Shaping Up

13 minute read

Wow! Almost nine months without any new posts on my website. I'm pretty bad with keeping up with this thing. I wanted to start this post off with one line that I'm quite proud of:

I just turned 29 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life.

This post will revolve around that one line, how I've gotten here, and where I want to go. I apologize in advance because this kind of stuff has been written a million times before, and will be written another million billion times. Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, so take any health advice with a grain of salt. Every body is different and likely needs to be nurtured differently.


In early 2013 I joined Google, and more specifically, YouTube. It was a wonderful experience that I'll always be fond of. Living in the wonderful weather of the Bay Area, meeting some great people, and getting to experience the awesomeness of working at one of the tech giants. Unfortunately, living in the Bay Area took its toll, as I wasn't establishing much of a social life, and was generally unhappy with life there. I ended up filling a lot of my spare time with Netflix and snacks. I'm not a big guy by no means, but I still managed to put on a few pounds.

So I decided I needed a change. I left Google earlier this year, just one day after my two-year work anniversary. I moved back to Canada to simplify and better my life; I'm now much closer to family and no longer have to deal with crossing the border (sorry US friends, crossing your border is often a terrible experience).

The Basics

Regular exercise and a healthy diet is vital. 5 years ago I would have laughed you away if you told me that I would write that down in a blog post today. I'm not saying you need to hit the gym every day, chowing down on spinach and celery, throw in some protein shakes and kale shakes, research all of the latest health stuff, and all of this while carefully counting your calories. No, it's not rocket science.

One of the most fundamental things you can do to improve your health is simply improving your diet. It's going to be far easier for you to simply not have that bowl of ice cream than it will be to burn off the extra 150 calories it's going to put into your body. That's probably a 1-2 mile run there, in just that one bowl of ice cream. Alcohol is bad too. Not only is it going to add to your calorie counter, but it's going to mess up your metabolism and make it harder to burn off those calories.

"So I need to exercise a bunch to be healthy and maintain a body shape that I like?". No, you really don't have to. Just by existing, your body is burning off a bunch of calories. I'd recommend regular exercise, but it's not nearly as important as the dietary changes. I'm not saying you should go run a marathon. Go out walking for half an hour or an hour every day. Trust me. Your body will thank you. You'll feel more energetic. You'll feel more confident. You'll be generally happier. You deserve these things and with a tiny bit of effort you can have them.

Where I Am

I started my journey into healthier habits a month and a half ago. I took what may be a different approach to it all: I didn't want to go into any research, buy any fancy equipment, count my calories, or really anything like that. I felt like healthy living was a simple thing and can be achieved in a very organic manner.

First, my diet. I started off with smaller portions and cut back on my snacks. Whenever I did want a snack I tried to replace it with a healthier option. Now, I still have a bowl of ice cream from time to time – I absolutely love ice cream – but I know that having that bowl of ice cream comes with a sacrifice: either a little more running or no other snacks. Or maybe I had a healthy day so it's fine. I'm not keeping track of this stuff in detail, just keeping a mental inventory from day to day.

Second, I started running regularly. About 5 times a week to be more specific. I had basically no exercise since 2007, nearly 8 years of inactivity. Needless to say, it was a very rough start. I could run about 500 meters in one go, and then a 10 minute walking break before I'd die in another 500 meter leg. I set a modest goal of running 2km nonstop by the end of the year. Today I broke 5km nonstop, stopping not because I couldn't keep going, but rather to minimize my chance of injury. I know some people run marathons, but I am super proud of this milestone.

What I've Learned

Beyond the things I listed in "The Basics", I've learned a lot about setting personal goals.

First, make your goals quantifiable. Don't make goals that are so vague or poorly worded that you really never know if you've achieved them. "I want to eat healthier this year" says nothing. You can eat a ton of food and still be healthy if you happen to be burning off all of the calories. Maybe you enjoy drinking, so a good goal would be "I want to limit myself to one drink per week". A goal is something you reach, so make sure you know what the criteria is for achieving the goal.

Second, shout your goals out loud. Don't leave them lying around in your brain because I can almost guarantee that they will be short-lived and forgotten. Write them down and stick them on the fridge. Post them on your social network of choice and have people hold you to them. Tell a friend with the condition that they get a free meal if you don't reach them. You're trying to better yourself here, so don't take it lightly.

Finally, don't be afraid to set your goals high. I was incredibly modest when I started and said "by the end of 2015 I'll run 2km nonstop". I broke that goal within a few weeks of running, and started consistently breaking it not too long ago. The first time I broke that goal I set my goal to do 5km nonstop, and when I saw that I could do this before the end of the year I shifted it up to 10km. Today I decided that I'm being too modest with my goals, so I decided that next summer I will run a half marathon.

Σ-ing It Up

I've started posting with the #notrocketscience hash tag on Twitter because I believe that healthy living doesn't require research, special diet programs, gym memberships, or anything else like that. I head out regularly for a jog, I try to eat things that I believe are healthy, and moderate anything outside of my control. I minimize my alcohol consumption. I take little walk breaks at work.

All of this adds up, because I just turned 29 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life.