I began working on this article to publish on my GrizzlyBearSims gaming blog over two months ago. I also talked about my weight loss and exercise journey on one of my last YouTube Videos before my break. As I had over 90% of the article written, I didn’t want it to go to waste so I’ve completed it and it’s ready to publish. While this won’t be a regular topic on my gaming blog, it is something I’m passionate about and something that many of us truly can benefit from. So perhaps every few months I’ll throw together some health related topics and include them here. But it will certainly be less than 25% of my normal content. If you’re interested in discussing more about this, you can reach me via Discord message.
We’ve all seen and heard the typical stereotypes regarding the un-healthy lifestyle of most gamers. Let’s face it, if you consider yourself a gamer…well, you probably enjoy spending many hours sitting while enjoying what ever type of game you enjoy. It’s just the way it goes! Of course, perhaps this article already finds you also living an active lifestyle. If so, congratulations and you can probably stop reading. But if you’re like me and spend 50+ hours a week at a high stress desk job, sometimes arrive before the sun comes up and usually leaves after the sun has set and the amount of exercise you achieve is the quick walk to the vending machine and back. Then perhaps this article might interest you.
Go See Your Doctor
Now before I get started allow me to just say this. Before starting any diet/exercise program you really should consult with your primary care or family doctor first. In addition, for those of us who have experienced more than a few trips around the sun…this should be done once a year. Some insurance providers even cover these “Wellness Exams” 100% with no co-pay. But the important take-away from this is to consult with your doctor just to be sure you are safe to begin an exercise program.
I’m Not a Doctor…
…and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night either. I’m also not a dietician, fitness expert or anything else related to this subject. I’m just a regular guy who once was overweight, out of shape and decided to do something about it. Then a few years passed and I almost let it all go down hill again. The topics I’m going to cover are simply what have worked for me. Will they work for you? Most likely they will…but my method does require some commitment and yes…a lot of hard work. Again, go see your doctor and remember this is just my method.
How Weight Loss Works
A friend of mine posted the below “How to Lose 10 lbs. in a week” meme on Facebook the other day. Despite what you might see on TV, this meme is 100% accurate. Simply put…you can’t lose 10 lbs. in a week. Once you accept this fact, it makes the true understanding about how weight loss through diet/exercise possible.
In simple terms, a normal/healthy human body will lose weight when the amount of calories burned through some form of exercise is greater than the amount of calories consumed. Said in the opposite way, a normal/healthy human body will GAIN weight when you sit on the sofa all day and eat nothing but cheeseburgers and barely move.
While the concept of losing weight by burning more calories than you consume is relatively easy to understand, this is where the discipline comes into play. The only way to really make this work is to monitor your exercise and count calories. But fear not…there are some wonderful tools that will make this easy peasy and I’ll tell you about the tools I use in just a moment.
But What About Those Fad Diets
Oh…you mean the ones you see on TV? Like Jenny Craig, SouthBeach Diet, WeightWatchers etc. Yes, these will work…but have you checked the price of those meals? WOW! These programs work (if you adhere to the program) by simply limiting your calorie intake. But you can achieve the exact same thing by shopping at your local grocery store and preparing your own meals. Plus you’ll save hundreds of dollars in the process.
Now I do typically keep a few Healthy Choice (or other brand) frozen meals in my freezer. These are for when I just don’t have the time to cook. The reason I do this is as a safety net. If something is keeping me from cooking, then the typical default plan is to go get fast food. WRONG! So I keep a few frozen meals in my freezer and will eat these instead. While these are not as healthy as fresh cooked food, these are far better than fast food. Plus it’s really easy to know just how many calories I’m consuming and can add that to my daily plan.
The Basic Numbers
Like most things…the science with weight loss through diet/exercise is a numbers game. As I’ve already pointed out, a normal/healthy human body will lose weight when the amount of calories burned through exercise is greater than the amount of calories consumed. But to really understand how this works, we need to know a few numbers. These numbers may vary depending on the source. The numbers I’m listing below are from a website I’ll talk more about later called MyFitnessPal. Also, these numbers are based on my age, height and gender. For the record, I’m 52 years old, 6’0” and I’m a guy.
Based on the info I mentioned above, I would need to eat/consume 2,250 calories just to maintain my weight. Or 1,750 per day to lose one pound per week or 1,500 calories per day to lose up to two pounds per week.
Just for comparison, looking at the numbers for a 6’0” tall, 52 year old woman the numbers would be 2,060 calories per day to maintain current weight. Or 1,560 calories per day to lose one pound per week or 1,200 calories to lose up to two pounds per week. As you can tell, the differences between the male and female body as it relates to metabolism are quite different.
So yes, in theory….you could simply just consume the above mentioned calories and still stay seated on the couch and either maintain or lose weight. But that’s no fun and it’s not healthy!
The Benefits of Exercise
When I was a young boy, I absolutely hated calisthenics. That’s what our exercising program in elementary school was called. I just wanted to go out to the playground and run, jump and chase the girls around the playground. The end result would most likely have been the same…but instead we had to line up in the gymnasium and do all sorts of things. But now that I’m older and of course much, much wiser…I fully understand the value of getting my butt up and moving.
For me personally, I have elevated cholesterol numbers (used to be very high) and I have above normal blood pressure readings and also suffer from acid reflux. Most likely the recent stress of my job and a few other things that have been going on is contributing to the above normal BP readings. While I’m not in the danger zone, my doctor wants me to reduce the numbers AND SO DO I!
Regarding my cholesterol. About 15 years ago it was sky high. My primary care doctor at the time prescribed me one of the popular statin drugs and I popped a pill every day for about 8 years. The statin drug did what it was supposed to do, but I began suffering from the side effects after using it for that many years. I had to do something and thankfully I changed doctors and found one that helped motivate me to exercise more.
So in my case, the exercise (and diet of course) eventually allowed me to lower my cholesterol to safe and normal levels naturally. Unfortunately, I got lazy again. But I’m back in gear and working the numbers back down to safe levels.
So that my friends, is one of the benefits to exercise. There are many others including actually getting a better nights sleep. I sleep so much better when I’m exercising.
As I also mentioned acid reflux. When I was really heavy (several years ago) I took prescription Nexium daily. When I lost all my weight, I was able to quit the Nexium. I should have listened to my body as a few months ago as I allowed my weight to creep above 200 pounds, I began having acid reflux symptoms again and had to go back on Nexium. Lesson learned! Always, listen to your body.
My Exercise Program
Once again I’m going to encourage you to visit with your doctor before starting any form of exercise. I’m also going to remind you of what I’ve already said regarding these are the things that work for me. With that out of the way, an exercise program can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. For me, I absolutely love walking and walking is what I do and it’s just about the only thing I do for my exercise program. Yes, I do occasionally lift small weights…but generally I just walk.
My daily goal is 10,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps per day is roughly (give or take) about 5 miles. As previously stated, I love walking. While I will walk on my treadmill during inclement weather, I much prefer to be outside. I have a park across from my neighborhood which is safe and I can walk and listen to the birds sing. I also have areas around my office building where I can also safely walk and on warm weather days see many others out stretching their legs and taking in the fresh air. But yea…I just simply walk.
But…I walk at a fairly fast pace. The courses I typically use will have varying elevation to them. Some flat, some downhill and some uphill. I like the variety as it really gets my heart pumping on the uphill segments, but then allows for a bit of a cooldown on the flat and downhill segments. I can generally cover a mile in just under 16 minutes. Just walking…no jogging.
Gadgets Are Cool
What can I say? I love gadgets and many times gadgets truly help make our lives better. Of course there are a ton of different gadgets related to fitness. I’m going to share with you what I use and how I use them.
As I mentioned earlier, my daily exercise goal is to walk 10,000 steps. While there are many different pedometers available I invested in a Fitbit about 5-6 years ago. I use the Fitbit One model. Unfortunately, the Fitbit One is no longer in production and Amazon sellers are charging an arm and a leg for new ones. But the reason I chose the Fitbit One was I don’t typically wear a watch and I wanted something I could just clip to my belt loop and off I go. I wear it every day, all day. It counts every step I take regardless if I’m intentionally exercising or just walking down the hall. But generally…even if I’m walking down the hall to a meeting, I’m doing that at a fairly brisk pace. Folks in the office used to stare at me. But then they began noticing the weight falling off and I’ve converted many to my lifestyle. The Fitbit One model is fairly basic as it only tracks steps and sleep tracking. Some models will track heartrate and most likely someday I’ll upgrade to a more fancy model. But for now, my Fitbit One is all I want/need.
The Fitbit devices will automagically sync up to the Fitbit website via a smartphone app. This website tracks my steps, active minutes, number of floors I’ve climbed and calories burned. Pretty much all the info I need to monitor my daily exercise goals.
I know….I know! Counting calories is a pain. But hey…there’s an app for that. When I began my weight loss journey (the first time) over 5 years ago, I not only used the Fitbit I mentioned above….but I also used a website (and app) called MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal or MFP for short is truly a thing of beauty and best of all, the Fitbit website and MFP can be integrated in such a way that your fitness tracking will sync to MFP (and somewhat vice versa) so you easily watch and control all your important numbers.
MyFitnessPal also has a sleek smartphone app which makes it super easy to update your food diary when on the go. I personally love the bar code scanner feature of the app when cooking. I can quickly add items to my food diary or even build up complete recipes. The MFP website also contains an extensive database of food items including everything from fast food down to individual ingredients. Super, super easy.
Counting calories is just as important as your individual exercise program. In my opinion, if you are putting in the effort to burn calories and you are not taking the time to carefully count your calories, then you will fail. Everything you consume needs to be accounted for. EVERYTHING! Otherwise, you will fail.
Moderation is Key
The word moderation is your friend especially when it pertains to what you should and shouldn’t eat/drink when on a diet and exercise program. Remember….this is just how I do things. But quite honestly…if you want to eat a Wendy’s Triple burger when on your diet, go for it! Just understand this one triple meat burger weighs in around 1,090 calories, want to add large fries to that order, that’s an additional 530 calories and while we’re at it…let’s finish it off with a small errr I mean large Frosty at 590 calories for a grand total of ……(drum roll please)…..2,210 calories. You better do a whole lot of walking to burn all those calories. But I suppose it can be done.
But seriously, eating the foods you love “in moderation” is still doable while on a diet and exercise program. Unless your doctor specifically tells you to watch your sodium intake…you can still enjoy “in moderation” just about everything from time to time. While I love cheeseburgers as much as the next guy, I would much prefer to cook my own, on my own grill than blow my calorie budget on fast food. But that’s just my opinion.
Speaking of moderation. I’m partial to bit of Bailey’s a few times a week. A one ounce shot of Bailey’s is 98 calories and if I can work it into my dietary budget, I’ll do it.
Speaking of Budgets
I just used the word “budget” when I spoke about working that shot of Bailey’s into my dietary plan. In my earlier failed attempts at trying to make a diet/exercise plan work I never thought of it as a budget. I often had “free days” built into my plan and didn’t accurately count calories or track my workouts. These “free days” were days where I didn’t exercise and I ate whatever I wanted. Free days often turned into back to back free days which often turned into free weeks, free months…..I failed each time. It wasn’t until 5-6 years ago when I bought my Fitbit and signed up for MFP that I truly began to look at things as a budget.
Just like my wife and I operate our household from a budget, you need to think about your diet/exercise program as a budget. The exercise is the income and the food/drink you consume directly comes from that budget. Nothing is free…there are no free days. I’m not saying you have to workout seven days a week. But I am saying you have to be conscience of what you are consuming and how that will impact all your hard work. If you slip, don’t beat yourself up…rather…pick yourself up, dust yourself off and resume the work.
I realize this is a lot of information and a lot of words to read. I also realize this really has nothing to do with simulation based gaming other than, as gamers, we run the risk of not properly looking after ourselves and I’m sharing this with all of you to be helpful. I firmly believe that if you devote just a few hours a week to getting some exercise, getting some fresh air and eating correctly…you’ll feel so much better and possibly add years to your life. The alternative is to continue to feel poorly and in time lose a possible few years. It’s up to you. Just do it!
Until next time…
Stay Healthy My Friends!