Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How I Did It

Over the last five years, I’ve been asked many times about the secret to my weight loss success. Occasionally, the questions come from the casually curious, but most often the one asking is looking for some answers to their own weight loss struggles. They’ve tried many different things to varying degrees of success and they’re understandably frustrated. So, the question is usually more about “how can I do it?” instead of “how did you do it?” After having this conversation countless times, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts. Hopefully, you’ll find this helpful.

First, I’ll offer some advice that will only apply to a small group of people living in the Fort Wayne area. If you qualify as an applicant for Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner (FWSW), then please apply. It is the real deal and it will transform your entire life. FWSW is where I learned to embrace a healthy lifestyle, and everything I share in this article flows from my FWSW experiences. Visit the official FWSW website at www.fortwaynessmallestwinner.com for more information about this amazing program.

Even if you live in the area, it is difficult to get into FWSW. There's no guarantee you'll be selected. The application process is rigorous and each year there are far more applicants than openings. So ... what can you do if you can't do FWSW?

Recognize There Are No Shortcuts
Start with this basic nugget of truth: There are no shortcuts.

This is the key to understanding everything else I will tell you. There are no shortcuts, gimmicks, loopholes, backdoors, etc. It’s going to be hard, difficult and time-consuming. You’re going to struggle. You’re going to stumble. It takes more hard work than you can imagine.

But don't be discouraged! Take a fresh look at the “no shortcuts” rule and you can find some encouraging reassurances. Do you know the one term many people think should be included when describing a fitness journey, yet I have intentionally left it out? The word “impossible.”

Hard? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Time-consuming? Yes. A struggle? Yes. Impossible? No.

You can do this, but you must fully embrace the fact you’re attempting to do something that is exceptionally tough. Too often people attempt to lose weight by cutting corners and resorting to gimmicks. They might find some temporary success, but nothing that “sticks.” If you want a short-term gimmick, then I’m the not the right person to help you.

When it comes to gimmicks, there’s a ton of them out there. Pills that make you lose weight while you eat whatever want… sounds too good to be true? It is. Fad diets or workouts that promise certain results within a short time frame? Some of them might kinda work, but are they safe and sustainable? No, they're not. You know what they say about things that sound to good to be true ...

The kindest thing I could say about weight loss gimmicks is that they might be harmless placebos. Unfortunately, many of them are far worse than harmless, and can be downright unhealthy and dangerous. I could name some of these fraudulent programs, but I won't get into that at this time.

Simply put, there are no shortcuts when it comes to winning your health. You won’t find the answer in a shake, a pill, a wrap, etc. You’re going to have to work for it.

I know some people set weight loss goals to coincide with an upcoming event, such as a wedding, vacation or class reunion. Don’t think like that, because not only are there no shortcuts, there is no finish line. You need to embark on a life-changing fitness journey. I'm talking about a lifetime commitment of living and thinking differently. You don't need a short-term program, but a lifelong lifestyle.

If you’re asking how I did it, my success starts with the conviction that I will never go back to my old way of living. It was my old mindset that caused me to become severely obese. It was my old mindset that endangered my life. It was my old mindset that had to go.

Exercise Responsibly
This is where a lot of people think they need to start. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to exercise like crazy. Right?


Exercise is important, but a lot of people approach it the wrong way. I want you to embrace an active lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. The quality of your life will improve as a result.

However, just waltzing into a gym without a plan is a recipe for disaster. You need to know what to do and how to do it safely. If you don’t know what to do, there is a high risk of injury, which can set you back in many demoralizing ways. It’s not uncommon for someone to fully intend to lose a lot of weight though intense workouts, but they get hurt in the first few weeks, and then they’re derailed before they ever got started. Don’t let that be you.

So, how do you get started exercising in a responsible manner?

You could pay for a gym membership, but if you do, find a place with certified instructors and trainers. Take group classes, and make sure the instructor knows you are new. They'll work with you and give you guidelines on how to participate safely.

I strongly suggest that you NOT get advice from people you know that like to work out. They’ll push their favorite types of workouts or programs, and that might not be what you need. You need guidance from qualified professionals before beginning a rigorous exercise program.

Regarding fitness DVDs: I’m not a big fan of using a video to work out by yourself at home, especially if you’re just getting started. You could do something the wrong way, which you will only discover after you’ve injured yourself.

The key is to get professional guidance when you get started. It can be expensive. It can be difficult to find time. I understand a lot of factors are at play, and trainers and/or gym memberships are not always financially feasible. If that’s your situation, don’t sweat it. Literally. Intense exercise is not required for successful weight loss. Don’t get me wrong … it helps, but it is not required.

If you’re on a tight budget, I’d recommend embracing the walk. Walking is relatively inexpensive and you already know how to do it.

It is important to get fitted for the right shoes, so go to a local running specialty store that offers gait analysis. They’ll work with you individually to determine what kind of shoe you need. The wrong shoes can lead to discomfort and/or injury. If they suggest a pair of “running shoes” don’t fret. Good running shoes are also good walking shoes. Shopping at a specialty store will cost more than a department store, but think of it as an investment. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It really is worth it.

How much walking should you do? I’d recommend a mile a day for a few weeks. Resist the urge to go further than that. It’s easy to go too far, particularly when you’re just starting out. Seven miles in a week is a great start. Don’t overdo it.

Keep a journal so you know how many miles you’re doing each week, and do not add more than 10% to a following week when you begin increasing your distance. This means that if you do 7.0 miles in week one, then you can go up to 7.7 miles in week two.

After a while, you’ll be hungry for bigger challenges. That’s awesome! The staff at your local running store should also be able to help you find a run/jog/walk group in your area. You can download free apps to guide you from “couch to 5k." Just keep this in mind: don’t try something new without a qualified professional giving you some initial guidance.

Finally, when it comes to exercise it is important to find something that you can sustain. If you know me, you know that running is my jam. I love to run! But that doesn’t mean that you must also become a crazy long distance runner. The principle is finding something you enjoy, otherwise it will not be sustainable.

If you hate running, then find something you enjoy. It could be swimming, biking, ballroom dancing, doing martial arts, playing basketball, etc. If you dread a specific workout, then you will eventually stop doing it, so keep trying different things until you find something that you genuinely enjoy.

Eating Cleanly
Is responsible exercise important? Yes, but your diet is at least five times more important than your level of physical activity. If you’re working out like a crazed maniac, but not eating correctly, then you’ll never successfully manage your weight.

How do you start eating correctly? The same truths apply: no shortcuts and get qualified professional help.

Stay away from fad diets. As with exercise, I advise against getting advice from people you know that do not have legitimate credentials. Stick with a pro.

If you can afford it, hire a personal dietitian. I know it can be expensive, but it is a tremendous investment. If you can’t afford one, then look for nutrition classes at your local library, community college or church. See if your employer has any resources available through a corporate wellness program.

The key is for you to learn the basics of sound nutrition. What is a carb? What is protein? What are macro-nutrients? How do you plan meals? How do you read a food label? Etc.

There are several pre-packaged plans out there that will prepare meals for you. I'd stay away from those. It's important to learn what makes a good, clean meal rather have someone make it for you. It's like the old saying: give a man a fish and he eats for day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. You don't need a fish, you need to learn to fish.

If you must choose between paying for nutrition help or exercise help, go with the dietitian. They're a significantly better bang for your buck. A dietitian can be far more helpful than a personal trainer to someone who is just starting out on this journey.

Practice Accountability
The last piece of advice I'll give to you is to seek accountability. Don't try to do this alone. You need someone (preferably multiple someones) to help you stay on the straight and narrow path to success.

The easiest type of accountability is obeying and trusting your dietitian and/or trainer. Some people pay for professional help and then fail to follow the instructions they are given. Even worse, they might lie about their failures so they don't get berated. You can't pull those kind of shenanigans if you want to be successful. If you mess up, fess up.

I know people who try to lose weight, but are unexpectedly sabotaged by people who should know better: family, friends and co-workers. It's okay to lose a little weight, and most people will generally support you … to a point. Yet, if you refuse to go out to eat with some friends because you feel uncomfortable with the restaurant’s menu, then you might face some adversity. Some family members might feel like you're judging them if you don't want to eat what they're eating. You might run into a few people who are downright hostile to your goals. I'm not trying to scare you, but you need to know you might face opposition.

Personally, I was extremely fortunate in this regard. Not only were my coworkers genuinely supportive, but my wife was with me every step of the way. She too lost a lot of weight and is an amazing success story. I wouldn't have been successful without her.

Where can you find a suitable accountability relationship? If you went to the running store and found a run/jog/walk group, you probably met a few folks who are in the same boat you are in. Maybe you have a friend, family member or coworker who would be thrilled to join you in your journey. If you look for this kind of help, you will find it. I am sure of that.

One great way to enhance accountability relationships: keep a meticulously accurate nutrition/activity journal. Not only can this information help others help you, but eventually you'll learn how to use the journal to help yourself.

There is a great app called MyFitnessPal (MFP) It's free and works on all platforms (go to www.myfitnesspal.com). You can use it to easily track what you eat and to record your exercise.

At first, record everything you eat and do. Religiously. Don't omit a single detail. Record it as you consume/do it throughout the day rather than waiting until the evening or weekend to do a batch entry.

You could use MFP for a couple of weeks before meeting a dietitian. He or she could look over what you ate and offer a handful of quick suggestions in that first meeting. But even if you don’t have someone review your nutrition journal, you’ll start to see obvious changes you can make. For instance, you enter a meal of a Big Mac, large fries and a large milkshake … that’s almost 1500 calories. If you replace the milkshake with a glass of water, you can almost halve the calories for the whole meal.

Incidentally, I was taught in FWSW that those who keep the most accurate nutrition journals have the most success in the program. If you’re real serious about wanting to lose weight, then get real serious with tracking your food. Let MFP help.

Final Thoughts
For most folks, their weight loss success is hindered by two things: motivation and/or ignorance. If you’re asking for help, you’ve got at least some of the motivation you need… enough to get started ... which is great! What you need to do next is work on your ignorance.

Ignorance is not a dirty word. It simply means “don’t know.” People who struggle to lose weight don’t know how to work out, what to eat, etc. You can fix ignorance if you apply yourself. You need to be able to say “I don’t know” and “I need help” … and that’s not easy for many people to say either of those things. Master those two sentences, and you're going to find success.

Your level of motivation will vary. That’s okay. The trick is making sure you do what you’re supposed to do, especially on the days you don’t feel like doing it. String together a few small victories and you’ll gain valuable momentum. Those small victories will eventually become a pattern, which will eventually become a lifestyle.

So ... good thing I kept it short, right? There's more to say, but this is enough for now. If you have any questions, let me know. I genuinely cherish opportunities to return the investments that others have made in my life. I was taught that I am stronger than I knew I was. You too are stronger than you think you are. I was taught that I could win back my health. I know that you too can win back your health. You. Got. This.

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