had to measure my macro nutrient portions, I’m sitting at 15% fat, 40% protein and 45% carbs. Keep in mind that I’m trying to lean out and build muscle so my diet is geared to that.

– Do I cheat? Yes.  It happens.  There’s no point in beating myself up over it.  I just go back to what I was doing and things resume to their normal state in a short period of time.  I know I’ve called myself an unfoodie, but I’m not going to turn away certain items, especially during the holiday.

– Find the balance. Being an “unfoodie”, it’s easy for me to eat the same things day in and day out.  For those that enjoy good food, some of it of a highly caloric and/or sweet or fat nature, moderation is key.  The results will speak for themselves.  Don’t deprive yourself of the things you enjoy.  Rather, enjoy them responsibly.

– I and I alone am responsible for my food intake. After years of poor habits, it took a lot of work to reverse that.  It’s not always easy to turn away the candy bowl at work or the craving for a sweet late night snack, but I have no intention of reverting back to my old ways.  That helps to keep me accountable.  I’m not perfect and I don’t strive to me.  I just try to do the best I can, knowing what the health consequences are if I don’t keep this up.

I’ve tried to keep this simple and accessible for everyone.  Hopefully, this can provide some benefit  to readers and I can elaborate more in the comments section as requested.

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112 thoughts on “Two Years and Counting…

  1. Ah, but I’m 49, so I’m beyond hope, youngster.

    Besides, look what that diet did to your face!

    Just kidding; I enjoyed your post. Most of it resonates well with me, as practical advice for those who aren’t interested in approaching this as ideology/religion/Truth. The hardest parts for me are that while I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, I love variety, and a diet that’s very limited in variety is unappealing, and while I love to hike (and used to love to play basketball, before some injuries), I find working out in the gym really boring. Those aren’t reasons, of course, just excuses that I regularly let get the better of me; and I know that getting the better of them is the key.

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    • Hey now, you’ve seen the real version of that picture on my Facebook page so I have to interpret this as you saying that I’m ugly. You’re probably right.

      I should add the rest of the crew here to my page so I can scare them all to death!

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      • Most impressive, hat’s off to you.
        I’ve been exercising with enormous loathing for a decade but I have always viewed diet with a “pry it from my cold dead hands” approach primarily because I’m dedicating so much willpower to forcing myself to exercise (which I despise with a bone deep loathing). It would be so much easier if there was any element of exercise other than the results that I could find any fondness for.

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  2. Awesome. Inspiring.

    Body-weight squats and push-ups are important for me as someone who struggles to keep exercising thru the winter in the northern climate, without space in my budget for a gym membership.

    Do you have thoughts on how to maximize what you can do in your living room with a mat at most for equipment? Have you looked into yoga/Pilates at all?

    It doesn’t matter a ton for me really because I’m terrible on the food side right now. That’ll be a whole separate struggle for me whenever I finally step up to it. But the benefits of exercise are real even if losing weight is pretty much off the table due to bad eating. (I realize the eating side is the far more important contributor to overall health.)

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    • There are a variety of planks you can do which are great for your core. Also all sorts of lunges or leg dips which can build legs. You can get a full body workout with gear. On the other hand Planet Fitness is a really cheap gym if available.

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    • If finances are an issue for you with regards to gym membership, look into whether your health insurance carrier offers any rebates for attending a gym. My last few carriers all had some sort of rebate program, usually between $100-200 every 6 months provided you make 50+ visits in the time frame (which works out to twice a week). Most gyms nowadays track visits and will give you a print out when necessary. So if you can find a gym for under $50 (which is doable… both Retro and Golds in my areas are well under that), you can cut your costs in half or more by taking advantage of such a plan.

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    • …Part of the budget issue (in reality it is an absolute constraint right now, but in general…) is that I just don’t love putting the money into something that I can get a pretty decent facsimile of just for the price of shoes and shorts basically. I.e., I’m cheap. But the insurance suggestion is a good one.

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    • Do you have thoughts on how to maximize what you can do in your living room with a mat at most for equipment? Have you looked into yoga/Pilates at all?

      I haven’t looked into either one of those, but if you’re looking for things to do on a floor, they can include all kinds of push ups (vary the hand position), planks as greg mentioned, a plethora of other core exercises including sit ups, leg raises, windshield wipers, cross overs, bicycles, side planks.

      If you really want to make yourself suffer, try doing jumping jacks to the tune of 100 to 200 per set. If you want to curse my name, do burpees. Mmmmmm….burpees.

      Also, furniture can assist you. You can use a chair as assistance to do something similar to handstand push ups. Also, if you have a stable table with four legs (as opposed to a base in the middle), you can do Australian rows in lieu of pull ups (if you can’t do traditional pull ups, these will work just fine). A wall will suffice for wall sits. There are a lot of possibilities.

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  3. Good stuff Dave. My story is similar. About 4 years ago i was 280 which i carried fairly well but is still way to much. My wife was working on changing her habits because she had a lot of health related reasons to lose weight. I have always been physical active with hiking or biking or skiing but my weight was getting the way big time. I knew i was going to make some changes but the big inflection point was doing a really nice but easy 5 mile hike in Utah. I was slow and puffing on a hike that really shouldn’t have been much of an effort. So change it was.

    We both read the South Beach diet book since my Phd/MD FIL said the principles were sound and proven. I’ve learned a lot about cooking to the point where i have 7-8 standard healthy recipies that work for me. That took a while but it is satisfying. I was able to ramp up my working out to the pont where i’ve done a few xc ski marathons which were a goal and running marathon last summer. I am really lucky that i enjoy a lot of hard exercise which led to pounds melting off pretyt quickly. Not that diet isnt’ the more important thing but exercise being fun and feeling more and more in shape leads to a positive feedback loop which reinforced good diet. I wouldn’t really recognize my old eating habits nor do they seem appealing. As i’ve eaten better my taste for a lot of unhealthy foods has lessened which is another of those great bits of positive feedback you may be lucky enough to get.

    Like i said i’m lucky about exercise. I’m not a gym guy, i only go when the weather is to crappy for anything outside. If the weather doesn’t suck i wont’ go the gym for three or four months at this point. But i’ll xc ski 5-6 time per week and maybe add a strength work out at home. Diet is primary but hours of exercise can’t be beat either. But i am very lucky that i like to exercise, if someone doesn’t like it or can’t find something they enjoy that creates a real hurdle for them.

    There is no way around learning to control portions. Almost everybody who is overweight eats to much, in fact most people in shape eat a bit much often. But cutting appetite is a must do.

    Learning to make healthy and satisfying food was fairly easy for me. It is sort of stunning it took me so long to do. You must enjoy the food you eat and there is no reason that can’t be healthy.

    I never cheat. I have treats, oh boy do i. I’ll probably have some oreo’s later today. But i xc skied for two hours and everything else i’ve eaten today is good. If i wanted to drop more weight i could ditch the oreo or make some healthier treats at home. But i dropped 100 pounds and have gained about 10 back although most of that had been muscle. I’m at 190 which is good wight for me. Treats, of what ever kind, are just as important as a good regular diet. However i do have as a long term plan a desire to mess around with making good yummy treats at home so that may take the place of oreos or pumpkin pie to a degree.

    Being healthy, fit and finding a good weight are inherently individual due to our genetics, biology, tastes and likes. There are a million right ways to do it. I dont’ trust Big Food and they do heavily mangle the truth. But i agree education is the answer. You are correct the Big Weight Loss Industry is just as much a liar sadly. I’m all for gov insisting on labels and pushing education. I’m even for banning some things like trans fat. But health is a journey we must lead ourselves with, hopefully, a lot of help from knowledgeable people.

    Not sure where to fit this in but it might be helpful if someone like a First Lady took healthy eating, especially for children, as the the kind of anodyne but truly positive thing to push. I mean no one could argue abotu that and it would help. Oh well.

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    • Not that diet isnt’ the more important thing but exercise being fun and feeling more and more in shape leads to a positive feedback loop which reinforced good diet.

      I’m addicted to results as well as the burn and the pump. ;)

      This was happening to me as I trained for my half marathon and then it started happening even more when I started to notice significant changes in body composition right around the time summer started.

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      • The first winter after i dropped a lot of weight i loved speeding over every hill on my xc skies that used to leave me puffing. Each month i felt fitter which was a far better feeling then eating. And i do love to eat. I still enjoy remembering some of the hills that used to whip me that i can no go over without breathing hard.

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    • I dont’ trust Big Food and they do heavily mangle the truth. But i agree education is the answer. You are correct the Big Weight Loss Industry is just as much a liar sadly.

      A more lengthy response to this is probably more appropriate to Robert’s post (and I owe a response there anyway and hope to do it tomorrow), but I have to say that taking the other side of Robert and feeling as if I had to defend Big Food made me want to take a shower when I was done.

      I’m not sure if I would say “mangle the truth” but marketing gummie bears as fat free (even if they are) is a serious case of putting lipstick on a pig.

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  4. Nice to see someone say they are responsible for their food intake. I was beginning to think we all needed the govt to do it fo us.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Dave. Diet was a big part in getting me down and maintaining a sensible weight as well. Here are my tips for getting into shape cheaply and sustainably:

    1. Diet, diet, diet. Try to eat unprocessed foods, mostly plants. If you don’t like greens and cruciferous vegetables, that’s okay, because they’re not necessarily that great for you anyway. The reason you don’t want to eat them is because they don’t want you to eat them either: Raw greens can be very high in bitter-tasting oxalates (unless they are cooked down or picked very young or at the end of their life cycles), which they evolved as a defense mechanism against potential herbivores like you.

    The good news is that bad-tasting vegetables don’t have anything good for you that tasty fruit and nuts don’t. As a bonus, eating seasonal fruit is also a very easy way to eat cheaply — and because fruit often doesn’t even need to be prepared, it can be very easy to incorporate eating more fruit into your routine. This diet doesn’t have to be exclusionary — you can eat other stuff too, even some stuff that’s pretty bad for you — but if you get a lot of your food bulk in the form of fresh fruit you’re doing your body a lot of favors.

    2. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gym equipment to get a really great exercise routine. Running is a true full-body workout, and if you’re worried about getting too marathon-runner cardio skinny, then do HIIT anaerobic training. If you like working your upper body, get a pull-up bar, or hell, even just find a good tree you can hang from/climb. The good thing about training like this is that it’s harder to injure yourself, because you’re not working often-asymmetrical sets with weights that can overdevelop certain muscles too quickly, or doing complicated and frankly unnatural movements that are hard to do correctly without a lot of expensive guidance. Your body is built to move in certain ways, which is why compound lifts that use your muscles in tandem are so great. Once you feel pretty good about your general fitness, try integrating yourself into a local group sport, like pick-up basketball or ultimate frisbee: It’s more fun to play together than exercise alone (once you learn the ropes), and having other people to exercise with can help you stay with a particular regimen.

    Best of luck to everyone trying to get healthy or stay in shape!

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      • I think this is less true than you think. If you include sprinting in running, and you have good form, you get anaerobic exercise that works your shoulders and arms. You’re not gonna get a big upper body just by running, but you’re not gonna dwindle to the point where you’re exposing yourself to injury either.

        But I’d agree if you said that incorporating hanging exercise, especially hanging mobility exercises like climbing and monkey bars, would be ideal.

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      • I think “Eat the rainbow!” is great advice, and I think I follow it pretty closely. There are lots of green fruit, after all. And it’s not like I’ve cut greens out of my diet entirely — I often put fresh herbs into my cooking, and I love pestos, and I’ll have salads periodically. I’m really just trying to point out that, for people who don’t like to eat their greens, eating healthy doesn’t have to be drudgery. I haven’t been able to find a single nutrient in greens that can’t be obtained from a reasonably diverse diet of fruits and nuts.

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      • Fruit typically has quite a bit of calcium too, as well as other nutrients that help with its absorption and retention. Unless you’re pregnant, or you’re unhealthy for some non-dietary reason, the calcium in fruits and nuts should be okay. And calcium supplements are one of the few supplements I don’t have a problem with — they’re probably not very metabolically different from the calcium-rich clays that women worldwide are known to crave when they’re building their babies’ bones.

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      • Pretty much any other fruit, actually. Pears and apples are actually closely related, which is probably why they have similar calcium content, and as I’ve mentioned before, bananas are bad examples because of their peculiar evolutionary heritage. In the wild, bananas rely heavily on propagation by cloning, and their proto-fruit –which is much starchier than more conventional fruits — is generally only dispersed by highly-specialized animals instead of all-purpose frugivores.

        Generally speaking, fruits have significantly more calcium than is found in apples, pears, or bananas: http://www.lenntech.com/fruit-vegetable-mineral-content.htm

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    • Luckily for me, I like eating greens. The bitter taste doesn’t bother me at all. I add other vegetables and get a little color in there but I’m content as can be with salad. I don’t use dressing either. In fact, I’d say that if I’m having a salad with locally grown greens (I get them on occasion), it’s almost criminal to use dressing.

      I eat a couple of pieces of fruit a day, sometimes a bit more if I have a harder training day and I don’t have sweet potatoes for my pre workout carbs. I love my apples and the fruit cart at 52nd Street by Lexington Avenue has 3 apples for $2. Good stuff.

      While I work out at a gym, most of what I do doesn’t require one. Since I tend to work out late, I’ll do my warm up at my house while my kids are falling asleep then leave after everyone’s taken care of. I have a multi-gym pull up bar that goes in one of my doorways. It works like a charm.

      Hanging is excellent. Nothing does a better job building grip strength outside of some of the Olympic lifts, especially dead lifts. I too prefer functional movements using bodyweight as opposed to isolation exercises. The only time I use weights is when I do my sets of overhead presses, but even that is functional in some way.

      As far as group training, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to train at places like Thompkins Square Park and East River Park with some of the groups that are into hardcore calisthenics (i.e. the Bar-barians). It’s a whole different world compared to my typical work out environment.

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  6. Oh you are shorter than me by an inch!

    When I was 25, I was able to slim myself down to 139-142 pounds and hold it off for most of a year but a trip to Italy and grad school stress shot me up to 155 pounds and now I am usually in the high 150s to the low 160s. Not bad but I could be better.

    I would like to get down and maintain between 145-150 pounds with some decent muscle. Here are my big issues:

    1. I hate working out with weights. It is pretty easy for me to plug in an ipod and do 40-50 minutes of cardio. I’ve yet to master working out with earbuds in so doing weights is a period of pain and silence. Luckily this gives me low cholesterol and good blood pressure.

    2. Abs are my least favorite exercise.

    3. I need to exercise in the morning or I will not do it. So it is hard to find a workout buddy. Most people I know seem to be evening workout people. I don’t even know many people who go to my gym and early in the morning seems to only have the senior citizens and ROTC crowd.

    4. I am one of the foodies you mentioned above and an unapologetic lover of all the foods it is currently trendy to avoid. No gluten or diary free for me. There was a New Yorker cartoon where one woman says to another “I’ve been gluten-free for a week and I’m annoying already.” I really liked this cartoon because this is how I often feel about most fads or pseudo-philosophies whether paleo, gluten-free, or whatever. There is a holier-than-thou attitude about most of these food trends which bugs me. My parents are currently big on trying to get me to kick wheat from my diet (in recent history, they were big on trying me to get to switch from regular pasta to whole wheat pasta, etc) I agree that it is important to eat with moderation but I don’t understand why it is good to be a food puritan. Why is it a morally better choice to have a no-fun diet so you can theoretically live to 107? I’d rather have beer than live to 107.
    Now I get to use one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes “Does thou think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”-Sir Toby Belch, 12th Night.

    5. I generally also dislike talking about their fitness routines. There does seem to be a lot of fitness extremism going on. At least according to a highly unscientific study of my facebook page and general stories in the media I read. I see people talking about their 5K runs, half-marathons, marathons, 13 mile morning runs, two-hour workouts solely dedicated to triceps. When I read all these, I simply shut down and think that exercise is some Moloch like god that will cut into all activities including precious time dedicated to reading and other cultural activities. My other thought upon hearing facebook brags about fitness is that it would be much more interesting to hear someone facebook brag about their attempts at tackling difficult art like Joyce or Pynchon or Serra or whatever over their attempts at getting built up for a marathon or ultra-marathon. Again I acknowledge that I am in a minority position here.

    6. I don’t get off on exercise. I like the results but everyone else seems to really love going to the gym and playing sports. It still takes me a lot of effort to psyche myself up to go to the gym in the morning and I’ve been doing it for years. Other people seem to really like working out, the way I really like viewing art or reading good writing. I’ve also been told that it is good to find a sport you like. I have yet to find a sport I like. I seem to be in a minority in being largely indifferent to sports including when home teams are kicking ass.

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    • I don’t get off on exercise.

      I think this is an important point that shouldn’t be glossed over.

      I think some people just simply because of brain chemistry enjoy the physical act of exercise than other people.

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    • “My other thought upon hearing facebook brags about fitness is that it would be much more interesting to hear someone facebook brag about their attempts at tackling difficult art like Joyce or Pynchon or Serra or whatever over their attempts at getting built up for a marathon or ultra-marathon.”

      How does that not make your issue in #5 entirely a matter of aesthetics? If you objected to bragging in general… okay. But it seems you uniquely object to people bragging about stuff that does not interest you. I’m not sure what to say about that.

      I also think there is some question-begging going on simply by referring to it as “bragging”. Was I “bragging” when I shared the results of my half marathon after pouring months of training into it and hitting my goal? Am I allowed to be proud about that and share it with others? Or do I have to keep it under my hat because it didn’t involve some obscure artist?

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      • But it seems you uniquely object to people bragging about stuff that does not interest you.

        I tried to stay away from that comment but just when I thought I was out your comment pulled me back in! THere’s a really weird dynamic in the types of comments you’re responding to where the speaker brags like crazy about all the things he thinks makes him so cool but somehow finds it insulting when folks brag about things that he brags about not really caring about…

        Oh! Maybe that’s it!

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      • I guess my issue with this comment and others has written is that I don’t think he realizes how insulting he is being towards others. I find this comment personally insulting. I love working out. I don’t post much about it on Facebook but when I accomplish something noteworthy — finishing my first half, losing 25 pounds in 6 months, besting my goal in my second half — I feel it fair to share this with folks without it being reduced to “bragging”, “extremism”, or indulging in “Moloch like god that will cut into all activities”. Saul, do you realize how insulting you can be when you make statements like this? We get it. You like the things you like. Yippy for you! But quit shitting on what other people like. I don’t think you mean to do that but the fact is you often do. Why do you feel the need to not only be so judgmental of others, but to so freely share your judgements of them?

        Dave, sorry if I’m going off the rails here but I’m just getting really annoyed with this sorta shit.

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      • @stillwater

        I think you both read way too much into my comments and seem to jump at the opportunity to be offended by them.

        I recognize that working out is important. Eating well and with health in mind is also important. There are people who love working out! Great! There are people who realize it is important but don’t get any pleasure out of it. Big shocker! Losing weight is an accomplishment and getting in shape is also an accomplishment. I am sure that there are people who are equally bored by hearing me talk about art and have a well-worked out eyeroll over my facebook posts and thinking “Saul again”….

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      • My point is that you, for whatever reason, feel the need to share your eye rolls publicly with everyone, completely oblivious or indifferent to how sharing that might make others feel. Are you familiar with the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? What did point #5 offer to the conversation? At most, it offered another reason why you aren’t big into exercise. Though that reason seems to be, “I don’t like the type of people who seem to be into exercising because of how they act on FB and I don’t want to be like one of those people so I don’t exercise.” Or something. Which really says more about you than any one on your FaceBook feed.

        Ugh, I just don’t get it, dude. You have two people here saying, “Hey, we think what you said was insulting,” and your response is to essentially call us oversensitive?

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      • There are times when my writing can come off as being more snide and defensive sounding than I intend or perceive. Running an ultra-marathon is an accomplishment. I just wish that there was an equal force in our culture where discussing reading Ulysses or some other difficult could generate as many likes as a picture of someone after they completed a marathon.

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      • If you know that about your writing, I advise you to consider reading and re-reading it before posting.

        As for what our culture celebrates, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to post pics of you sitting atop of a pile of books you’ve read, go for it. I won’t begrudge you that. But I will say that whining — and, honestly, that is how many of your comments end up coming across — that the guy who ran a marathon is getting more attention than you are for reading a book is going to do very little to move the cultural needle in that regard. Honestly, why do you care how many FB likes a goddamn picture gets? If you enjoyed the book, great! If you have people to discuss it with, by all means, do so! If you want to post pics of it, have at it! Why this constant focus on who approves of what and whether society is aligned with your own world view? Just go frickin’ live life and enjoy it, man…

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      • I think you need to CTFO. Saul hasn’t really done anything but say what he personally likes or doesn’t. He hasn’t shit on anything or anyone. He doesn’t have to not say he doesn’t dig bragging about athletic accomplishments in order to not be shitting on athletic accomplishments. And: “How does that not make your issue in #5 entirely a matter of aesthetics?” …Where did he say it isn’t?

        If you’re proud of your marathon or half time, you *should* brag about it! But if you think it’s pretty good and you put it up on Facebook, yeah that’s bragging. Hell, if you say you finished a marathon on Facebook and are proud of yourself, that’s (to me, good) bragging. But Saul doesn’t have to like it.

        I think you should try going on Facebook and announcing that you’ve finished Ulysses or Proust and are proud of yourself before concluding how many fewer likes you get for it than Kazzy does for running. (It’ll probably be fewer, but it’ll give you a whole different perspective on the matter I bet.)

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      • Fair feedback. The thing is that Saul often seems to go beyond simply saying, “I don’t like this,” to indicating, “There is something objectively wrong about this.” Again, I don’t think he means to, but I think that is often how he comes off. He didn’t simply say, “I don’t like it.” He described it as “extremism”. He thinks it “uninteresting”. Which is totally fine for his subjective opinion, but not every subjective opinion needs to be shared. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than hearing someone brag about having finished a book by Joyce. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to write that here, especially knowing there are people here who greatly enjoy reading. Some opinions can be kept to one’s self especially if they serve no productive value to the conversation. I don’t think Saul’s comments there provided anything constructive, though I think he tends to assume everything he has to say or think is of the utmost value to all.

        And, yes, I’m realizing I’m bring a ton of prior baggage to this and that isn’t always fair but it is also hard to ignore.

        Lastly, if Saul can say, “I don’t like fitness bragging on Facebook,” why cannot I not similarly say, “I don’t like you saying that you don’t like fitness bragging on Facebook?”

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      • I think you should try going on Facebook and announcing that you’ve finished Ulysses or Proust and are proud of yourself before concluding how many fewer likes you get for it than Kazzy does for running.

        +1. Saul, you should try this and get back to us. I think you should try to think of a clever photograph that could go along with it too.

        Lastly, if Saul can say, “I don’t like fitness bragging on Facebook,” why cannot I not similarly say, “I don’t like you saying that you don’t like fitness bragging on Facebook?”

        You can! That’s how civil society works to my knowledge. Of course, it’s helpful if you have evidence. In Saul’s case, his claim is that we are seeing an epidemic of exercisers to the point that it is encroaching on other worthwhile activities, which frankly sounds to me like something that is very, very false (except perhaps among his very particular set of Facebook friends).

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      • I tend to “Like” any friend accomplishing a worthwhile goal. I say “worthwhile” only because a status update saying, “Punched five old ladies in the face today… New PR!” would not garner a thumbs up from me.

        Perhaps Saul does not see workout/exercise/fitness/health goals as worthwhile but that seems to rely on a highly narrow definition of “worth”.

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      • “My point is that you, for whatever reason, feel the need to share your eye rolls publicly with everyone… Are you familiar with the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?”

        Hi, Kazzy! Welcome to Ordinary Times. And blogging! And the Internet!

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      • Kazzy,
        you don’t post daily “how I am working out” stuff. (of course, I wouldn’t read it if you did).

        I think any accomplishment deserves some celebration, even if it’s a kid learning how to do a cartwheel.

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    • A quick response…

      #5 doesn’t offend me at all. Heaven help you if you have avid CrossFitters on your friends list.

      One of the things I have done in order to keep most of the fitness-related posts off my general facebook feed is to create my own group page. I add the people that have expressed genuine interest in what I’m doing. The people that want to know what I’m doing can know what I’m doing and the people that have no interest don’t hear a peep about it from me.

      I like this arrangement because it not only allows me to post obnoxious and self-deprecating gym selfies (something I don’t care for btw) but also more detailed into what I do on any given training day.

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      • I don’t have any cross-fitters that I know of (except you). I do seemingly know a lot of people who seem to run half-marathons or marathons at a high-frequency and go on very long runs (10 plus miles) several times a week.

        The comments about highly specific and focused weight routines tend to be overheard. There is often a strong overlap between guys who talk about their highly specific muscle workouts and guys who told women at bars that they were successful professionals while they were still in school for law, business, whatever. This is another thing which I don’t understand. I’ve written before about how when my mom was in college she was incredulous about how a lot of her friends could fall for 19-20 year old guys talking about how they would be super-successful and buy the woman a really big ring and house. I’ve seem to inherited the same skepticism.

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      • “…guys who told women at bars that they were successful professionals while they were still in school for law, business, whatever.”

        Are you just following these guys around and eaves dropping on their conversations with women? Where are you getting this from?

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    • 1. I use weights for one exercise – overhead presses. Aside from that, everything I do is bodyweight.

      2. To me, what makes ab exercises brutal is that they can burn like hell long before I reach a failure point so there’s a lot of discomfort when I work them out. I said I was addicted to the burn somewhere, but abdominal burn is an exception.

      3. I’m an evening workout person but I also enjoy it enough to go by myself and get it done.

      4. My food intake has been compared to Paleo but I don’t look at it that way nor do I concern myself with keeping up with what others say Paleo should be. I do what I do. Others can do what they do. To each his/her own.

      5. I understand. Like I said, I don’t get upset over stuff like that. I’m aware that i drive people crazy LOL.

      6. I’m not much of a sports person but I love to exercise. Even if you don’t, I’d suggest trying the best you can to do even a little bit a day. You’re not liking exercise shouldn’t hamper your ability to lose weight if you want to do that . It’s all about eating the right amount and letting the caloric deficit do the rest.

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  7. Though it is interesting that we are going through two moments simultaneously. One is about extreme foodieism and all about epicurianism. The other seems to be about extreme fitness.

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    • Try three thousand (lifestyle) movements. All extreme. (Wait, you said moments. I read it as movements. I’m proceeding as though it says movements.)

      If you’re not doing it extreme you’re not doing it.

      If there’s one thing I fight against in this life, it’s that.

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    • The rise of extreme fitness is somewhat of an interesting phenomenon, if only because one of the more popular forms of it bends over backwards to dissociate itself from the “extreme” connotation, even going so far as to claim the term is used to smear its reputation.

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  8. If I may offer some advice, I would say that it is really important to take one step at a time. If you go from a 2500 calorie/day diet with zero exercise to a 1500 calorie/day diet with an hour of exercise every day, you’re setting yourself up to fail. You’ll bonk your workouts, gorge on food, or some combination of the two. It is simply too big a shock for your body. Pick one thing to get going first. And even that do incrementally. Keep your intake consistent and get to the gym three times a week. Than four or five. Once you have a good routine there, start to address diet. Or do diet first then exercise. Or do both in very small doses (cut out a snack and walk for 20-30 minutes). Regardless, set yourself up for success. Don’t expect to go from a couch potato to Mr. Universe in a week. This is also where some of those popular exercise DVD series can run into problems. I can’t speak to the science behind them, but I’m a workout fiend and couldn’t keep up with “Insanity”. That’s not to say it is impossible and part of my issues with it were specific to me (I am certainly not trying to discourage anyone from doing it if it makes sense to them)… just don’t jump right into something that is beyond your capability or you will struggle, likely fail, and give up.

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    • If you go from a 2500 calorie/day diet with zero exercise to a 1500 calorie/day diet with an hour of exercise every day, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

      Assumng 2,500 calories is a maintenance level and someone is trying to live off a 1,000 calorie deficit, that’s just crazy. The most I’ve ever done in a day for some period of time was a 500 calorie deficit plus exercise. It’s a great way for temporary weight loss and nothing more.

      However people want to do it, whether diet or exercise, slow and steady wins the race. I don’t see what I do as a short term fix so I take a longer term view of things.

      I thought I was in good shape when I finished the half marathon but when I tried a HIIT routine during the time I was training for the tough mudder, it beat the living hell out of me. I could barely survive 30 seconds of burpees. Insanity would have killed me, but it would do that to a lot of people. Workout programs like that aren’t for the faint of heart.

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      • How’d you enjoy the Mudder? I’ve done two and was scheduled to do a third but got sick. I loved them. I also did a Spartan Sprint which I hated. Very different atmospheres. The Mudder felt more about teamwork and challenging one’s self. The Spartan was more like boot camp. They get in your face and yell at you to do burpees if you fail to complete an obstacle. Hell, one asshole got in my face because I had the temerity to wear a Tough Mudder headband to the event. I did 12 miles of Mudder with a smile on my face but walked off the course after 2.5 miles of the Spartan. Different strokes for different folks.

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      • I never got to do it because of my son’s soccer tournament. I think it would have been a lot of fun although these days, I’m not sure if I want to risk an injury on the course. I’m in much better shape now than I was when I first started training for it, but the effect of that was to make me more hesitant about doing it.

        I thought about doing a Spartan Beast solo, but I don’t think I would have the time to properly train for it. It’s supposed to be more hard ass but I don’t think I need to pay for that privilege.

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  9. Dave,

    I really struggled to get back into running during my most recent workout attack (stretching back almost a year now). I didn’t realize it at the time, but a huge part of it was all the extra weight I was carrying around. As I started to shed pounds, my pacing and distance shot up. I couldn’t believe how much faster I got without feeling like I was pushing myself harder. I essentially shed a 20 pound backpack. Imagine how much faster you could run when unsaddled like that. Did you find that to be the case?

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    • Absolutely, just as I find it easier to do pull ups carrying less weight. It’s one reason why I’m trying to lean body down to below average fat levels. The reason is just to see if I can actually do it.

      I tried to keep that part of my approach out of my post since I’ll go to lengths that no one really needs to unless they absolutely want to.

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      • What is your approach to leaning out? Specifically with regards to your weight training regimen. I’ve generally been of the mindset that higher weight/fewer reps builds more mass and lower weight/more reps helps you get lean. But I’ve heard that is sort of bunk. Obviously, a big part of getting lean is losing weight — specifically fat — but how do you build muscle without packing on too much mass?

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      • My workout routines are influenced by the street workout movement aka calisthenics. By calisthenics, I’m not talking about the people that do all the tricks on a bar in the way that would make trained gymnasts shake their heads.

        I’m talking about high intensity, high rep workouts. As an example, this evening, before I went to the gym, I did two five minute drills, one right after the next…no rest. A 5MD is a drill that requires you to finish the required reps in under five minutes. The first one was 50 pull ups and 100 push ups in whatever combination I wanted. The second one was 150 body weight squats. I managed to get both of them done in a combined time of 7:30 or so.

        The reason I haven’t bulked up is I don’t eat to bulk. My protein intake is very high which helps build muscle and has positively impacted my body composition, but if I wanted to bulk, I’d have to eat more than I do. I’ll build muscle but that will be a very slow going process. I’d almost like to get stronger through reducing fat.

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  10. Dave,

    I’m down 25(ish) pounds since July, mostly owing to a combination of an intense running schedule – I think I’ve missed 10 days in all that time – and a slightly modified diet. However, I’m dubious about how much the cardio has helped. I think the bigger deal for me is the diet. I basically stopped eating anything that I would describe as obviously containing sugar. That doesn’t exclude things like fruit or some cereals. There’s no eliminating it completely. But I’d be willing to wager that there’s no faster “secret” to weight-loss than eliminating as much sugar as possible.

    Maybe that’s wrong though. I don’t know. It’s impossible for me to figure out what does and doesn’t matter.

    Do you have an opinion as to what’s contributed MORE?

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      • My 5k time has fallen through the floor (from a best of 25:12 to 23:07). My time over longer distance has improved slightly. I think the real measure will be a substantively longer race, although I’m moving a 227(ish) pound body, so it isn’t like I’m going to be speed-demoning these things.

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      • Aren’t you close to 6’4″ or so?

        It’s some weight to move but I’m wondering how your height to weight ratio compares to mine.

        When I ran the half marathon, I was 175 lbs at 5’5″. I’m a brick with legs and a BMI that puts me at borderline obese. Go figure.

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  11. I had a couple of years where I was doing the Atkins and throwing kettlebells around for my workouts.

    It resulted in a change of personality that made me say “I preferred you when you were fat, Jaybird.”

    I’ve rediscovered my Buddha self and I’ve never been more easily compared to the bottom of a bucket, broken through.

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  12. Congratulations, Dave, on your success.

    One thing I’ve found useful is walking. I have bad ankles and can’t run anymore, and I don’t have time to go to the gym (or the money to pay for a membership). But I find that if I walk to most places, I get plenty of exercise (I also save scores of dollars on transit fares). I haven’t lost weight since I started walking several years ago, but I haven’t gained, either, and if my family’s history in that regard is any indication, I’m bucking a trend, at least for now I am. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to walk most places. My walk to work is about 3 miles away, and the neighborhoods I walk in are mostly safe. If I had to pass through more dangerous neighborhoods, or had to go 6 miles instead of 3, it might work differently.

    Just sharing my thoughts…..

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  13. Wow. Dude.

    I consider myself in pretty decent shape. (I just ran a half marathon, and was happy enough with my time despite it being way off my PR.) (I’ve also read Ulysses. I hated it.) But it’s been a long, long time since I saw the bottom half of my abs, and this year the paunch has begun its seasonal assault even earlier than last year. I’m pretty sure if I cut out hooch I’d lose a decent amount of weight, but… that would involve cutting out hooch.

    However, this is pretty inspiring. I’ll be hitting a Decade-Related Birthday Milestone of Note this coming summer, and it’s good to know that when the kids get just a little bit older and give me back a little bit more of my free time, seeing if those abs are still in there is do-able.

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    • To the extent I have abs, this is probably the first time in my life I’ve had what I have now. I worked out in my early 20s but I carried a lot of “dirty bulk”. I was strong but carrying extra weight. If only I focused on myself then the way I focus on myself now. I may have been able to hit close to 50 pull ups.

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      • I just tried pairs of pull-ups with rest in-between just to see how far I’d get. I got to about 13 and a third. I’d love to be able to be able to rattle off, say ten in a row, but it’s been a long time coming.

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      • , You could buy a “power tower”. Amazon has a bunch of them, as does Craigslist, most likely. That way, you don’t risk damage to a door frame.

        I use a broom handle running through a couple of joists in the basement.

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      • 50 pull ups is something I’ve seen only a few times. I was naturally strong when I was younger. Back in my meathead days (early 20’s), I foolishly attempted to bench press 405 lbs raw. While I succeeded, I will never forget how my shoulders felt when that I was holding that kind of weight.

        I don’t consider that a fitness accomplishment. I call that unbridled stupidity.

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      • The best way I’ve found to improve my pull up counts is to get lighter. 5-7 lbs of weight makes a difference on me of about 5-7 reps. It’s crazy how that works. If only I could drop another 10 lbs.

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      • Well, I am sort of working on that. I certainly have weight that I wouldn’t miss. Of course, it’d be nice if one of the ways for me to lose weight could be pull-ups.

        I do have a jumpstretch(TM) band that I have looped on the broom handle that reduces the effort and allows me to do more. I’ll sometimes use that instead or after I’ve tired of doing them unassisted.

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