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I need you to get in shape

I have had the unfortunate disposition of seeing a significant number of people do two things lately:

  1. Die.
  2. Get fat. Which usually leads to #1 faster

I need you to stop doing both.

My grandfather was in generally terrible health. He smoked, drank, overate, and while physically strong, he succumbed to bone cancer.

My mother was also in generally terrible health. We never ate well, often eating out of boxed dinners and frozen foods. She never exercised. She drank nothing but soda and mostly Big Red. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m convinced her brain tumor was caused by a poor diet.

I’m getting to an age where my body is obviously slowing down its metabolism. And my friends are in the same spot. But it’s been impossible for me to not notice some of my friends are, uh, expanding.

To put it bluntly: I really don’t want you to die. I’ve lost way too many people in my life at ridiculously early stages of life to a variety of different means. I’m kinda tired of it.

I need you to exercise. And I mean actually exercise as a part of a fit lifestyle. I’m talking about more than just 30 minutes of exercise a day, because I don’t think that’s enough. I need you to do an hour a day of elevated heart rate at least 5 days a week. If you’re not in pain for the first month, you’re not doing it right.

I need you to stop eating shit. I need you to stop buying and consuming soda entirely. I need you to never go to a chain or fast food restaurant ever again. I need you to eat more vegetables. I need you to stop smoking and drinking so much alcohol.

I need you to put aside the idea that your fat is somehow “who you are”, or that your body is just predisposed to being overweight. By that rationale we’d never treat pimples or remove tumors, because “they’re just who I am.”

I need you to put aside this notion that you have no time. You have just as much time as anyone and everyone else. I don’t care if your kids are weird or your cat is needy. Kids are people, too, and they also need exercise. It’s time to start making some really hard, long-term, permanent adjustments to the way you live. Maybe that means moving. Maybe you have to wake up earlier.

And, if you need it, I need you to ask me for help. If I have to show up at your front door on Saturdays to bike 50 miles, or if you need someone to compete against or bounce off of, so be it.

So many of the people I know at my age are leaving a time when they can relatively easily lose weight and get healthy with a minimal or modest amount of effort. We’re also fast approaching an age where it’s going to require so much more effort to achieve the same results. Get ahead of the game and treat this like your retirement: start early.

I’m not entirely tone deaf on this matter. And I’m no extreme body builder. But, at least for now, I’m not overweight because I’ve worked at that.

If you think you have no time, I need you to ask yourself: how many hours of sleep do you get at night? Is it more than 7? How many hours of TV do you watch a night, or per week? Is it more than 1 or 9, respectively? Do you play video games? Do you dick around on the Internet for an hour or more a night? Then you have time to exercise instead.

Pay attention to juice labels and don’t be fooled by things like apple, orange, or cranberry juice — it’s loaded with sugar, which turns to fat.

At dinner, take your plate and immediately scrape off half of everything. Refrigerate that and whatever else is left in the pan. Now you have lunch or dinner for tomorrow. See, we’re saving money and calories already. If you’re still hungry, eat a bag of carrots. I’m not even kidding.

Figure out what helps you pass time better when you’re exercising. For me it’s listening to podcasts while cycling.

Figure out what motivates you. Is it fear of death? Is it embarrassment that keeps you out of the pool or water park each summer? Does someone have to publicly lord something over you? (I remember websites years ago that would take a mostly nude photo of a person and reveal one small tile of it per day if a person didn’t check in on a scale or hit some other goal regularly).

Seriously, I like you and would appreciate you not being an amorphous blob incapable of walking up stairs when you’re 40. Or being dead. Because I’m tired of that.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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