First time when I decided that I need to do something about my health was when I looked at myself in the mirror one day.
Standing at 6’6”, I was well over 320lbs of weight. Looking at my reflection I somehow knew that my body was not designed to handle all of that fat and that I was constantly stressing out my joints by carrying all that weight (later it turned out that I was right).
My lifestyle was pretty simple working as a remote designer/developer – once I got up at 11 AM (due to working in the middle of the night), I got my regular coffee then a “healthy” amount of bagels, cereals, and a bunch of other sugary products for my breakfast.
My day carried over with myself sitting at my desk or on my couch the whole day… and my physical activities were scarce – going to store to get more food (and energy drinks), or taking a short walk with my then-girlfriend.
In the back of my mind, I knew that I was pretty much obese but I usually brushed it off that one day I’ll need to do something about that.
Well… that one day finally came. The first thing which I’ve done was to analyze my daily activities and write them on a paper:
- Sitting 8-10 hours a day
- Walking 20 minutes twice a week
- Eating a lot of junk food
- Going to sleep at 2-3am
Looking at that paper I understood even better that my lifestyle wasn’t good. The priority was placed 90% of my work while the other 10% was my “life” – and this meant that I had to work on achieving some kind of a balance, otherwise if I’d continue living like this I’d live on my couch sitting, working, eating and sleeping.
So the first step which I had to do was going to the scale to measure myself – and so I did. Scale displayed 320 lbs if my memory serves me correctly. Ok, one more “motivation point” to add to my list.
Let me stop my story here to mention something – I believe that if you ingrain a simple routine which you can follow will serve you much well in the long term rather than just deciding to quit cold-turkey, diet and hate yourself for 7 days and then go back to your old lifestyle again.
So going back to my topic, I did some research and found an app called MyFitnessPal and I installed it on my phone. With it I’ve seen that to use that app properly you’ll need to know how much your food actually weights so I bought a kitchen scale.
Lastly, I needed to know how much food I needed to eat on a daily basis without gaining additional pounds to my body. This is called a TDEE so I found a great calculator online and entered my digits in it.
First few weeks were great. I started tracking my food intake, did not stop eating junk food, and I felt better than I felt before. Change is good, constant small progress is even better.
Before we continue, let me mention something valuable which I’ve learned years later down the road – a calorie is not a calorie. Eating much sugar (which is found in most processed food) will mess up your hormones and won’t bring them back to their natural level (if you have or had love handles and/or man-boobs like I did… you can relate to this).
Additionally, with practical experience and long-term testing I found out that by slowly reducing processed food (and then later removing it completely) really took a positive toll on my eating habits – I simply enjoyed eating more meat, bread and vegetables instead of yearning for a chocolate cake (and trust me, I LOVED chocolate).
To resume what I was talking about, my progress went well but I wanted to take it up to a new level – and that level was starting a physical activity. I had recreational experience with long-distance biking, swimming, basketball and other sports but remembering that I was just skinny with some fat around my waist (skinny-fat) I didn’t want to repeat all those results again with those sports (side note… I’m not saying that those activities are bad, just I decided to try something else).
I knew that I wanted to add some muscle instead since I’ve done my research and understood that recomposing my body with building muscle will also lose my fat in the process (body would use that fat as an energy source).
So… that is how I decided to purchase a gym membership. Initially, I had the same prejudice like most of my friends had, and that was that people who went to the gym were “brainless muscle-bound grunts with no reading comprehension”.
Another prejudice which I had was that any kind of a good looking body was a result of years of steroid abuse and dedicating 24 hours of day lifting and eating brown rice and unseasoned chicken (thanks, fitness websites!). Third prejudice was that all those good-looking people at the gym with shredded bodies and their six-packs would laugh at my fat body and berate me constantly. Was this true? Let’s find out…
I went to the sporting good store and bought a gym bag, a pair of training shorts and few plain t-shirts, and went to the gym. I was extremely nervous… actually, I had a good case of social anxiety (since I spent the most of my days at home)… the anxiety was so bad that when I approached the gym’s door my heart was pounding so hard and my throat felt like someone was strangling me.
But – I pushed that door and went in. I’ve met the receptionist, explained that I want to join, and he gave me a quick tour of the gym and off I was to the changing room.
The changing room was a whole experience in itself. Guys with Apollon-like bodies were yelling and laughing among themselves… and nobody gave a crap that some fat guy was struggling to change into his workout clothes.
When I entered the gym, I had a routine which I’ve downloaded online so I knew which exercises I’d do (I also watched few videos on how to perform them).
So off I went, warmed up and started doing exercises… and again, NOBODY would point at me or laugh at me or did anything wrong. People were just focused on doing their own workouts, having a quick casual chat with their friends, and that was pretty much it. So, another prejudice went down the hatch pretty quickly.
One of the exercises which I had in my routine was to do Bench Press… and since I knew that I couldn’t do a single push-up, my reasoning was that by starting with a light weight on the bench press and by progressively loading weights I could become stronger and do an actual push-up one day. Turns out… I the empty bar on the bench press was hard! I could press it for no more than 6 repetitions (I’m deadly serious).
Embarrassed and angry at myself, I went to the dumbell rack, picked the smallest set of dumbells I could find and started dumbbell bench press exercise.
The day went on, I completed my workouts, skipped the shower at the gym because I was embarrassed by my fat body so I just changed to new clothes quickly and went home.
I was really happy that I went over my fear all by myself and completed the workout.
But, I was very angry that I was so weak – so I decided that I’ll continue going to the gym and become stronger. Again, like with my excess body fat when I was looking at my mirror, I knew that my body was not meant to be so weak and so fragile .
So few months down the line, I become a little bit stronger (i was still training on a classic bodybuilding split), I’ve lost a lot of weight (60lbs)… and I’ve lost that weight since I’ve read a bunch of bodybuilding articles which were talking that the only optimal way of building muscle and losing fat was:
- Eating at caloric deficit (I ate -800 deficit…)
- Eating raw vegetables (which is fine…)
- Training one muscle group a week to allow your body to recover (nope…)
- Eating steam-cooked chicken exclusively
- Keeping carbohydrates at the bare minimum
- Chugging protein drinks because “you can’t add that much protein with natural food” (Nah…)
I felt great during my workouts, but boy did I felt completely miserable during the rest of my days. Knowing that I’d need to eat another round of plain unseasoned steam-cooked chicken (which tasted like cardboard) and a set of solid cooked eggs didn’t make me enjoy my life at all.
I wanted to eat more, to enjoy a beer or two, eat some nice steak or a sandwich with lots of dry meat sounded much better… and that’s how I found out about strength training.
So, it turned out that by eating a good amount of solid unprocessed foods (to allow my body to recover for the next training session) AND lifting heavy weights (progressively loading them each day) you could build a nice looking body with a good amount of muscle… so naturally I “signed up” immediately!
I started training and eating well, and my body responded by adapting to those weights by building muscle – not a rocket science for sure. After few months I was squatting, deadlifting and bench pressing well over 200 pounds and I could do pushups and even pull-ups!
Amazing thing for sure…. when I’ve seen that I could do a pull-up I couldn’t believe that it happened, trust me… it thought that I was imagining it. And that’s how my real “strength” journey started (which I’ve written about on my About page).
So, What Can You Learn From My Story? Let’s See…
As I talked before, creating a simple routine which you can follow (without starving yourself) is a much better way and it’s something that you can easily continue doing in the long term.
With that said, here’s what I’d suggest – also, I really like to over-plan and overthink. With that in mind, I’ve written a comprehensive list below with every step explained in detail so YOU don’t have to overthink and over-plan like I do 🙂 Let’s see the actual list….
Start With Sorting Out Your Nutrition
You’ll worry about protein, fats, carbohydrates and all that good stuff later. Don’t over-complicate it and certainly don’t overthink it.
Again – I believe that you don’t need to quit cold turkey and starve yourself… that will just bring you back to your old habits in a week or two since that way of thinking is not sustainable (and not healthy) in the long term.
Measure Yourself On A Scale
Get a scale (or go buy it if you don’t have it) and measure your body weight. Write that number down on a piece of paper, and don’t worry if you’re too heavy or too light (skinny). Knowing this number is a good thing – you know which your adjustments you can make to either lose weight or gain it since you have a starting point.
Step 1 – Buy A Kitchen Scale
There are lots of cheap, durable kitchen scales available online which you can buy – but this handy little device will be a game-changer on your new lifestyle, trust me on this.
Step 2 – Get A Piece Of Paper
So here’s what I think you should do next… go through your regular day of eating but also measure and write down everything on paper. Just follow these steps:
- Measure raw food which you’re preparing (with your brand new kitchen scale) and note that on your paper.
- If you’re eating processed or packaged food, its weight is shown on the box so just write that down.
- If you’re drinking soda or any kind of sugary drinks, write that down as well.
- Eat your meal!
By the end of a day, you should have in front of you a filled paper with all the foods and their weights which you’ve eaten during the day. Sidenote – I’d also recommend tracking how much water you’ve taken.
Step 3 – Find Out Your TDEE
I recommend using this calculator to find out your TDEE – which is a number of how many calories a day you should eat to maintain your current body weight. This is important because once you know that, you can easily remove calories if you need to lose weight (or add calories if you need to gain weight). Again – write that number down on your paper.
Step 4 – Install MyFitnessPal (Free Edition) Or Any Other Similar App
Setup and install a calorie tracking app on your phone. Remember your there number from step 3?
I recommend adding that number in that app instead of letting it calculate it for you. With my practical research, I’ve found out that the TDEE suggested by calorie tracking apps was way smaller than the TDEE which I’ve found on the calculator which I’ve recommended.
This is very important – if you’re eating at a large caloric deficit you’ll starve yourself and as I mentioned – this is a not a good long-term strategy. You’ll feel constantly hungry and just go to your old eating habits after few weeks.
Step 5 – Add Your Paper Notes To Calorie Tracking App
By now you should have few paper notes from several days (Step 2). Open your calorie tracking app and input the foods and their weights by looking at your paper notes (you can add your notes from the day before as an example).
Voila! You’ll see the actual number of calories which you’re eating on a daily basis and that will show you how much over (or under) your TDEE you are.
Sidenote— I’d recommend that you start drinking much more water than you’re currently drinking. By that, I mean at least a half a gallon (2 liters) a day.
Step 6 – Continue Your New Routine
I recommend that you continue your new routine of measuring food and inputting it in the calorie app for few weeks before considering to start exercising.
Sidenote – I also recommend that you measure your body weight every two weeks on Monday and input those numbers in the app as well. Again – do not worry or stress out if you haven’t lost weight or gained it.
You should feel proud that you’ve started a consistent routine (and stayed on it) without starving yourself or counting the days or hours when you’re going to have your “cheat” day.
Step 7 – Replace Few Junk Foods With Healthy Foods
By now you should have a good measurable routine which you’re following by tracking your calorie intake.
So here’s what I’d do next… instead of a piece of chocolate cake, try adding almonds or few scoops of peanut butter instead (non-sugary peanut butter). Try out that and input that to your calorie app instead of adding a piece of chocolate or similar food which you’re eating now. You can also try making an oatmeal with cinnamon, milk and one teaspoon of sugar!
Now – don’t stress out if you’d like to go back to chocolate instead. You’re certainly free to do so and it’s not the end of the world. But before you do that, please try out the replacement foods which I’ve to recommend for a week or two and let me know how that worked out.
Step 8 – Start A Simple Exercise Routine At Your Home
So you have many better-eating habits than you had previously… congrats!
Now, let’s start adding a simple exercise routine which you can easily follow. As I talked before, there’s a LOT of exercise routines online… and I’ve created one myself as well. You’re certainly free to do your own research – but if you’d like to give my routine a try, click here to download it for free. It’s first and foremost written for people who sit or stand a lot during their days (like I am) and I myself use that routine on a daily basis.
Step 9 – Track Your New Exercise Routine
Nevertheless, on which workout you’ve started, take a piece of paper and track how much times a week you’re exercising and how much repetitions (or exercises) are you doing.
Again, don’t stress out how much repetitions are you doing and if you are weak and tired or not. Most important thing here is (like with your TDEE and body weight) that you have an actual starting point so you can measure your progress and constantly improve.
As a reminder, I provide printable (and digital) versions of my Daily Mobility routine which you can purchase on this website for the price of few coffees – click here to view more details on this.
Step 10 – Maintain Your New Exercise Routine And Your Eating Habits
Congrats again! You’ve done another step up the ladder towards a more healthier lifestyle. You should feel proud that you’re exercising while also maintaining a log of your daily nutrition.
Again, I recommend maintaining these new habits for few weeks before you decide to start exercising more often. If you’d wish to do so by going to the gym, read on…
Step 11 – Research New Bodybuilding (Or Strength) Exercise Routine
Besides a lot of stuff which you can find online, I’ve also created a free Strength Routine for untrained & total beginners which you can download for free. If you’d like to give it a try, please feel free to use it. Again – I’ve written this for people who never trained at the gym, but it can be also applied to regular gym goers who never did a strength-oriented program. Anyway, going back to the topic…
Once you’ve found an exercise routine which you can follow, write it down on paper and prepare it for the rest of your equipment for the gym (side note – I’ve created printable templates for my strength routine which you can view here).
Step 12 – Prepare Equipment For The Gym
You won’t need fancy fitness add-ons or anything like that. Again, there’s no need to overthink or stress about getting equipment so you can just get started. Check out my list:
- Gym bag
- Set of shirts and shorts (i have few UnderAmour shorts which are great)
- sneakers (i recommend sneakers with a flat solid sole like the good old Chuck Taylors since they provide a stable base for your foot – this is especially important if you plan to squat or deadlift).
- Bottle of water
- Paper with your exercise routine
- Towel (during the workout)
- Underwear, towel, and shampoo (if you’ll shower at the gym)
That’s pretty much it. Now, onto the next step….
Step 13 – Go To The Gym
So here’s the thing… no matter which exercises routine which you’ve picked, I believe that your first day at the gym you should familiarize yourself with the equipment, see how the things are organized, where is the squat rack, dumbells, weight area, machines… you get the point.
So I’d recommend that you skip the pricey personal training which you’ll probably be offered, and go straight to the gym area and warm up.
Once you’ve warmed up, try out several popular machines which you’ll see at the gym – the chest press one, the leg press, pretty much any machine which seems interesting to you. Try testing out each machine for 2-3 sets of 8 repetitions with light weight and see how it goes.
The instructions on how to use each machine are printed out usually at the top or on the side of each machine.
Once you’re done, go back to the stretching/warm up area, stretch out, take a shower and go home. Congrats again – you’ve started out on your weight lifting journey! I hope that you had a great first day.
Step 14 – Start A Training Routine At The Gym
I’ll never recommend one of those 6-week fitness programs which will magically make you “shed 60lbs of fat” or “gain 20lbs of muscle”, as well as routines which are based on Holywood actors (yeah…).
All of those are “exercise” routines – not training routines. An exercise routine means that you don’t have a clear goal or a short-term plan for your time spent at the gym – having “a pump” or “feeling great” are not the things which can be measured.
Instead of that, I’d recommend a training routine – meaning that there’s an actual measurable goal – for an example, get stronger on your Squat or Bench Press by starting with 50lbs and then lifting 225lbs in the next 3 months.
Your body will naturally respond (adapt) while you’re increasing weights each workout meaning that your body will be forced to create muscle (and improve your nervous system) so you can continue adding weights to your lifts if that makes sense.
My Vigorous 5×5 Total Beginner Strength Routine incorporates these principles (based on progressive overload) but you’re certainly free to try out any other training routine which you can find online.
Step 15 – Enjoy Your New Lifestyle
By now you’ll have a good nutrition plan, training plan as well as daily mobility plan – with all of that your body will start slowly recomposing itself (by using your fat as an energy source) and adjusting to your new lifestyle. Your hormones will start regulating themselves as well which will affect your stress levels (bring them down) – and all of that combined with good, unprocessed food, lifting heavy weights and sleeping good will have you already feeling great and enjoying your life!
I hope that I haven’t bored you with too many details but I’ve felt that I needed to write this considering the questions which I’ve received on the daily basis.
In a nutshell, I really hope that this article and my own experiences with my first time at the gym will help you out to create a new and improved healthy lifestyle and good habits. Let me know how everything went on!