Yesterday was the day. The day I started my journey towards a slightly healthier lifestyle. Instead of my usual truckload of bacon, eggs and hash browns, I had black coffee for breakfast. Instead of deep fried butter for dinner, we made Arroz con Pollo (you can find that recipe here). And you know, it wasn’t half bad.
I figure I’ve had nearly 38 entire years of being and eating whatever the hell I wanted. I don’t regret it so much as I realize it’s time to make a change before it’s way too late to do anything about it. I am following a diet plan known as Intermittent Fasting (IF). You don’t starve yourself, you don’t ingest crazy chemical compounds to curb your hunger, you simply don’t eat for a portion of the day, every day.
If you search that term on the internet, you’re going to find a lot of different ways to go about it. One such source suggests that you eat however the hell you like for 5 days a week and then go two days with nothing. What? WRONG. I’m not willing to starve for 2 days after binging and stuffing myself on delicious, calorie packed, bad-for-you foods. That’s not a sustainable way of life for me. Maybe for some people, sure, but I can’t fathom the idea of doing that.
So here’s what I’m doing specifically.
The Fasting Cycle
I am following this plan that’s referred to as the 16/8 plan. What that means is for 16 hours, you take in zero calories. Then for an 8 hour period each day you can eat normally. Normally, being defined as, sensibly. Eat to get full, just don’t get full on snack cakes and pizza. Eventually this will morph into an 18/6 cycle.
The way it works is pretty simple. Say you eat your final meal at 7pm on Monday evening. Now, you cannot eat or consume calories again until 16 hours later. With my expert math skills, that means the soonest I can have breakfast would be 11am. Then, you avoid snacking and nibbling all through your 8 hour window, but you do eat your meals. When 7pm rolls around again, you’re done for the day.
Eventually I will adjust this plan to the 18/6 cycle for 5 days and then have two separate days where I go a full 24 hours. I plan to schedule that 24 hours based on eating my last meal at 7pm on Monday and my next one at 7pm on Tuesday. That should take a lot of the pain out of it.
The Diet Plan
The science behind the IF cycle is, of course, contradictory at best. Like any diet plan, there’s pros and cons, supporters and detractors. For me, this seems like the best way to get regulated in my eating habits. Along with a lower calorie meal plan, I will hopefully knock as many as 2,000 calories off my weekly intake. 2,000 calories is the equivalent of 1 – 1.5lbs of fat per week.
So, the foods we make here at the family compound are getting healthier. I’m not getting rid of some family favorites, I’m merely trying to make them healthier. Nobody in this house is going to sit down to a lettuce salad and a glass of water and think to themselves “Hey, this is SO much better than chicken and rice for dinner!” Seriously, who does that?
We have to make lifestyle changes that will stick and that we’ll be able to maintain long term. Crash diets and changing every single thing we eat into something from the produce department of the grocery store just isn’t going to cut it. And let’s face it. If you hated Brussels Sprouts when you were eating whatever you liked, you’re not magically going to enjoy them now that you’ve cut out the pastry filled pastries.
Each meal will now focus on substituting a healthier item for a less healthy one. For example, my family LOVES fried chicken. Fried chicken is delicious and made of dreams, wishes and Unicorn magic. But the fact remains that it’s not very good for you. So last night, I made some pan seared drumsticks, and cooked them in with our rice and mixed veggies. And you know what? It was pretty good.
Sure, it wasn’t crunchy and juicy and covered in breading, but nobody really complained. The kids enjoyed it just fine, and we all got full on many less calories than usual. And that’s the true point here. Reduce calories while being able to get full at the meal.
Ah, the bane of most people’s existence. The workout. While you may be able to lose a pound or two by reducing calories and eating right, you’ll do yourself a huge favor and give yourself a greater chance at success if you implement a workout program to go along with it. And I haven’t actually “worked out” in nearly a decade or more.
Sure, I’ve worked physical jobs and kept active that way, but that’s not the same thing. While I was installing cable, I was eating lunch at Hardee’s. So any benefit I may have gotten from my physical labor was negated by the greasy, burgery goodness that I was consuming every day. It was a zero-sum total at the end of the day.
I’m not a gym rat, can’t stand the places and I needed something I could do in the comfort of my own home. After much research, I stumbled on to this great site, Nerd Fitness Nerd Fitness exists to help others get in shape and get healthier by way of great work out ideas, exercise instruction and really positive encouragement. They have a users forum where you can get even more assistance and support, and best of all? It’s free to join.
Now, they do offer some programs that you can purchase with advanced workout regimens and techniques, but since I’m still just a gelatinous blob of a man, I followed the “Beginner Body Weight Routine” After my first session with this plan, I found out exactly how out of shape I truly was. My thighs are just killing me today from doing the body weight squats. And that amazed, (and concerned) me quite a bit.
When I was in High School, waaaaaaaay back before high speed internet, I played a little football. Very little, but I wasn’t terrible at it. Anyhow, we had to work out in the school weight room and during that time, I used to be able to squat 700lbs with free weights. We had an inverted leg press machine and I routinely pushed 800lbs or more with that. Now, with just my hirsute, sasquatch like body I’ve completely worn my thighs out.
Planks are no joke either. Seriously, go look that up. It’s a stupid-simple exercise that tests your will. You basically get into a pushup position, leaning on your forearms and hold that pose for a minimum of 15 seconds up to 30 seconds. All the while, you should be clenching your ab muscles and tightening/clenching your butt muscles. I did that and the sweat started pouring.
Either way, the workout I did took less than 20 minutes and I was exhausted. Today, I am sore, but in a good way.
I’m not a health nut and I’m probably the last guy you should ask for nutrition and exercise advice. But I am willing to make some small changes in my life to try to get healthier and back into decent shape. I realize that I have almost no willpower and it will be a struggle. I also set myself up to succeed. I will slowly integrate changes to my plan as I get used to things.
I can’t go “all-in” with a diet and exercise plan and expect it to stick. I will make small adjustments, change my routine and get used to it at my own pace. Will that slow my initial progress? Almost certainly. But it will, hopefully, ensure my future success.
This plan of mine isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and I’m taking it one step at a time.
If you’re looking to get healthier, share your ideas or stories in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.