Writers and Fitness
How can a writer get fit, lose weight and stay in shape? Writing can be a lonely and sedentary lifestyle. I’m happy with that. Quiet time alone in front of a computer has been the basis of my career for the last twenty plus years. What I’m not happy with is the result of such a lifestyle. To be as productive as I want to be and need to be, I must stay in shape.
Stay in shape?
First, I had to get in shape. Fitness and a healthy weight grow a fit and healthy mind. That’s one of the best reasons I can think of to get fit; to write.
Growing up I was always a little on the chubby side. I would occasionally venture out for physical education at school, but I was quickly put back in my corner due to my cuddly physique. It was a vicious cycle. I liked sitting and reading or writing or programming my computer which meant I didn’t take the time to be athletic or to make any athletic friends. When I tried to participate, I wasn’t good enough to impress people and didn’t have the friends to support me when I failed. Naturally I spent more and more time on my bum and grew bigger and bigger.
Before I Got in Shape
By the time I’d finished university and started looking for work, I weighed a solid 120kg, which is about 270lbs. I’m not a tall guy, nor was I bulging with rippling muscles. I wore a 42” waist and couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without straining. That would probably have been OK if I was over eighty years old, but I was twenty-four and should have been in the prime of my life.
My friends and I played computer games together, I wrote Dungeons and Dragons campaign material and computer programs. I liked what I did, but I didn’t like the way I felt. I didn’t realise exactly what was wrong at the time because the weight had been a slow and steady increase. Like the proverbial frog I was slowly being brought to the boil.
After I Got in Shape
After my transformation, I felt great, I still do. My energy levels are high, my motivation has exploded and my ability to deal with rejection is legendary. I recommend every author take the time to get in shape and stay that way. I now wear a 32” waist, weigh 75kg (170lbs) and have run two marathons and I’m in training for my third.
What Happened to me?
I was shopping for bathers in preparation for a camping trip with my friend. I’d had to visit five different shops to find boardshorts large enough to get over my bum. But that wasn’t the tipping point, just the cherry on the cake. The last shop I visited was on the top floor of the shopping centre I was walking through. I had to climb a flight of stairs and when I got to the top, I stopped to catch my breath. I was the only person doing that.
In a moment of sudden lucidity I saw myself as if from the outside. My flushed face dripped sweat and my hands clutched at the handrail at the top of the stairs to keep from swaying. Older people were striding past me without concern and I felt a profound sense of “wrong”. It wasn’t shame or disgust and it wasn’t guilt. Those emotions don’t inspire change. Those emotions trigger the desire to escape and not confront. I was feeling a sense of injustice. It was wrong that a young man such as me should be in such a bad way. It wasn’t the way I saw myself. It was after that, when I saw the number of “X”s in front of the “L” of my shorts that it all slid into place.
I Woke Up
I woke up the next day with that feeling of injustice still burning in my core. What could I do? The headspace I was in was unlike any I’d experienced before. I immediately began researching about weight loss. I threw out all the commercial weight loss programs as money grabbing gimmicks and dug deeper. I dug right down to the biochemical reasons for hunger, fat gain, energy burning and nutrition. It was like a light turning on. Forget about the calories in minus calories out talk. It is true in a very literal sense, but not true in a real-life sense.
What Did I Do?
The simplest way to put it is that I understood what my hunger meant. When your body loses fat, it creates less appetite suppressing hormone. With your appetite not being suppressed as much, you eat so you put the weight back on. If, at the end of the day, I was hungry but confident that I had consumed the vitamins, minerals, water, protein and fat I needed to be healthy, it meant I was losing fat.
I planned my meals.
For breakfast I ate a bowl of oats that was smaller than I used to eat. It was simple: I took my bowl to the shops and found a new one that was about half the size and used that.
I made lunch and took it to work every day. My lunch was a box of steamed broccoli and a single crisp bread (puffed, steamed type) – no butter.
Dinner was 100grams of meat, more steamed vegetables and some noodles. The noodles and meat were in my half-sized bowl. I had no limit on the vegetables.
That Sounds Bland...
Yes. Yes, it was.
But you must understand the odd peace my mind had found in taking charge. The injustice that was my body and the abuse I’d self-inflicted was always there to keep me on my path. I kept this up for two years. I visited the gym six days a week on top of this. Every week I lost one or two kilos (2-4lbs). Along the way I earned my certificate IV in personal training and became a gym instructor on my weekends. I had all the knowledge and skills I needed to keep myself focused.
Would I Recommend This?
No. I don’t recommend the path I took. It was extreme and my friends asked me worried questions at my devotion and at the amount of weight I was losing. Perhaps I took it to the edge of what was healthy?
What Would I Recommend?
What I do recommend is getting an education in health and fitness and don’t fall for the commercial products. They are motived to get your money, not motivated to help you.
Number one is to find peace. Shame, guilt, disgust, hatred and fear are not good motivators. You’d think they were, but if that were the case, no-one would do anything wrong would they? Practice some mindfulness exercises every day. Learn to observe your feelings and your body. Grow an awareness of your existence in the now. That’s a phrase you’ll only understand as you gain that awareness. Until then, you’ll roll your eyes and groan at the new-ageness of it. But if you are asking me how to get healthier, then you can either do it and reap the benefits or continue to think you know better and continue to be wrong.
Number two is to understand what food is. Food is amazing, delicious and worth getting the best you can. You need to love your food, not love the rush you get from consumption, but really love your food. I still eat pizza and donuts and drink beer. Nothing is forbidden to me, but I choose naturally the food that does me good because that’s what I enjoy.
Number three is to eat less. I do that now by fasting. You have been lied to by your habits, society and marketing companies into thinking you need to constantly be pouring food into your body. The reality is that for the vast portion of our biological history we have not eaten six or three meals a day. Even when you consider the recent agricultural age of humans, we have eaten sparsely. Intermittent fasting is a great way to improve your health. I do a 16 – 18 hour fast all week. That simply means I eat breakfast at about 1pm and stop eating after about 7pm. During that feeding period I eat as much fruit and vegetables as I can manage along with nuts, dairy, fish and some meat (less of this is better).
Number four is to understand that you will feel hungry from time to time. To lose weight is to go against your body’s natural desire to maintain weight. As a result, you will feel hungry at times. But that is the feeling of losing it. It is why it is so hard to lose weight. Anyone who tell you that you can lose weight without feeling hungry is selling you a lie.
The sedentary life of a writer or office worker demands you pay attention to your health. In doing so you will reap productivity and motivation rewards. When I was younger, I sat still too long, ate to much and didn’t enjoy life enough. In learning about health and fitness and researching what hunger was, I learnt to lose weight, gain health and appreciate everything I did more. Start learning about your health, make changes and discover how much better everything is.