A note to a friend interested in being healthy. – life+running

A note to a friend interested in being healthy.

(Trigger Warning: this post could be triggering to those who have had experience with eating disorders.)

I’ve had a draft of this collecting dust for a while, so instead of bothering to clean it up, I’m posting this note as it was sent to my friend. A while back (like in January), a good friend of mine decided she wanted to get healthy, and by that she meant that she wanted to eat more nutritious food and move more, and probably lose some weight. She went to Facebook asking for help, and after seeing all the stuff people were posting, I sent her this note. I am pretty unfiltered with this friend, and hell, after reading some of the stuff my friend Carly has been posting recently, I’m inspired to be more unfiltered over here. I realize this is a little TLDR, but there’s some good info here if you have a chance to read it. If not — your loss. 

Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, so please, don’t ignore the health professionals in your life and follow what I’m telling you to do. The point of this article is this: getting healthy or fit is a BIG task, and in order to accomplish it, you’ll need to break it into smaller tasks or you will likely get burnt out, or worse — injured or sick. 


Dear Friendski:

I saw your post about being done with being fat. I hate seeing my friends say things about themselves like that (other than I do appreciate you wanting to get healthy!) Just remember you’ve had a good year of adjusting to having a kiddo, and that’s not easy. You can’t put yourself first anymore, and it’s hard to try to reclaim some of that responsibility. That being said, I think fat is an attitude, and not a sense of being, and I know we’ve had that discussion before. You’re far from being fat in that sense. If you want to reel in your weight for health purposes, I’ve got some pointers for you.

If you’re serious, read on. If not, ignore me!

People are going to tell you to diet. I’m going to tell you to do the opposite. Please don’t diet! You will hate yourself and everybody around you. Dieting is so not good for you. What I have seen with everybody whose dieted is success for a short period, and then yo-yoing back and forth after that. Instead of a diet, per se, I recommend looking at your overall nutrition intake. That sounds way complicated, but I’ll lay it out simply for you: just make healthier choices. I define healthy as something that is nutrient-dense and doesn’t make you sick (so if you hate spinach, don’t eat it, but maybe pick something similar that has as much nutrients in it as spinach). It would be worth talking to your doc and seeing if maybe you should focus on getting certain nutrient groups vs. others (e.g. less white starches and more veggies / lean meats). Another friend of mine talked to his doc and he was recommended the Mediterranean diet, which is basically cutting down on red meat and processed food, but he is allowed ALLTHECARBS. He doesn’t really keep track of anything, and he allows himself one “cheat” meal every week or so (STEAK). He lost 30 lbs last winter doing that and minimal exercise. But, the nutrition piece is different for everybody.

People are going to tell you to work your ass off in the gym. First of all, you know you don’t have time for that. And second of all, if you try jumping around like a maniac like our cross-fit-obsessed society will tell you to do, you’re going to end up with a broken leg.

So, instead, I recommend committing to an amount of movement that works for your schedule and with the amount of sleep that you need to get. The best thing you can do now is WALK. I don’t know if you’re planning to (or can) go to the gym, but if you are, I recommend walking on a treadmill at a high incline but a very low speed. What this will do is engage your abs, butt, and thighs while burning some fat. Your abs are important to build up because they basically hold you together. Butt and thighs are what keep you upright, and we typically sit on our asses all day so these muscles are usually underdeveloped (she says as she is sitting on her ass typing this). Butt and thighs are the biggest muscles in our body, so if we can build those up, they will burn more fat. I’d say 10-15 on incline and 1.5-2 MPH (I said slow!) for speed. Use this as your “me” time and watch some shitty TV on Netflix or something.

The second recommendation I have is strength train. I mentioned that muscle burns fat. You can do this before or after or on a different day than the walking. I recommend doing it after walking if you’re going to do static lifting at the gym, and do low weight, high reps. Since you’re not going for a specific goal other than weight loss, I would say aim to do 5-6 different strength exercises at a time with 3 sets of 15-20 reps each. If you aren’t planning to do the gym, Jillian Michaels’ “No More Trouble Zones” is a great full-body strength workout (that burns fat too!). I’ve done that one on and off since 2009, and I keep going back to it because it hits everything. It’s not easy, but it is easy to follow. I still have to modify exercises to make them “easy” and I’ve been doing it for years. I would say if you try that, maybe do it a few times with no added weight (just body weight) and modify for the “easy” version to make sure you’re doing form correctly. Some things you won’t be able to do at first, but don’t get discouraged because you will be able to do them if you keep practicing (like playing an instrument!). There is no jumping around in this. It’s all low-impact, which is why I recommend it.

My third recommendation is set TINY goals.  Instead of looking at the big number, look at your achievements. Maybe set a goal to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and track that for a couple of weeks. Or set a goal to get to the gym 3-4 times a week … you could drive there and turn around and go home, but the point would be that you’re setting yourself up for a habit. I have a friend who set a goal to go to the gym after work every day. It’s been 4 weeks and he’s finally in the habit, and finally enjoying it. My friend is now working on upping his effort in the next week or so since he formed the gym habit.

Don’t look at that big goal, and keep focused on your tiny goals. Instead of saying “I want to lose 80 pounds”, maybe try saying “I want to lose 5 pounds this month.” I bought a zero scale that doesn’t show the number. You step on it, and it records how much you weigh, but it just says “0.0”. Then you step on it (I recommend 1x a week when you’re trying to lose — the in-between times throw you off … not much changes on a daily basis besides water), and it will tell you how much + or – you are from your original number, and the amount of days that it’s been. So if you want to lose 3 lbs this month, it will just keep track of that, and not that you weigh 450 pounds or 100 pounds or whatever. I love that damn scale because who wants to see the big number?

My number one recommendation for a weight loss program is: SLEEP. I know it’s impossible to get the amount of sleep that you need with a kid. I’m not sure what your sleep schedule looks like now, but between 8-9 hours is what I’ve been recommended, and I’m guessing that would be similar for you since you’re breastfeeding and that’s basically like a parasite sucking the life from you. If you have issues sleeping, maybe try to get in for a sleep study. I have friends who’ve had apnea and been overweight and who fixed the apnea part with a machine instead of trying to drop weight first actually dropped weight when they were able to sleep with the machine.

My final recommendation: Make it about your health. The thing is, you can’t really control your weight, you can only control the level of activity and the kind of food you’re eating. You can be healthy even if you’re overweight if you’re making the right choices for your body. It could be that Mark IS healthy at 300 lbs (I doubt it, but he could prove me otherwise). If you can make it about your health and do it for yourself and for Henry (and maybe Ken), I guarantee it will be easier.

Anyway — that’s a ton of info. I will tell you that it’s not easy, especially at first, and especially when you get busy. BUT, if you can get yourself to a healthy point, it will get easier to maintain and you can skip out on eating nutritious every day or going to the gym when times get tough.

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