Spoiler, it starts with doing everything wrong
I’d like to start with my failures.
I failed at marriage twice — screwed up a few relationships too.
Up until the age of 35, I didn’t handle life’s curveballs very well. I was always polite, caring, and respectful, but had an adolescent temper and an overinflated ego.
I was too materialistic, living a debt-fueled lifestyle full of excitement but not much temperance.
I ate way too much and expected people to leave me alone about it.
I was monogamous but too flirtatious with women who were not my wife.
I had no sense of my own mortality. While I’ve had hypertension since my twenties, I always felt like a million bucks and never sick with anything more than a cold. And therefore wasn’t compassionate towards those who were struggling with illness and despondency. Instead of counting my blessings, I would blame the victim.
Despite my shortcomings, I have achieved some wonderful goals and, at 55, am young enough to still tie my own shoes and old enough to know loafers are just easier.
Here’s everything I’ve done right:
Losing weight and keeping it off
This is always a treacherous victory claim since we’re all one donut away from losing control.
At 17, I decided that the only way to go from barely datable, to sexy, was to lose the 30 to 40 pounds I had carried through high school. I fasted during the day, had about 1000 calories at night, and by the end of 11th grade, lost 40 pounds. But it was not a sustainable lifestyle.
I stayed thin through college but fought those 30–40 pounds through my 20’s and 30’s until, at the age of 39, I decided it was time to try something that would be lasting.
Everyone is different, and I acknowledge that if you live for carbs (macaroni & cheese, bread, cake, pizza…) living on lettuce and lean chicken breasts, suck. I was lucky that I’d always been someone who got fat on meat and, yes, potatoes, but also ate enormous amounts of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, spinach, and all varieties of salads.
I’m honestly not sure the proper strategy for giving up sugar, but if you’re someone like me, who likes to stuff your face with large quantities of mostly meat and veggies, try this:
1. Skip breakfast: The new sexy name for this is intermittent fasting but I’ve been skipping breakfast since birth. I literally refused to breastfeed until noon. I know there’s some science behind it, but common sense dictates if you have dinner at 7 pm and wait until noon the next day to eat, that’s 17 hours for your body to digest and metabolize yesterday’s meals.
2. Protein and vegetables: At some point (for me it was several years) you will be able to trust yourself to stick to portion control when eating carbs but for at least several months, stick to lean meats (chicken, pork, turkey, beef, and fish) and vegetables for lunch and dinner. If, like me, you don’t mind artificial sweeteners, throw in some sugar-free deserts, but in moderation.
3. Sugar-free drinks only: Lots of water and I’m not a big fan of diet soda, but it’s much better than drinking sugary, syrupy calories.
Psychologically, my motivation has always been the prospect of having sex with another human being. Don’t over or underestimate vanity as a motivator. Unlike habits like smoking or drinking which you can categorically quit and try to push out of your mind completely, eating the right amount, and not a drop more, is brutally difficult.
I’ve stayed between 150 and 160 for 16 years, and I trust myself more with portion control, but every meal is a battle. I’m not a religious man but sometimes when I’ve gained a little weight, I go into the bathroom, clasp my hands together tightly and lecture myself, “You’ve got this,” I say with my eyes closed, “Just do it today.” And then I slog my way back into discipline.
While I’m still at risk of gaining the 30 or 40 pounds back, I no longer dream of stuffing my face anymore. I don’t need to play a delayed gratification game. So a certain amount of permanent behavior modification does seem to occur over time.
Surrender to the unknown
Part of my behavioral issues in my younger years was 100% related to needing to feel in control of my life and those around me.
We all need to live in some degree of denial about bad things happening. If we spend every day worrying about when we’re going to have an accident, or get sick, or die, we’ll be an anxious, neurotic mess. We have to look ourselves in the mirror every now and then and say, “You are a flesh and blood human being. You are no better than anybody else. Why should bad things only happen to other people? Who the heck do you think you are? Get off your high horse and be a little humble for crying out loud.”
At the age of 40, I got over myself. And it was very liberating. I’m still proud but know I am one hospitalization or accident away from bankruptcy. I try not to take anything for granted. I live one chicken breast at a time.
How to be cheap
You will not meet a more “live and let live” kind of guy when it comes to following your bliss (as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else). If buying expensive coffees, lunches, dinners, clothes, shoes, cigarettes, pot (in the legal states), scratch lottery cards, or cocktails is what makes your life worth living, you should absolutely do you…and enjoy it. Up until a couple of years ago, I was you.
Typical optional daily expenses for me up until 2019:
Gas station iced tea or Gatorade………$3
Lunch at diner or sandwich shop…………$12
Bottled water (retail)……………………..$2
Daily Cocktail at restaurant or bar……………..$10
Take out dinner………………………$15
Daily total = $47 Monthly total = $1457 Yearly total = $17,343
Daily expenses since 2020:
Coffee (homemade)………….50 cents
Wholesale bottled water………25 cents
Packed lunch (salad and leftover meat)…………$1.50
Home prepared dinner……………………$5
Daily $7.25 Monthly total = $203 Yearly total = $2436
Before you science types point out my flawed math, it is true, I let my hair down on the weekends, these numbers are estimates.
That said, over the past year, by being frugal, I’ve saved about $14,900. What did I do with that savings? I spent it on pot and women. Don’t judge me. (By the way, I don’t smoke pot…or smoke woman)
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