Getting In Shape: The New Me

I have recently gotten in great shape, have lost a lot of weight, and am writing this to preempt any thoughts that I may be in ill health due to a sudden and pronounced loss of weight. Not only am I healthy, I am in the best physical condition in years. 

This is a before and after story. 

I had been working very long hours for years following world news, preparing the Crash Course, writing the book, and running a small business essentially solo, for years. Unsurprisingly, I found myself with the sort of body one might predict for someone who sat behind a computer for up to 14 hours a day, day after day. 

And then something happened.

Without going into the details -- although I will reiterate that it was nothing health related -- I was presented with an opportunity to take a close look at my life. At times like these, you can either ignore the call to action or heed it. This time I chose to face life head on.

Here are the headlines:  Over the past four months I have lost about 35 pounds and now fit into a pants size last associated with my early 30's. Having just turned 49, I find this to be a welcome development.

Of course, being in shape makes a lot of sense if one buys my view of the future, which I certainly do.  So falling out of shape was gnawing at my personal sense of integrity and responsibility to myself, my family, and my larger community.

Well, that's all in the past.

Here are the before and after photos:

If I had to sum up this transformation in a short sentence, it would be I feel more alive. My stamina and desire for exercise are up sharply, and I find I have far more energy for everything I do. I am more spontaneous and have more vitality and joy in my life.

The Recipe

If you are interested in hearing my super-easy, secret weight loss and life-enhancing plan, I have bad news for you: I did not rely on any pills, gimmicks, fasting, or anything like that. 

The exact steps were these:

1. On June 2nd, I gave up drinking alcohol under any circumstances. This cut out a lot of empty calories, as evening cocktails had become a part of my routine. It was not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be, based on the experiences of others I know who have struggled with giving up drinking. As with all habits, after 28 days the Pavlovian urges that previously showed up between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. went entirely away. Once those were gone, the remaining difficult moments, such as they were, happened while at my usual vacation haunts and social events, where drinking and unwinding have traditionally gone hand in hand. Currently I have no plans to resume drinking, but I may consider doing so at some point, especially for select wines during excellent meals. Or maybe not. I am leaning towards waiting a full year just out of principle. At any rate, the urge to drink is now a very infrequent visitor to my life, and there is no sense of loss or the requirement for daily willpower. 

2. Eating. Here I did something completely radical and decided to actively poll my body about what and how much it wanted to eat before and during eating. It is now common for me to open the door to the fridge, peer at the contents, and close it without getting anything to eat, simply because my body does not register any interest. Additionally, I have found that my body is satisfied with far smaller portions than my brain was accustomed to dishing out. Nothing fancy here. Simple portion control. The thing is, this new approach to food has never felt like an effort of control or a battle, I simply let my body have the first and final say.

3. Exercise. I now either bike a minimum of 10 miles four times a week (a timed lap where I race against my old's 38 minutes of hard breathing) or hike/run a nearby small mountain, which has a ~40 minute loop from bottom to top and back again (roughly 800 feet in elevation gain to the top). Sometimes I go six days a week. Again, my body lets me know how much and how often. Since I am the competitive sort, I keep split times of whatever loop I am doing and always try to match or beat my best times. For example, back when I started the mountain run, my times were in the vicinity of 1 hour and 5 minutes. Then I beat the hour mark. Then I cracked the 55-minute barrier. Then the 50-minute mark. Then 47...then 43 (which stood for some time) and then I finally broke the 40-minute mark, then 39 and now I am stuck at 38.5. On top of this, I am lifting light weights nearly every day...they sit on the carpet in my office and I pick them up frequently because they are right there, in my way.

There's really nothing fancy here: It's just good, old-fashioned "eating less and exercising more." That's it. And it feels really good and is in integrity with my larger mission in life.

Most importantly, the 'old me' -- the one that had slowly gotten buried over time -- has reemerged. I have rediscovered old passions and joys that had fallen by the wayside as I single-mindedly pursued my mission to create a world worth inheriting. Balance has returned, along with my zest for rock climbing, biking, and exploring the outdoors. Heck, even the old guitar has been coming out of the case and getting strummed regularly.

The Road Ahead

As I look to the future, there are a number of possible scenarios where emotional and physical health and balance will be important determinants of whether the experience is miserable or enjoyable. As always, I plan to not only thrive physically in whatever future comes, but also to continue to enjoy life as much as possible.

Under a variety of scenarios, the future might involve a lot more physical labor than today for us to be able to sustain ourselves. However, regardless of which future arrives, whether it be utterly benign or incredibly intense, being in shape is a benefit to our daily lives. There's just no downside to it, no matter what happens next. I feel the same way about my solar hot water heaters. 

I am offering up my story of physical transformation here because everything I have done so far in creating this site has been backed by my personal actions. I do not just write about downsizing, saving, investing in gold/silver, creating community, gardening, and all the other steps of resiliency. I practice each of them as well. Or rather, I practice them first and then write about them. 

I regularly receive emails and other feedback from people who describe how important it is that the message(s) of change found on this site are complemented by real-world, verifiable actions that are in alignment with those messages.  

As a matter of integrity, we walk the talk around here. We do what we say and we say what we do. So the correct course of action for me was to get in shape and then talk about it.

If there's anything we can now do to help support you in your quest to become more physically fit, whatever your motivation, let us know. We would be glad to assist in any way we can.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Here’s another tip that has helped many people.  I practice a type of healing work that utilizes the wisdom of Chinese Medicine.
Our biggest meal of the day should be breakfast.   Eating a huge dinner is much less important.  The rule of thumb is "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper".

My teacher shared with me that he has never seen an obese person who ate in this way.  When coupled with moderation and good exercise, it’s a sure winning strategy for greater health

 Good for you, Chris – it took me a year to lose that much weight when I was about 40.
The before and after pics look great, too.

I did almost the samething.  One of my goals for the year was to get in better shape.  I lost 40 pound and feel much better.  Same recipe eat less and exercise and the weight will come off. 

Y’know, odd as it may sound… Looking and becoming fitter also gives you more credence (in the eyes of others) in what you have to say when meeting people or speaking in front of them.
It’s the age-old human psychology of people rsepecting and giving more credibility to people who are in shape and better-looking. A boost to the appearance affects perceptions of competence and leadership.

Congratulations again!


Funny, but you don’t write as if you lost weight!  :-) 
Motivation is everything.  Thanks for sharing this deeply personal information. I know that it has inspired me and I believe that it will help others. 

Hello all! I’m kind of a fitness nerd and disaster preparedness fitness, specifically, is a subject I have thought a lot about over the past few years. The first point I would want to make is that the fitness industry, like every other industry, it seems, is interested in making money primarily, and as a result does most everyone a great disservice; especially with regard to women. Developing the strenth, power and work capacity to meet whatever physical challenges you face does not require nearly the time and resource investment the uninitiated have been lead to believe that it does.
With that said, if you are wanting to be prepared for the "unknown and the unkowable" then Crossfit bills itself as being the best method to achieve exactly that. If you want to go that route, there are Crossfit affiliates popping up in locations all across the country. People achieve extrodinary results from this type of training, but I think most of us want and will be needing to train at or near our homes. So I would say that with a modest amount of equipement you can do just that. First, if you want to get strong- and everyone can benifit from increased strength; getting stronger makes everything easier- you have to have a barbell. A good barbell will last the rest of your life. Also I recommend buying bumper plates. Even if you don’t intend to leard to do the olympic lifts, buper plates come in very handy. And they are a little better for taking outside. has great equipment at a reasonable price, but many other suppliers are good as well.

After you have your barbell and plates you need to learn to properly perform the core basic lifts, i.e. squats, deadlifts, over head press, bench press (yes, women need squats and deadlifts to- look at the women who do Crossfit, they look amazing and are way strong). Mark Ripptoe’s book Starting Strength and his website of the same name is an indespensible resourse for learning how to do that, as well as how to safely conduct a linear progression weight training program. He recommends three training days a week each session lasting about an hour (though two quality sessions a week will certainly work). Two to three hours a week and you can be deadlifting and squating double your bodyweight much faster than you might think possible. That’s the beauty of sticking to the movements that give you the most bang for the buck.

With regard to work capacity, working in some loaded carries ( i.e. farmers walks), sprints (a good skill to have anyway), kettlebell work, plyometrics, bodyweight cirtuits, sandbag training, heavy bag work, etc. here and there during the week should work nicely and can be fun and a good opportunity to blow off some stress. It will also stoke the metabolic fires and get you lean very fast. The main point here is to stick to activities that involve your entire body and require it to move and work as a unit. If it gets you winded fast, it’s good to do. Ditch the eliptical thingy. One other nice point about this is that if you have a decent size yard or a farm you will find many opportunities to do this type of work during the course of your chores. If you have to move bails of hay to a different location, for instance, see how fast you can do it.

In summary I would say that if you don’t have a great deal of time to dedicate to training, that should not be a deterent for you. If you stick to what gives you the most bang for the buck, you can thrive off a very modest time commitment. Also if you don’t want to or can’t get to the gym, you are probably better off. Simple implements that will allow you to train at home and will last the rest of your life are much, much better.

With regard to diet: paleo, paleo, paleo. Robb Wolf. com and are great places to strart. Most of you are already eating free-range, grassfed animals and eating organic vegitables anyway, so this shouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Good work.  Not intending to pry, or promote any product… I recall you once saying you did or were thinking of doing P90X.  Did you do the program?  Is your current exercise how you maintain your results, or did you lose the weight with biking and hiking specifically?


Yes, fitness improves not only your own self worth and confidence but  often your credibility to others as well.  I think being self- aware of your body and nutrition is as important as being in control of your financial assets.
I was sick recently and had no coffee or alchohol at all for a whole week; I felt fabulous, at least until I fell into my old routines again.  I find with things like that I just need to cut them out completely, like having never owned a TV.

Some things that have helped me maintain an endurance-fitness  lifestyle:  setting a time period for exercise and finishing it no matter what; cooking with only basic ingredients; alternating different activities; using hand tools not power machines whenever possible (e.g. shovel not snowblower);  bringing your own snacks where ever you go - I’m never tempted by available junk food because I have no taste or interest in it. 

Keep it up!


This is a great blog post, and I’d like to tell a story about why it matters to me.  I’m not in shape, but I’m hardly out of shape either.  36 years old.  I weigh about 207 pounds.  Have little or no health problems…

I used to jog a lot.  Played college basketball.  Hiked a crazy amount.  Now I find it harder to do those things.

I have been thinking for some time (perhaps we are always thinking this?) that I must do more to get in better shape, to make myself live a healthier life.  And I don’t mean giving up alcohol or eating a religious diet or anything.  I was just thinking about getting back outside.  Walking.  Running… 

I wasn’t really thinking about it for my own health, but I had actually started to think about it in terms I find interesting,  especially considering Chris’s post here.  I had been thinking about it because Chris mentioned it in earlier posts.  So I guess this is just an indication of just how important Chris, as a source of information, has become.

I think I will walk tonight.  Even though it is raining up here in Vermont.


Hi Chris,
Congratulations. It’s such a great feeling to be in shape. I’m glad to hear you are bikeriding. You are in a perfect area for that. And that little mountain is nice to have nearby you - I’m sure there are some fantastic views of the valley up there.

About a year ago, I read The China Study and gave it a go towards going vegan. I got to a certain point and could not go further on my own and recently decided to meet with a nutrionist to (try) to go all the way.  I just read the book a 2nd time, and I’m now thoroughly convinced a whole foods, plant based diet is the way to go. It’s done wonders for my waistline. And having a decent sized yard will allow me to grow quite a bit of plants for my diet, and keep me active as well.

Thanks for sharing your story.

There’s a reason for the saying "At least you have your health" … its probably your most important asset in leading a fulfilling life.  Health care costs are continually rising, and they do make up the biggest cost near the end of your life (on average!).  No reason to drive them up any more through your own in-action. 

All of us clamoring for more Chris content here at never anticipated it would come in the form of beefcake!

I’m sure the lovely Mrs. M appreciates the new svelte look he’s sporting.   Way to go!!! 



Been (sorta) doing paleo for a couple of months now and although I didn’t need to lose any weight I do feel much better with more energy. Mark’s Daily Apple is is well worth the visit.

First, good job Chris!
You said:
I regularly receive emails and other feedback from people who describe how important it is that the message(s) of change found on this site are complemented by real-world, verifiable actions that are in alignment with those messages.  

That reminded me about a story that was told by the old time motivational speaker Zig Ziegler. He has (had) often said, "You can go anywhere you want to go, do anything you want to do and BE anything you want to be." At the end of one of his talks a participant walked up to him and poked his belly like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and said, "Zig, do you really believe what you just said, I mean REALLY believe it?" See, by his own admission Zig, being about 5’6" stretched - said he had a 42" waist line and tipped the scales at almost 230 pounds - if I recall correctly.

So he did some introspection and said that if anyone was to believe what he was saying he had to become what he believed.

Chris, your story is similar and I am sure will inspire others. I know it has inspired me.

I am very glad I got to see this transformation, Chris. As a friend and men’s group member, I have already benefitted on several occasions from it, so I am glad for both of us.Although I don’t practice so consciously and constantly giving my body the right to select appropriate food and exercise, I wanted to add to this approach. As for exercise, I gave up my car a few years ago. Since then I bike almost exclusively anywhere I go. Other than getting around a bit less, I do feel healthier, and happier, and I even feel much more able to do things. Not just because of having gotten used to more exercise, but because of the need and extra motivation of getting somewhere I want to get. One negative part is that I don’t choose the time of day or type of weather to exercise. But in a collapsing world I believe I will have to give up other things as well, so this is a good warm-up and reminder.
As for eating I am slowly shifting towards the "eating by chance" over the last few years. For example when getting together with neighbors for a potluck, so it is a chance to build community. Or when a certain produce is in from the garden, or when something is in season, so it is surprisingly cheap and abundant. (One negative part is, that cabbage and apples tend to be in season occasionally, like now, but never chocolate to my dismay:-) The good part is, though, that I am less attached to what I eat and when, that will again be beneficial when there is less variety in the food supply and transportation options.

But to those that say eat less, No!  Eat well, I see many thin people that are horribly unhealthy.

Dogs told me to take a look at Chris' latest article... I have not made a post in more than a year, but thought it was necessary to say... 
"Watch out Becca." 
Nice job Chris!

(Looking at the pictures) . . .  Wow!!!
This makes me want to go exercise!

Great job Chris!  It takes a real consistency of effort to do what you’ve done.  It’s another piece of the puzzle of preparedness.
I’ve done a bit of the same thing over the last year… reading this site after Christmas last year I saw two posts… one said "Do something outside your comfort zone this year" and the other was a post from Dogs talking about Krav Maga self defense training.  After a little googling I decided yes it was outside my comfort zone and yes I should probably do it.  Nine months later I’m 20 pounds lighter, in better shape than I’ve ever been, and while not exactly a Ninja, my 50 year old body is more capable than it was previously.  As with everything… continuing to stretch, learn and grow.

Thanks again for a great site full of ideas and valuable contributors (Thanks too Dogs!!)

Jeez… whats out of my comfort zone for 2012???


[quote=jrf29](Looking at the pictures) . . .  Wow!!!
This makes me want to go exercise!
"Getting In Shape?"
Round is a shape. 
Seriously, well done Chris.