Monday, November 10, 2008

Losing Weight

I've never been much of an athlete. I don't have much tolerance for pain, and found most sports to be boring at best and humiliating at worst. My passion had been video games. They don't require any tolerance for physical pain, require little if any social interaction, and still offer an adrenaline rush.

One unfortunate side effect, though, is that such a sedentary lifestyle is not conducive to good health. I found myself often short of breath and in college, I had started to gain weight. I knew I needed to change.

How many of you have been in this situation before: you know you're out of shape so you firmly decide to do something about it. Time for an exercise plan. You wake up early the next morning, skip breakfast, get your running shoes on, and bolt out the door, eager to get in some exercise. You start jogging, excited that you are finally getting into shape. You start to feel winded, but you keep going. You get a side stitch, but you're determined to keep going. By time you get home, you're exhausted but satisfied that you are getting into shape. You eat a small meal and then decide to hit the weights. You try all the different exercises: bench press, squat, curls, and the like until you're good and exhausted. You eat another small meal. Maybe in the evening you do a little more running. When you shower and get ready for bed, you're excited that you are finally getting back into shape.

The next morning, though, that optimism quickly fades away. You get up, every muscle stiff and sore. Your feet are blistered from all the running. It's cold, you're tired. There is no way you can work out today. What's worse, though, is that you're also really, really hungry. You try to fight the hunger with willpower, but the hunger just wears you down. You drag yourself out of bed and head to Denny's. You order the huge Grand Slam breakfast with all the pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, and hash browns you can stuff in your face. Have a little coffee with extra cream and sugar to wash it down. Crap. You just undid all that progress yesterday. I guess all this fitness stuff doesn't work so well after all.

When I graduated from college, I weighed 185 pounds. In six months I lost 30 pounds. In the next six months I lost another ten pounds. I kept it off for two years, even though weight loss was never my actual goal.

Being the nerd that I am, I decided to begin not with action, but with research. I began listening to audiobooks by Dr. Andrew Weil, a nutrionist. I knew that the fast food I was eating was unhealthy, but it was not until I went through these audiobooks that I really understood how unhealthy it was. Once you realize what happens to polyunsaturated fats when they are heated in an oxygen-rich environment, it becomes much more difficult to eat fried food.

Next, I went to and looked up the food I was eating. I started adding up the nutritional information of my daily diet. It was then I understood what moderation really means.

Only after that did I decide about working out. I knew that starting an activity merely to get in shape would lead to a couple of months of disciplined effort, until laziness and boredom took their tolls. I needed to find an activity that I liked in the first place, which had the side benefit of providing a workout.

Since I am a nerd, and loved Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace, I decided to take up wushu, so I could learn the moves. One problem: there are no wushu schools in northeast Ohio. There were self-defense and sport martial arts schools, but they don't teach the flashy theatrical moves, so I knew I would find them boring. I started taking private gymnastics lessons.

After about six months, I found that while northeast Ohio does not have any wushu schools, there are three American Taekwondo schools that teach Extreme Martial Arts (XMA), which is a blend of martial arts and gymnastics. While XMA is not useful for self-defense, the moves are flashy, high-energy, and an amazing workout. The acrobatic tricks are perfect for showing off to your friends, and no matter how many you learn, there are always more to obtain.

My final secret weapon: Razor Cuts. This stuff is awesome. Combining, ginsing, gingko, yerba mate, and all sorts of other supplements, they give you energy without too much caffeine. At about $10 per bottle, they're worth at least trying out.

No comments: