While I am not a naturally heavy person, I wrestled at 125 lbs or 130 lbs throughout high school, there is only so much your body can do when you constantly are consuming way more bad calories than you will burn, especially when those calories come in the form of simple carbohydrates and sugars. Combining a horrible diet with a sedentary lifestyle and profession and the advancing years slowing your metabolism down is a recipe for sustained weight gain.
Several months ago I started to get pretty concerned about my physical condition. It is pretty silly to talk about preparing for a system wide calamity of some sort while being terribly out of shape. There is far too much of that on /ourside/, guys around my age with a ton of cool gear who couldn't walk a mile carrying that gear. Not to mention that in my middle ages I am at a point where if I didn't start to do something soon I would be at risk of contracting some serious medical conditions that would require medications to survive, meds that likely wouldn't be as readily available in a SHTF situation. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see restrictions on pharmaceuticals for people who refuse to get the jab. I don't especially want to prep for something bad but then drop dead of a heart attack before it happens because of poor lifestyle choices.
We have a nearly unlimited access to calories, something that has never been the case in the history of humankind. Not just the wealthy but every person in America can eat as many calories as they want all day long. This has significant health ramifications. Take a look at this from the CDC...
Several of those, heart disease, some cancers, stroke and diabetes, are directly tied to obesity. More about this shortly but suffice it to say, we are literally eating ourselves to death. What is more, the government is paying us to eat ourselves to death. More about this in an upcoming post.
So I found myself in a place and condition I didn't like and I felt kind of hypocritical about my neglect of my physical fitness while talking about TEOTWAWKI. In a post-cataclysm world I don't want to be out of shape and trying to adapt to a drastically lower calorie intake. Believe me, your body goes through a withdrawal stage when you radically change your eating habits and you don't want that when things go tits up.
I didn't want to say anything until I had something significant to talk about and saw some progress. But I have so I thought I would share what I am doing. We all know the basics and it is some of the most commonly known truths around: eat fewer (and better, often overlooked) calories and get some basic exercise. That is the formula and it never changes.
My plan was pretty simple and concentrated on the two sides of the physical conditioning coin. Eat better and exercise, with more of an emphasis on eating better. Here is how that looks:
My "diet" plan was to radically change how I consume calories. I have pretty much eliminated all of the processed sugars out of my diet: refined white sugar and corn syrup. This means no pop at all. No candy. That is pretty simple but the harder part comes when you realize that most processed foods have some sort of sugar added, even in foods you wouldn't expect. For example, this is a bottle of Heinz ketchup we have in our home. Lok at the list of ingredients.
Why does ketchup have corn syrup as two of the main ingredients? Because everything is sweetened. Sort of like in the Dune universe where the spice melange is in everything and people become addicted to it.
Most processed foods have sugar added in some form to make the food sweeter and more palatable, but also more addictive. Make no mistake, our sugar craving is the result of sugar being highly addictive. A good read on this and how the government is complicit can be found here: The sugar conspiracy
It is everywhere so I try to really be conscious of what I am buying and cutting out sugar wherever possible. What I found is that initially the craving for sugar was nearly overwhelming. I have cut sugar out before and the response from my body is the same: craving sugar, headaches, irritability, many of the same symptoms of people who stop smoking. The obvious stuff to cut out is easy, not adding sugar to food or drinks you are preparing, avoiding candy and other sweets, of course not drinking pop. This won't work if you insist on drinking pop. Here is the nutritional information from a can of Pepsi....
41 grams of sugar according to this page at Michigan State is equivalent to around 10 teaspoons of sugar or about 3 1/3 tablespoons. That might not sound like much but I measured out 3 tablespoons and a little more of cane sugar which is less dense than regular refined sugar and placed it on a medium sized plate next to a .45 round for perspective...
A .45 ACP round is pretty fat and there are lots of .45 rounds worth of sugar on that plate. It is more sugar than you could dissolve in a pop can worth of liquid which is why they use high fructose corn syrup, a liquid sugar concentrate. When you have it set out in front of you, it really is striking how much sugar we are talking about in a single can of Pepsi. You don't think about it when you are chugging a can of pop but you are really drinking the equivalent of a bunch of sugar. So if you won't stop drinking pop almost entirely, then stop reading.
The other part of the problem is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are an energy source but they also convert into energy very quickly and if you don't use them? Your body converts them into fat and stores them. Our diets as Americans are very carb heavy: pizza, pasta, bread, potatoes. The famous USDA food pyramid has always had carb heavy food as the foundation, like this:
..while at the same time recommending sugar heavy fruits in larger servings than meat and poultry, which I believe is completely backwards. Eating lots of bread and other carbs, especially in conjunction with sugar, is a surefire way of getting fat and staying fat so a pizza and Coke? Bad news no matter how nice the momentary satisfaction it gives you.
I also stay away from most fruits, other than berries mixed with plain yogurt. Fruit has a lot of sugar and that includes stuff like orange juice. Eating an apple a day is not going to keep the doctor away.
So what the hell do I eat these days?
I describe my diet as high protein, kinda high fat, low carb and very low sugar. It is not a keto diet per se, simply reducing the bad foods I take in and increasing the quality of foods I am eating.
One thing I try to focus on is eating simple, unprocessed foods.
The other is to eat nutrient dense foods. That makes me feel full and satisfied while eating less total food.
What that looks like:
One of the mainstays of my diet are eggs. I love eggs and have no problem having scrambled eggs and some sort of decent quality breakfast meat pretty much every morning. I usually will have a single slice of wheat toast, preferably one of the low calorie kinds that are smaller and sliced thinner than regular bread. Most of the time I put a little raw, organic honey on the toast and that is the one added sugar I eat with any regularity. I also tend to hard boil lots of eggs and eat them on salad or as deviled eggs.
Meat is another big one. Lots of breakfast meats, again staying away from cheap sausage that has a lot of fillers, and staying with 100% pork sausage or bacon. When you are eating store bought processed meats you need to look at the ingredient list carefully. Lots of chicken and steak, and most of the steak I eat is stuff we raised ourselves so it is grass-fed and hormone/antibiotic free. I often will have sardines or smoked trout for lunch along with cheese and maybe celery. I try to have decent salads (not iceberg lettuce) and I am careful to avoid high sugar salad dressing like French or Catalina.
I probably eat more dairy than I should, milk and dairy products have a lot of natural sugar but I love dairy so I drink lots of milk, sometimes with protein powder mixed in. Also lots of cheese, cottage cheese and plain yogurt. Most yogurt either has a ton of added sugar or it has artificial sweeteners and I can't stand those. I often will mix in some berries, usually raspberries or blueberries, into the plain yogurt and if I am having it for desert I might put in a very small amount of cane sugar. Chobani makes a new "Less Sugar Greek Yogurt" that I also have for desert sometimes, still has sugar but not nearly as much as the standard yogurt.
What I have found is that eating nutrient dense foods and less of them has led to me being less hungry. When you fill up on junk carbs and sugar it makes you feel more hungry, probably because your body isn't really getting anything from the food and it causes a biochemical response in your body. At some point I want to reintroduce small portions of the foods I love, breads especially, but having the discipline to make it only occasional and control the portion sizes is critical.
The hard part is getting past the first week or two when the cravings for sugar and carbs is almost overwhelming, which is partly why I still allow myself small amounts of sweet food in the form of honey or yogurt (but never refined sugar).
A great resource on nutrition: While I knew the basics of this already, this post at American Partisan by Conan was incredibly detailed and helpful: HOW TO GET LEAN N’ MEAN IV: THE AMERICAN PARTISAN’S GUIDE TO GOOD NUTRITION – MACRONUTRIENTS, check out the whole series, I saved it as a pdf because I think it is that worthwhile.
My primary focus has been on diet but having done this before for a shorter time I know that without some exercise at my age I won't get results, or they will be slow in coming. My primary exercise is walking, and a local school nearby has a nice walking track that I utilize. Initially I didn't walk very far or very long, a few laps and my shins were killing me. But I stuck with it and just did what I could and tried not to get frustrated. Pretty quickly the shin splints went away and I could walk farther and farther. Now I regularly walk for an hour straight several days a week and a couple of other days when pressed for time I walk 30-45 minutes. I try to always walk at least half an hour to get the sustained exercise that helps melt fat. Most weeks unless it is raining all week I walk 5 days of the week at least.
That has been going great and is why I have seen such positive results. My next task is to add in strength training. I don't have enough weights to do it at home yet so I need to either join a gym or buy some stuff to lift. I am a big believer that you need to get the cardio in progress first We all want the muscles but being able to lift a bunch but not being able to sustain walking or running is getting it backward.
It is a two pronged attack, improved diet and regular exercise. Without one or the other your path is going to be much harder.
I don't have a clue how many pounds I have lost or how many inches off the waistline (see below). What I do know is that people comment frequently about how much weight I have lost and I can both see the loss and I feel a lot better. For example, the jeans I wore a lot last winter were starting to get snug. Now those same jeans are literally falling off me so I switched to an older pair that was the next waist size down. Those fit nicely. The same with a pair of cargo shorts I wear a lot (as opposed to gym shorts that are loose fit and more forgiving). My gun belt from Hanks Belts is on the smallest hole so I will need a new one pretty soon. As I mentioned my physical conditioning is significantly better, I can walk further distances and longer times with ease. I can look at myself in the mirror and see that a lot of excess pounds and inches are gone. Still a long way to go but I am making serious progress. I won't get back to my high school wrestling weight but I can certainly get a lot closer.
At first not much happened and it can be easy to feel like you are just wasting your time but after a few weeks it started to kick in and then the results became visible. You need to be patient and not expect immediate results. Being overweight and out of shape in my case is the result of over a decade of poor health decisions so getting the ship turned around and achieving what I want to see isn't going to happen overnight or even over the course of a few months. My personal goal is to be much trimmer by next spring which gives me lots of time to let the process work.
My advice to anyone who is overweight and out of shape is to come up with a plan that works for you.
Also, please note: I am not a medical professional or a nutritionist and have no training whatsoever. All of this is being made up as I go and is offered simply as anecdotal examples of what has worked for me.
Here are some personal Do's and Don'ts
Do eat foods that are as simple as possible.
Stay away from heavily processed foods. For example, a piece of fresh chicken grilled or pan fried is far better than chicken nuggets. During processing it is common for lots and lots of extra stuff to be added and none of it is good for you. Avoid foods with ingredients you can't pronounce.
Do start exercising right away
Even a little bit is better than nothing. Sustained activity works and the more you do it, the longer you are able to go the next time.
Do take control of your diet
You should control your food intake, food shouldn't be controlling you. Food is an incredible psychological manipulator but if you can get the upper hand and make food work for you instead of against you, it will make a big difference.
Do eliminate processed sugar from your diet, especially pop/soft drinks
That is the worst thing you can put in your body. What you will find as I have is that once you get rid of it for a while, the taste is really awful. I sipped some Pepsi the other day and it was terrible. I think a lot of the appeal of sugary drinks is not the flavor but feeding the addiction.
Don't starve yourself
I am not talking about intentional intermittent fasting but rather just not eating to punish yourself. Again set realistic goals and a reasonable process. If you starve yourself you are going to make your body crave food even more and that is a sure recipe to backsliding plus it is just not healthy. Your body needs good quality food, especially when you exercise.
Don't weigh yourself
Your weight on the scale can fluctuate drastically and you can also be making lots of progress without seeing the number on the scale changing. Maybe you weigh yourself periodically but not daily or weekly, not even monthly. Seeing little progress on the scale can be incredibly discouraging and that is a great way to backslide out of depression. What is important is how you look and how you feel, not what you weigh.
Don't beat yourself up
If you slip up, don't do it again. If you aren't seeing the progress you want, be patient. This is a long process so overnight results won't happen.
Don't follow fads or schemes guaranteeing rapid weight loss
There isn't a shortcut. Eat less and eat better and regular exercise. That is it. The fads all end up not working and you end up back where you were and depressed by your perceived failure. Taking the quick fix is going to always end up failing. This is true for weight loss and anything else worthwhile.
That is my story and it is an ongoing process. I just didn't like how I felt or how I looked and it was making me depressed which in turn led to more overeating and sitting around. I was also concerned about how being out of shape and overweight would make surviving in a SHTF situation far worse and I didn't want to get dependent on medications to stay alive that might not be available. Like I said, I am not an expert at all, just a guy who has known all along what to do and finally decided to do it.
If I can do it, you can do it. You just have to decide you want to.