Making fitness inevitable
I’ve never had a flat stomach with definition—a six-pack—but I’m close to it now and I’m amazed at how well getting close to it motivates me to eat healthily and exercise.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt motivation to get fit. Earlier times led to long-term changes nothing like what diet books seem to recommend.
While I didn’t grow up fat, I was chubby enough that my step-brother made fun of me and my parents tried to get me to eat more slowly. I wasn’t close to today’s typical fatness, but I felt shame.
I love the way I’m thinking about food and my body now. I haven’t felt such an improvement since I started playing sports competitively in college and started wearing clothes that showed off my body. I’m not talking about vanity. I’m talking about feeling natural.
Thoughts on nearing a six-pack
I’ve thought about what’s making the difference. I see a few reasons.
- Post-renovations, my kitchen is no longer a dark closet. I cook more at home.
- I mostly replaced chips and pretzels with carrots, nuts, and fresh fruit.
- Note that I don’t like the carrots less than the chips or feel like I’m depriving myself. The more I learn about junk food and more importantly the people who make it, the less I like it.
- I didn’t intend to stop eating chips and pretzels. I just found myself uninterested in them.
- Though I like a glass of wine with dinner, a beer in the afternoon, or a glass of scotch after dinner, the fitter my body gets, the less I drink.
- Living at my home after years in Shanghai or staying at my sister’s during renovations lets me exercise and cook more conveniently.
- I’ve upped to two sets of twenty-five burpees daily and added pull-ups. Plus I have daily access to my rowing machine again.
- I used to think that lifting weights built muscle and cardiovascular exercise burned fat. I don’t think cardiovascular burns fat that well. Now I think unhealthy eating creates fat.
- Reading about how unhealthy junk food is and how people running junk food companies choose to make themselves rich at the expense of people’s health repulses me to do business with them. So I don’t.
I was watching a sports game at a bar. I’d already had two glasses of beer and felt like it was a lot. One of the bar owners was there. The team did well and he offered a round of drinks for everyone on the house. Normally I go for free beer. The physical pleasure of drinking more beer didn’t measure up to the emotional reward of fitness so I passed.
The experience feels very empowering. I used to think only other people had six packs. I told myself since I never got big muscles I just couldn’t do it. I still haven’t done it, but I’m confident I can.
I’ve wondered if I should post about it here. Don’t enough people already post about diet, exercise, flat stomachs, muscle definition, and all that? Yes, but no one seems to do it from what I consider the starting point—emotional skills, self-awareness, and beliefs. In my case, once you develop them, the rest works itself out. I’ve never tried to hold myself back from eating something I wanted, nor forced myself to eat something I didn’t want. No diet books. No short-term changes. Just living consistently with my beliefs.
I feel more motivated than ever to do my burpees. Feeling good about yourself and seeing your body improve makes most of life more fun.
As a side effect, I’m building more muscle. All that running I used to do made me skinnier, but as long as I didn’t stop eating junk food, the fat would never leave.
Feeling skin feel taut and thin where it used to feel thick and jiggly feels awesome. I can’t describe the feeling of reward, accomplishment, liberation, and feeling like just me. Muscle feeling firm that used to be under fat or small feels awesome too.
By contrast, I increasingly dislike fat that I know came from living inconsistently with my values, out of control. If I don’t want fat and I have it, how else can I put it except that I’m out of control?
I’ve clarified what I mean by junk food. Some people call it refined food, but some refined food is healthy. I mean, isn’t cooking food at home refining it? To me, food becomes junk when someone removes the fiber. If you don’t eat food with the fiber removed, you knock out sugar, corn syrup, white flour, most breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and products with those things in them. You leave in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. I find it simpler and more direct than what cave dwellers would eat, what your grandmother would recognize as food, counting ingredients, or any other criteria I’ve heard.
Cooking at home when I like my kitchen is easier and more enjoyable than I expected. I used to cook more but forgot I liked it over the years. I’m not great at cooking. I only cook simple things.
Most days I still only exercise between five and ten minutes, with those two sets of burpees and pull-ups. When I row I row about fifteen or twenty minutes. When I run I run about an hour, though I’ve done a couple half-marathons, which take about two hours. I’d guess my average workout time per day for the past six months is still around fifteen minutes per day. But I never skip a day.
People talk about innumerable workout plans and diets. I can’t keep track of them all. Keto, Atkins, Paleo, Zone, P90X, gyms, South Beach, Insanity, Crossfit, the Four Hour Body … they’re all complex and require something external. Sometimes I think of writing my own diet and exercise book that’s one page long: Fifty burpees a day every day without fail, no food with fiber removed, no partially hydrogenated oil, and no sugar of any kind added. That’s twenty-four words, which I’m sure I could cut down. The SIDCHAs will lead your mind and body to figure out everything else, like what to eat if you can’t eat food where someone removed the fiber.
Anyone can do what I’m doing. You don’t need another book, dvd, instructor, gym membership, special workout clothes, or anything. Once you get your beliefs in line, the environment and behavior will fall into place. You’ll find what information you need on line, where it’s all available for free, and you’ll gradually keep getting fit.
Looking at the mirror, seeing definition on my stomach feels great. I look at the remaining fat and almost get angry at myself for the decades I accepted bogus reasons for accepting the fat. All those times I’ve written about not calling emotions negative… here’s an example where anger works for me.
This post is holding me accountable to finishing the task of getting the six pack. Public accountability motivates better than almost anything.
Knowing the difference between pleasure, happiness, and emotional reward improves your life
Getting fitter creates emotional reward, which, if I had to choose, I would pick over fleeting pleasure. As much as I enjoy fresh fruit, I recognize a chocolate chip cookie would create more physical pleasure than a banana (though not a mango or soursop). Still, the emotional reward of fitness outweighs the physical pleasure of unhealthy food.
If something you used to like, like cookies, gets outweighed by something you like more, ipso facto it means you’ve improved your life. Something new is better than something old.
(I’ve written several times distinguishing between pleasure, happiness, and emotional reward. At the risk of oversimplifying, pleasure comes from physical feelings interacting with the environment, happiness comes from social interaction, and emotional reward comes from your doing what feels right. You can feel happiness without pleasure. You can feel emotional reward without happiness or pleasure.)
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