Fitness Ben vs. Fatness Ben, or How to Lose 10 Pounds in a Month

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It’s a sunny day in Steveston as I write this, home of Once Upon A Time and the Power Rangers, and I’m treating myself to a cold pint of rye porter. A month has passed since I wrote ‘Financial Planning for Your Life Expectancy’ and the week following that was kind of a scary one! I mean, I was staring my mortality in the face! All of a sudden, 77 seemed like too young to die. In that post, I knew I had my finances sorted, but what could I do to live an even longer life and actually get the chance to spend the money I’d been saving? I decided to double down on my health. Here’s how that went.

First, a story: I was kinda fat. Not like “my shorts could double as a parachute” fat, but fat enough. When my friends wanted to take me on a hike, I had to ask them how “bennable” it was. Would I have to scramble up a mountain? Was the trail longer than 5 kilometres? A lot of the time, I’d simply stay home. I was content in my shittiness. It wasn’t until the neon sign appeared in my mind, flashing “YOU WILL DIE AT 77”, that I knew I needed to get my shit together. A month later, I’m happy to announce I have my poop in a group. It all started with this article.

Losing 10 pounds in a month was my new challenge. Not just the weight loss, but also the healthy habits that come with maintaining a proper weight. While everyone else was watching the ball drop and smooching strangers, I was standing on my Fitbit Aria™ noting down my weight – 182.4 pounds. I knew what I needed to do. It was radical.

Beer intake got under control for the first time in my life. I knew every bottle I opened would set me back almost a day of weight loss progress. I started walking everywhere, sometimes reaching 30,000 steps a day. I loosely adopted Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet (SCD) and started cooking my own food aggressively. I started experimenting with intermittent fasting (IF), though I don’t recommend that for reasons like this. I read up on basal metabolic rates (BMR) and even went so far as to deliberately put myself in cold environments to increase calorie burn. On January 30, at 3:51 PM, I stood on my Aria, nervous because I only had one day left to meet my goal… I damn near cried. I’d done it. I was 169.6 pounds.

You can do it too.

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This should be obvious, but there’s a huge caveat as you read this: I AM NOT A FUCKING DOCTOR. This is only what worked for –ME– to lose 12.8 pounds in under a month. Be careful, and if you’re not feeling well, DON’T CONTINUE TAKING THIS ADVICE. You have been warned. I don’t want anyone in the hospital because of this. Sound good? Okay, let’s move on.

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HERE ARE SOME SOLID STEPS TO LOSE 10 POUNDS IN A MONTH:

* Cook your own food as often as you can, and treat bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as though they come with a warning.
* Greens and eggs are your friends. My typical breakfast is now a spinach omelette, but in case cholesterol is a concern, offset that with lentils for dinner. They seem to reduce LDL, or “bad cholesterol”. Here’s a great recipe I used. Here’s a more indulgent one.
* Walk 15,000-20,000 steps a day. It’ll burn roughly 3,500 calories after you factor in BMR, equal to roughly a pound of fat gone. Use a Fitbit to keep track if it helps motivate you.
* If you have unhealthy eating habits, DON’T actually use a full cheat day once a week. It’s one thing to allow yourself a little bit of fried chicken on a Saturday/Faturday. It’s entirely different to mainline Twinkies for 24 hours.
* Feel guilty when you’re sitting down. Unless it’s for work, you should be moving. Now that you know you can ALWAYS burn a calorie (like you can ALWAYS make a buck), turn your Netflix marathon into preparing for an actual marathon. You don’t need to actually run one; just get fit enough that it becomes a possibility someday!
* Get knowledgeable on fitness and food: I recommend “The 4-Hour Body” on audiobook as you walk, and “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” for a quick read. Both books offer contradicting advice. Find a balance that works best for you.

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A FEW WARNINGS AS YOU DO THIS:

* You’ll lose weight drastically when you start eating better, and it’ll shoot back up in 5-8 days when you get insanely thirsty. This is water weight. Don’t let it throw you off your goals.
* If you experiment with IF, which totally works but isn’t recommended, you –WILL– feel occasionally dizzy. Don’t drive while doing IF.
* The more accustomed you get to walking long distances, the more you’ll start to experience akathisia when you’re forced to sit still for too long. That’s normal. Try not to let it fuck with you too much.
* Have some goddamn fun as you do this! Seriously, drink the occasional beer. If you deny yourself the simple pleasures in life, you’ll inevitably backslide in huge ways. Don’t let your weight loss program get in the way of your happiness. This is important!

*****

My goal now is to simply maintain 170 pounds and a good baseline of physical activity. Remember the life expectancy calculator I used? Here’s what I get with my new stats: M, 28, 5’ 8”, 170 pounds, normal blood pressure, quit smoking, 3-5 drinks a day, active? 84 – A SEVEN-YEAR LIFE EXPECTANCY INCREASE! THAT’S EVEN ASSUMING I DRINK LIKE THIS FOREVER! You can make a change like this in a month too! If you could increase your life expectancy by SEVEN YEARS IN A MONTH, wouldn’t you do it?

Fatness Ben is dead. Fitness Ben beat the crap out of him because Fatness Ben was a wuss.

Ask me anything on Facebook.

My Secret to Hyperproductivity

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A few days ago, I had all of the following done by 12 noon:
– took 15,000 steps
– listened to 90 minutes of “The 48 Laws of Power” on audiobook
– wrote ‘Why Eating Out Makes Me Sad’
– read Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” cover to cover
– grabbed office supplies for my photography business
– and most importantly: even had two beers at the pub!

At no point did I feel rushed or stressed, and I’m happy to say mornings like this are a regular occurrence for me now. I exercise, expand my personal knowledge, do a bit of work, and even take time to relax… All before some people take their lunch break.

Sure, Ben, you’re probably thinking. You can do all that before 12 noon because you’re an entitled douchebag without a day job. Try working for 8 hours a day like the rest of us.

Uh, well, I do. By midnight that day, I was up to 28,000 steps with a 7-hour liquor store shift behind me. Even then, no rush and no stress. I felt more productive than ever, and it was all due to a simple idea I like to call “compound tasking”. Here’s how it works.

Compound tasking and multitasking are completely different beasts. The first distinction is that compound tasking comes into play when you have both a professional goal and a personal goal, and want to work on both at the same time. Multitasking tends to be all about work. Examples of multitasking include Elon Musk’s version of productivity – “he sends emails while scanning invoices, holds meetings and takes care of business on his phone at the same time, and even texts with his children on his lap”. (One could argue he’s also spending time with his family in the last example, but let’s come back to that in a bit. There’s only one hard no-no about compound tasking, and we’ll talk about that at the end.) On the other hand, compound tasking looks more like this – I get my exercise by walking 5 kilometres to the office supply shop while answering business texts on my phone, and I listen to mind-expanding audiobooks at the same time. My work obligations are taken care of, I’m looking after my health, and I’m actively learning… ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

I try to adopt compound tasking in all my activities. Even my shifts at the liquor store involve it, and I deliberately chose that side job with compound tasking in mind. For one, it expands my knowledge of beer, wine and spirits, which is a hobby of mine. On top of that, it provides me great exercise as I unload the weekly orders. It also gives me just enough downtime to actually stop and think about things. The job isn’t very mentally taxing, and I often formulate new business ideas and write post drafts as I work, usually while pacing the store to burn calories. And SOMEHOW, I’m getting paid for it all just by being present and stocking the occasional shelf! Compound tasking even reinvigorates me as I work because I’m working on a personal goal at the same time. I volunteer for the most physically active tasks to get more in shape, and end up looking super productive in the process! You can do this too!

Can you do double duty on your goals and attack personal accomplishments during your workday? Harvard Business Review suggests that “walking meetings support cognitive engagement, or focus, on the job”, but maybe you just want more Fitbit steps like I do. Look into them. Maybe you’re a security guard and most of your job involves just staying in one place. Can you listen to an audiobook or podcast instead of just throwing on Top 40? Trust me, the Adele lyrics never change. What if you’ve got a side hustle in addition to your day job? Write down ideas for your 10-to-2 while you work your 9-to-5!

Ever wonder why achieving a personal goal seems so hard? IT’S BECAUSE YOU PRIORITIZE THEM LESS THAN YOUR GODDAMN DAY JOB. STOP THAT.

A final note: Don’t attempt compound tasking with your friends and family. They’re not “a task that needs to be done”, they’re people. Spend time with them fully, and engage them with undivided attention. If you follow my advice on compound tasking, you’re gonna end up with more time anyway. Don’t forget to use it wisely.

All My Failures Weren’t Failures At All

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It all started when I noticed the performers weren’t getting ID’d.

I was at a bar on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and I was 18, desperate to drink with my 19-year-old friends. We were all out on the town to support my friend M as he did standup comedy. He wasn’t very good yet, but showbiz kids stick together. I ordered an appy and settled in.

Every night featured about seven performers. Pretty much all of them were terrible. They were the entertainment for the night though, so the bar treated them with respect. There were occasional free drinks, and I guess they gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were all 19+. I wanted in on that. I waved the emcee over.

“Hey, can I sign up for next week?”

“Uh, have you done this before?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can do what they’re doing.”

“Do you have any material?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll come up with something.”

After ten minutes of needling, he reluctantly gave me a slot. I’d invite my friends too, I thought to myself. They’ve been laughing at my dumb jokes for years. I walked home that night performing for an imaginary crowd. Surely, I was hilarious. This wasn’t even about the drinking anymore. When I was 18, I was about 80% hubris.

*****

I’ll spare you my jokes.

I was 18 at the time, and thought I was WAY funnier than I was. At best, my comedy stylings could be described as “bad”, and at worst, “probably somewhat racist against Koreans”. I was just another terrible performer. I got my drinks though, and I even went up four more times that summer and recycled the same shitty material for new crowds. Only once did I get great laughs. All the other times, I bombed hard. I gave it up, of course, but something started that summer. I learned the confidence I needed to go up in front of strangers and actually speak! Not just that, but FAILING my comedy show so many times made me realize the worst I could do was just piss people off for 10 minutes, and they’d forget all about me afterward. I was putting myself out there, and it was up to them whether they liked me or not. If they did, they’d pay attention – great! – and if they didn’t, they’d just ignore me, and that was fine. The end result was the same: I GOT MY DRINKS!

Even better than that was suddenly losing my fear of public speaking. I’ve now been invited to photo clubs, high schools, and industry events like 20Summit to speak about entrepreneurship and photography. I accept whenever I can. Because my business sense is better than my comedy, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. My failure at comedy led to success as a public speaker!

This is only one example, but I’ve failed at stuff a LOT. I once tried screenwriting. That led to film school, and I don’t even work on film sets anymore. I once tried drumming for a band. Over a decade later, I still struggle with a proper paradiddle. I once tried community theatre. The group imploded after only two productions. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I learned a fuckton. Nowadays, I don’t see all those as failures anymore. Rather, they’re all TEMPORARY SUCCESSES that inform my CURRENT GOALS.

Screenwriting taught me how to take a written idea and translate it visually. Drumming for a band taught me how to work and collaborate creatively in a group dynamic. Community theatre taught me how to market my art locally, and how to drum up business for something that people don’t even need. IT WAS ALL USEFUL.

There’s something I want you to take from all this: Try – and fail – often. Seriously. Fail all the fucking time. Fail so spectacularly that insurance companies get involved. Fail, then fail again, then fail again. Try everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t give a shit if you fail. I can guarantee you you’ll learn SOMETHING from it, and it WILL inform your future success. You’re not even failing. You’re taking small, measurable steps toward your next success. The modern day master is a jack of all trades. Anything more complicated can be looked up on YouTube. Hell, I’m trying to be a personal finance blogger. Have you seen how much fucking debt I’m in?!?

What have you always been afraid of trying/failing? Tell us in the comments.

Prepare for Failure

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As you may recall, I set myself a few goals last month… They didn’t go well.

Am I disheartened? Yeah, a little. Did I fail? Some might say so. Am I giving up? NOT A FUCKING CHANCE, and here’s why.

Using lessons I learned from Jason Bell’s excellent ebook “Agile Timelord”, I now see setbacks as opportunities to reevaluate goals, and I always strive to keep them malleable enough to be achievable. After all, as long as progress is being made, I’m winning. I know setbacks are inevitable, and as long as they don’t derail the spirit of my goals, I can live with them. You kinda have to! You don’t quit an entire diet just because you had a moment of weakness and annihilated 30 McNuggets while drunk. You have to keep going so you don’t die the NEXT time you eat 30 McNuggets while drunk! Discipline can waver. Goals, and the habits that come with them, SHOULD be forever.

I fell short in my goals this month by not reaching 10 alcohol-free days, and not exercising every two days. I found I often liked to have at least one beer after a long workday, but I really don’t have a good excuse for the exercise. I’m just lazy, I guess. The reasoning behind 10 alcohol-free days was I wanted to cut my alcohol expenses down by a third. Seeing as how I somehow spent $1,120.27 on booze in January, I started getting more strict with my alcohol spending. I opened up my September expenses and tallied up the wobbly pops: $571.86. It’s still far more than any reasonable person should spend on alcohol – $19.06/day! – but the point is I’m trying, and I’m actually seeing progress. I can do better, and I will not be derailed. With my exercise, I still strive for one workout every two days, but one workout every three days is also acceptable in a pinch. In my mind, working out every three days allows me to maintain my fitness. Working out every two days is when I’m actually increasing it.

What I’m trying to say is self-development should be flexible. It should be fun, and you should allow for occasional “failures”. The point is to make a habit of continuous progress in a way that’s sustainable. I realized not being able to have even ONE beer after a long workday was making me less happy, so I’ve changed that goal for now. I’m now trying to simply decrease my alcohol consumption by a third, which was the point of the goal anyway. As for my fitness, ANY working out is better than what I was doing before. I kept within the spirit of my goals, even though I needed to reword and rework them! You can set big goals, but it’s more important to make continuous self-improvement a habit. Changing small habits and maintaining them over a lifetime is where real gains are made.

TLDR: Make your goals and habits sustainable, and reevaluate them when needed. It’s one thing to create a sustainable habit for the rest of your life with some flexibility built in. It’s entirely different to set goals so rigid and impossible that it lowers your quality of life and burns you out in three months.

What do you think? Am I off the mark? Am I simply going too easy on myself? Comment below.

Tiny Goals = Big Changes

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September 22 marks the first day of Autumn 2016, so I’m starting a personal development project I’m dubbing Project Ben. I was originally going to start on September 1, but my breakup derailed any progress I was hoping to make. Now that the emotional fallout has settled, here are my goals going forward. Feel free to make additional suggestions in the comments.

*   Cook more, making at least one meal every Tuesday with my roommate
*   Do basic upper body exercises every two days and track my progress
*   Aim for 10 alcohol-free days per month
*   Track my personal finances down to the penny
*   Write four posts for Unconbentional every month
*   Put $200 plus my raise into investments each month

I know these don’t seem like particularly extravagant goals, but the end results should be mind-boggling just by establishing a few small habits.

In a year’s time, I will have cooked 52 more meals, increased my upper body strength, reduced my alcohol consumption by at least a third, kept mindful and responsible about my finances, posted 48 more Unconbentional articles, and put roughly $3,600+ towards my retirement – which should make for $40,000+ if I allow it to grow until I’m 65. Not bad for one year, right?

What goals do you have this year? Can a few minor adjustments change your life for the better, forever?

I wonder what The Other Ben’s goals are. Come bug us on Facebook and maybe he’ll tell us.

Life is Measured in Progress

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Well, I’d done it. I’d caught up to my friend, Drew.

This is really fucking silly, but it’d taken me five years to get here. In December 2011, he bought me my first PS3 as a Christmas gift. I decided at the time I’d surpass him someday in PlayStation achievements, and proceeded to waste thousands of hours and dollars trying to meet this arbitrary goal. A few nights ago, I knew I was close. One more gold trophy and I’d match him, so I broke out “Spec Ops: The Line” and went hunting for the Intel Operative trophy: find all 23 collectibles scattered across the entire map. It was easy. As I tracked down the last one, I heard the little bleep-bloop that signified my victory. I hurried over to the trophy menu and saw what I’d been working for all this time. I’d matched Drew! A rush of endorphins later, I realized something terrible. UH, WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO NOW?

That was a month ago. Some of you may have seen my Facebook rants about feeling lost after realizing my entire life was a series of progress bars. I’ve still barely touched my PlayStations since matching Drew, and I’d also filled up my professional progress bars since I’m also all caught up on editing wedding photos. Without progress, I no longer had something in the background I could plug away at every time I felt bored. Even reading is a literal progress bar to me now, since my Kindle tells me exactly how far I am in my current book, and I’d exhausted my reading list too! Tony Robbins has often said “progress equals happiness”, but what happens when you run out of progress? You get shit like this.

Luckily, what I’ve been reading has helped. Productivity guru Jason Bell recently penned “Agile Timelord”, a guide to personal development that’s just the right level of nerdy to appeal to tech-savvy millennials. About 29% in – (see what I mean?) – Jason shows us a Life Wheel, a more dynamic way of looking at life progress instead of as a bar. Where a progress bar shows us linear progress in only one goal, his life wheel offers a more complete look at a variety of goals, ranging from Self-Image to Family to Wealth, and so on. Suddenly, I realized I -ALWAYS- had something to work on. I’m sure some of you knew this already, but for those of you who didn’t, LOOK AT THIS FUCKING WHEEL. The same way you can ALWAYS make an extra buck, you can ALWAYS move towards self-improvement! Do a few pushups. Take a nap. Call your mom. It all helps!

Linear progress is great for temporary goals. Dynamic progress is best for life goals. You know what the best part is? You don’t need to measure dynamic progress! As long as you’re making progress, you’re winning! I was bored a few nights ago, so I broke out the wheel. Hm, I’d been neglecting my love life for a bit, so I went out and put together a romantic night for me and my lady. Cheesecake, wine and flowers later, I realized I felt great! I was making progress!

Dynamic progress is not always easily measured, and that’s okay. It’s also okay to focus on specific areas as long as you’re flexible enough to not neglect any other part for too long. Remember, it’s a goddamn wheel. If it gets too oblong or misshapen, you end up like a CEO who dies alone. Remember the wheel.

In the meantime, buy Jason’s book! It’s a quick read, and if it changed my life, it can change yours. Let us know what you thought in the comments.

Editor’s note: Ben did not receive any payment for recommending these products.