I never gained weight growing up. To my knowledge and experience, it never mattered what food I ate, or how much I didn’t run, or if I was staying active or not. I was just a skinny twig of a dude. So naturally, it didn’t matter to me that I hated vegetables and that my favorite foods were pizza and hamburgers. Or that I’d make nachos ever Saturday night and watch That 70’s Show marathons.
I also never drank growing up. My family was mostly against it (this was a combination of conservatism and a family history of addiction), so the most I had before coming of legal age was a couple tastes at family events and a glass of wine with my neighbor in college. Even when I did start drinking, I was fairly conservative in my actions. When beer did become a normal hang-out beverage for me, I would never have more than one or two.
Regardless, my metabolism, my age, and my newfound activities caught up to me, as it does with many. I began gaining weight quite quickly the more beer I drank. I don’t remember when I first noticed it, but on a post-college graduation family vacation, a quick look in the mirror surprised me with how much weight I’d visibly lost by simply walking places and not drinking.
This was about three years ago and since then I’ve found myself go back and forth between strict workout regimens and depressed bouts of laziness, where more drinking and other unhealthy habits show up and diminish my progress. I definitely feel and look a lot better when I’m watching what I intake, staying active and focusing on all the things that keep people healthy and strong. In doing this, I’ve discovered some things that help me with consistency, and I’d like to share those with you.
1. Unrealistic Expectations Are Unsustainable
It’s easier to get into bad habits than good habits. So that said, don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. For instance, when I started going to the gym a couple years ago, I had a lot of pressure on myself. I was going to go three times a week, and I was going to be there for 2 to 3 hours each time, making sure I hit everything I needed to. While I both lost weight and gained muscle pretty fast, it was unsustainable for a long period of time.
Once I got busy, I became regularly tired and started losing motivation to work myself into submission at the gym. Personal choice is one thing but it’s really hard to choose against the way you feel, especially when you’re exhausted and the activity you’re pushing yourself to is also exhausting. In short, what tired person wants to willingly go make themselves more tired when they could skip the middle part and go straight to the sleeping and relaxing?
So make a good habit of going to the gym, but don’t push yourself so hard you can’t do anything. And if you don’t get everything done you wanted to, don’t beat yourself up. Last night, I was going out to get food with my family and didn’t have time for a hard workout, so I went and rode the bike for ten minutes. I’ve gotten myself into the habit of just going to the gym, and there’s no guilt if I can’t get a hard workout done. The point is going and staying active.
2. Sobriety Actually Kicks Ass
The social stigma around drinking is really weird, when you think about it. People are often considered as odd ones out for not doing it — for not partaking in a mind altering substance, for not partaking in something that makes you lose control.
On top of that, I know that I (still) feel weird when I go to a restaurant that serves alcohol and don’t order any. Most of my friends, when alcohol is available, drink it. And I’ve been there as well — drinking beers I don’t like just because beer is available. Not even to get buzzed, just because it’s what you do.
Since I’ve shed that mindset, I feel a lot more in control of my life and a lot more ready to face problems head on. I’m way more productive, basically. I still have fun, and I’m not reliant on a substance to make that for me. Also, I save a ton of money and I don’t pack on as much weight, and that’s awesome.
3.Habit is Everything
I’ve been hinting at this the whole article, but getting into good habits is the primary way I’ve been getting in shape. “Consistency” and “habitual” are closely related ideals, and progress requires both. Some people have stricter rules for getting into healthy habits, and that totally works for them. But as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t do well with those. You need to be accustomed to doing the thing you want to, even if progress is slow.
Don’t forget, unrealistic expectations are stupid. But that does not mean you should not be surrounding yourself with opportunity and encouragement on a regular basis as to meet healthy goals.
On nights I can’t go to the gym for very long, I go for a little bit. I feel like all of this is pretty straight forward, and I don’t have a ton to write about it because of that, but really it’s the most important thing in personal health progressions.
4. Sacrifice Breeds Effort
Imagine this scenario: you pay for three dark beers at dinner. It costs you $18 total. You’ve drank two, and you’re on your third. You start wishing you hadn’t bought the last because you have to drive home and this third beer means you have to sit around for longer. So what do you do? If you’re like me, you finish the third beer because you paid for it, and you wait longer to go home.
The same way that my previous purchase of something unhealthy might urge me to do something unhealthy, a purchase of something healthy may do the opposite. This is especially true with gym memberships, for myself.
I think it’s just obvious that when you pay for something out of pocket you’ll want to give it more use, especially if it’s something expensive. This goes for many things in life. The more you give, the more you hope to get out of it. If you do have that mindset, and I think a lot of us do, shift your situation so you can use that mindset in a positive way, not a negative one.
5.Healthy Moderation Is Achievable
Admittedly, the title of this article is a bit deceiving. See, I actually haven’t given up alcohol completely. I’m not a teetotaler and I’m not straight edge, or any other cold turkey sober lifestyle. But the need for beer is mostly gone nowadays, I’m happy to say. It no longer feels like a social necessity, or a crutch when I’m sad or bored.
This is not my advice to someone with an actual chemical alcohol dependency issue, but I will say that for someone like me who is more of a casual drinker, there is a balance for becoming fit and healthy and enjoying a drink sometimes. You can be more calculated about it if you want – bringing only cash to a bar, or checking the calories of your favorite beers before buying them. But that’s on you, because nobody else knows your limits like you do if you’re being honest with yourself.
This same principle, of course, goes for everything. Things like fast food, video games, television and more can be done in moderation or they can easily be overdone. So start small. The next time you have an opportunity to save some money or not partake in something unhealthy, just take it rather than defaulting to indulgence. If you go get food with friends, don’t order that beer. Save half of your meal for lunch tomorrow. Be creative and stay smart.
6. Do NOT Beat Yourself Up
Guilt is the enemy in situations like this. Feeling excessively bad over lack of progress, over not getting to the gym enough or for drinking too much or cheating on a diet – all of that stuff sucks. Of course recognizing mistakes is necessary but dwelling on mistakes is stupid. It’s not worth the time you could spend making progress to complain about yourself.
Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get back on the horse. It’s never too late to do so, and sometimes when we experience guilt I think we get into the mindset that it is. It’s a lie to tell yourself “I let things get worse so they can’t get better again,” and a dangerous one at that!
Discouragement doesn’t do anything for you besides hinder your journey. You may not have a choice in how you feel about yourself but you might have a choice in how you posture toward yourself. Don’t forget that you do have some power, even when all seems hopeless. Then get back on that horse.