“Fat and Miserable and in Perpetual Despair”

I received an email with the above troubling subject line. I clicked on it, read it, and decided to respond here on my blog. I know this reader isn’t alone in feeling what she’s feeling, so I’m going to share the advice I’m giving her with everyone.

I’ve been reading about you for some time now and just listened to your interview on Fat-Burning Man and I also just rewatched you with Richard Simmons on Ellen. (Editor’s Note: I’ve been on the Fat-Burning Man podcast twice! Listen here and here.)

I am a female who weighs 233 pounds and I’m only 5’4’’. I can’t seem to get started because it seems like such a mountain to climb! Also, when I start to work out, I get really sore really fast, and then can’t work out for a few days. Then I give up. I don’t know how to start small, and don’t know what to do when I’m so sore I can’t bend.

I love healthy food, adore vegetables, never have fast food or soft drinks, but have no portion control. I love anything creamy: mac and cheese, pasta, cheese and bread and any creamy dip or sauce.

Although I’m American, I’m currently abroad, housesitting for 3 months in [a tropical country] and would really like to use this time to get in shape, lose weight and develop good habits. It’s a beautiful place but the mosquitoes are killers and the street food is cheap, fantastic but not exactly healthy.

I’ve lost a few pounds before but need to get started and stay consistent and I am writing to you out of desperation. Do you have any tips or advice? I’d appreciate anything you can offer. You’re very inspiring!

Dear Reader,

First of all, I understand. I understand the feelings of despair, being overwhelmed, not knowing how to start. I lived decades in those shoes. Secondly… I’m jealous! I want to housesit in [the tropical country you mentioned]!

What I liked about the your letter is that you mentioned so many of the key things that you need to address, like portion control, starting small, eating right, and exercising. You know what you need to do, but it’s hard to figure out how to get the ball rolling. Hopefully I can help!

Let’s start with exercise. If what you’re doing is making you sore, do less. Choose an low-impact activity, like walking, and just start with 15 minutes a day. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but the point isn’t to wear yourself out in one workout, the point is to start a habit. So do less than what you think you’re capable of, but make yourself do it every day. Schedule it into your calendar, like it’s a doctor’s appointment. Listen to your body, and if you need a rest day, take one, but start back up the day after that.

Since you have a propensity to get sore, it may take some trial and error to figure how exactly what you can do and maintain five or six times a week, but embrace that process. Once you figure out what it is, do it for a few weeks to cement it as part of your routine. Then you can start pushing yourself to do more. 15 minutes can become 20. After another week, 20 can become 25.

As for food, I’ll have to speak generally because I don’t know what kind of access you have in healthy options in [unnamed tropical country]. But you say you love healthy food and vegetables, so embrace that! The great thing about vegetables – and lean animal-based proteins, like chicken, fish and eggs – is that you don’t have to worry about portion sizes. Each as much broccoli and tuna as you want (provided it’s cooked healthily, and not covered in rich sauces or cheese).

You have to be more careful with carbohydrates and sugar, though. And unfortunately, in your situation, it sounds like you may need to cut some foods out entirely. For now. If you can’t stop after a moderate amount of pasta or bread, don’t keep those things in your house. That doesn’t mean that you can never have them – but if you can put away a 6-serving box of pasta in one evening, then don’t buy that 6-serving box. You can occasionally treat yourself at a restaurant or satisfy a craving with a visit to a street vendor, but don’t give yourself the ammunition to sabotage your hard work just by opening your own kitchen cupboard.

It may be easier to take a good hard look at your current eating habits, and pinpointing one problem that you can address. Do you eat late at night? Do you snack too much during the afternoon? Can you replace a dessert with a piece of fruit, or a beer with water? Identify one small goal that you can tackle on a daily basis, and figure out a healthy swap, or a way to avoid circumstances that result in poor decisions, and start doing it every day. Focus on that daily goal, and, like the exercise, just work on making that a habit. Once it’s a habit, you can add a second daily goal, and continue to build.

I can say, speaking from experience, focusing on one or two daily goals is a great way to take your mind off the big picture of losing dozens, or in my case, hundreds of pounds. Complete your daily goal and give yourself a reason to celebrate! (Not by eating junk food!)

Lastly – and this could be the hardest thing to comprehend –  cut yourself some slack. Know, and remind yourself if you have to, that you’re worth every tough choice and every sacrifice. Because you are! You deserve to be happy, and it breaks my heart to read that you’re miserable, because no one should be. (My heart breaks even more, because I know how much time I wasted feeling the same thing.)

Please keep me posted on how you’re doing! Just find one or two things that you can change in your day-to-day life, and KEEP IT UP, READER!

I’ll do the same thing. Keep it up, David!

If anyone else has any advice, share it in the comments section! And if you have a question for me, reach out to me here.

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12 Responses to “Fat and Miserable and in Perpetual Despair”

  1. ro says:

    Wonderful advice as I feel the same way as the person who wrote you. So very hard to start & stick with it when there’s a lot to lose, which is what I have

  2. lunchmuffin says:

    tropical? omg, mangoes mangoes mangoes!

    house sitting? omg, housework housework housework!

    as an example i completely wipe down the shower after every use. if it burns 20 calories per day that’s 2 lbs per year just from that.

    sweeping, mopping, wiping stuff down, doing laundry. a person can stay busy with that kind of stuff 8 hours per day. turn on some music, that’ll keep you moving.

    good luck!

    • David says:

      Yup, housework calorie burn adds up quickly! Good advice. And thanks for the video links – that farmers market is awesome!

      • lunchmuffin says:

        Hello again. I’m glad you enjoyed the vid. I cry a little when I see the winter farmer’s markets in Costa Rica, Southern Florida, (and, I suppose, southern California?)

        Mt favorite Jack Albritton quote: “You don’t look at a mango like I look at a mango”. I never forgot that one.

        Best

  3. lunchmuffin says:

    Jack Albritton in Costa Rica:

    He eats a lot of food, mostly fruit, and so do I. Good luck!

  4. lunchmuffin says:

    not trying to thread hog. that’s not the best video i could have picked. i have seen that counter piled high with so much fruit it looked like paradise.

  5. lunchmuffin says:

    I’m sorry David but when she said tropical it just gets me going:

  6. Mary Lee says:

    Find an exciting book and only allow yourself to enjoy it on earbuds while your walking. That helps me on days I’m not motivated.
    Great advice, David! Keep it up!

  7. I found that I had to re-train my brain, and it took many years and many different tries to find the way to make it work. The main thing that I had to change in my brain was learning how to be hungry. I had to teach myself that I could be hungry and not die! lol I started out by just waiting only 5 minutes to eat, and then over the weeks and months, waiting a few minutes longer. This took a long time and was very difficult, but I now finally can be hungry for a while and not snack and wait for a regular meal.

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