Cracking Open the Manual of Bodily Health

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 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!

22 thoughts on “Cracking Open the Manual of Bodily Health

  1. My “peak” was 385 lbs., I was an Over-the-Road Truck Driver and, necessarily, sat a lot! LOL

    Add to that the nibbling and drinking soda and sugar laden coffee while behind the wheel for 11 hours a day.

    I'm now down to 295 and hope to continue the loss. Congratulations, my friend and fellow “fat man.” LOL


  2. While I agree with the eating healthy and exercise (as long as you don't overdo it), I think people are happiest when they are themselves, not what society wants them to be.

    I mean, if you don't want a beard, then it should be your choice, not because some website tells you shouldn't, or because random women on the street do.

    Otherwise you are being inauthentic to your self, which will cause problems in the long run.


  3. People tend not to believe this, especially from some guy on the internet, but dieting by “eating less than you burn” is not, scientifically speaking, all that good for you. In response to famine your body tends to break down muscle tissue preferentially over adipose, since fat is a more easily utilised energy source that's evolutionarily more important (say, if you need to sprint after dinner). You lose some fat, but you also lose muscle from the less-exercised parts of your body, and you have significantly more trouble putting on muscle. If you're considerably overweight to begin with, you can probably stand to eat a lot less than you were, but as you start getting down towards a healthy weight it's a better idea to focus on eating healthily rather than less.

    I don't expect you to take my word for it, but it's something you might want to research.


  4. Definitely do your research. I've taken about 6 inches off my waist in the past two years with diet and exercise, and I'm definitely getting stronger from the strength training I've been doing over the past 3 months. In terms of eating – I eat less, but I still average about 2000 calories a day of food intake, staying low (usually) on the refined carbohydrates. The exercise tends to burn an average of about 200 to 700 calories per day, depending on what I'm doing that day.


  5. Oh – also – losing the beard gave me the ability to vary between clean shaven and five o'clock shadow. Also – and my daughter and I often discussed this while I did have a beard – if you have real facial hair, you bar yourself from awesome FAKE facial hair! Something to keep in mind.


  6. Your response doesn't appear to contradict my statements in any way. Are you telling me to do my research, or agreeing with me that people should educate themselves?


  7. I'm agreeing that people should do research before they begin anything, and I should add that it is a good idea to consult with a doctor. What I do has worked for me pretty well. In the future it might not and I might need to shift my tactics.


  8. Congratulations! I've been needing to lose weight for awhile now, although not quite so much – I'm 6' and fluctuate between 190 – 200, but I'd rather be about 170. It's a sad irony that the healthiest I've been in the past 10 years (as confirmed by annual physicals) was in the midst of depression two years ago, when I slid down to 178 or so. Life sucked, but I enjoyed the weight loss. Antidepressants brought it back. :/ Done with those, thank goodness.


  9. Hey John! Yesterday I received the HB Player's Tome so now we're set for gaming – the complete book for me and the Player's book for, well, the players!

    Kudos for the health post. Seems the “nerd style” is universal – we look the same over here in Sweden too! I use the same methodology as you. Calorie control and excercise. Works like a charm, and contrary to what many people think, I don't have to starve. This is an important issue for a lot of people, and I think it's very good that you bring up the topic here.


  10. Great post! I've had a similar experience recently. Since January, I've lost 36 lbs through diet and exercise. Strength training 3 days a week, cardio the rest. Recently added jumping rope to the mix (burns 1100 calories an hour, if I could jump rope for 60 minutes!). Would you mind sharing the link to the diet you mentioned finding on Great site, BTW. I'm a big fan of Mystery Men and Space Princess.


  11. Thanks! I wish I could find that link. I originally found it on when I did a Google search for “how many calories do you burn walking?”. There was a link on that article. Since then, they've changed the set-up at and I cannot find that link. I'll poke around at home and see if I still have the print out somewhere.


  12. That is awesome! Keep up the good work. I went/am going through a similar thing (being a fat geek) and I wanted to share how my weight lose tips since you share so many gaming tips with me all the time. I do not count calories or exercise (other than playing with my kids) at all and I went from short and 220 to 150. I do not any eat food that is made in a factory.I learned about how insulin affect our bodies. Try a paleo diet for one month and then control you insulin and you will stay slim and full of energy!

    And thank you for all the awesome things you have shared on your blog. Many of the things I have borrowed from you have turned into happy gaming memories for me! Thank you for all you work!


  13. Just so you know your body won't burn fat if it has no where to put the toxins. When you accumulate fat your body stores any excess toxins in it that it can't process out normally. So if you've been eating processed food like products (Twinkies, other snack food, lunch meat) all your life your body will fight you to burn the fat and even if you do burn some fat you are re-introducing all those toxins back into your liver which will require more and more of your bodies resources to purge.
    Aspartame that is in diet soda breaks down into two things the moment it hits your body temperature: wood alcohol and formaldehyde. Neither one of them are good for you and put more stress on your liver. Throw in the fact that diet soda's are appetite enhancers and you end up with a really bad combination. I suggest vegetable juice. Its relatively cheap (about $1 more than a soda of the same size), makes you feel full, and is health for you. Also note that any juice that has the word “cocktail” is basically high fructose corn syrup water flavored with a small amount of juice…


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