How about putting the fat in Fat Tuesday?

Like most blubbery and beer-numbed Americans, I’m always looking for effective and yet convenient ways to manage my weight.  My own fitness plan never stays steady for more than a few months, since I (stupidly) tend to over-analyze and am too impatient to wait for long-term results.

I managed to lose 40 pounds from mid-2015 to mid-2016 and went from an “obese” 30.0 BMI to a “normal” 24.7.  Despite the odd lapse from holidays and some minor illness since the New Year I’ve held my ground, but I’d like to get my body fat down about 3% to 4% more this year from the roughly 20% I’m at now.  That’s maybe 10 more pounds of fat.

Thankfully, I don’t struggle much with motivation.  Vanity, more than Gluttony, has always been my preferred Sin.  I hated being a fat, fat-faced fat-ass and don’t want to go back to it ever again.  I’ll see it through, but probably the one place I need guidance is just finding a program that’s more safe and sensible that I can comfortably stick with for the long term than anything else.  I’ve started to move away from calorie counting (mostly because it’s a hassle) and am more interested in just finding what’s best to eat, what should be avoided, what types of exercise I should do, and how often.

Maybe I’ll never get it perfectly figured out, but I’ll never stop working at it until I’m inevitably killed by either tobacco use or alcohol abuse.  Mourners will remark about how lithe my corpse is, how I look so peaceful like I just polished off a Jack and Coke, and how disappointing it was that the funeral home didn’t bother to clean the nicotine stains off of my fingers.  I’m keeping some of my vices.  I just don’t want to be fat, okay?  Shut up.

Other people, understandably, do have to work hard to stay motivated.  Mrs Thrill is one of these folks.  So I saw this new study from the Obesity Society about the effectiveness of “telephonic wellness coaching” on weight loss and was curious to know if anyone has had any experience with this sort of program.  According to the study, it does work.

This study was designed to evaluate the impact of a real-world telephonic wellness coaching program on weight loss among patients whose goals were to manage their weight, improve their healthy eating habits, or increase their physical activity. Among wellness coaching participants, we found a significant downward trajectory in BMI over a 12-month period starting from the first coaching session, compared with matched controls who were not exposed to coaching, and an estimated level of BMI reduction of greater than one unit, which is considered clinically significant in populations with overweight and obesity [37]. These results are comparable to those of clinical trials of coaching interventions [19, 20], suggesting that telephonic coaching programs can be effective when adopted as part of routine clinical care.

Apparently, this is a service that Weight Watchers offers, among others.  The big pluses to me, besides the favorable data, are that it looks cheap and convenient and I’m both poor and lazy.

What do you think?  Is this something any of you have tried or do you think it’s something that would help you or someone you know?

12 comments

  1. My wife was an active “health coach” for one of these programs for several years. It worked for a lot of people…at least temporarily. Most that were obese before starting gained their weight back, some eventually weighed more than they did when they started. But there were some that managed to keep it off for years. I think it’s a problem of motivation. “White-knuckling” it only works so long. Switch was a fantastic book to help me understand what lasting change takes – not just in weight loss, but any lasting change. I’m still trying to figure out my own health journey.

  2. I’m sorry to hear that so many people couldn’t make the change permanent. I like the look of “Switch”, thanks for that. That sort of “rewire your brain” type of advice really is what I think most people who struggle with self-harmful lifestyle choices need. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just following bad systems and they can change it.

    I’ve been experimenting with some of the fitness advice in How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Judging by the synopsis of Switch, I think they recommend similar approaches.

  3. I didn’t ever try a system. Many, many years ago I got sick of my beer gut (I don’ t think my BMI was as high as yours, but I was certainly overweight). So (coincidentally) one Lent I said, Fuck it! I’m cutting out shit food for 40 days (with the exception of beer). I got a membership at the YMCA, and just started running. First I started with 1K on 1K off, upped it 1K at a time until I was running 10K a day. I probably cut about 20-25 lbs over that time, and I’ve managed to keep it off ever since.
    I no longer run but now I ride my bike to work about 10 months out of the year. I also added weights to my repertoire in the last 2 years (which did wonders for my lower back pain, which has pretty much disappeared, and when it does flare up, recovery time is minimal). There are some downs, but they are minor. When I need to play catch up I’ll pull out the P90X CDs at night to supplement my daily workout (which I’m doing right now, as I’m going to Florida in a couple of weeks). I guess basically I’m saying be obsessive about it!

  4. You’re lucky you were able to make running work. I just can’t. My calves and lungs can’t take it and I hate it too much to stick with it. It’s a shame because it is one of the quickest ways to burn calories.

    Like you, I also have experienced some back pain in the past and also found that it improved with weight training. Apparently, weak core muscles cause a lot more strain to be placed on your back and it doesn’t really take much to improve.

    My own current weekly plan is two days at the gym for weights, one or two days of cardio, two days of martial arts (this is more recent), one day of light calisthenics and yoga. It meets my needs.

  5. Yeah, there are certain ways that the experts screw things up for people who are trying to lose weight. The obesity epidemic has some pretty sound, fundamental causes.

    We eat too much junk food and drink too many sugary beverages.
    We don’t eat enough vegetables or drink enough water
    We don’t get enough physical activity throughout the day

    That should be an easy enough jumping-off point, but then the experts muck it all up when they obsess about how many grams of fiber you should be getting at breakfast, which protein shake is the best, how to split up your ab workout days, whether it’s better to eat immediately after a workout for fat loss, and all sorts of other academic diarrhea that I think most people find confusing and overwhelming.

    There are thousands of magazines and websites that obsess over these mundane details and I don’t think the average person has the ability to sift and figure out which approach is best or which contradictory study is most applicable to them.

    I’ve embraced the opinion that if you simply cut out as much sugar as possible (except fruit and the like, naturally), try to fill up on vegetables as much as you can at meals, drink a ton of water, and do some sort of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, you’ll eventually hit your target.

    K.I.S.S. is the guiding principle, or should be anyway.

  6. I too hate running. Bad back, sore knees, can’t breath, etc. After trying Crossfit several years ago, I found that I actually enjoy rowing. Bonus – Zero impact. So last year I bought a Water Rower. Not cheap, but I like it better than the chain driven machines most gyms use.

  7. That’s brilliant. You found what you like doing and you made it convenient by buying your own rower so you can do it at the best time. That’s the sort of advice I would give people: go with something you can do consistently.

    Lots of people get screwed because they say, “I’m trying to lose weight and I want to exercise. What works?”

    Then they’ll read something or someone will tell them, “Oh, you have to run. Running is the best. And swimming. Swim for an hour a day.”

    “But I hate running. It hurts. I also don’t have access to a pool.”

    “Sorry, bro, that’s the BEST way and you’re wasting your time if you try anything else!”

    It’s bullshit, of course. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to exercise by doing things you hate. Who wants to live that way?

    The best exercise for you is the one you’re comfortable doing that gets your heart rate going and doesn’t torture you in the process. The worst exercise for you is the one that you aren’t doing at all because it’s unpleasant, painful, and inconvenient no matter how many calories it burns per hour.

  8. I know that diet fads are a tried and true billion dollar industry but there are things that work almost across the board.

    1.) nutrition: many dieters don’t notice a big change when they first start restricting food. If they’re not training physically it would be hard to tell the impact of nutrition on energy levels.

    However, if you add physical training to your diet you instantly can see the wisdom in nutrient rich food. By Comparison think of gasoline. If I was racing I’d get airplane fuel. It occupies the same amount of space in my gas tank but allows much more energy output. Food behaves in almost the same manner. Low grade, garbage calories will lead to lethargic performance whether you consume only a thousand of them a day or not.

    2.) adding lean muscle mass: there’s a misconception that working out makes you a linebacker. Genetics aside it’s largely untrue. Adding lean muscle mass through strength training can be the rocket ship to a lean physique. It can take your economy four cylinder body and turn it into a fire breathing eight cylinder engine capable of burning more calories at idle or under stress.

  9. Yeah, the lean muscle mass misconception really hurts women. That’s a great example to bring up.

    I’ve heard many women say that they don’t want to do ANY strength training because they don’t want to get muscular and they never believe me no matter how many times I tell them it isn’t happening unless they go to extremes.

    My wife has started incorporating it into her routine, thankfully.

  10. It’s a concept that plagues men as well. I can’t tell you how many times I see men at the gym doing these repetitive training techniques on only certain muscles like chest, back and abs without training their legs. The theory I hear most is they feel they won’t get a v shape by adding in a leg routine:

    The trouble is two fold: 1.) your body wants to grow symmetrically, and the ideal physique for men resembles an x and not a y. That’s why when you see that distended upper body and chicken legs physique that plagues ignorant weight lifters there’s almost a natural revulsion to it. 2.) things like abs do not appear by doing sit ups, abs appear in a culmination of your gym efforts, fat loss and proper nutrition. Keeping with the legs example, they are one of the most effective muscles to train for fat loss because they are by far the largest and most functional muscle masses we have. The demand from them is great, as I’m sure everyone wanting to avoid leg day because it’s a pain in the ass will tell you.

    However, the effect of weight training on your muscles, especially legs isn’t primarily puffy growth. The first effects you will notice is definition and tightening because lean muscle mass is dense and compact.

    Asking for that much energy from the body from the legs is probably five times the fat burning request doing 50 pull ups and 100 sit ups would be and seeing the six pack would happen at a much faster clip than almost any other upper body work.

  11. I’ve never heard that about the legs. My workouts are typically pretty balanced, so I haven’t neglected them much, but this is definitely useful to me.

    Mrs Thrill says I’m “proportional” and have avoided Skinny Leg Syndrome. I’m overall happy with my build, but do want to bring my stomach in a couple of more inches. You have given excellent guidance on something I need to make sure I keep focusing on.

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