Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Excuses, excuses.

I can honestly say that getting diabetes was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

I realized today that if I'd carried on the way I was going, I'd probably have been lucky to see my 40th birthday. Up until a year ago I was smoking about 30 cigarettes a day, my activity level was absolutely zero and I was eating almost nothing but junk.

My problem was that, like most people, I was full of excuses and simple self-delusion. Sure, I was smoking a lot, but I was always going to quit next year, for sure. Sure, I ate a lot of junk, but that didn't matter because I never ate breakfast. Anyway, McDonalds wasn't that unhealthy…it's more unhealthy than a nice green salad, but so are a lot of things.

Let's just say that changing your lifestyle and getting in shape because you'd like to be a little thinner isn't quite the motivator that waking up almost blind is. When you suddenly work out that the choice isn't 'look like I do now or get a bit thinner' but instead it's 'get healthy or die'…it's amazing how motivated you get.

The thing is, I don't think I'd have needed that sort of motivation if I'd realized just how easy it is to change. It's like quitting smoking. Six weeks after I quit, I realized I'd have quit much sooner had I known that it wasn't going to be nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Basically, I thought diet and exercise was going to be really, really hard work for a really, really small change. It isn't.

First of all, exercising isn't hard. If you're like me, you'll start to lose weight and feel better if you just go for a walk for a mile or two every day. That sounds like a lot when you're used to sitting on the couch, but that's basically twenty to thirty minutes at an easy pace. Take an MP3 player with you and listen to an audiobook while you walk and you'll be done before you realize it.

The surprising thing is that it was only about two weeks of doing this before I actually felt a hell of a lot better and my resting heart rate dropped noticeably... and after a month of this I'd dropped almost ten pounds. It really is that easy. Of course, when you start to get fitter you'll need to start increasing your workout a little to get the same effect, but that's a good thing, you're getting fitter.

This, of course, is when people start with the usual excuses. All together now: "But I just don't have the time and after a long day at work I just don't feel like it."

Bollocks. Everyone can spare half an hour a day, what you really mean is you'd rather spend that half an hour doing something else. Get up half an hour earlier and walk before you go to work, or go at night after the kids have gone to bed. Not feeling like it and 'not having the energy' isn't an excuse either. Getting fit is your body adapting to what's being asked of it, meaning the more you exercise, the more energy you actually have.

My first week of walking I'd walk for a mile and come back feeling like I had a workout. A month later I was walking two miles easily. Yesterday I walked three miles, ran for one, felt absolutely great and after half an hour at home I was still feeling restless so I walked another mile to test the calibration on my Nike+ sensor.

Basically, not exercising because you don't have the energy is like not filling your car with gas because you want to take a long trip.

Sure, I know a lot of you have a hundred other excuses, but here's the thing…I made exactly the same excuses six months ago and I know they're all just so much bullshit. Don't get me wrong, I know you actually believe them 100%...but just because you believe them doesn't mean they're not bullshit.

Secondly, I don't think people really know how to eat healthily and I don't mean just learning what's good for you and what isn't. I mean working out how to eat so you still enjoy it.

I think people tend to get over-motivated and go too far when they start dieting and make massive changes they're never going to be able to keep up. It's really easy to go completely off all your favorites and eat nothing but salads for a few days, but within a week, you're back at the McDonalds Drive-through.

Let me put it to you this way: There's a huge difference between a piece of fried chicken from KFC and a straight chicken breast that you put under a broiler yourself. The dry chicken breast may be much healthier than the fried chicken, but it tastes of nothing and it's definitely not something you'll look forward to eating..

However, take that same chicken breast, sprinkle it with some garlic powder, onion powder, fresh black pepper and a little teriyaki sauce and then put it under the broiler, as a very wise man once said: "That shit be delicious."

The other big thing is it's amazing how quickly and easily you can get used to things. When I first had to give up sugar, I drank some sugar-free coke and literally reeled after tasting it. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to drink it. Two weeks later I was ordering diet coke in restaurants and having to get Sunny to taste it to make sure it was diet because I couldn't tell…then when I took a sip of her regular coke, it was so ridiculously sweet and sugary I couldn't believe she could actually drink it…and this is coming from a guy who used to have six spoonfuls of sugar in his coffee.

Basically, what the past six months have proven to me is that being overweight and unhealthy is a choice, plain and simple. Getting fit is simply making the decision to stop making excuses and the willingness to put in a little bit of effort.

I look forward to your comments telling me why I'm wrong.


Kelly said...

I don't think you are wrong, I think you are 100% correct.

That being said, as a serial dieter, who HATES exercise, i'd say it's not as easy as it sounds.

You found your motivation after being diagnosed with a potentially life threatening disease.....my sole motivation comes from wanting to wear smaller clothes. When that's all I have to keep me going, sometimes th drive thru wins......

Paulius said...

Yeah, but EVERYONE hates exercise when they first start. You exercise, you hate it, it gets easier, you start to enjoy it.

I hate exercise too, that's why I take my ipod with a few audiobooks with me. I doubled the distance I used to walk because at one point I got back to the house and wanted to listen to the next chapter.

Just find something you actually enjoy doing so it doesn't feel like exercise.