[WARNING: Long post ahead. And many scattered thoughts. I’m a scatterbrain!]
I’ve come to accept healthy eating and regular exercise as a big part of my life, but it wasn’t always like this.
I love to eat. I inherited my love of carbs from my paternal grandmother, whose all-time favourite carb was “dduk” (Korean rice cakes). I often wonder why foods that taste so good are so bad for us. IT’S NOT FAIR. Having said that, I don’t like to exercise. In fact, I would even say that I hate to exercise. It goes against my natural procrastination tendencies.
Love of Food + No Exercise = Rotund Body
You hear it all the time. The best way to lose weight and get in shape is good old fashioned healthy eating and regular exercise. Yet, fad diets, magic pills, and fancy equipment continue to exist and people continue to buy into the hype. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been sucked into some of the diet fads of years past (cabbage soup diet, anyone?). Just like get-rich-quick schemes, get-thin-quick is irresistible. Who wants to spend months eating right and exercising when a pill promises the same results in 30 DAYS OR YOUR MONEY BACK GUARANTEED?
I guess that’s why people don’t want to accept that there is no such thing as a magic cure. Losing weight is HARD WORK. It takes dedication. You have to commit 110%. You can’t just expect to do it for a week or two and get results. It’s really about a lifestyle change.
I’ve tried the diet and exercise thing. I’ve joined gyms. I’ve bought home exercise DVDs. But none of it ever stuck. And here’s why:
- As an extreme introvert, I find it hard to be exercising amongst a group of total strangers. What if they’re looking at me? What if they’re making fun of me? Why do I even care? I can’t help it! I’m paranoid like that!
- I can’t rely on myself to stay dedicated. Sad, but true. I need outside motivation to stay on track.
- I get bored really, really easily. If I keep doing the same thing, I just get so bored of it that I give up.
- I really didn’t know how to go about varying my exercises. I was just totally clueless.
Thankfully, Mark suggested that we start an exercise program at home and use the tried and true “buddy system” to help each other stay on track. The good thing about having Mark make the decision on what program we were going to use is that as an engineer, he researches very, very thoroughly and doesn’t take anything at face-value. He’s awesome like that. So when he picked P90X, I knew that he looked into it and validated that:
- It’s not a gimmick.
- It’s actually doable.
- It actually works!
For those who are unfamiliar with P90X (and don’t want to bother reading about it via the link provided), it’s essentially a 90-day total body exercise program that also includes a nutrition guide. It’s built around a concept called “muscle confusion”, which continually challenges the body’s muscles into new growth – the more you confuse the muscle, the harder your body has to work to keep up. It’s broken up into three phases, which are three weeks long (with one recovery week in between each phase), for a total of 13 weeks. You exercise 6 days/week, each day working a different muscle group.
We set our start date for July 11, 2011.
When I started, my fitness level was pretty bad. I was SO out of shape. We both did the Fit Test before starting the program to see what our fitness level was to begin with and I barely managed to pass the minimum requirements.
My results on Day 0:
- Pull-Ups: BIG FAT ZERO. Yeah, no.
- Push-Ups: Barely made it 4, on my knees.
- Toe Touch (sitting with legs out straight, then bending forward towards the toes): -4 inches. OMG so not flexible. This means that I had a 4-inch gap between my fingers and my toes.
- Wall squat: Barely managed to hold it for the minimum 1 minute.
- Bicep Curl: With a 5-pound weight – just made it to 15.
- Ins & Outs: Barely managed to do the minimum 25.
My body measurements weren’t that encouraging, either. Now, I’m not going be like, “OMG I WAS SO FAT!” because in reality, I wasn’t even that bad. But I was carrying excess weight that was unnecessary and it didn’t look very attractive. When I started, I was a size 10 and these were my stats:
- Weight: N/A – we didn’t have a scale when we started, so unfortunately I can’t verify what weight I started with, which is too bad since I can’t accurately tell how much weight I’ve lost since then.
- Chest: 38.25″
- Waist: 32.75″
- Hips: 39.25″
- Thighs: 21.5″
- Calves: 15″ (SO HEFTY)
- Arms: 11.5″
Now, for the diet part of this equation (which is actually more important since weight loss is 80% what you eat). We followed the nutrition guide pretty faithfully. I set out a weekly meal plan, which was dependent on our daily allotted servings of protein, carbs, dairy, vegetables, fruit, fats, as well as healthy snacks. We both swore an oath not to deviate from the plan, which was especially hard on Mark since he really loves pho and that was a totally forbidden food. However, we kept each other motivated by setting a food goal – once we completed the program, we would each pick a “forbidden” food to eat as a reward. Naturally, he picked pho. I picked Vietnamese beef satay sub… mostly for the bread.
With our meal plan set, starting stats recorded, and required exercise equipment purchased, we began the program as planned on July 11, 2011.
Let me just say… OMG the first two weeks, my muscles were SO sore. I’ve never felt pain like that before. Even sitting was painful. I could hardly dress myself because I couldn’t move my arms very well. Those two weeks were really the worst. Since I was working muscles that had been dormant for so long, it really wasn’t a surprise, but it was hard to get through.
Once those initial pains started to fade, I began to feel more confident. Sure, there was always a bit of soreness after a workout, but apparently that’s a good thing. Muscle fibres were being torn and rebuilt. That’s a good thing.
Some of the moves, I could barely manage to do a single rep, especially anything to do with pull-ups or chin-ups. I started with using a band looped around Mark’s pull-up bar (the modification version), but after a cheaply-made band broke in half and almost took my eye out, I got my own pull-up bar and used a chair for assistance.
But I won’t lie – it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun all the time. Some days were excruciating. Some days, the last thing I wanted to do after a long day at work was to work out. Many days, I wanted to skip the workout. Many days, I wanted to eat a whole box of chocolate bars or a whole bag of potato chips. Many days… I really felt like giving up. It was tough to adjust to working out 6 days a week and sticking to the eating plan. I missed going out to restaurants. I missed simple things like white bread – omg, I would DREAM about fresh-baked bread.
Through it all though, I have Mark to thank for keeping me on track. He was always the voice of reason and the motivator. As much as I tried, I could never convince him to skip a day or let me have a teeny tiny piece of chocolate. Sure, I hated him for very small, fleeting moments, but I look back and I’m so thankful that he was able to keep his head on straight.
It also helped that the weight loss was steady, yet noticeable. My clothes started to get looser and looser. I could fit into pants that I had long forgotten about because I had gained too much weight to fit into them. I remember after about a month, I went shopping for new dress pants. I tried on a pair and they were slightly snug, but I bought them anyway because I figured I’d be able to fit into them soon. Sure enough, I tried them on a few weeks later and not only did they fit, but they were a bit too loose in the waist. To actually see results like that, it was pretty awesome.
So, after 13 grueling weeks, we made it to the finish line. Our last workout was on October 8, 2011, just in time for thanksgiving!
When I started, I could only do push-ups on my knees. At the end of 90 days, I could do 15 regular push-ups – no knees! I started with 5-pound weights for bicep curls; I ended using 10-pound weights. I could not only touch my toes, I could wrap my fingers around the outsides of my feet. I still couldn’t do a pull-up or chin-up, but that was ok.
And numbers don’t lie. I started as a size 10, but now I’m a size 4/6. As for my stats:
- Weight: N/A – I didn’t get an accurate reading on this, so no end weight.
- Chest: 35″, down from 38.25″ – a loss of 3.25″
- Waist: 27.5″, down from 32.75″ – a loss of 5.25″
- Hips: 37.5″ – down from 39.25″ – a loss of 1.75″
- Thighs: 18.5″ – down from 21.5″ – a loss of 3″
- Calves: 13″ – down from 15″ – a loss of 2″
- Arms: 11″ – down from 11.5″ – a loss of 0.5″ (I attribute this to my awesome bicep power. Seriously, I love my guns).
I’m a little too shy to share my full body before/after photos, however. But I must share the most noticeable change, which was in my face:
LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE. I totally had a double chin when I started, and 90 days later – GONE.
So, what did I learn from this experience? Well, here’s just a few:
- Good old fashioned diet and exercise really does work, so long as you commit yourself to it.
- The buddy system really works, too!
- There will be good days, bad days, and even ugly days, but it’s all part of the journey.
- Dreaming of fresh-baked bread is a sure sign that you’re a carboholic.
I can totally vouch for P90X**. What I love most about it is that if you break it down, it’s really just simple weight-lifting and cardio exercises, put together in such a way that you’re not doing the same thing day after day. It’s a realistic program that doesn’t rely on quick results or gimmicks. And I guess the best compliment is, we enjoyed it so much, we did a second round of it from mid-October to end of December!
Right now, I’m happy to say that we’re both maintaining our weight loss (we’re actually doing it through P90X2, the sequel program, which is actually very different from P90X, but I’ll save the story for another time). And you know what? Just the other day, I did my first pull-up! AND I did two chin-ups! :)
**This is not a paid endorsement. I just think that P90X is totally kick-arse!