My Secret to Getting (and Staying) Lean

By John Garey

I work out at a large national chain gym early in the morning (4:30am to be exact).  I’m, more or less, anonymous there and I really like that. The other morning I had two strangers ask, “What’s your secret to getting lean?”  This was on the same day, within minutes of each other!  Anyway, I took it as a compliment and in a minute, I’m going to share with you my “secret.”

But let me talk a little bit about my general plan.  So, I’ve been on a journey back to my best body for a while now.  About eleven months ago I started what I called “Project John.” I changed my diet, although it’s definitely still a work in progress. I’m much more conscious of my portions than I’ve ever been in my life.  I’m also eating more mostly whole foods (very little or no processed foods).  I’ll talk about this more later (that’s a big hint). I added more cardio to my workout schedule. I now do an hour of moderate to high intensity per day, usually on the Stair Climber, but also running and cycling.  And I do 20-40 minutes of low intensity cardio per day, mostly in the form of dog walks. (BamBam and Rocco are also in much better shape.) I started weight training on a very regular basis using a periodization program for hypertrophy (growing muscle), lifting six days per week. I also do between four and six Pilates workouts per week, ranging from 15-60 minutes.  I sometimes use equipment and sometimes do mat-based workouts. Every six weeks I take multiple days off, usually 3-5 in a row, to let my body recover.

Lunge-Stretch-Featured-Image-1024x575Before I started this program, my diet and exercise programs were very inconsistent. The new discipline with my diet and the kick-up in the workouts is probably what prompted the “What’s your secret” questions at the gym. And so now, I’m ready to tell you my secret – exactly what I told those two very nice people from the gym. What I told them was this:  Getting and staying lean is 80-90 percent diet and it all comes down to consistency and discipline.  That’s right – it’s really no secret at all.  Unsurprisingly, neither one of them was surprised by my answer.  They both shook their heads resignedly and mumbled something to the effect of, “I thought so.”  It’s amazing how many people know the answer, but are just hoping that there’s an easier way.  There isn’t.  And for most of us, it’s not easy.  It really does take discipline, consistency, and a lot of positive self talk.  I’ve had to talk myself out of “cheating” on practically a daily basis.  What does cheating mean to me?  Well, having wine at night is the number one way that I cheat.  And, you’ll say, one, or two, glasses of wine won’t hurt you.  But for me, it absolutely does.  Because that one glass of wine leads to not making the wisest choices from there on.  I will lose my discipline and make other worse choices, like larger portions, cheese, oh, and chocolate.

I had to learn discipline the hard way.  There were quite a few nights early on in my journey when I cheated.  Then felt terrible about it the next day.  It’s amazing what you’ll talk yourself into when you lack discipline.  Picture the angel on one shoulder and the little devil on the other, both giving you advice.  For me, in the beginning, that little devil always had a better pitch.  And the cheating happened frequently.  But I found ways of breaking that habit.  I don’t keep things in the house that I can’t say no to – mainly wine, cheese and chocolate.  I also make myself sit down and look at my goals (which I’ve written out and sit on my desk top) while drinking a large glass of water.  I take the time to really determine if I was truly in need of a glass of wine, or piece of chocolate, or if I was really still hungry, or just bored.  The water helps me in those times.

Advanced-Rocking-on-the-Mat-Final-1024x575I know that my way is not everyone’s way, and I truly believe that you have to find your own path.  My partner Mike has a very different way of approaching getting fit.  And his way works for him and my way doesn’t work for him.  So I understand and empathize with people who need to do it differently than me.  But I do think that whatever approach works for you, it always involves consistency and discipline.  And the longer you do it (in my case one year now), the more benefits you get from your discipline.  In my case, strangers asking me what my secret is.

John Garey Fitness and Pilates is located in the Market Place Long Beach at 6547 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, California. You can follow John at

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