At the beginning of every school year, I make a resolution similar to the popular “New Year’s resolutions” that people make on New Year’s Eve. This school year I chose “get back into shape” as my resolution. I’d like to say I chose this for a noble reason, like looking out for my future, but it is really just because I want to take off my freshman 15-plus.

Paul Wong
Jeff Phillips

When I was in high school, I could play all day and eat all the fast food I wanted and not gain a pound. But once college began, I lost my ability to exercise without getting tired, yet unfortunately retained my knack for eating mounds of good food, fast. So with the help of some friends and Men’s Health magazine, I slowly began to change my habits with a two-fold plan: Change what I’m eating and exercise more.

I attacked my diet first. I was shocked and dismayed when it was revealed that my “Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar present: The food pyramid” poster was not factually accurate. There is no McGrains food group, and a Heath Bar McFlurry does not fulfill my dairy requirement. So, I made a trip to the supermarket to find healthy foods to eat.

I was told that without copious amounts of mayonnaise, lunch meat could be satisfying while low in fat. From there I moved on to the bread aisle to find a suitable wheat bread alternative. I settled on buying pita bread and packing it with the lunchmeat and romaine lettuce.

While eating my third ham-filled pita the following day, I had an epiphany. Instead of eating at the socially structured times, I wouldn’t eat until I was extremely hungry. That way, I could eat healthy food because I would be so hungry.

As it turns out, in practice, my plan doesn’t work. After I decided that I was thoroughly hungry, not only did falafels sound good, but Mexican pizza value meals and double Whoppers also sounded good and were greasier and more-readily available. It was a short-lived experiment.

With that settled, I moved on to developing an exercising regimen.

I began by simply running, which my trick knee didn’t put up with for long, so I went to the IM building to ride an exercise bike for half an hour. I mentioned to a friend that with all of this sweating I would be slimming down in no time. She told me that sweating was just water weight. I said weight was weight in my mind, but that if it was water weight, it was even better because I gained plenty of weight that wasn’t so much from drinking water as it was from alcohol. Apparently beer weight and water weight are two different entities.

To supplement my exercise, Men’s Health magazine advised me to lift weights according to a simple 16-week plan. (As I flipped through the magazine, I noticed that while women’s fashion magazines are accused of popularizing an impossible body type, Men’s Health should not be overlooked when the topic of discussion is “impossible body types.” It is also worth noting that the magazine’s website has a banner ad containing the text “Want to look like a Men’s Health model?” that is naturally linked to the Men’s Health subscription page.)

On day one of the plan, I ventured back to the IM building with music to pump me up for lifting – Jeff’s mix CD No. 12, which I’ve titled, “Best theme songs,” and begins with the Charlie Brown Christmas theme and ends with “Chariots of Fire.”

Within five minutes of my arrival I had two observations: 1) I am about 15-weeks behind on the plan compared to the rest of the IM weight room and 2) There are no weights here that I can lift 15 times in a row. I have since moved into the comfort of my house to lift weights.

After reading the rest of Men’s Health magazine, I still don’t know the difference between “rock hard abs” and “amazing abs,” even though there are apparently different routes to achieve the two. But, I now know what makes a good exercise routine.

I’ve developed a low-impact, simple-yet-effective workout that consists of the following: Horizontal clock touch and dead lift (two sets, five reps each, works triceps and forearms), perform Robert DeNiro’s “You talkin’ to me” monologue (one set, 10 reps), sitting e-mail check (one set, one rep, works gluteus and hamstrings), and stomach crunches (15 sets, 20 reps each).

Using this routine and eating right, I’ve seen immediate results. I can now walk into the IM building with confidence and look at my Men’s Health and say, “Yes, that is the best $20 I’ve ever spent.”

– To receive weekly updates of Jeff Phillips’ progress with before and after photos, e-mail jpphilli@umich.edu.

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