I need a drill sargeant to make me get fit.
January 25, 2006 1:03 PM   Subscribe

How can I develop a healthier lifestyle despite my significant lack of initiative?

The bottom line is that I want to act & feel healthier.

My diet is about 1/2 fast food, and 1/2 meals prepared at home. I don't have a very sophisticated palette, and don't eat with much variety - no spicy foods, not a lot of ethnic foods, way too few veggies - just a lot of burgers, sandwiches, pasta and junk food. About 6-7 months ago I dropped a Coca-Cola habit; I went from about 2 litres per day to none, and now I drink at least the same volume of water each day.

I don't excercise. I walk more than most people I know, because I don't have a car and frankly enjoy walking, but I never just walk for a walk's sake.

I have psoriatic arthritis, so in addition to splotches of dry/dead skin, my 26-yr old bones and joints are starting to get stiff and achy. I'm prescribed a cream for my skin spots, and it works when applied, but I don't use it as regularly as I should because it's messy, I'm more than a little lazy, and the thought of controlling my psoriasis with a lifetime of daily cream applications makes me feel hopeless.

So here's where I'm at: I know that I need a better diet and an excercise plan in order to lose weight. The problem is that I am not a self-motivated person. I only do my job because I'd be fired if I didn't. I only do my household chores because doing so makes my roommates' lives easier. I'm not trying to over-state anything, but I'm convinced that if I were left to my own devices with no obligations to others, I'd be 500 lbs, surrounded by dirty clothes and pizza boxes, planted in front of the TV and dead within a few months.

Intellectually, I understand that I have a social obligation to my loved ones to stay healthy and stay around, but that just isn't a motivation for me, for better or worse.

I do respond well to direction, though. For the most part, I enjoy being told what to do, and the feeling that what I'm accomplishing is important to someone other than myself. To that end, I'm wondering what diet/excercise options exist that will take choice and freedom away from me, and instead tell me exactly what to do, when and for how long. Something that I have to pay for in advance would likely help keep me motivated.

Optimally, I'd like to have all my meals planned by someone else, whether or not I have to prepare them myself, as well as an excercise regimen that's pre-defined, but it would have to make allowances for my varying daily work schedule. I'd really prefer to stay out of a gym, because my skin condition makes me self-conscious.

I've seen TV ads for a "Doctor-assisted weight loss" clinic in my town, and I wonder if this is something like what I'm looking for.

Otherwise, I'm just looking for suggestions and testimonials related to extremely lazy/un-motivated people getting fit. It's not that I don't want to work at this; investing time and effort is obivously what it will take - it's just that I don't believe I can both plan it AND do it.
posted by chudmonkey to Health & Fitness (38 answers total)
Maybe just start by replacing your other fast food with subway?
posted by leapingsheep at 1:06 PM on January 25, 2006

Well no one is going to do it for you, even if you pay someone to help, it will take motivation. I think you should be looking for motivation not a tailored exercise/nutritional plan. Taking control of this will make you feel better and function better in all aspects of life. Having a drill sergeant would not help you personally as much.

On December 27th I got my brother to take a picture of myself from the front and back with a digital camera. The looks of myself in those photos was horrifying, I didn't know 195 lbs was so huge! I now weigh just over 170 lbs. I realize I have probably lost weight TOO fast but my whole "relationship with food" has done a 180 since finally seeing exactly what I look like.

I really think that the key to my shift in looking at food in a lot more healthy way was those photos (which are in a folder called "before" on my desktop where I can look at them daily).

Maybe this is just a very small peice in a much larger answer that you need, but its worth a try.

(Oh, FWIW the diet I am doing is the "Paleo Diet" and I have to say I very rarely get hungry despite eating <1000 calories a day sometimes.)
posted by wolfkult at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2006

pictures of myself shirtless might I add
posted by wolfkult at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: It's not a terrible idea, leapingsheep, but most "healthy" restaurant food (lots of veggies, less sauces, cheeses, etc) aren't my preference. I realize that I need to ignore my preferences to eat better, but if I'm going to be eating something I don't want, I'd rather not pay a premium for it. If anything, I'll make my own sandwiches at home and skip the restaurants altogether.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2006

What about martial arts or yoga classes or any other activity/sport that interested you? A number of my friends loved their tae kwon do classes, and the instructors certainly wouldn't hesitate to tell you what to do.
posted by occhiblu at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2006

A light daily regimen of Dance Dance Revolution is working for me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2006

You might want to check out the online Weight Watchers program. You get a certain number of points per day - all food is assigned a point value, and you can earn extra points for exercising. I believe the site also has forums, so maybe you could find someone there who would like to buddy up with you?
posted by KAS at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2006

Well it's not bootcamp like what you seem to be angling for but I reckon you should take a cooking class. It'll help you get a taste for what good food is, and you might even enjoy experimenting. Go to delis and buy their weird ingredients -- there'll be something there you like. Make food at home in the evenings to take it with you.

Get your heartrate up -- so as FoB says Dance Dance Revolution, or a tredmill/exercycle. Take photos, graph weights, and so on.
posted by holloway at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2006

Optimally, I'd like to have all my meals planned by someone else, whether or not I have to prepare them myself, as well as an excercise regimen that's pre-defined, but it would have to make allowances for my varying daily work schedule. I'd really prefer to stay out of a gym, because my skin condition makes me self-conscious.

If you have the money, I rather suspect you could hire someone to plan your meals. You could probably get away with even having them do it for say, two months, creating a 3x5 card or sheet of paper for each meal, and then you have a stack of cards that you can cycle through to determine what you'll eat.

You could also probably hire a personal trainer to help you with exercise -- possibly (though I suspect it would cost more money) even outside of the gym. If you have a joint condition, though, you might be interested in seeing a physical therapist first. I've seen various therapists through three joint rehabs, and believe me, those people are good at pushing you through things that are painful or difficult at first, and they usually don't actually hurt you.

investing time and effort is obivously what it will take - it's just that I don't believe I can both plan it AND do it.

I understand feeling weak in this area, having made thousands of plans and personal initiatives I haven't followed through on. I've had some of your problems when it comes to motivation. And yet I don't think there's a way around the fact that you have to learn to tackle the problem of trying to make a practical plan that can shape your life.

And in fact, that's what you're doing here -- you're really not getting around that by trying to bring in other people to help you, they're part of your plan. So it's obvious you can do this. :)
posted by weston at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2006

From what you described, it could go beyond all that lack of motivation. You might want to talk to a therapist about possible depression.

You can't do things for "obligation" to your friends and family - being healthy is an obligation to yourself. Perhaps other illnesses are weighing you down and you need more support to keep your mood in check, but sticking to a diet and excercise plain is something you do for yourself.

YOU want to be healthy.
YOU want more energy.
YOU want to eat better.
YOU want to feel better.

And if YOU want it enough, you will have the motivation to do it.
7 steps in 7 days - more energy
posted by Sallysings at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: wolfkult: Firstly, best of luck with your continued weight loss, and thanks for sharing your story.

It's not that I'm not MOTIVATED... I'm just not motivated enough to overcome my other personality failings: poor self-esteem, procrastination and a general ambivalence about my own life. Honestly, if I were to learn I would die tomorrow, I wouldn't be upset. But since I'm probably gonna be around awhile, I want to look better and put aside my ancient rivalry with stairs. Think of me as a soldier who wants to fight, but doesn't belong to an army yet. I know I can do it, I know I should do it. I just honestly work better (at anything) when the end result is dictated and monitored by someone else.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2006

See a therapist.
posted by holloway at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2006

Best answer:
I've become a couch potato this winter too so I appreciate the sentiment of your post. Some things that really helped me exercise in the past that may help you since it sounds like you respond well to obligation:

->Find a work-out buddy. When I was an undergraduate in college, I agreed to meet a friend and participate in a master swim class. If you know that someone will show up at your door in 10 minutes, ready to go participate in your chosen exercise, you will be more likely to get ready, get out the door, and not let that person down.

-->Find an activity that you really enjoy. For me, that is biking (speed is actually addicting). If you really enjoy the event, you are more likely to participate. If you are very sociable, you can incorporate an event where you compete against friends, work in team, etc.

Best of luck
posted by Wolfster at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2006

An alternative to making your own healthy meals is to have them delivered to your door every day. I've never done it myself, but my stylist was on the Zone diet for a while and signed up for a service that prepared all her meals and snacks for the day and delivered them to her door before 6 am. I don't know where you live, but this one serves Los Angeles and Toronto/Ontario. I'm sure there are similar services in other cities that you could check out.
posted by phoenixc at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2006

If you really want to be told to lose weight, drill-sergeant-style, you should go ask Tucker Max's forums for help. But I don't advocate that approach.

Can you convince yourself to change your daily fast-food stop to a Subway? Not everything at a Subway is equally good for you, but the good options exist there (although they don't at most other fast-food places).

Would your roommates like it if you cooked food to share more frequently? Would that make you feel obligated to cook healthy stuff more often?

If you join a group like Weight Watchers (which I do recommend), you may feel unwilling to let the group down by not losing weight.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2006

Best answer: You could get something like Medifast, or DietToGo, if they're available in your area. They'll certainly take away your choices.

Personally, I wouldn't do either of them, but I like having choices. I have friends who have tried both and seem to like them.
posted by amarynth at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: To Holloway and Sallysings: I'm no stranger to a therapist's office, and I don't dispute any diagnosis of depression. But I don't believe that depression is just something that affects random people. I'm depressed because I have reasons to be, and I'm hoping that better physical health will be a good starting point in sorting my life out.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2006

chudmonkey/ set small goals. Life changes are hard, especially when you're trying to think "I'm going to do this for the rest of my life."

Follow a plan for 7 days (try the link) - maybe added energy could help you keep it up longer - best of luck.
posted by Sallysings at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2006

Find somebody you can be accountable to, if not an actual workout buddy. A coworker and I have been sharing our workout plans, basically we announce we WILL go to the gym or WILL go swimming or whatever the next day. More than once my telling her I was going to workout is the only thing that got me to actually do it, I didn't want to have to go back and admit to her that I hadn't done it.

Also, there are online programs that will prepare a meal and/or workout plan for you. Probably there are free sites, but one pay site I know for sure does both is eDiets.com. I'm not plugging for them (really), but in addition to their programs, their online community is fantastically supportive, especially the "challenge" groups (one of which is actually called Boot Camp). When I was a member this was the thing that kept me going (and I lost a fair amount of weight), and was what made the expense worth it for me. Again, undoubtedly there are free places to get this kind of support, as well, just do some research (If you do try eDiets, be sure to ask for their $60 yearly plan, they don't advertise it but it's way cheaper than their monthly plans if you plan to stick around for more than a couple of months.) Again, I really do not have any interest in them, I swear it.
posted by redheadeb at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2006

I just caught the bit about the soda. That's really hurting you. When you want something more flavorful than water, could you try just adding a little juice to water? I use lemon juice or grape juice (just a tiny bit in the bottom of the glass). You'll have to get used to not having the carbonation, but it does taste delicious and refreshing, and that alone would save you a lot of calories. Don't drink diet soda, though. Nutrasweet is bad.
posted by leapingsheep at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2006

and i misread none as one (liter). sorry.
posted by leapingsheep at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2006

Best answer: Those who say you need motivation are only partly right. Motivation is not really the key to weight loss, better diet, or increase exercise. You do not need to be motivated to make steps toward those things; in fact, if you wait until some magical feeling called "motivation" strikes you, you'll be on the couch a long time. Believe me, you are not likely to wake up one day and want to eat a bowl of bran flakes and go for a five-mile jog if those have not been your habits. Don't wait to be motivated.

Instead, think of it this way: All you need to do is make decisions. Decide that you're going to work out tomorrow, decide what you're going to eat, whatever. You don't have to like it, look forward to it, or commit to doing it any longer than one day. You just have to do it.

Realizing that I was never going to be motivated to make changes was a huge moment for me. I had to accept that mature people make decisions and follow through on them. Grumbling all the way, I lost 50 pounds and became a triathlete. At some point I made the transition from this lifestyle being a decision to being one I was truly internally motivated to keep up -- but the motivation came second, the decision came first. You're awfully close to making a decision, so I say, just do it. In only about a month you'll feel so much better that the new habits will be easier to keep.
posted by Miko at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'd love to cook healthy food more often, and my roommates would dig it as well. That's more or less been my strategy for about 6 weeks. I've been planning meals from a diet cookbook, buying my ingredients in advance and sharing the cooking load. The biggest problem is that I make bad choices: I pick the recipes that most appeal to my taste for bland, processed food, I skip meals when I come home work too tired, and satisfy my subsequent hunger with junk.

The reason I'd like to have all my meals pre-planned is that I can adopt a kind of "eat this or eat nothing" system. I think I can handle eating food I'm not familiar with or that I don't even like, as long as I don't have a choice.

You know went you went to grade school? You would get a list of all the supplies and books you needed, you'd buy them and go to school. Then you'd take classes chosen by others at times decided by others and have a few breaks, the scheduling and duration of which were decided by others. Frankly, I crave that. I want to do what's right for my health, but I don't want it to be by choice.

I know that sounds crazy.
posted by chudmonkey at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2006

You just sound like someone with a strong desire for order and a belief that they can't create their own order. If you've been bad at creating your own order in the past it doesn't sound too unreasonable of a belief either. I've gone through phases like that myself, particularly when I was under heavy stress. A controlled life is very reassuring and can really help when you're stressed.

I suggest either a personal trainer, a therapist or both to help you order your life. Perhaps once you've been helped to create order you'll learn better to do it on your own, and perhaps not. If you're happy with others helping you create order it's not a bad thing, it can just be difficult to find appropriate others. Some parts you can do right now. Write up a schedule for your days, and either order yourself to do it, or imagine someone you love ordering you to do it. That helped me a couple of times.
posted by stoneegg21 at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2006

I agree with sally sings about depression. Maybe you should have a yearly type physical. It would be great to just take a look at your blood work.Maybe it could indicate something or maybe all your cholesterol scores if elevated would motivate you more.
You could also tell the doc how incredibly unmotivated you are. Sometimes antidepressants are good to just get you going in the right direction, then you could take over.
Also, sliced up cucumbers are delish in water if you are getting bored.
And anybody you can recruit to share in your healthy lifestyle would help lots.
posted by TheLibrarian at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2006

I wasn't sure if I wanted to say this, but I'll try. I don't know if you've ever thought of this, but you might be a submissive. I know I've got a strong thread of submissive in me, and a controlled life can be both very reassuring and a bit exciting, and is doubly interesting. So there's that to think about as well.
posted by stoneegg21 at 2:16 PM on January 25, 2006

Side note: You say you "skip meals when [you] come home work too tired." The answer to this is egg whites.

Hard-boil the eggs if you like them bland, or scramble them, fry them with good-for-you cooking spray, make veggie omelets, do whatever you want. Some methods take under five minutes; the max is about twenty minutes and that's if you boil them.

But be sure you separate the eggs. The yolks have all the cholesterol and what fat there is. Whites have basically nothing -- no fat, no cholesterol, maybe 20 calories -- nothing except protein. Egg whites are fast and easy to cook, can be made in dozens of different ways, have nothing bad for you, and because they're all protein, they can fill you up faster and make you stay fuller longer. To sum up, egg whites are my salvation.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: stoneegg21: I'm sure you're right. I do find a structured, controlled life to be very nice and satisfying. My lack of self-interest does exend into my social/sexual life as well, but not to any really kinky extent. Yet.
posted by chudmonkey at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2006

Best answer: Speaking both professionally and personally, know that your psoriatic arthritis can and does affect both your activity level, hunger, weight, and general mental health. Not just the disease itself, but the medications can be a huge part of successfully getting fit. Having psoriasis pre-disposes you to being overweight and depression, both of which are hard but not impossible to overcome in getting fit.

For me, what has worked well is the Abs Diet, which gives you very specific when, what and how to eat information, and a modified exercise plan my rheumatologist designed to help my psoriatic arthritis. I would highly recommend that you talk to your rheumatologist about your goals and needs and have them try to help plan something out too. Knowing I was going to have to answer their questions in checkups about activity level has kept me motivated.

I work with people who have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and am in the same boat so feel free to email (in profile) for more details or questions.
posted by karmaville at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2006

Miko said it, but I'll repeat it for emphasis: there's no such thing as motivation. It's a concept invented by managers fifty years ago in order to justify their salaries. Particularly when it comes to personal situations, it is purely a question of will. That said, it sounds like the key element your missing is feedback. You need to set up a system of rules and recording that gives you clear feedback on how you're progressing toward your goals. You can start now by just recording everything you eat. At the end of the week, review this and highlight those situations where you could've eaten something healthier. Also start weighing yourself everyday. Yes, every single day. Having this number in the back of your mind can be a powerful force for leading a healthy lifestyle. Next, start off by enforcing small changes that cause a minimal amount of pain. Cut out the junk food. If you can successfully make these small changes and keep them up for a while you'll soon find yourself confident enough to tackle bigger changes. Motivation is confidence--real drill sergeants don't "motivate" soldiers, they beat them up and force them to do X until the soldier realizes doing X is no big deal.
posted by nixerman at 3:05 PM on January 25, 2006

> I don't believe I can both plan it AND do it

I think you can. All that's holding you back is your lack of confidence in yourself. This kind of thinking - "other people are self-motivated but I'm not" - is only true because you believe it. Changing that belief can be as simple as deciding to believe something better.

Sorry if this seems like not a real answer to the question, but I've spent too long subjecting myself to the same kind of depressing thought patterns not to chime in.
posted by teleskiving at 3:48 PM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: teleskiving: No need to apologize - I dig your point. Intellectually, I understand that I could force myself through every step of a weight-loss process - after all, no matter who's telling me what to do, I'm still the one doing it.

But I'm busy, distracted, and I don't have a lot of willpower. I don't see weight-loss as a path to personal growth, I see it as a path to smaller pants. I'm not interested in forcing myself to do anything, because getting someone else to force me is less work.
posted by chudmonkey at 4:00 PM on January 25, 2006

Best answer: You need to envision the person you want to be, or even what you think the people in your life want you to be. For me, that vision is a beacon which guides my thought processes and lifestyle. If you follow direction well, ask your family and friends what the perfect chudmonkey would be like.

From that vision, mold some really small, short term goals for your needed structure. Keep them simple and extremely easy. I don't think you are inherently lazy chudmonkey, I just think your willfullness and discipline are probably out of shape. You need to build those muscles. The best way to do that is to start off with baby steps. Baby goals, baby plans, baby decisions, baby actions.

If I was trying to change my diet, I think my first goal would be to simply eat an extra piece of fruit a day. And I would choose to eat a banana because to me they are the easiest fruit to eat. As you build yourself up, you will be able to take on bigger goals. Just keep it DEAD simple at first, and don't forget the vision.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:05 PM on January 25, 2006

I'm about to hire the retired mom of a friend of mine to do some cooking for me. She's able to devoted the time to it that I can't, and I pay for the food and her time. I'll tell her to limit the salt, sugar, and fat content, but the rest is up to her.

The idea is that it will help me eat better, but not interfere with the rather complicated schedule I have until June.

Perhaps something like this would work for you?
posted by trixie_bee at 5:46 PM on January 25, 2006

I know this doesn't tell you where to find your drill sergeant, but maybe it will be of some help. I have struggled with a lack of self-motivation (or will, or choice, or whatever you want to call it) as well. I know my issues, I know where it stems from, and I've finally begun to address and conquer it.

Not long ago, after a harrowing semester at school, I decided I was taking the summer as an opportunity to get my shit together. All of it. And the more I thought about it, and the more I wanted to do, the more depressed and anxious I felt. I knew I would fail. You're where you are, looking at these sweeping, monumental changes that you want to make. It's unrealistic, depressing, and self-defeating.

Here's what I did that finally worked: I swept all the big changes aside and made a small list of daily goals and two longer-term goals. They had a start date and an end date. They were specific. They had wiggle room built in to account for imperfection. They were to be judged by percentage.

It worked. For the first time in my life, I'd set some goals for myself and accomplished them. There was no question. Added benefit: at the end, they had mainly become habit.

This system is still in place and working for me. I've just started another set of goals, round three, end date to be June 1, not coincidentally the day I'm to give birth. What works best for me is to have a little planner/appointment book that I carry around with me. For each day, I've written my daily goals (made easier by only scribbling the first letter of each). When the goal is accomplished for the day, I get to scratch out the goal. If it is not accomplished that day, I circle the goal.

As an example of one of the simple daily goals: because diet and nutrition are so important at this time, one of my goals is to stay hydrated (in my little book, this is represented by the letter H). The goal, specifically, is: drink 36 ounces of water 6 out of 7 days. Periodically, I check my progress with hard numbers. At the end I get a percentage, a grade of sorts.

Long-term goals work a little differently; they are actually more along the lines of projects that can be completed. I decide on only two, then list each and every little step required. When a step is done, it gets marked off. Each step is generally worth an equal percentage as the other steps, and they all add up to 100%. One of my original projects was to change my name. Step one was to make a list of the steps needed.

I have no idea if this would work for you or anybody else. The concrete, specific, measurable nature of the goals is what really helped me; that, and the fact that they were all relatively small and doable. It also helped to have a very understanding and encouraging husband to talk to.

An addendum: I was recently bed-bound for almost three months, and it brought me to point zero. I could not, for the life of me, merge back into regular, daily living once I started feeling better. After a lot of waffling and procrastinating, I finally sought a counselor. Yes, this addresses the depression that seems to have cropped up, but the most apparent advantage right now is that I see her as somebody to report to for my emotional recovery and goals. What's funny is that I do most of the work, but having upcoming appointments gets me asking questions of myself, reviewing things, etc. It kicks me out of my mental inertia. Somebody else brought this up, so I thought I'd throw in my perspective.
posted by moira at 6:01 PM on January 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you can afford one, get a personal trainer. That way you have someone 'telling you what to do', and as you work on your fitness you'll be less likely to put unhealthy fuel into your body. After a session at the gym, you won't want to ruin your work with a big mac.
posted by Radio7 at 12:11 AM on January 26, 2006

i haven't seen anyone suggest it (might have missed), but maybe you should try a life coach to help you put together a plan and stick to it and also work on your motivation issues.
posted by mirileh at 3:59 AM on January 26, 2006

Congratulations on quitting the Coke. That's a big positive change to make in your life, and a pretty difficult one. The fact that you were able to do that shows you are capable of making decisions about your health and also capable of carrying those decisions out. You need to see that success for what it is, and it will help provide the motivation and confidence you need for further steps.
posted by fidelity at 12:52 PM on January 26, 2006

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