Help a fat guy come up with a lifestyle solution
April 6, 2005 1:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm overweight and I'm pretty damned tired of it (23 years old, about 260ish 6' tall). I've already started modifying my eating habits and now I'm looking for a workout solution. I'm a computer guy, so I spend a -lot- of time sitting during the day (usually night). I know a lot of you work out quite regularly and I would like to know if someone could come up with a basic workout regimen. I live in an apartment complex with a decent gym. I just don't know what days I should walk how far and what machines I should do how many reps of what. Also, I'd like some suggestions as to where I should go after I've been doing this for a while if possible. Apologies in advance if my search-fu is inferior.
posted by grahamux to Health & Fitness (37 answers total)
don't have a lot of time to type right now, but here's a couple of tips:

1. Take it way sloooow. This is something you're probably going to be doing for years and years (think of it as starting a TERRIBLE ADDICTION TO FITNESS*); I started going to the gym for weight maintenance/strength training 10 years ago, and I'm still going (but have fallen off the wagon of working out several times). You don't want to burn out, because every time you do, you're going to have to work your way back up.

2. To start I would do at minimum a half-hour of cardio and a half-hour of weights three times a week -- start at a level where you're not killing yourself, but where you're challenged. again: don't overdo it.

3. For weight-training, pick up a copy of arnold's bodybuilding encylopedia at a used-book store; I know, I know, you're not looking to get crazy ripped, but if you ignore that stuff, arnold presents some good ideas about a) diet, b) exercise form and c) setting up a schedule -- it's a nice thing to refer to when you get sick of doing the exercises you do weekly.

4. Usually in weight-training you'll split up days in a manner that allows your muscles to recover between training days. Personally I do an arms day, a chest/triceps day, and a legs/back day. There's a lot of debate about what is best, find what works for you both for results and for motivation. I'd say when you start working out you make it a goal to learn how to bench, squat, and do curls with free weights, but i'd advise starting out on machines unless/until you have someone to show you how to properly use free weights.

which, brings me to 5: really, hire/talk to a personal trainer. Find a decent gym near you that allows monthly contracts (in my experience if they make you do anything longer they're usually pretty sleazy) and typically after signup they will have a personal trainer meet with you to discuss goals and develop a plan for you. This is gonna be better than having a bunch of folks on internet who may or may not be well-informe. i only say this because i'm far from an authority on weight-training, and i've had the good fortune to have some friends who are rather serious about it to ask advice from which has allowed me to find what works for me, but I don't think I'm qualified to dispense very specific wisdom regarding what will work for someone in your situation. A good personal trainer should be able to do this.

congrats for making the first step.

* Or possibly steriods. watch out for that one.
posted by fishfucker at 1:25 AM on April 6, 2005

I have been doing the burpee workout. It's a good all round workout, you can do it at home and you don't have to set anything special up.

Whatever you do, I recommend starting gradually and building it up - don't do 5 days in the gym and burn yourself out.
posted by lunkfish at 1:31 AM on April 6, 2005

The site i always use for this kind of question (with friends, relatives) is What you'll want to do is follow the instructions for a "Beginner, resuming from layoff, or little time to exercise" routine. Once you feel you've got the hang of that, then you can go to the intermediate/advanced setups. For starters, i usually recommend the upper/lower 2 day split workout (work out upper body one day, and lower body the next. rinse, repeat). For each day (upper and lower) it gives you guidelines as to which exercises you should choose. This will completely cover the weight training part of your workout.

In addition, you should do some sort of cardio/aerobic exercise. I mix it up doing 30 minutes on random machines (bike, elliptical, treadmill) at a decent clip. When you start out, go the full 30 minutes but go at whatever pace you need to get it done (walking is okay). The important thing is to go the full time and to get your heart rate up.

A good balance of eating right, weight training, and cardio exercise is the way to go. Of course, it's easier said than done. If you're having trouble getting motivated to go to the gym, get a workout partner. I'm not the most motivated person when it comes to going to the gym, i know i go to the gym ten times more when i have a workout partner than when i don't.

On preview: everything fishfucker said.
posted by escher at 1:32 AM on April 6, 2005

There are many approaches to this.

Personally, I think it's a good idea to have rest days, eg exercise Monday, Wednesday, Friday and take the weekend off. Unlike our piscamorous friend, I think a whole-body weights workout on each of those days is just fine. 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions of one or two exercises per muscle group is the usual approach, so you might do:

Monday Wednesday Friday

Legs and back:
Squat 2 x 10
Stiff-legged deadlift 2 x 10

No need for calves, if you're really a fat bastard you probably have massive calves that just need a little fat loss to be the envy of all who survey them. Call it your consolation prize for being overweight.

Bench Press 2 x 10
Military (shoulder) Press 2 x 10

Seated Cable row 2 x10
Lat Pulldowns (with a machine) 2 x 10 (no matter what you get shown, don't do them behind your neck unless you want to screw your shoulders up - do them to your collarbone instead).

Unnecessary but psychologically boosting exercise for the arms:
Barbell curl, 2 x 10
Tricep pushdown (with a rope attached to the cable machine) 2 x 10

Tuesday Thursday Saturday
Walk/run/swim/cycle/dance, building up to half an hour of something strenuous.

Lie around and eat crap.

Any of the weight exercises can be substituted with a reasonable equivalent exercise, which a smart guy like you can find with some basic books from your library or Google - the point is that each part of your body gets some regular stress. You also need to steadily increase the weights, by 1-5% each workout as you get stronger. Again, err on the side of caution when you increase lest you hurt yourself.

Cardio can be anything, and I would suggest finding enjoyable activities. Dance classes, skating, a martial art - whatever rocks your boat. And work in little things. Walk to the store. Chivalrously carry stuff for other people. Take the stairs.

I'm not suggesting any specific weights, because who knows how strong you are? When in doubt, use less. You can always work up to a heavier weight later, but if you misjudge now, you might be nursing an injury that prevents you from exercising for a long time.

With weights, with cardio, and with stretching, try and remember that every little thing you do that you didn't do before is going to help you and add up, so you don't need to be heroic. You just need to do better than you used to.

Learn a stretching routine or take up some stretchy exercises to compensate for the tightening-up produced by weight-training. Yoga, Pilates, whatever.

I second the "don't overdo it" part. Your joints, tendons and ligaments are just not up to it right now; and if you suffer severely from muscle strain etc you will lose motivation.

With the weights, get good advice from a trainer on form. Bad form will hinder your progress and increase your risk of injury. You can learn from books, videos etc, but having someone supervise is the best.

I personally like the approach to training recommended here, because it seems more based on empirical research than other approaches to weight training I have seen. The emphasis on that site is on hypertrophy (ie getting freaky big), but it should work just as well for maintaining muscle mass while you are losing bodyfat.

Re your eating: don't cut back too much. Try and improve the quality (more vegetables and fruit, less takeout) as much or more than you reduce the quantity. Drastic reductions in energy intake tend to persuade your body to go into shutdown/starvation mode and hoard fat. Being a "computer guy", you will probably enjoy tracking your intake through FitDay.

Parting words: small, sustainable, incremental steps are what we're after. Avoid the hype, disbelieve the Amazing! Results! Guaranteed! and just eat a little less, eat a little better, do a little more. Don't let it take over your life unless you're really enjoying it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:03 AM on April 6, 2005

This is all good advice, and your "I'm pretty damned tired of it " shows you're fed up and committed to doing something about it, which is fundamental to a lifestyle change. If you've got that, the angry determined commitment, you will definitely succeed.

If you can build exercise into your daily routine you're halfway there. Don't think of it as just something you do in a gym. Take stairs instead of escalators, park farther away in the mall parking lot and walk to the stores, stroll around after meals, walk over hills rather than around them, etc.

And how about doing your computer work standing up, but at a home step machine, or sitting down but on a stationary bicycle? It may look weird but it's one way of exercising while you work.

I've often thought if the PCs at my office were powered by exercise bikes we'd have fitter staff and more concise memos too.
posted by mono blanco at 2:14 AM on April 6, 2005

1. Take it way sloooow.
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:20 AM on April 6, 2005

1. To lose weight, eat less, and if you do that consistently, everything else is icing.

2. To lose the weight from more fat and less muscle, do some weight training. A full-body workout with heavy weights (8 reps, 2-3 sets) twice a week should be enough.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:28 AM on April 6, 2005

Get the hell out of the house. Walk, do not drive. Do not eat while you're out of the house. Learn to have fun that does not involve sitting down. Go places. Museums, walks in the park, hiking, anything that keeps you away from the monitor, on your feet, and not eating. Photography. Biking. Swimming. Library. Concerts (no beer).

Then there's the kitchen: buy tons of things that you can and should eat tons of (vegetables and fruit) and prepare this stuff (wash and chop) so it will always be easier to eat it rather than to scrounge for something bad. Take a heap of it to work every day. Crunch all day if you like, but crunch on fruit and vegetables, not whatever is making you fat.

Never never never buy stuff that you know is just turning you blimpish (beer? candy? cakes? giant sandwich rolls? huge bottles of soda pop? millions of little cans of soda pop?). Whatever your favorites are, you have to just give them up. Don't try to cut down or you'll just inch back up to the old levels.

Throw away the salt, sugar, and butter. Throw away the condiments. Throw away the frying pan. No sugar or salt added to anything. No ketchup or mayonnaise. No buttering. No frying. No fast food at all -- learn how to go out without eating. No instant microwave pizzas and the like.
posted by pracowity at 3:35 AM on April 6, 2005

I know a few people who have had good results from having fun playing Dance Dance Revolution at home.

I have a couple of dance pads on order (it's a lot more fun with a friend), they'll arrive in a couple of days, so I'm getting enthused. For anyone else interested in setting up a personal DDR system:

Total cost for your own two-player DDR system in the USA: As little as $27.
The market goes all the way up to luxury $500 pads of course, but for anyone interested in keeping the price low, and already has a computer, Stepmania is an open-source version of DDR, free, powerful, and with versions for various operating systems.
On ebay you can get two dance pads and a USB adaptor for them for $27 including shipping. (Check stepmania site for USB adaptor compatibility - some don't work properly). Plug some speakers into your computer, (or plug your computer into your TV and home entertainment system), and you should be set. Getting one pad is a bit cheaper than two, but for the extra few dollars you should get the second pad just to have the option of multiplayer at some later time. I have it on good word that some of even the very cheap pads are perfectly good to play on, but some people like to tape them down to particle board with some padding to make them better.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:48 AM on April 6, 2005

I've looked all over the place and I think this guy knows what he's talking about:

Check out his fave routine and take note of his recommendations on how to workout ie one set, to the max, no warmup sets, slowly. His GPX protocol on cardio training is great (I lost a lot of weight using this) and doesn't involve you living in a gym.

If you're intersted, I wrote about my entire weight loss thing here including details on working out.
posted by missbossy at 3:53 AM on April 6, 2005

I agree with most of the advice given so far, but I think a big-picture fitness strategy is far more important than specific tips about how many sets and reps of a specific motion one should do. Here's my two cents:

1. Don't start off with a hardcore, masochistic training routine, because you'll just get turned off by it and give up. Worse, you might overdo things and get injured. The important thing is to ease into an activity that you enjoy. Try a bunch of sports. I think Ultimate Frisbee is ideal because of the inclusive, relaxed attitude that is prevalent amongst its participants.

2. If you work out at the gym, weight-training is a better long-term strategy for burning fat than aerobic activities. Muscle gained burns energy even when you're inactive -- much more energy over the course of a day than what you burn during your 30 minutes of aerobic activity. Once you reach and maintain a certain level of muscle mass, it will burn enough energy continually such that it will be difficult for you to become fat again unless you totally pig out.

Conversely, if you do a crash weight-loss program involving lots of aerobic activity and a restricted diet, you will gain fat very easily once you take a break from the program because you have less muscle mass burning energy on a continual basis, and you have to work that much harder to keep the fat off. Women are especially plagued by this problem given the excercise strategies that are peddled to them.

3. Come up with simple strategies for eating healthier. Simple does not mean easy. The simplest things in life are often the hardest. My strategies are:
- I cook for at least four suppers and four packed lunches a week, avoiding processed ingredients. It's a pretty good way to save money, too.
- When I eat out, I order a regular sized meal of whatever I want and force myself to leave a quarter of the food on the plate. Ignore the guilt about wasting food - it's overrated.
- Avoid sugar at all cost. Because of the insulin effect, sugar does far more to promote weight gain than fat and carbs do. Stop eating candy and drinking pop or even fruit juice (you get plenty of vitamins elsewhere).

4. OK, 6 months from now when you're somewhat settled into a basic routine, take this bit of advanced advice into account. This is the hardest part that requires a lot of discipline: remember that as an adult you cannot lose fat while gaining muscle, unless you are using anabolic steroids or human-growth hormone.

Let's say that you are excercising. If you eat enough to gain muscle you will also gain fat, at about a 3:1 muscle to fat ratio. If you eat little enough to lose fat you will also lose muscle, at about a 3:1 fat to muscle ratio. There is no way around this, despite what you may have heard. So it is best to work on alternating 6-month cycles by varying your food intake while excercising constantly, first focussing on building muscle, then losing fat, then building muscle again.

Most people who aren't into sports already don't stick with their new fitness plan for more than a few months before giving up, which is why fitness trainers don't tell them this part for fear of intimidating them with the complexity involved.

5. Lastly, don't neglect your core strength and your lower limb flexibility. The vast majority of chronic injuries are a result of a weak core or poor flexibility. Do those stretches (a lot of them can be done without even leaving your seat at work) religeously and work on the balance ball at the gym. I was lazy with this, and as a result I am already suffering from chronic pain in my lower right back. I'm only 29 years old -- it didn't have to be this way if I had been a bit more diligent about this.
posted by randomstriker at 4:01 AM on April 6, 2005

One other item that helped me maintain motivation during my weight loss was weekly measurements. Once a week (same day and time each week) weigh yourself, measure biceps, chest, waist, thigh, and hips. You might not see an improvement in each category every week, but you should see an improvement in at least one.
posted by busboy789 at 4:22 AM on April 6, 2005

Have you considered joining a program like Weight Watchers? I ask this because I personally have thrived in my weight loss progress with WW, with the daily journaling of food (appeals to the obsessive compulsive impulses within me), reasonable, sane way of exercising and food combinations. I have lost 10 lbs with WW (30 lbs total so far). My eating habits have really evolved since I started WW. Something to consider and look into.
posted by cajo at 4:32 AM on April 6, 2005

I don't particularly like working out, but wanted to lose some weight. I lost 50 lb. by strictly following the South Beach Diet for 3 months (which wasn't as hard as I would have guessed). Only after I had lost 15-20 lb. did I start any exercise, which mostly entails about a two-mile walk during my lunch break.

The downside of South Beach is that, at least in the beginning, convenience foods are out; you have to prepare most of it yourself. Having said that, Kraft has a new line of SBD microwaveable entrees on the shelves (but I don't think they are included in the strict two-week first phase of the diet).
posted by Doohickie at 4:57 AM on April 6, 2005

On posting.... cajo is right: WW is good, especially if you need the support.
posted by Doohickie at 4:58 AM on April 6, 2005

I can recommend WW too - the way you can exchange exercise for food really helped me. (It took me from "20 minutes on the treadmill? how dull" to "Hey, i've just spent an hour on the treadmill. That's 4 pints of beer!"). And the motivation of the weekly weigh in (which isn't as scary as it sounds) helps a lot too. As do the handouts, with a selection of really corny motivational tips which you can easily ignore and a selection of seasonal recipes which you can't.

I've stopped going to WW now, after losing around 45lbs. Why? Well my habits have changed, and I'm quite happy with it all. I'm not within their "healthy" range, but I have run 2 half marathons and I fit into clothes from 11 years ago. It's true that you can sum up their approach as "Eat less, Exercise more", but we all already know that and we also know it's difficult without some help and support.
posted by handee at 5:08 AM on April 6, 2005

One thing that helped me was by not telling colleagues at work that I was starting a diet (I was way heavier than you are). I kept seeing people saying "I've started my diet" and then have people keep questioning them on how it was going. When it didn't go so well and they had to keep talking about it, ii just got them depressed. So don't make a big hooha about starting a diet, just start quietly and see how you go.

I did it by walking first, then running more and more. I'm hopeless at situps and pressups, but bought one of those inflatable exercise balls (they're really cheap) and now use that a lot.

The main thing is that you're pissed off that you're overweight and that you want to start dieting. That's what did it for me: something inside me finally snapped and I had to do it. I'm now wearing trousers that are 10 inches around the waist smaller than those I was wearing this time last year. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's really been worth it.

Good luck.
posted by TheDonF at 5:12 AM on April 6, 2005

Lots of good advice in this thread--there are other threads on AskMe too that are basically the same, which you ought to search for.

My advice is that you should get an appointment with a personal trainer who can show you around your gym and give you a big library of different exercises. If your gym is too small to create variety, consider joining a bigger one; shelling out every month for the gym makes you more likely to go anyway.

In my case, my gym gave me a free hour with a trainer when I joined, and she showed me about three dozen different exercises using weights, cardio, machines, stability balls, inclined planes, and so on. Now I am never bored at the gym and it is never a grinding routine. When I get tired of one kind of exercise, I can always reach into the vaults and find another one. If you're just trying to get fit, nearly any kind of exercise is going to help you--and the more kinds of exercise you know, the more you'll enjoy going to the gym.

Another good source to build up your exercise library are goofy men's magazines like Men's Health or even Outside; they have 'new workouts' every month with new exercises that you probably haven't tried. If you get tired of the same old press-squat-curl-cardio routine, you can always pick up one of these magazines and find some new, untried challenge for yourself. But even then, you'll want a trainer to show you how to do these things with good form, for maximum results and minimal risk of injury.

The big problem for me with the gym was always boredom. Now I'm never bored and enjoy going.
posted by josh at 5:16 AM on April 6, 2005

My workout routine when I started working out:

First Month:
Monday - Arms and Chest Weights, Cardio on Elliptical 20 minutes
Wednesday - Chest and Back Weights, Cardion on Elliptical 20 minutes
Friday - Legs, Cardio on Elliptical 20 minutes
Saturday - Cardio on Elliptical 30 minutes
Sunday - Cardion on Elliptical 30 minutes

Second Month:
Monday: Arms and Chest Weights, Elliptical 30 minutes
Tuesday: Elliptical 30 minutes
Wednesday: Chest and Back, Elliptical 30 Minutes
Thursday: Elliptical 30 minutes
Friday: Legs, Elliptical 30 minutes
Saturday: Elliptical: 1 Hour
Sunday: Off

After Second Month:
Monday: Arms and Chest Weights, Elliptical 45 minutes
Tuesday: Elliptical 1 Hour
Wednesday: Chest and Back, Elliptical 45 Minutes
Thursday: Elliptical 1 Hour
Friday: Legs, Elliptical 45 minutes
Saturday: Elliptical: 1.5 Hours
Sunday: Off

It may seem like a lot at the end, but I became so addicted to it, that I was just always wanting to be moving. Your energy levels shoot up.

I would also recommend a personal trainer, at least for a few months. If you join a large gym, most will sign you up for a year contract with a trainer if you want one. Mine cost $90 per month for the first year, for a total of $1080. But I look at it this way. I went from 315 pounds to 185. It was worth the money to gain energy, and to finally be able to do things in life I wanted to.
posted by benjh at 5:49 AM on April 6, 2005

Walk. Walk as much as you can. Light jogging if your knees can stand it (mine get very sore). Get some good shoes, a music player and some audio books, and walk walk walk.

In doing this I've lost 15 kg (over 33 lb) this year.
posted by tomble at 5:58 AM on April 6, 2005

I want to second what fishf*cker said about the Governator's weightlifting encyclopedia, it's a great resource. If nothing else, it will teach you about the different muscle groups and what exercises work them.

Many people believe that you should either focus on weight loss (low calories), or on strength training (high calories/protein). I don't know if there is a right answer to this. You can do one for a few weeks, then switch.

Start slowly, build up gradually, and STRETCH! The proper method is to warm up your muscles doing whatever you're going to do, then stretch, then exercise, cool down, and stretch again. This is key! (Also, no bouncing).

Also remember that your muscles can get just as bored as your brain. If you do the same exact routine every day, your muscles will stop responding. So mix it up, do new exercises, and keep things interesting.

Most importantly, remember that you are doing this for yourself, your health, and your own self-pride. You're not competing with anybody else. Since you are going to a residential building gym, you probably won't see many "gym rats," but remember that most of them started out as scrawny or fat, and relatively few of them started out looking like that.

posted by MrZero at 5:59 AM on April 6, 2005


I think you meant you don't lose weight while building muscle, which is why a lot of people's workout routine's falter. Initially in the first two weeks of working out you're going to gain weight because you burn muscle while building fat, but since muscle weighs more you're getting "fatter".


I'm 24 6'2" 190 and work at a computer all day and sit in class most nights. If you really want this you're basically going to have to make a lot of the same choices I do. First, food to cut out:

Processed foods
Non-diet soda
Fast Food that's not Subway/Panera

Food to eat:
Raw veggies
Broiled Meat

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to learn to cook. Just learning how to do a few things in the kitchen you like will make it a lot easier to not break down and go to Taco Bell. Do it with friends and it can be a lot of fun

As for working out, I try to go 3 days on, 1 day off doing chest/tri's, back/bi's, shoulders legs with running 3 miles every couple of days. But three things you must do:
Join a Gym
You'll feel a compulsion to go if your shelling out 40 bucks a month as opposed to nothing

Get a personal trainer
At least for the first month or two, preferably one who used to be in the armed forces. I had free session with one when I joined my current gym and that ass almost made me cry, and I'd been going to the gym regularly for 5 years at that point. But they have the benefit of experience that you're not going to get from a book, plus then you'll have someone who'll be formulating a workout routine just for you

Go with a friend
It's easy to bail on yourself. You're tired, you've had a rough day and the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. It's a lot harder when you have to admit you're wimping out to someone else. The best shape I've ever been in was when I went to the gym regularly with different friends as thay'd bitch at me if I started to make excuses.

this is definitely going to make your life suck for a while. It's going to be hard and you're going to hate it and you're going to want to quit. But make a schedule on the first day for your first two months and promise yourself that you are going to go every day for those first two months if you get nothing else done. After that time the constant compliments from people saying how great you're looking will keep you going to the gym.
posted by slapshot57 at 6:40 AM on April 6, 2005

Just start using your body every day, if your diet is under control it will be enough. If walking is too slow for you, get a bicycle.

All these training regimens are fine, but it is a lot of structured time commitment and expense that isn't necessary (I feel tired and broke just reading it).
posted by Chuckles at 6:42 AM on April 6, 2005

I think all of the above advice is excellent, and you'll probably end up heading to the gym. I just wanted to chime in with an alternative exercise routine. DVDs like The Firm which include weight training in addition to cardio are an excellent and easy way to get in all of the above. Without worrying about standing around at the gym feeling like you don't know what you are doing, without wasting the time setting up or waiting for machines. I can highly recommend The Firm, but I would imagine any DVD that includes weight training would be good.

The routines are pretty intense and it might take a while to work up to doing the whole thing. But when they say you see results in 10 workouts, it's true. If you can get over the fact that they're geared toward women, they're truly an awesome workout. My 6'8" muscular husband loves them and says the weights kick his ass (he just increases the weight from what they recommend.)

I like them because I know I'm getting a full workout without having to over-think it. I'm someone who has a hard time getting motivated to go to the gym, but with these I've seen great results over about three months. Better than even when I was running and trying to do weights at the gym. I'm not looking to make fitness a major hobby, so I'm totally into efficiency. 30-60 minutes from start to finish, with no travel time, just turn on the DVD.

Good luck to you!
posted by eileen at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2005

Lots of the advice here is good, I just have a few things to add:

Food: substitute whole grains. Brown rice for white, brown bread for white etc. The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book has many great recipes for 100% whole grain bread that is light and enjoyable. The added benefit is that if you make it by hand (not in a bread machine), it's a great arm workout.

exercise: Two recurring themes about exercise are very important. One, make it part of your life as much as possible. Walk, bike, do fun things where you move around. Two, if you can at all afford it, get a personal trainer. Many personal trainers will come to your home or apartment gym, so you don't have to get a membership at some other gym first. It makes all the difference when it comes to a) not hurting yourself and b) motivation.

What I will add is that I found weight training very boring. I loved my personal trainer, but couldn't make myself go after I could no longer afford him. What I've found is working for me is karate: I have the motivation of scheduling and other people's encouragement, and my focus is on learning a skill rather than the much slower process of getting in shape. I'm not saying that everyone who wants to lose weight should join karate, but it if you find you don't enjoy weight training enough to stay motivated, it might be worth looking into a sport or dance where exercise is only a part of the whole experience.
posted by carmen at 7:54 AM on April 6, 2005

The site beginner triathlete has a pretty good run down on getting into shape and has workouts titled "couch to 5k", "couch to sprint tri", etc... which start out easy and build up over time, and some recommendations on choosing a realistic plan for yourself. This where i started a month or so ago.

They also recommend a book called "when big guys tri" which sounds like it might be worth checking out.
posted by jeffe at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2005

Get a fitness trainer. I hired one to help me lose that 15% of body fat that creeped up when I returned to grad school a few years ago. I see him at 6am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

It's spendy, but worth it!

In addition to the 3x a week at the gym with The Trainer, I also go for a run or hike on weekends. So far, since Dec 1st I lost about half of the 15% I want to lose.

Shop around for a trainer that you like and who pushes you hard - but does not injure you!!! You are hiring a human being for a few months, for something very important to you, so you also want a personality fit. It took me a few tries (and several non-starters) to finally find my current trainer. But now, I see results. And so do my friends.

Re diet - I cut out alcohol, and all snack foods that made me fat. I buy what I *want* to be eating during the week - so I have to be very careful at the superstore not to buy a bag of chips 'just in case someone comes to visit' or some ice cream 'in case my friend brings her daughter tomorrow'. No junky foods at my home anymore. I know that whatever I will bring home, I will eat - so I plan carefully.

I love the suggestion, above, to get out of the house and DO things that don't involve eating. Feed the brain, not the belly. Live a rich life, without eating rich foods.

I wish you all the best in your journey - it's a fantastic commitment and you have the tools to reach your objective. Do share your progress with us once in a while - the weight questions come up on AskMe every few weeks, so it's a good time to share what works / did not.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:05 AM on April 6, 2005

The amount of non-nutritious crap that Americans eat is the second most important reason for our epidemic obesity, after our sedentary lifestyles. If you havent already, stop eating processed foods, bleached flour, white rice. Cut down on potatos. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If your body is lacking nutrients, you will crave food. Give your body what it needs.

As far as working out goes, the most important thing is that you keep it up over a period of years. Therefore, the most important thing is that you enjoy it. Bicycling, brisk walks, yoga...find something that interests you.

Remember that this could very well be about extending the length of your life.
posted by goethean at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2005

Kudos to the "The Firm" recommendation. I, too, find them challenging, and I am a fairly healthy, Ultimate Frisbee-playing male. If you can get over the (rather baseless) stigma against exercise videos, you'll find they're quite handy. As a bonus, your coordination will increase--many men have problems coordinating the dancelike moves at first, but then get better.

I would heartily recommend Cathe Friedrich's videos over The Firm, though. The Firm is basically owned by a holding company milking the franchise and is mostly re-releasing old stuff (last I checked). Cathe's stuff seems to me to be more "authentic" (for lack of a better term) and is available on DVD (not all of The Firm was, last I checked). Also, her harder videos, once you get to them, are much harder than the more difficult Firm ones.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:57 AM on April 6, 2005

Looking at how many calories are in the things you eat can be a real eye-opener. A serving of Sun Chips has about the same number of calories as a serving of Doritos? WTF? Anyway, stop between-meal snacks and cut out the sides with your entrees (e.g. no fries with your sandwich at lunch). After a brief adjustment period, about a week, your body will be quite happy with this.

When you feel the stirrings of hunger, distract yourself by doing something else. Doesn't need to be physical, just get your mind off eating. If your hunger breaks through that activity, THEN eat something.

I have recommended the supplement 5-HTP before and I'll recommend it again here. 100 mg in the morning and 100 mg in the evening. It makes my sugar/carb cravings basically go away and makes eating less much more tolerable. I'm also trying out a hoodia gordonii supplement recently, but it's not doing much that I can tell.

If you're not doing at least 45 minutes worth of exercise a day (in one session) you almost might as well not be doing any, You have to work up to it, but that should be your goal. If you have any steep hills in your neighborhood, walking up and down them is a great way to build your aerobic endurance.
posted by kindall at 9:19 AM on April 6, 2005

I strongly recommend that you look at John Walker's Hacker Diet. The most valuable thing I learned from that was a simple way to calculate a moving average.

I lost 25lbs in 2000 using the simpliest diet plan that could possibly work(TM). I figured that anything I did I wanted to be sustainable for the rest of my life and so I made small simple changes.

My plan:

1) Weigh myself every morning at the same time and record:
- my current weight
- my current daily trend.
- how much exercise I had done the day before
- my current weight and trend on my weight loss graph

2) Everyday I tried to do something active, even just a 20min walk.

3) At every meal I ate slightly less than usual, and slightly slower to give my body time to feel full.

4) At every meal I ate some fresh fruit or vegetables, something with fat and something with protein.

5) Have water at hand available to drink at all times.

I planned to lose about 1 to 2 lbs per week and it worked beautifully.

In one other note, I read the South Beach Diet book, Its a pretty good place to learn how to cook because it gives you weekly meal plans made with fresh ingredients and you just need to implement.

I no longer record and plot my weight but I do still weigh myself every day just to see where things are.
posted by ccoryell at 9:29 AM on April 6, 2005

slapshot, no, I meant exactly what I said. When you are consuming less energy than you expend, your body will inevitably metabolise both muscle and fat (fortunately the latter in greater proportion) to make up the difference. This is why crash diets with aerobic excercise are a poor weight-loss strategy in the long term: you lose fat but you also lose muscle mass, resulting in a lower basal metabolism and thus a tendency to put the fat back on at a greater rate than before while consuming the same amount of energy.
posted by randomstriker at 9:42 AM on April 6, 2005

I have some contrary advice:

1. Do cardio every day, 20-30 minutes. if you miss a day, don't sweat it, but make it a daily goal.

2. Lift every day, again don't sweat if you miss, by try for it. Day 1. Legs, back, biceps. Day 2. Chest, shoulders, triceps. 2 sets per body part, 4-6 reps per set. Keep it simple, that's a total of 6 sets per day.

3. I can't emphasize this enough: You need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. You need to eat this protein in equal portions with restricted carbs and a total calorie level under 2500 in 6 meals, no less than 3 hours apart.

Immediately after exercise you should drink something with no fat and equal or nearly equal parts whey and carbs.

This may sound insane or difficult, but it's easy and possible. "Grazing", when you eat no less than every three hours, increases metabolism and prevents catabolism. If you do this for three weeks, you won't go back (for long) to the old days.

Here are the fundamentals of physical health: insulin control - sleep - regular cardio/resistance - complete protein/vitamins.

Nearly everyone who restricts calories loses muscle mass. If you want to escape this trap, lifting isn't enough... you have to eat protein in large amounts.
posted by ewkpates at 10:44 AM on April 6, 2005

If you follow just one piece of advice, follow this:

Cut out sugar completely.

You'll be amazed at how much better you'll feel in a few weeks. (And then you'll become a Splenda addict like me.)
posted by jca at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2005

Here's what worked for me: getting an active dog. Having a little beasty that's irritable without a 40+ minute walk every evening offers lots of incentive to stay fit!
posted by hyperizer at 3:16 PM on April 6, 2005

slapshot, no, I meant exactly what I said. When you are consuming less energy than you expend, your body will inevitably metabolise both muscle and fat (fortunately the latter in greater proportion) to make up the difference. This is why crash diets with aerobic excercise are a poor weight-loss strategy in the long term: you lose fat but you also lose muscle mass, resulting in a lower basal metabolism and thus a tendency to put the fat back on at a greater rate than before while consuming the same amount of energy.
posted by randomstriker at 9:42 AM PST on April 6 [!]

This increase in basal metabolism due to increased muscle mass has been overstated:
Fitness Myths: Weightlifting Raises Resting Metabolism

Another common misconception is that if you lift weights and add muscle mass you will lose weight when sitting due to a higher metabolism.

Scientific studies of muscle metabolism have conclusively shown that skeletal muscle burns about 13 calories per kilogram of body weight over a 24 hour period. If a man weighs 70 Kg (154 Lbs), has about 28 Kg of skeletal muscle will burn about 22% of the calories his body uses through the day. Adding 4 pounds of muscle bulk thru weightlifting, during a high intensity 6 month lifting program, would result in burning 24 more calories per day. One bite of an Oreo® cookie contains about 24 calories.

A corollary to this is that you may gain weight due to lifting weights, even while loosing fat weight. This is one of the greatest exercise myths. The myth is based in fact: muscle is more dense and weighs more than fat. The same weight of muscle take up nearly half the volume as the same weight of fat.

The problem with this is that not very many people will be able to add the volume of muscle mass relative to fat lost to gain weight. Remember, the average man will add only 4 Kg of muscle mass in a rigorous training program.

This does not mean that weight training should be avoided. Weight training will result in higher lean body mass. This translates into more efficient fat metabolism for energy. Cellular membranes are more permeable to glucose, reducing the need for excess insulin in the blood. This results in a reduced susceptibility to diabetes.

posted by jikel_morten at 9:47 PM on April 6, 2005

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to learn to cook.

Yeah, and as was said later on, the South Beach book has some pretty decent recipes to start. When I started, I ruined a couple London Broils, but now I can cook one well without even thinking about it. Sounds exotic, but if you just follow the directions in the book, it's not too bad.

Also... where it was suggested to go to brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta, etc.: the things to look for are "whole grain" (as opposed to "whole wheat" which may or may not be good for you), and avoid like the plague the words "enriched" and "bleached" when describing wheat flour. "Enriched" means they have to compensate for taking all the naturally good stuff out, and "bleaching" flour started as a way to keep rats from eating it. If rats won't eat it, how nutritional do you suppose it is?
posted by Doohickie at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2005

« Older Printing watermarks with CSS   |   Morphology of credit cards Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.