Scroll down for the picture I’ve held back from posting since this site is mostly about leadership, meaning, value, importance, purpose, emotional awareness, emotional skills, etc. First a few words.
I find people’s attitudes toward diet and exercise become self-righteous so I prefer not to bring up diet and exercise in conversation, so I’d generally not bring it up here. Plenty of sites show before and after pictures of people’s fitness. My site isn’t like theirs.
But the more physically fit I get and the less effort I find it takes, the more valuable I find fitness. It feels great to become more fit. What do you have that you value more than your body? And if you believe, like I do, that your body physically manifests your beliefs and behaviors, your body’s condition shows your mental and emotional condition. If you don’t have the body you want, it shows you what to work on.
In my case, my body has long been mostly healthy for decades, but my stomach was covered with fat and wasn’t flat. That fat implied inefficiency, lack of discipline, and lack of awareness of what caused it. At least I look at it that way now. Living in a land where most people are fat and becoming more so, people said I wasn’t really fat, but comparing yourself to loose standards only means not holding yourself accountable.
I wrote about getting close to a six-pack, meaning seeing muscle definition on my abs, and I talk about accountability, so I feel responsible to hold myself responsible.
I also look back and realize I hadn’t paid attention to my efforts. I had followed what I learned a long time ago—that running and cardiovascular exercise was the best way to lose fat—that I didn’t realize that strategy wasn’t working. Instead it kept making me skinnier but not losing fat on my stomach. I was denying what I could see. Now I’m reading that fat around your stomach is the most unhealthy compared to other places fat shows up.
Worse, seeing pictures of fit people made me think I couldn’t look like them. After all, I exercised a lot, but didn’t get the results I wanted. Didn’t that mean my goals were impossible?
Now it looks like I had ineffective strategy.
Helpful beliefs and practices
Fat seems to depend more on diet than exercise.
Cutting out pretzels, potato chips, anything with fiber removed (cakes, muffins, etc) and having fewer beers and wine helped. Otherwise I eat as much as I want, which is mainly fruit, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains. I finish every meal full and snack all the time. No meat and almost no dairy.
One day at Central Park, throwing a frisbee around, noticing a lot of guys with well-built muscles, I thought to myself for the first time “I can hold my own against them.” I didn’t have the big muscles, but I had the fitness. Before then I thought of guys running around their shirts off like muscle-heads, implying something wrong with them. Now I just felt comfortable with my body, which feels great.
About the picture
At the beach the weekend after Central Park I walked around without my shirt too, where it’s more normal. I put on sunscreen everywhere I normally get burned, which means what shows when I’m wearing a shirt, which means I didn’t put sunscreen on my front. I carried a bag over my shoulder and took the picture below not as an “after” picture from a body change but to document how silly I looked with the white non-sunburned strip from my bag strap.
I’m still developing more definition because I still have fat on me, so I was planning on showing a picture later, but yesterday I ran eighteen-and-a-half miles on a marathon training run. Until now my only exercise was a few minutes a day plus the occasional run or row:
- Fifty burpees per day
- Twenty-four inverted rows per day
- One or two six-mile runs per week
- One or two fifteen-minute sessions rowing per week
- Two or three twelve-mile runs since the winter
- Under five minutes of exercise per day 90% of days
- Under twenty minutes about 4% of days
- Under an hour another 4%
- About ninety minutes about 2% of days
That’s almost nothing!
- No cost
- No crunches
- No equipment
- No gym membership
- No injuries
- Not much extra time
Some people might consider a twelve-mile too difficult, but it’s still only a ninety-minute workout. People often spend that long at a gym. If you’re putting the time and effort into working at a gym, it seems to me you better work yourself harder than I can by just walking outside. Otherwise you’re confusing spending money and time with exercising, which suggests to me you confused your priorities. In any case, it means you’re working out enough to get flat abs and approach a six-pack, as below.
But an eighteen-and-a-half mile run took me two hours and forty minutes, which I can’t categorize as something the average person does, so I had to post this picture as what seems attainable with very modest but diligent exercise, diet, and discipline.
If I had known I could do this years ago, I would have done it then: a fit body for marginal effort. Starting now is all I can do. Keep in mind, I’m forty-three!
I didn’t take any “before” pictures. The best comparison is from a picture of me on a boat in Boracay on this post (scroll about halfway down), from when I was doing about thirty burpees a day, eating more food with fiber removed. You can see I’m both skinnier—meaning less muscle—and fatter—meaning the spare tire.
EDIT: I do have more “before” pictures, in my post about swimming across the Hudson River. There are several pictures of me shirtless then, doing no burpees and eating more fiber-removed foods. Here’s the best comparison picture, featuring yet less muscle and more belly-fat despite being six years younger.
I’m holding myself additionally accountable by saying now that I’ll post another picture when I get more definition, though that will likely come after I’ve run a few more eighteen-mile-plus runs. This picture is just to show what you can do basically with five minutes a day, no equipment, and healthy diet.
Why talk about exercise if it doesn’t reduce fat that much?
Why write about exercise if I’m just writing about how little it takes?
Because exercise gives you discipline. Discipline makes eating work. If we didn’t have our junk “food” industry, subsidies for industrial farms, poor health education for kids, etc, we probably wouldn’t need so much discipline, but you know our world. Our taxes pay for corn syrup and you’ll never see an ad for broccoli. Hence discipline.
And exercise feels great when you finish.
Exercise builds skills for other parts of life.
Oh, and it builds muscle, which feels great.
Emotional reward versus physical pleasure
Like I wrote above, I cut out many foods that bring physical pleasure. I’ve had maybe one cup of ice cream in the past year. I haven’t added sugar or any sweetener to anything since as long as I can remember. I chop fresh fruit for cereal, for example, which has plenty of flavor.
No fleeting physical pleasure compares with the enduring emotional reward of feeling my forty-three-year-old body as it is now. It feels natural and free. Not eating unhealthy foods is easier and easier the healthier I feel.
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