Day 148

I'm seriously falling behind. My holidays and vacation significantly threw me off and I have only myself to blame. The new year started with a good writing day: I wrote about 600-700 words, but then I fell off the wagon again.

I also fell off the wagon as far as my health/exercise regimen is concerned. I've gone to the gym exactly four times since December 16. That's not good, not good at all, absolutely unacceptable to offset all that delicious food I've consumed since then (and yes, I've gained a few pounds, and they're not muscles).

So, by my count, I'm now about 6000 words behind and about four pounds off the scale. But that's okay. As a dear friend said to me the other day, "You were on vacation. The holidays only come once a year. Don't be too hard on yourself." Yeah, life is too short. I was content and happy and relaxed. So I can't really complain.

But now is the time to suck it up and do the real work.

I went back to the gym yesterday and pushed myself pretty hard. I think I overworked my legs, but no pain, no gain. I'm now leg-pressing 220 lbs. and I'm doing 160 lbs chest fly. I've slacked off with my abs exercises (only doing 50 reps per exercise instead of 80), but I'm maintaining. As I told another friend: "I'm in the 'bulking' phase, dammit!" But I'm not trying to give myself excuses. I know I need to tone up and trim down. I hope to fully get back to my routines by next week.

The gym, however, is packed, even in 20˚ weather. It happens every year. Gym membership shot up since late December, but they will taper off by February and eventually, by March, the gym will be empty again. It happens every year, never fail. I can certainly understand how hard it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and workout regimen, so I understand how most people would eventually fall off the wagon. Still, I encourage everyone to try to keep up with it. Even one or twice a week is better than nothing. Keep moving.

I've been going to the gym since I was 26. I still remember the pivotal decision to do something. At 135 lbs, I was a skinny guy. Even my girlfriend teased me about it. Then I met a friend who owned a gym and he became my personal trainer. I gained 15 pounds of muscles in just three months. Suddenly I realized I didn't have to be skinny all my life. I also realized it was just a matter of math: Calories in, Calories out. That changed my life (well, at least to some extent). I've been keeping at it since then. I fell off the wagon a few years ago, however. Although I was never overweight (since I came from the other side: being too skinny), I was not in shape. I took some pictures of myself and I was disgusted by how I looked.

In August 2008, I decided to do something about it. I went back to the gym and was determined to find my six-pack abs again (which I acquired when I was 28). By October I could already see some results. I haven't stopped exercising (well, except during the holidays, alas!) since then, and I went from 172 lbs (20% body fat) down to 159 (12%) and now back to 167 (15%) now. My goal for this spring is to get down to 165 (12%) and perhaps by the summer 170 (10%).

Food is the problem. I'm not an overeater, but I also am not 25 anymore. I can't eat the amount of food I used to have, especially carbs such as pastas, rice, noodles, and fresh bread. I don't really have a sweet tooth but I do have a weakness for chocolate, and that includes Starbucks' mocha drinks. I have to make some sacrifice.

It's not all about vanity either. As an actor/model, certainly I need to pay attention to my looks, especially since the first few pounds of weight gain often go directly to my face. That doesn't do well on camera, does it? I can certainly understand why models are so obsessed about their weights. It's not so much about vanity (I am perfectly happy with having "chubby cheeks") but our faces and bodies ARE our livelihood, much like words are for writers. Like it or not, this is a look-obsessive culture and actors and models are judged by their looks, sometimes more so than their abilities. It's a sad but true fact.

So, what does any of that have to do with writing?

I think everything is related. Much of exercising and being healthy, etc. has to do with repetition, the act of "just doing it." It's about endurance, and also perseverance. Many people fall off the wagon because "exercising is hard." Many writers also fall off the wagon, never completing their work because they find out that "writing is hard." Or they get discouraged during the submission process because "getting published is hard."

The fact is, life can be hard. Anything that is worth pursuing can be hard. Living a healthy and productive life is not always fun and game. It's easier to just do nothing, sit on the couch, and eat for comfort. It's easier to not turn on the computer and bang out the words. It is easier, sometimes, to just feel depressed instead of getting out of bed and do something.

It depends on where your priorities are, and how important being fit and healthy (or getting published, or whatever endeavors) is to you.

Is it important enough for you to move mountains to get to your goals? Or are you going to give up and let life pass you by?

My workout regimen taught me this: indeed, no pain, no gain. I've seen people who go to the gym every day but they never lose any weight. The reason? They don't push themselves hard enough. Instead, they settle for light exercises that barely burn enough Calories they took in for breakfast. So what's the point? Why exercise at all if you do not set any realistic goals and stick to them? It's a matter of math: if you want to lose 30 pounds, it means you have to have a deficit of over 100,000 Calories. So, if you want to lose 30 pounds in three months, you only need to have a weekly deficit of 9,000 Calories, and that's about 1,200 a day... So, if you consume what your body's supposed to take in (without starving yourself -- you can survive on just 1200 Calories a day) and exercise moderately, you already can achieve that goal. It's only a matter of math.

The problem is, most people consume more Calories than they take in. Why settle for 1200 Calories when we can eat all we can eat and consume 4000 in a day? The problem is, if you take in 4000 a day, you will have to burn 6000 in order to lose weight, or 4000 if you don't want to gain any. Good luck with that (unless you swim 10 miles a day like Michael Phelps does).

And before you know it, you're 300 lbs.

Writing is also a matter of math, in many ways. That's the reason why I started my 500-words challenge. 500 words x 365 days = 182,000 words. Simple as that. Now, the trick, of course, is to keep up with that goal. And yes, I've fallen off the wagon a few times. Still, it's a matter of math. I've already written more than 40,000 words. That's 40K I wouldn't have written if I hadn't made that 500-words-a-day goal and tried to stick with it.

As any self-help person would tell you: make baby steps; but keep your goals straight and real. I've seen writers who have set their goals too high (2000 words a day) and failed. I've seen dieters who set their goals too high (lose 10 pounds a week) and failed. So why not set your goals a little lower and more realistically? To me, 500 words a day is sweet and much easier to achieve than 1000 or 2000 words. And if you want to lose 30 pounds, why not lose it in 6 months (or even 12) instead of 3? The trick is to stick to your goals and do the math.

If you keep chipping away the stone, eventually you WILL have a sculpture.

It's a matter of math.

4000 words, 41000 words total
217 days and 140000 words to go


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