The following is a YouTube video for my YouTube Channel, Jack’s World. Since it’s the week of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be timely. It covers my history with getting into shape, the challenges I faced along the way, and my advice for those who seek to do the same. I’ve talked about this challenge before, but I thought it warranted a more comprehensive video. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: diet
By now, with the Thanksgiving festivities over and the family gatherings complete, it’s finally sinking in. You realize just how much you ate and how much you’ve probably set back that New Years Resolution you made 11 months ago. If your Thanksgiving was as successful as mine, then it’s likely you feel as anxious as I do about what we just put our bodies through.
That’s not to say it was a bad thing. Thanksgiving is a holiday. You’re supposed to overeat, over-indulge, and forget every sound nutrition advice you ever got from your doctor. That’s part of what makes it special. At some point, however, you have to let go of the holiday spirit and get back to more responsible health habits.
It can be frustrating, tedious, and strenuous on so many levels. It’s still worth doing. Take it from someone who eats like a pig on the holidays and was out of shape for the first half of his life. You do feel a difference when you make an effort to get back into shape after Thanksgiving.
To that end, I’d like to share a few tips, along with some personal insights. Over the past few years, I’ve developed and refined my own method for getting back into healthier habits after a successful Thanksgiving. I’ve even developed my own unique workout routine.
Now, I’m not going to claim that this is one of those gimmicky fitness regiments that you see in infomercials and fitness magazines full of Photoshopped fitness models. What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone. Everybody’s body is different. Everybody reacts to holiday gorging and exercise differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting into shape, at least for now.
That said, there are many health benefits to exercise and staying in shape, especially after the holidays. It goes beyond just looking better naked and looking sexier at the beach in the summer. In some ways, the exercise you do after the holidays is even more rewarding and not just because you have more calories to burn.
You work hard on yourself to ensure you can indulge during the holidays. Like anything worth achieving, putting in the effort makes the end result more satisfying. I’ve certainly come to appreciate that effort and in the interest of helping those still digesting that extra slice of cheesecake, here is my personal process for getting into shape after Thanksgiving.
Step 1: Refocused Diet (That Makes Me Less Hungry)
Make no mistake. Diet is the hardest part of staying in shape.
There’s a popular saying that six-pack abs are made in the kitchen. That’s not just an adage. It’s true. How you eat is a major factor in how you look, feel, and conduct yourself in any effort related to your health. I know Thanksgiving tends to throw a wrench in any diet you might have maintained all year. I say that as someone who ate no fewer than three slices of cheesecake on Thanksgiving.
In a sense, Thanksgiving is the ultimate cheat day and one you should take advantage of. When that day is over, though, the key is less about eating less and more about eating right. What I mean by that is you should focus not on just eating fewer calories. The goal should be to feel less hungry.
That can be done without sheer will-power. It’s a fact that certain foods make you less hungry. Those foods are often high in fiber and protein, including things like eggs, nuts, and whole wheat bread. You don’t have to eat much of those to feel full. Most of my post-Thanksgiving meals consist of chicken, mixed vegetables, and eggs. Much of it comes from frozen meals which aren’t that expensive.
On top of that, I ditch soda and drink mainly water or black coffee. That helps keep sugar intake to a minimum. While it’s difficult to cut sugar out completely, especially after enjoying so many holiday desserts, it is important to limit it. Whether it’s your coffee or your snacks, it’s the sugar that’ll make you feel hungry and keep you from feeling energized.
I usually dedicate the first two weeks after Thanksgiving to sticking to my diet. I make sure most of my meals involve chicken, eggs, and vegetables. I do keep a cheat day for which I will indulge a little, but I try to usually make those first two weeks the most important. Get through that and you’ll be back into less festive eating habits, at least until Christmas.
Step 2: My Workout Routine
This part is somewhat easier for me because I love working out. I know that’s not a feeling everyone has, especially if they’ve never been big on going to the gym. I understand that. I too used to resent going to the gym. When I started taking my health more seriously, it became part of my routine. Now, I get upset when I can’t go.
My routine isn’t on par with an Olympic athlete or body builder. I also wouldn’t call it easy, either. You will get winded and sore from my workout, but only to a point. It will get the job done, though. I know this because it has helped keep my weight stable, even after holidays. I can also see my abs, biceps, and leg muscles too, which is a nice touch.
My workout isn’t all about going to the gym, either. In fact, I usually go to a gym at least twice a week. That’s as much as I can squeeze in. On days I don’t go, I still work out. It’s just usually involves something different. For that reason, I’ll separate my workout from my gym days from my non-gym days. With that in mind, here’s my routine.
On my gym day, I start by running at least 3.5 miles on a treadmill or outside, if the weather permits it.
I then do a series of weight training with either machines or free weights that include 4 sets of 12 reps of the following:
- Bicep curls
- Tricep curls
- Butterfly chest
- Shoulder pull-downs/extensions
- Ab crunches
- Leg lifts
- Leg press
In general, this whole routine takes a little over an hour. I’ll also mix it up at times, either by doing the weight training first and then doing cardio at the end. I’ll also sometimes exchange the treadmill for an elliptical, which is easier on my feet and gives a better workout for my legs. If you have knee or foot problems, I highly recommend using an elliptical.
For days when I don’t go to the gym or can’t make it, I try to go running. Most of the time, it’s around the block. I try to run for at least 30 minutes, sometimes longer. In addition, I’ll also do 100 sit-ups, followed by 100 squats in my bedroom. This keeps those muscles strong and gets my heart rate going to burn extra calories.
I also reserve one day of the week for rest. Usually, it’s Wednesday. That’s not just a cheat day, either. It’s critical that you rest your body, even if you’re doing a modest workout routine. I’ve tried going 7 days a week a few times. I often end up hurting myself or making myself too sore to work out for extended periods. Don’t learn that lesson the hard way. Leave one day for rest. Your body will thank you.
Step 3: Staying Focused (Until Christmas)
I know it’s easy to encourage diet and exercise as a means to get back into shape, especially after a holiday like Thanksgiving. Most people can even make the effort for the first couple days after Thanksgiving, just like they do in the first few days after New Year’s when they promise themselves they’ll get into shape.
In the same way people tend to break their New Year’s Resolution, they’ll often break their post-Thanksgiving resolution and it doesn’t help that there’s another major holiday right afterwards. Christmas, with all its sugar cookies and candy canes, adds plenty of temptation to the mix and it’s not easy to resist. I don’t deny that for a second.
That’s why the most critical aspect of getting into shape after Thanksgiving involves focus. By that, I don’t just mean keeping a schedule. One reason why it’s so easy to slip back into unhealthy habits is because the holidays can be overwhelming. You find yourself wanting to just stop, take it easy, and let everything slow down.
However, the holidays don’t slow down, especially as Christmas gets closer. If anything, it makes things even more stressful. When you’re stressed out, you’re less inclined to exercise. You’re also more inclined to reach for those sugary holiday treats. It can quickly become a self-reinforcing cycle that’ll leave you even less healthy than you were after Thanksgiving.
The best way to combat this is to maintain focus. One of the benefits of having other holidays after Thanksgiving is that it offers plenty of distractions. When you’re distracted, you’re less likely to eat and slack off. Use that to your advantage.
Sometimes, it means going shopping or just hanging out with friends more often. It also can involve things like preparing holiday decorations and preparing gift lists. It may not always be productive, but if it keeps you from slipping into that ugly self-reinforcing cycle, then it has merit.
I hope these tips help with everyone still digesting their Thanksgiving treats. There’s a time and a place for indulgence and the holidays are definitely one of them. However, it’s for that reason that we make the time in between as productive and healthy as possible. As a result, it helps make the holidays feel more special in the end.
There’s no way around it. Compared to all the characters in movies, TV shows, and comic books, we’re ugly as hell. We don’t take care of ourselves. We’re fat. We’re weak. We’re unmotivated. Despite all this, we still like to pretend we’re sexier than Jennifer Lawrence in a bikini sucking on a popsicle. It’s as unhealthy as it is delusional.
What I just wrote is not to be taken as motivation or a sales pitch. It’s not even directed towards any person or group in particular. In fact, what I just said is merely a reflection of the thoughts I once conveyed whenever I looked in a mirror, minus that part about Jennifer Lawrence. Just like I am with my writing, I am my own harshest critic when it comes to my body and health.
I shamed myself. I shamed myself a lot for a good chunk of my adult life. It wasn’t just about my looks either. I had a serious self-esteem issue growing up. It wasn’t because of anything my friends or family did. That’s for sure. I did it to myself and not for all the right reasons. I was fucking miserable. I hated myself. In the end, however, it helped me in a profound way.
Confused? That’s to be expected. Annoyed? Yeah, I have that effect on people. Anxious? Well, you should be because I’m about to get personal again. I’ve talked about sleeping naked. I’ve talked about my own circumcision. Those topics are bound to fill peoples’ heads with unpleasant imagery. I hope this time is little anecdote is a bit more pleasant.
This personal story is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post on body-shaming. I understand that what I wrote probably offended certain people because I took the unpopular position that there’s some kind of merit to shaming. Then again, the people who took offense to that probably get offended when someone points out the color of the sky so I’m not going to worry too much about those people.
Instead, I want craft a real-life example of how shaming can make us better ourselves. It’s not enough to just be happy with who you are, love yourself no matter what, and never acknowledge any flaws you may have. I think it’s an important lesson to learn because people make a big fucking deal of self-esteem these days and worry endlessly that kids and adults alike or suffering when they don’t have enough of it.
Like snake oil and diet pills, self-esteem is basically seen as this cure-all for every mental shortcoming. Chief among those shortcomings involves how we look. We shouldn’t shame each other for looking different, right? We should love ourselves and embrace our inner beauty, right? It’s the lesson that Lady Gaga has taught an entire generation.
First off, this lesson is bogus. Second, it’s extremely easy for Lady Gaga to love herself. Why? She looks like this.
It’s very easy to love yourself when you’re beautiful. Beauty like this is beauty you actually have to work at. You think Lady Gaga looks this way because she just loves herself? Hell no! She has to fucking work at it. She has to actually earn the right to look this good.
This is an important concept and one that more people need to learn. Beauty and health aren’t things that we can gain just by loving ourselves. Self-esteem does not help you lose weight, nor does it make your acne go away. A lack of self-esteem can make it even worse. I would know.
This is how my story played out. For most of my life, I wasn’t very attractive. That’s not to say I was ugly. I wasn’t short, fat, or deformed in any way. I was basically just average at best or below average at worst. I also wore dorky glasses and had a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage years. I never felt attractive. I never felt sexy. I basically went out of my way to make myself more miserable for not looking good.
I admit I was probably much harsher on myself than I should’ve been. While I was in school, I knew people who actually did have health issues, be it their weight or their appearance. Harsh or not, it did mess me up. It didn’t make me very pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.
I certainly didn’t get a lot of attention from women either. Believe it or not, girls don’t find pudgy, pale, self-loathing guys with an acne problem attractive. This certainly did plenty to undermine my self-esteem even more, but looking back on it, I can hardly blame them. I can’t imagine I would’ve been a good partner for any woman during that time.
So what changed? It had to have changed. I wouldn’t have the energy or the self-esteem to share this story if I had remained this sad, dorky, overly-emo kid with an acne problem. So how exactly did I respond to all that self-shaming and self-loathing?
Well, for one thing, it ensured I didn’t ignore it. When my acne got really bad, I made it a point to go to a doctor and get actual medication to help treat it. Believe it or not, modern medicine does work. I was able to find a treatment for my acne that more-or-less solved the problem. So thanks modern medicine! That’s one issue solved.
Modern medicine helped me out again down the line. Remember those dorky glasses I mentioned? Well, they’re gone now. I don’t wear them because I got Lasik surgery on my eyes to fix them. I now see perfectly. I now have a face that is unhindered by acne or glasses. I like to think it’s a cute face. I’m not Ryan Gosling, but I’m no George Costanza either.
However, modern medicine could only do so much. Sometimes, you need a good kick in the ass to get yourself to change. I definitely got that when a close relative of mine suffered a serious heart attack. He didn’t die, but it was serious.
The fact that he was only in his 50s really concerned me because after that incident, I found out that there is a history of heart disease and cancer in my family. On top of that, I didn’t take care of myself. My meals consisted primarily of sugary cereal, cookies, greasy burgers, and pizza. My exercise regiment was restricted to walking up to the store to buy more junk food. I was playing a risky game of poker with the deck stacked against me.
Despite this very disconcerting knowledge, I was still reluctant to get off my ass. The caveman part of my brain just didn’t want to change. It was just too easy to keep doing what I was doing. Plus, I really like the taste of cookies and junk food.
In the end, I feel the shaming gave me the extra push that I needed. Seeing myself in the mirror every day and not liking what I saw motivated me to do something about it. On top of that, I love comic books, as I’ve made clear on this blog many times before. In case you’ve forgotten, Superman looks like this.
Look at those muscles. Look at those abs. Look at that raw masculine power. Is it an unrealistic ideal for men? Absolutely. Superman is, by his own nature, the embodiment of an ideal. However, just because something is unattainable doesn’t mean it’s worth striving for. That’s a lesson Superman himself preaches.
I finally got that message loud and clear. One day, I finally dragged my pudgy ass out of bed and to a gym at the local rec center. I convinced myself to go there by promising myself that I would soak in the hot tub after getting in a workout. It wasn’t much of a workout to begin with, but it was a start and that hot tub felt dam good.
From there, a new habit formed. I started going to the gym more regularly, once a week to start. I soon felt the urge to do more so I started going twice. I bought workout clothes. I looked up fitness tips online. I didn’t buy into any gimmicky weight-loss crap from late-night infomercials. I just ran, lifted, and sweated.
Flash forward a bit more and now I’m an avid runner. I go out running for at least 30 minutes a day or four miles, whichever comes first. I do weight-training twice a week and I don’t go light either. I grunt, I sweat, and I toil. After every workout, I look like I just swam in a pool of my own sweat loved every second of it. I’m not going to lie either. It makes me feel damn sexy.
On top of the exercise, I did tweak my diet. This was, by far, the hardest. I had to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet. That meant cutting soda completely and saving cookies for special occasions only. That was painful. It meant eating more protein, such as eggs and chicken. It meant eating less red meat. These changes were tough, but worth it.
Now I’m not saying I look like Superman. I don’t. I’m not saying I have Brad Pitt’s abs or Hugh Jackman’s ass. I don’t. However, I can say that I look a lot healthier and a lot more attractive than I did before I started working out. I don’t have as much body fat anymore. I can actually see my abs. I actually have good bicep now. It does work, people. You can work out, eat better, get healthier, and become more attractive.
None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t shamed myself into action. If I had just done what Lady Gaga said and loved myself, I would be 25 pounds heavier and far less healthy than I am now. Working out and becoming more attractive gave me more confidence and energy. It made me better to be around. It also made me more attractive to women, which is certainly a nice bonus.
I get that there are still problems with body shaming. There are people whose biology simply doesn’t allow them to look the way they want. It’s a difficult issue. Hell, it was the primary topic of my book, “Skin Deep.”
Until science advances to a point where it can make everybody look like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, we need to push ourselves. We need to actually work at it if we want to be beautiful, healthy, and attractive. Just being content with who we are isn’t enough sometimes.
We need to shame each other to some extent to get our asses in gear and get healthier. It can be hard and downright demoralizing at times, but it’s worth doing. You feel better, happier, and sexier as a result.