I wrote a blog entry titled Fat Nerd almost exactly 4 years ago. I was down 30 pounds from a high of about 290. I had participated in a 5k. And I had injured myself.

It was angry, profanity laden, desperate, and obsessed with identity stuff about nerds and jocks.

I’ve learned a lot since then. That was one of the false starts. I gained all that weight back not long after writing that post. And then I tried again, ignoring diet and going it alone on nothing but strength training. Until I went too heavy with bad form, injured my knee, and could barely walk for a month. That was another false start.

Now, I’m just over a year into what I think was the correct start.

I’m still a Fat Nerd, but unlike then, I’m not hungry, I’m not angry or desperate. I’m down 45 pounds from that same high (so 15 more than when I wrote that post 4 years ago), my 5k time is down almost 10 minutes from the 5k PR in that post. I see a personal trainer once or twice a week and I run between half a mile and a mile almost every day at between a 10 and a 12 minute pace. The Fat Nerd of 2020 could run half a mile at a 15 minute pace, and injured himself doing that.

Here are some things I’ve learned, in case it helps someone else. I’m still on my journey, and I may learn a lot more, so take it all with a grain of salt.


I’m more confident now, but it’s not what I expected. I always thought, when people said “getting fit will improve your confidence” that it had something to do with appearance, and so dismissed it. Maybe eventually it does, but people still look at me and see a fat computer nerd.

But I’m more confident, and I want to talk about why.

Our bodies adapt to be ready with the amount of energy we regularly ask of them. If we program, read, and play video games all day, then our bodies obligingly ensure we have just enough energy available to program, read, and play video games. In other words…none at all.

If we run a mile most days, and spend 30 minutes with a trainer running us just at our red line once or twice a week, then our bodies obligingly ensure we have just enough energy available to redline for 10-30 minutes at any time at request.

I’m more confident because even on the days I work out, my body doesn’t know my workout schedule. It just knows what I ask it regularly to do, and its ready to do that, and that is intense effort for 10-30 minutes.

And that means I can look out at life and all the things that could go wrong today and say “Yeah, I can deal with that if it comes up.”

And that turns me, more and more, into a person that says “Yes” when opportunities present themselves.

Just like the 22 year old me who landed in Zhengzhou, China with only a few hundred dollars left and no idea what I was getting into.

I am not trying to lose weight

If you are out of shape, and you take something from me, it’s this:

You do not need to lose weight. You do not need to lose weight. You do not need to lose weight.

If I wanted to weigh less, I could just go to the moon.

On the moon, at my fattest, I weighed about 50 pounds. And I’m still just as fat and out of shape as on Earth.

The problem with “losing weight” is weight is so easy to measure, and so easy to optimize for it in a way that completely screws it all up.

We can starve ourselves for awhile, but eventually, the lizard brain tells the rational brain that its gone crazy and hijacks it. We get run down and tired and miserable and hungry and angry and we EAT all the stuff we have been refusing to eat. And we’re half way back up to our starting weight before the lizard brain lets go.

It doesn’t work.

If you are trying to get into shape, and you feel like you are suffering through it a month into your journey, then brother/sister, you are doing it wrong. If get passed the first few weeks and you feel like you are doing something hard, stop and change your plan.

I am not trying to lose weight.

I am becoming a healthy person.

A healthy person weighs less, almost by coincidence.

If you want to “lose weight”, ignore the scale, and just decide, by fiat: “I am a healthy person!” and do what healthy people do.

In some ways, this will instantly improve your life.

Actually, that’s the final take away: This will improve your life, and not as some distant future goal, but on a time frame of a few weeks.

If you are on the same journey as me, and that is not your experience. If you don’t feel better, more confident, with more energy and enthusiasm. If you are not better in the church choir and better at work and better in bed, if your body is saying “I can’t keep this up”…. you should listen to it. Something has to change. A personal trainer can help. Your coworker that goes to the gym almost daily can help. Just stopping and thinking “how can I change this to make this healthy and sustainable” can help.

“No pain no gain” means you ought to feel sore after a workout, not that your life as aspirant towards health sucks. This journey feels good.

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25 May 2024