Here is a life lesson I learned at the gym: When you go to a birthday party, be sure to eat the cake. I am certain this is not what you were expecting to hear, but then you don’t know my personal trainer, Rob Anderson. Yes, he’s taught me how to properly do squats, crunches, presses, and the like, but he has taught me much more than that.
Rob owns Custom Physiques in Loveland, Ohio. I go there every Thursday to work out with him for an hour and have done so for over ten years. Beyond the weekly training session, he gives me a twenty-minute routine to do at home three times a week. He also asks me to keep a daily food diary where I record everything I eat and drink. Every week he looks it over and we discuss it. During one such review years ago, I boasted to Rob that I bravely resisted eating cake at a birthday party. He was disappointed instead of proud. He reminded me that I am NOT on a diet and exercise regimen, instead I am living a healthy life in order to have a happy life. Birthday cake is a part of that happy life and therefore it is not to be missed. Just in case you are wondering, funnel cake at the state fair is also mandatory.
Rob’s philosophy on eating is the most important thing I have learned in the years we have worked together. When I met him, I was in my mid-fifties. I had always watched my weight and I had a twenty-year habit of walking an hour a day, five days a week to maintain it. During those years I would gain two pounds and lose two pounds repeatedly. However, I had reached a stage where dynamite was required to remove the two pounds that previously came off with relative ease. Simply put, I was afraid to eat. I was enthralled, therefore, when this wonderful man told me I needed to eat six times a day! Let’s put four caveats in place, though:
- Your daily allotment of calories does not change in this plan, you just divide those calories up over three meals and three snacks each day. However, once you get your metabolism working again with this system, and once you put on a little muscle mass thanks to exercise, you probably will be able to eat more and not gain weight.
- Rob sees the food world in terms of carbs and proteins. His goal is to cut carbs when possible or to at least balance them with protein. So if you are dying for a pancake (a carb), that’s fine, just be sure to also order an egg (a protein) with it. And when you are going to a birthday party and planning to eat the cake (a carb), make sure you are protein-heavy the rest of the day.
- Eight cups of water are also mandatory each day. It’s ok to drink iced tea, juice, etc., but that doesn’t count as water. Also, be sure to show all beverages on your food chart, including coffee and booze.
- And of course, always check with your doctor before you start any new diet or exercise plan.
There is another big lesson inherent in my Rob routine, the importance of accountability. Rob expects me to come to the gym once a week and so I do. Sometimes, I am not in the mood – and Thursdays sure seem to roll around quickly – but we have this commitment to each other and so I go. Likewise, that food journal keeps me on track. If I eat one of the bank teller’s lollipops, I have to write it down. The same is true for the three things I tasted at Costco. And that handful of Goldfish I ate with the grandkids? Yes, I have to report that too. And then Rob and I review it. If I regularly roam too far from “clean” eating, he pulls me back in line. (And my bathroom scale applauds his intervention.)
But the most joyous lesson I learned at Custom Physiques has to be this, if you join a gym and you go there regularly for weeks and months and years, you are bound to make some friends. Indeed, Rob is no longer just my trainer, he’s my very dear friend. I am also great friends with Megan, who trains me when Rob is away. The three of us have been known to eat decadent lunches out together that start with cocktails, move on to tacos or burgers, and end with donuts, ice cream, or once, raw cookie dough ala mode. Yes, we do extra cardio afterwards (I still walk five days a week) and are quick to get back on our normal eating routine in the days following, but for those couple of hours of lunching and laughing, we know what happy living is all about.
Inherent in this tale of over-the-top eating is the fact that Rob trusts me to get back on track with reasonable eating. My favorite story about him further exemplifies this. Knowing that I love ice cream, Rob encourages me to eat it daily. But when my dad was dying – and I was falling apart – Rob told me to eat it twice a day.
Lest you think this Rob guy is perfect let me tell you this, if I make him aware that I HATE an exercise, he is sure to torture me with it frequently! But I’m no dumbbell so here is a final odd life lesson learned in the gym: Sometimes it’s best to keep my mouth shut! Unless of course, I am in the presence of birthday cake…