It’s that time of year, isn’t it?
Resolutions! Plans! Action! An unwavering committment to get lean, mean, and at least 150% sexier than you were the year prior, with all the motivation and ambition you need to make it happen. January 1st is a great day for exactly that reason: people all across the world, deciding it’s time to work off some of that holiday excess, take their health into their own hands and actively try and lose weight.
Good for them! And good for you, friend, if you’ve decided to do it right: to eat better, eat simpler, and eat less overall.
Paleo/Primal has been a long-standing focus of this blog, but for this three-part guide I’ve decided to take a broader tack. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, of course — I can say with the utmost bias and sincerity that I’m a huge supporter of the ancestral lifestyle — but that it can be a little mixed and jumbled for the modern eater.
This guide is based on Paleo principles, accordingly, but will not belabor them. Plenty of other people have spoken at length about the core ideas behind the Paleo movement, and I’ve written a three-part guide myself to help ease people into a more natural lifestyle. This Practical Action Plan, instead, wants to focus on you, whether you’re new to the idea of eating natural or a seasoned veteran who had a few too many slices of cake over the holidays.
Either way you fall, I’ve got you covered. I’m happy to report, too, that the intention here is to be practical above all else — to show you how to eat healthy, live happily, and enjoy a little simplicity in 2012. This will be your best year yet. Ready to start?
Before we dive into the food side of things (check back next week!), though, let’s do a little mental preparation for the road ahead.
1. Take time.
Tucked deep into my harddrive, now, is a hidden folder. The title? “Matt’s Really Embarrassing Progress Shots.” True to its name, this folder plays host to every monthly photo taken throughout my weight loss journey, chronicling my progress from an overly chubby, unhappy college grad to the person I am today.
Most of those photos, I bet, will never see the light of day.
But they prove a point. A good one, I’d argue, and an idea that will immediately be forgotten the minute you set foot on your own journey to better health. (It happens to all of us. Promise.)
There are no quick fixes. There are no magical overnight solutions, and there are no sustainable, healthy ways to jettison all of that weight you’re carrying around your gut in the span of just a few weeks. There is, instead, the slow churn – a road of many months, many pounds, and too few reminders that you’re doing it right even if the scale keeps shouting that you’re not doing anything at all.
In these first few blinks of 2012, too, this point is more pertinent than ever. Give it time. Give it patience, and try and give yourself as many days as possible before you let impatience start raining on your parade.
I’m nearly two years in, by the way. How long did it take before I started smiling whenever I looked in the mirror? About eight months. That’s about seven months longer than your average get-thin-quick plan, and it might take longer still if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight – but don’t panic.
Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel before you’ve even started.
Go slow. Give it time. Come January 1st, 2013, you will look better naked.
2. Be kind.
Of the 24 things I’ve learned in 24 years on this hunk of rock, this might be the most important: be kind to yourself. If you’re reading this, odds are pretty good that you’re currently unhappy with your weight, diet, exercise routine, etc., the grand total of which can make for some pretty gloomy skies.
Let’s do something different.
For the next twelve months, let’s take a different tack. Let’s be patient with ourselves. Let’s forgive ourselves for any dietary lapses that pop up, and let’s realize that this is just the first big step on a journey that’ll last the rest of our long, healthy lives.
Let’s realize, now, that this is it. That face you see staring back from the mirror? That’s yours. The body that supports it? Surprise! That’s yours too. You get just one body, folks, so why don’t we treat it kindly? Why don’t we appreciate where we’re starting, appreciate where we’re going, and why, over the course of the next year, why don’t we celebrate every step towards better health?
Let’s not bog ourselves down with perfectionism. Let’s not throw in the towel when our body does something weird, and let’s not rant and rave when we don’t lose weight in a consistent, linear fashion (hint: it rarely runs so smooth).
Let’s be kind to ourselves – starting today.
3. Hide the scale.
Take a piece of tape. Stick it firmly over the readout on the scale and prevent yourself from hopping on it every morning in some misguided (yet well-intentioned) attempt to monitor our progress.
Not too put too fine a point on it, folks, but the scale sucks. The number you see between your toes fluctuates on a near daily basis, doesn’t account for your ratio of lean muscle mass to stored body fat, and tugs your focus away from what counts: what you see in the mirror, and how you feel day in and day out.
Hop on that scale one last time, if you like, to get your starting weight. Hop on it again in a year’s time to see how much it has changed. But do so with the knowledge that neither of those numbers mean all that much, and that you’re not somehow a worse person if the number doesn’t move as much as you like.
4. Get naked.
Skip the scale, folks, but don’t be afraid to monitor your progress. Here are my favorite two ways:
1. A monthly photo shoot featuring you, yourself, and scandalous amounts of nudity. Get naked. Weight loss, sad to say, doesn’t always come from the places you’re most sensitive about, so stripping down and showing off can be a great way to track just which parts of your body are leaning out as you proceed.
Stomach fat, coincidentally, is often the last to go. Trust me on this one.
2. Take a pair of jeans that you currently squeeze into and set it aside for later. As you take the monthly photo mentioned above, slide on those jeans and take a few minutes to strut about. Sit in them, stretch in them, and see how much looser they’ve become in the last thirty days. As someone who now fits easily in a pair of jeans that I couldn’t even wear in high school, trust me too when I say that this is satisfaction at its finest.
You want to keep track of your progress, in other words, but you want to do it in a meaningful way – one that reinforces just how far you’ll go without bogging you down in numbers. Keep the monthly perspective in mind, in fact, and you’ll do far better to keep your sanity intact.
5. Get inspired.
Still not sold on this whole eating natural thing?
The three links above lead to Paleo success stories, the tales (with photos!) of men and women all across the world who tried Paleo, absolutely loved it, and found themselves carrying around far less weight as a result. If you need inspiration at any point during your journey – today, tomorrow, six months down the line – then the links above are exactly where you can go to find it.
Start reading, folks. Try and study some of the common themes, too, if you’re feeling academic. I’ll give you a hint on the big one: it takes time, damn it.
Don’t forget these.
That’s easier said than done once you’re deep into the diet and exercise side of things, focusing all of your energy and attention on what you see standing in front of the mirror. Just as important as the physical changes, though, is what’s stirring upstairs.
Remember that you’re not just doing this to impress that tall, dark fellow at the beach. Remember that you deserve a way of eating and exercising that is simple, enjoyable, and not stressful, and realize, lastly, that Paleo can be it.
There’s just one catch: you have to try.
And what better time than the start of a brand-spankin’ new year, right?
Tune in next week for parts two and three. See you then, folks!