The Sustainable Struggle
by Joshua Danker-Dake
I know what it is to wake up one morning and realize, “Holy smokes, I’ve gained a ton of weight.” And I know the struggle of slowly, painfully losing it all. This is my story.
I was in great shape for the first 18 years of my life. I walked to school, I played sports, I was active all the time. But when I went to college, I unwittingly became completely sedentary at the same time I got unlimited access to pizza, cheeseburgers, and soda. I gained fifty pounds in two years. At 20 years old, I couldn’t walk up two flights of stairs without having to stop at the top to catch my breath.
After I graduated, I lost a few pounds naturally, if only because what I was eating at home was marginally less terrible than what I’d been eating in the cafeteria. When I was 25, I decided to try to get it together. For the first time in my life, I started to actually think about the food I was eating each day, to choose healthier and lower-calorie foods (more fruits and vegetables), to drink less soda, and to eat smaller portions. I began to exercise on a regular basis. I lost thirty of the pounds I’d gained, but I wasn’t able to get back to my ideal weight.
Two days before my first child was born, I got hit by a car. As these sorts of things go, it wasn’t that bad (although I certainly wouldn’t recommend it), but I had to go to physical therapy for an impinged shoulder. Since I was working from home and taking care of the baby during the day, I had to find an exercise I could do at home without aggravating my shoulder.
I found a resistance band-based high-intensity interval training workout program that fit the bill. It was the most intense exercise I’d done in ten years. I finally started losing the rest of the weight, and for the first time in a long time, I had hope that I might actually undo all the damage I’d done to myself in college.
An unanticipated effect was that I was motivated to further improve my diet. I ate smaller portions, I cut overall calories, and I drastically reduced sugar. I’d guess that 80% of my weight loss came on the diet side, but the diet and exercise went hand in hand—faithfulness in one inspired diligence in the other.
As of this writing, I’m a few pounds up from the target, because some days I like having a bedtime snack more than I like being thinner. It’s a journey—one with a direction but not a final destination.
I was originally going to title this article “My Journey: Weight Loss,” but that’s too limited. Weight is important, to be sure, but it’s only a part of health and wellness. In the years I’ve committed to improving my health, I’ve read up quite a bit on the science of health, fitness, exercise, and weight loss. I’ve learned a lot. I’d like to share some of it with you in future posts.
It’s not going to be “Here’s an amazing fad diet!” Not “Five things you should ALWAYS/NEVER eat!” Not “Stop everything you’re doing and completely change your lifestyle!” That stuff isn’t helpful. We’re not professional athletes here. We’re not fitness models. We don’t have multiple hours a day to work out, or a personal chef to get our brown rice and chicken breast on the table every three hours. If the farthest you’ve ever run in one go is three miles, you wouldn’t go out tomorrow and try to run a marathon. Why take that sort of approach to weight loss, to health and fitness?
In lieu of that nonsense (which abounds on network TV, in supermarket counter magazines, and all over the internet), I’m going to offer some reasonable, practical, possible ways you can improve your health and fitness. Ways you can make incremental changes you can live with and develop sustainable habits, not a bunch of dieting and craziness.
See you next time.
Joshua Danker-Dake is the author of the acclaimed comic novel The Retail. A writer and editor by trade, he also serves as the Strategy and Tactics Editor for Diplomacy World, the flagship publication of the Diplomacy hobby. Beyond health and fitness, other things he gets rather excited about include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, bombastic European power metal, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
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Realistic fitness goals and advice are so hard to come by these days, it seems! Definitely looking forward to this series.
Also, just peeked at your website, saw your OWFI novel win from May, congrats! I won the unpublished scifi/fantasy novel category there in 2013. It’s a great crowd to be in with!
Thanks for the good words, Rebekah!
Thanks for the good words, Rebekah! Much appreciated.