This is not me. But close.
Hi all -
I’ve had a few questions from my (mostly quiet) readership about my weight loss process over the last year and a half; what formula I concocted to drop nearly 40 pounds. I’ve touched on it a few times, but nothing substantial. One of the reasons why it’s so hard for me to describe is that the process was multifold – I tried a little of everything and kept what stuck, so it’s difficult to distill the actions I took into usable info for anyone else. The 40 ways to lose 40 pounds from my title are not discrete – I used each method, sometimes combining more than one, and the result was a gradual change in my overall body composition that netted me 40 pounds lighter. I’ll try to give a basic outline of my (bumpy) journey, so this will be a long post:
First, I came to my weight loss through my desire to learn more natural ways to stay healthy longer. My father will turn 70 in the next six months, and his last 5 years have been riddled with one health problem after another, and the allopathic medical system in this country has done almost nothing to improve his quality of life or educate him on how to maintain his own health as he ages. I think that’s a shitty way to face retirement after working for 40+ years, and since I tend toward his heavy body and laziness (and am generally too poor for health insurance) I figured getting fit now was the best option for later.
One thing being dreadfully under-employed offers you is tons of free time during the weekdays to focus on whatever you please. I chose to focus a lot on the easiest ways to get fit in the manner which would make me happiest, while expending the least amount of effort and time.
I started with three goals: 1) Get my heart rate up for at least ten minutes every day. Doesn’t matter how. 2) Read the five most popular diet books and see if any were worth trying. 3) Learn to do a free-standing handstand – the basis of my acro training from clown school, which I failed miserable at.
The first goal I tackled with easy-peasy interval running. I made a new habit - wake up, take omega-3s and this weird metabolic mineral supplement my mom swears by (Briandall Trim), trip over running shoes and workout clothes at the foot of my bed, put on said clothes and shoes, place earbuds firmly in ears and turn on audiobook of Harry Potter number whatever (I’ve listened to the whole series at least 5 times), leave house. No breakfast first, no shower, no thinking about it. Granted, I had no job so I had no constraints here, but making the rules that I would not think to hard before I ran made it possible. I hate running.
And by running, I really mean a combo of walking and light jogging – like I said, just enough to get my heart pounding and break a little sweat. I did (and still do) easy intervals – five minutes walking warm-up, followed by alternating 30 seconds jogging/1 minute walking for about 10-15 minutes, then five minutes walking cooldown. Barely even a workout, but seriously – this activity changed my life. You don’t realize how clear your mind gets until you start moving outside with little distraction.
The second goal is where the buffet effect of my efforts kicked in. Here is only a handful of the diet/fitness books I’ve read in the last year, courtesy of the LA public library:
-Run for Life
-The 4 Hour Body
-The Paleo Solution
-The Paleo Diet
-The Every Other Day Diet (also called the SNAPP diet) (yes I bought this… I’m a sucker for self-help marketing)
-Master Your Metabolism
-Why We Get Fat
-The Writing Diet
-The South Beach Diet
-This is Why You’re Fat (and How to Get Thin Forever) (it was hard for me to read and not just gaze at Jackie Warner’s big gay abs…)
-The Naked Warrior
-You: On a Diet
-The Belly-Fat Cure
Now let’s be clear – I read these books, I thought about them, but I didn’t diet from all of them. In fact, for most of the last two years, I didn’t diet at all. What I did was change my thinking, my habits, and the types of food I was eating. I focused on moving more: I kept up with my interval running, I would make sure to walk around for ten minutes after I ate, especially late in the day. I set up a standing desk for my computer so that email checking wouldn’t leave me slumped in a chair for hours.
It was only after I made these changes and happened to lose almost 20 pounds without changing my eating at all that I thought I might try a diet. At that point I had only read a handful of books, but I had some strong ideas about food and what I thought I could work on. I did NOT want to count calories (especially after reading Why We Get Fat, which pretty much lays out why calorie counting is useless). I did not want to eat anything “low fat” because I have a strong commitment to natural whole foods minus any chemical alterations.
I began with the SNAPP diet because it made sense to me that by varying your calorie intake (without counting, just by varying portion size and type of food) that your metabolism would have to work harder – and I bought the infoproduct, so I figured I should use it. I felt good doing it, and it paved the way for a lot of my later accomplishments. Simply adding apples and almonds into my diet as breakfast/morning snacks made a huge difference, but I didn’t own a scale at this time so I couldn’t track my progress.
The only other diets I’ve even attempted are more “lifestyle eating plans” than anything else. To drop the last 10 pounds, I decided to take January 2011 and stick to the Slow Carb diet from the 4-Hour Body. I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris’ meticulous testing methods AND his commitment to finding the MED or Minimum Effective Dose for any goal-oriented training. His diet is boring and difficult at first, but it hands-down worked the best. For one month I ate six days like a caveman – leafy greens, beans and legumes, and protein only (no dairy, refined carbs, sugar, or fruit) and then on the 7th day I ate whatever I wanted in great quantities. It was awesome, particularly because steak and kale are two of my favorite foods, and it totally eliminated all of my digestive issues. Psychologically I always had that 7th day to look forward to, so I didn’t feel like I was on a diet. It got me through the rest of the week, and not only did I lose the ten pounds, but I lost inches all over. I don’t stick strictly to this diet anymore, but it does guide my eating principles 95% of the time. (Note: The Paleo Diet also gave me results, but I tend to over-do the fruit, and found it surprisingly more difficult to cook Paleo than Slow Carb.)
My third goal is still a work in progress, since I can’t yet do a freestanding handstand but I can hold a handstand against the wall for over a minute, which is amazing considering two years ago I couldn’t even see my feet. Every day after I run I do a little routine I call my Trifecta: three sun salutations (with the back-saving emphasis on the up-dogs), three backbends from the floor, and then three handstands. I feel better after the Trifecta than any other workout I’ve ever tried, and through throwing myself against the wall every day I finally figured out how to stay up there.
One more note – as I’ve gotten fitter, I’ve added some strength training, which has also helped my weight loss tremendously. I added kettlebell classes back in January, and now own a set of kettlebells that I swing around. Since I’m an actor/clown, I enjoy focusing on compound movements for maximum strength and flexibilty – kettlebells give you a great whole-body workout in as little ten minutes. In fact, ten straight minutes would probably make me pass out. When I take kettlebell classes I can’t even walk up the steps to my house afterward.
So that’s been my journey. Crazy and a little hap-hazard, but not boring. I’ve really changed my lifestyle, through a kaizen-like series of small steps. Sure, it’s still a challenge to maintain, especially now that I’ve got so many day-jobs. But when I’m performing, I’m much more in tune with my body, I look younger than I did at 25, and I weigh less than I weighed in college. There are worse things.
The most important diet books I’ve read -
1. Why We Get Fat (not a diet book, but totally changed my thinking about food)
2. The 4-Hour Body
3. The Paleo Diet
1. 20-min easy interval run, outside
2. Trifecta: sun salutations, backbends, handstands
3. Kettlebells 2x a week for at least ten minutes with breaks
1. Slow-Carb essentials: protein, legumes, and veggies with a healthy dose of beer and bread on cheat days.
2. Dr. Oz’s green smoothie for breakfast (although I think Dr. Oz is mostly a hack. I’m not afraid to say it. I read his books.)
3. Yes, I still take some vitamin/mineral supplements, with an emphasis on fish oil twice a day.
And adequate sleep, lots of water, standing desk, trying to keep my stress under control… you get the drift. Let me know if you have any more questions – I love talking about this stuff, and would love to hear what’s worked (or didn’t work) for you.