I’m going to depart from the usual rpg stuff to discuss something else that should be near and dear to our hearts, namely … our hearts.
About two years ago I easily fit into a stereotype of the geek – I was male, fat and had a beard. I was also having some heart palpitations and decided to go in for a check up. The heart palpitations turned out not to be a big problem – they were the result of me taking niacin supplements – but I did have some other issues that stemmed from being overweight. At the time, I weighed 280 pounds, and got there by sitting on the couch too much and eating more than I should. I knew I was badly out of shape and wanted to get in better shape so I could enjoy by wife, daughter and potential grandchildren someday, but I frankly needed an extra push. The doctor visit was it.
Over the next year, I did a ton of walking, often on a treadmill, was much more careful about food, and dropped 50 pounds. Eventually, I plateaued at 230 pounds and slowed down on the exercise and got a little sloppy on the food side. Before I knew it, I was no longer plateauing – I was hitting 240. There was no way in hell I was going that route again, so I got serious again – counting calories and stepping up the exercise – and I’m now hovering around 220 pounds with my eye set firmly on 180.
So, why should you care? Let’s be honest. Lots of nerds and geeks are fat (yeah, I’m not going to sugar-coat it with PC language – we’re fat), and being fat means a shorter life, more medical problems and, frankly, less fun. At a time when many of the pioneers of pencil-and-paper gaming are passing away, wouldn’t we love to have their creativity around for a few more years – good, healthy years. And as we geeks of the 1980’s grow into maturity and get married and have children, don’t we want to stick around for their sake? Lots of us need to lose weight and get healthier, and for many it seems like something impossible to do. Don’t have the time. Don’t want to commit. Don’t want to tell ourselves no. You know the story. I’m here to serve as an example that you can get healthier (and believe me, I’m only mid-way through my quest!) and enjoy it.
What follows are some tips on losing weight, drawn from my own experience. They may work for you, they may not, but hopefully they will prove of use to you.
My basic plan is a two-pronged attack: Diet and exercise.
By diet, I do not mean a diet I found in a magazine or online. I mean taking in fewer calories each day than I need to survive, and trying to make healthier choices whenever possible. In my first weight loss phase, I used a program I found on Ask.com that used food units. To maintain an 1800 calorie a day diet, I could have 6 units of protein, 6 units of grains, 6 units of vegetables, etc. I now use an app on my phone called My Fitness Pal. I used it to measure how many calories I’m taking in each day, set up a daily goal based on my current weight and where I want to go (1970 calories per day in my case) and it keeps track of how many calories I’m burning by meshing with another app that I’ll discuss in a moment.
I do my best to avoid foods I know I shouldn’t indulge too much in, but otherwise do not have a special diet. I eat meat, grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy, diet soda (sometimes with a shot of rum, tequila or bourbon), etc., with the occasional sugary (or sugar-free) indulgence. Not too difficult a regimen – I just watch how much food and drink I take in.
Most weeks, I keep my daily net calorie intake to around 1500 calories. In one week out of every four, I allow myself to average 2000 calories per day so that my body doesn’t get too used to 1500 calories a day.
In terms of exercise, I do both cardio and strength training. Both are very useful. I work out 6 times a week (sometimes more), and usually stagger the workouts – usually cardio (walking and some running, usually for an hour or more) on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and strength training (kettle bell, dumbells, weight resistance, interval training usually for 20 to 30 minutes) on Monday and Wednesday. For building muscle, you need to have one or two days of rest between workouts – the workout breaks your muscle down, the rest period builds it back up. Get plenty of sleep and plenty of protein when you’re trying to build muscle. On Friday, I rest – and often hit the town with the wife!
To track my exercise, I use an app called Runtastic and to keep better track of my calorie burn, a Timex heart rate monitor (which my wife affectionately calls my sports bra since it straps around my chest). The heart rate monitor has worked fairly well, though after 6 months of constant use it is having some minor problems. You might want to shop around a bit. For strength training, I’m currently using a 20 pound kettle bell and 15 pound dumbbells, but plan to get some heavier weights soon.
The key to losing weight is grit. You have to exercise when you don’t feel like it. You have to tell yourself NO! more often than not when the donuts show up at work. Once you get into the habit, it really isn’t too difficult to do. Despite the many times I didn’t want to get up and exercise, I have never once not felt great after I did it – and watching the stomach shrink and the biceps grow feels pretty awesome as well. Honestly, on days when I rest from exercising, I have to force myself to sit down and not exercise. It just seems like second-nature now, and it makes me feel so darn good! Now that I’m in the 1500 calorie a day mindset, its remarkable how difficult it is for me to take in 2000 calories in a day – I just don’t need all that food. Get yourself started, stick to it, and I promise these things will become second nature to you.
Now that I’ve lost 60 pounds, I have more energy, more self-confidence and more fun with the wife (wink wink nudge nudge say no more). You can get these things as well if you’ll make the commitment, and you, your family, friends and gaming community will get to enjoy your presence on this earth for years to come.
If you need some more convincing, advice and support, I suggest these two websites:
NERD FITNESS – This one seems pretty obvious, huh. It’s a fitness site run by a nerd who is now in excellent shape, and features advice, pep talks and testimonials from other folks like us. I enjoy the pep talks and the exuberance of Steve Kamb for linking his nerd interests with getting healthy.
THE ART OF MANLINESS – Not just for men (though mainly for men), this site has some good exercise tips and lots of other great articles about being the best man (or person) you can be, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Because of this site, I dress better, shave with a safety razor instead of plastic disposable junk (no, still not man enough for a straight razor or tomahawk shave), read quite a bit more (and not just fantasy and sci-fi novels) and do a much better job of shining my shoes.
Hey, two years ago I was just another fat guy with a beard and glasses. I was a good husband, a good father and a good person, but I was not healthy. Now, I’m still a good husband, good father, good person, probably even more of a nerd since I now produce rpg material as well as consume it, but I’m also healthier, un-bearded, rock the contact lenses once-in-a-while, get compliments from women about how I look and I feel better than I have in two decades.
If you’ve wanted to get healthier and, as Steve Kamb says, “Level up your life”, I urge you to take the plunge. Don’t let the jocks have all the fun!