The picture above is what I look like today. Anyone who’s ever lost a significant amount of weight has that one pair of pants they keep as a memento of what they used to be. My memento is a pair of size 36 shorts that I bought in August 2009 because all my other shorts were too tight.
About two and a half years ago, I had an eye-opening experience. The school I teach at in Korea was selected for a reality show. I would be on television and, finally, the masses would see my handsome mug. Then, I sat and watched myself for a few brief moments on television. The following pictures were taken the same day as the television taping.
I hadn’t seen these pictures. No, I had the shock of watching myself on television, perhaps with those mythical ten pounds that a camera adds but perhaps not, and was disgusted with myself. A few people would later verify what I thought and tell me that I looked fat. I looked fat because I was fat.
The body image in my mind’s eye varied greatly from reality. I looked like a fat slob in a cardigan trying to hide his gut. All the lies that I told myself added up. Over the four years that had taken place after getting out of the Army, I honestly couldn’t recall exercising even one day of that time.
Near the end of my time in the Army, I developed some very bad eating habits. Having little time, no kitchen, and a chip on my shoulder that wouldn’t allow me to sink so low as an Army dining facility (which aren’t as bad as classic movies make them out to be), I spent my last year at Fort Hood eating at restaurants around Killeen, Texas. I went to Golden Palace Buffet at least twice a week and was determined to eat my money’s worth. When not eating there, I was flirting with the pretty girl at Domino’s Pizza who would always sit down and chat with me while I waited for my pizzas (PLURAL, but vegetarian for my health…) or picking up stuffed turkey panini sets with real ice cream milkshakes from Jack-in-the-Box. The meals in-between would consist of the A&W Root Beer restaurant across the street from my place of duty or the Panda Express about three minutes outside of the gate. It was an awful cycle and, looking back, an incredible waste of money.
Now, I’m sure some of you out there look at those pictures and think I look fine. But I didn’t want to simply look fine. I am really, really vain. It’s like that line in American Beauty when Kevin Spacey’s character is asked, “Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?”
“I want to look good naked.”
I am 5′ 10″ and, in those pictures, weighed around 200 pounds. My entire time in the Army, the heaviest I got was 177 pounds. That was the limit before being considered “obese” by their weight standards for an average build. I likely would’ve let myself go more had it not been for that threshold.
Looking back, my weight gain was a slippery slope. A lot of factors were in play here. I had quit smoking. I was under stress. I picked up a job in a country where bakeries are abundant, cakes are thoughtful gifts, and coffee always has some sort of cream and sweetener in it. Even before coming to Korea, a friend’s wife would refer to me as “Candy Man” because I’d always have a pack of Jolly Ranchers on me. Plus, being thousands of miles from home, my one American comfort was Coca-Cola.
Step One: Cut Down on Liquid Calories
I was determined to do something about it. You know the saying: “The first step is the hardest.” I looked at what I was doing wrong and picked the easiest one to start off. Sugary drinks and snacks would have to become a luxury, as I was going through about 20 liters of Coke a month. Water and milk were going to be all I could have with the exception of things that I could control, such as homemade lemonade. If I drank coffee, it would be have to be black.
If you take away just one tip from this entire article, let it be this one. I love cola and anyone who’s met me in Korea knows how much I miss Dr. Pepper and Hawaiian Punch. When living in the states, it was normal for me to drink a can of each a day. Extrapolated over a 30-day month, that adds up to nearly 9,900 calories. That’s over 14 Big Macs worth of calories that are easy to avoid. Go cold turkey, don’t use diet variants that may lead to other health problems or weight gain.
The results were surprisingly quick to show. I lost a couple of pounds every month through one simple change. It felt great, but I wanted more.
Step Two: Eat Fresh More, Eat Out Less
My next step actually happened by accident. I picked up Personal Trainer: Cooking out of morbid curiosity and found that I liked cooking in real life even more than I liked it in Cooking Mama. Suddenly, I was eating fresher, healthier meals that were more in line with my American taste buds than Korea’s “Red Pepper Flakes on EVERYTHING” answer.
The most important step, though, was changing the way I ate. My father grew up poor. My mother grew up in war-torn South Korea. Both knew the hardships of wondering when the next good meal would come. Both pushed me to eat until I was full for years because of it.
I started to get an idea for when my body was full without feeling full. Controlling how much I ate was a major step that changed everything. Now it wasn’t just what I was putting into my body, but how much was I going to eat?
Mind you, I’m not a calorie counter. I’m not keeping it down to a certain amount. Honestly, I eat what I want. I just control what I want to eat with less junk day-to-day. Whereas I used to buy a bag of corn chips or some french fries when I wanted to snack, now I’ll buy a tuna-mayonnaise riceball. Admittedly, this somewhat nutritious snack is a luxury of being in an Asian country, but you get the drift. Yahoo constantly pushes those “Eat This, Not That” type of posts out. Think before you eat, that’s all I’m saying.
I wanted to lose more weight, but knew that exercising was the only way. However, you try getting into the habit without someone else pushing you. It’s difficult to stay motivated. One day, I’d wake up and do fifty push-ups and stay in a plank position for a minute or two to start my morning. The next six days, I’d just wake up.
Step Three: Enjoyable Aerobic Exercise in Dancing Games
For the next nine months or so, I simply maintained my weight. Then came the game changer in my purchase of a Nintendo Wii. I knew I’d need something to push myself and a few hundred dollars invested would surely be a kick in the right direction. Moreover, it had to be fun, or I simply wasn’t going to do it.
Weight loss is rewarding, but it’s also very difficult to track. Wii Fit does a great job of keeping track of your weight, but playing it daily can be counter productive. Hell, it can be downright discouraging if you’re not seeing positive results. Your weight fluctuates throughout the day, so unless you’re weighing yourself at the same time every day, there’s a good chance you’re getting a false reading.
Wii Fit wasn’t the answer for me. While many of the minigames were fun, getting the balance board out every day was more work than it was worth. I would suggest using it as a supplement and, if you already have it, use it to track your weight about once a week for more tangible results.
The answer for me was Ubisoft’s Michael Jackson: The Experience. As a child of the 80′s, I grew up idolizing the King of Pop. I spent about an hour every other night dancing to the simplified dances found on “Thriller,” “Bad,” and “They Don’t Care About Us.” Other songs made it into rotation, mind you, but those were the three that I loved most.
If not for Michael Jackson: The Experience, I’m sure I wouldn’t have given the Just Dance series a try. I bought Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution on Xbox years before and was left disappointed. It never felt like dancing to me, though I’m sure people far better at it than me could dance to those beats. Prior to playing Michael Jackson: The Experience, I wrote off Just Dance as another DDR clone.
After a couple of months, and a noticeably slimmer body, I picked up Just Dance 2 and loved it. Some of the routines were definitely too feminine for my tastes, but I still tried each one out. Once again, I found a few songs that I preferred to the rest like Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” and Kris Kross’ “Jump” that were both fast-paced and fun.
Later, I’d pick up Just Dance and Just Dance 3 to complete my trilogy. Each game had the same thing going on. Most of the songs wouldn’t appeal to me, but there’d be a few that I just couldn’t play enough. Whether it was the Gorillaz or Danny Elfman, there was something that would keep my feet moving.
My routine went a little something like this:
- Play one slower-paced, easier song as a warm-up
- Play five faster-paced songs with about a minute between each (song selection, load times)
- Five minute break to drink water or, if feeling tight, eat a banana, change discs
- Play three more songs of any pace from any of the other games
- Run your routine at least three times a week
Unless you can really get into just about any song, having multiple games is a must. Though it will make next to no difference, I like to hold a second controller in my left hand just for the sake of balance. I imagine you could wear extra weight while dancing, such as wrist and ankle weights, if you’d like a more strenuous workout. Keep in mind, these routines were not made with that extra weight in mind. Neither were your knees, really.
It’s easy to cheat the system. Knowing how the Wii’s controllers work, you can easily just move your right arm at the angle or direction needed while not dancing. Don’t cheat. Try to mimic the dances as best you can. In the words of Dr. Eliot Reid, “Just dance like no one’s watching, which I do constantly with the shades closed just in case somebody’s watching.”
I’m sure many people scoffed at why Just Dance 4 was touted as a launch title for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii-U, but I’m a believer in these games. I can honestly say that they changed my life. Women out there have an additional exercise option in the Zumba Fitness series. I’m guessing the rest of the stuff out there is merely celebrity-endorsed shovelware.
With an enjoyable aerobic exercise to maintain my weight, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to stay motivated when going into step four.
Step Four: Move onto anaerobic exercises
Here’s the hard part. Interestingly, there are a few Wii Fit Plus exercises that would fall under the anaerobic category. Perhaps it’s time to break the Balance Board back out.
There are tons of other options out there, though. I could fall back on my old-fashioned Army standbys of pushups, situps, sprints, and weight lifting. Right now, to ease myself into this transition, I’m doing planks to rest between resistance band sets. I suffer from tension headaches, one of the main reasons I left the Army and quit exercising in the first place, so I have to be careful moving forward.
Hopefully, and I know this is going to come off so very girl-y, I have time to get into swimming shape. I’ll be shirtless on July 27th for a swimming pool field trip and want to feel good about myself when I know pictures are being taken.
I’m not saying these are your answers. I’m not saying you can’t do it without these games, either. All I’m saying is that it worked for me. I have been out of the Army for seven years, now. Today, I am actually chubbier, but lighter than I was back then. I’m not where I want to be yet. Now it’s time to get lean and reclaim years of lost definition.
You can do it. Wii can do it.Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 311 posts on Delta Attack.