Chubster: Losing Weight the Hipster Way

If you only buy one weight-loss book this year...well, you know the rest.
I was prepared to dislike Chubster the moment it landed on my desk. A hipster's guide to losing weight? While staying cool? Oh, fer Christ's sake. Hipsters -- like bacon -- are everywhere these days.

Diet books are everywhere these days, too. 'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions and fatties everywhere to attempt to lose some of those holiday pounds we put on watching old Firefly episodes with a leftover, spiral-sliced honey-glazed ham for company.

I get a lot of diet and weight-loss books across my desk this time of year for these reasons, like The Drunk Diet: How I Lost 40 Pounds...Wasted, written by Lady Gaga's boyfriend. (I cannot make this up.) I read a few pages of it before passing it along to our resident Lady Gaga-and-whiskey connoisseur Craig Hlavaty, who's been scanning it in hopes of gleaning any stray Gaga tidbits to add to his collection.

But what struck me about both books was that neither want you to change who you are in order to get healthier and lose weight.

In Chubster, written by former Phoenix New Times music editor and unabashed hipster (although he hates that word) Martin Cizmar, he jokingly prods at his own kind -- the record store snobs, the Mac fanboys -- while admitting that it's okay to be who you are. And that the real secret to successful, long-term weight loss is taking that into account.

Beth Ditto reminds us daily that there is such a thing as a fat hipster. (Sorry, Beth. I still love you.)
In other words, I am no more likely to become Susan Powter overnight than Cizmar was going to become Jack LaLanne. (For you young'uns who don't remember either Powter or LaLanne, hit up the Googles.)

Like Cizmar, I hate working out and I hate organized, team sports. And like Cizmar, I'm about as likely to spend time weighing my food or sprouting my own wheatgrass as I am likely to take up parkour. These things just aren't who we are. And where so many people fail at losing weight is trying to fit into other peoples' ideas of accepted fitness or health norms.

What Cizmar suggests throughout his book is nothing more than good, old-fashioned common sense, meted out with a lot of laughs and friendly nudges. He encourages you to take a hard look at yourself -- and why you've gained or can't lose weight -- at the same time as he scrutinizes himself. Reading the book feels like entering into a fitness pact with a friend, not at all like the miserable time I signed myself up for a personal trainer at Bally's who made me cry three times a week.

No post on fat hipsters is complete with a photo of our beloved Beans.
Cizmar is blunt about a lot of things in the book: namely, that you'll have to start counting calories, whether you like it or not. It's not fun, it's not always easy, but it's the only way to successfully figure out how much food you're cramming down your maw and how much exercise (or not) you'll need to decrease your mass. This is the exact same formula espoused by Weight Watchers, without all the fees.

He's also blunt in his distaste for these types of organizations, which he feels take advantage of people and further cripple them by teaching them to rely on a proprietary system instead of learning how to apply weight-loss skills to their real lives. Only then can someone make the necessary adaptations to live a healthy life without having to spend the rest of their years living off Jenny Craig meals.

And that's just the beginning: The book is endlessly useful in a variety of ways, from suggesting various exercise activities that don't involve treadmills to providing a guide to the best (and worst) frozen dinners and fast food options. There's even an ethnic foods section for those of us who maybe didn't realize that naan is so goddamned bad for you.

Cizmar isn't just writing off the cuff in Chubster, either. Using his own words of advice, he lost 100 pounds in eight months. And he didn't go to the gym once.

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"--while admitting that it's okay to be who you are. And that the real secret to successful, long-term weight loss is taking that into account."

This a thousand times over, YES!! I am one of those rare unicorns who has lost massive amounts of weight (right around 100 pounds at this point) and kept it off for years.  Hell, I'm still slowly losing (lost a little over 10 in 2011).  Before this, I was a yo-yo. Been a fatty since childhood. On top of that, I LOVE food. Love it. And I still eat awesome food and drink fancy beer and generally love life, I just consume less. Quality, but in less quantity.

I agree with Mr. Cizmar that you have to start off logging your food intake to see where you are. You have to know where you are to get where you are going. After a while, you get good at estimating, you start listening to your body and the signals it is sending you and no longer have to do that, but this is a critical step. Don't even try to reduce anything at first. Just see where you are.

As long as you are getting proper nutrition and are maintaining a calorie deficit (however modest), you can eat what you want. Accept that it is perfectly okay to occasionally pig out on curry and naan and wash it down with an IPA. Enjoy and savor your food without guilt, just indulge in moderation. Hell, enjoy your food period. Find food you LIKE that is also filling and healthy. Experiment!  I've found that these days I really can't pig out like I used to anyway, even when I WANT to, lol.  At no point have I felt deprived. It was really more a mindset change and having the patience to let it happen slowly.

Like Mr. Cizmar, I will never be a gym rat. I go through phases of working out quite a bit to occasionally to not at all, then back again to several times a week. That's me and I'm not beating myself up over it. I've still been successful at losing and keeping it off even when I've gone six months at a stretch without setting foot inside a gym because I am mindful of what I eat and listen to my body and what it is telling me. Not obsessive, just mindful. I haven't counted calories in years. Some friends of mine have been very successful finding activities they enjoy and look forward to (martial arts, yoga, walking, hiking, running, swimming, lifting weights, whatever) and the rest just came naturally. I've known a few people who have been very successful with Weight Watchers and swear by it.

Find what works and is sustainable for YOU. If you are really struggling despite your best efforts, see a doctor about potential thyroid trouble or insulin resistance. If you are eating disordered or have psychological issues surrounding food or use food to self-medicate, you will have to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself and address those issues. Get counseling, find a support group, do what you have to. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting over yourself. I can't change the fact that I have famine resistant genes and a sluggish thyroid. I CAN change what I eat.

A friend of mine (who lost around 30 pounds and has kept it off for over five years) recommends a book with a very similar philosophy called The Hacker Diet. It's like the Chubster thing, but geared towards computer geeks. I didn't have a plan at the outset, I just knew every 'diet' I'd been on had been a disaster. I'd lose fifty pounds in the space of six months, then slowly gain it back plus some over the next year. Through a process of trial and error I figured out what worked for me in my life. I also lost it slowly. I think that is definitely a huge part of what worked for me - at no point was I ever starving.

One thing that really helps me stay on track is to weigh myself every single day. Your weight does fluctuate day to day depending on what you've eaten, hydration levels, hormonal cycles, etc. Weight is also not the whole health picture, you can have an increase in lean body mass and lose fat and the scale won't move, you can be skinny but totally out of shape, etc. However, if you are in this habit you stay on track. You are never shocked to learn you've gained twenty pounds without realizing it (it has happened to me!). You see the scale trending up or down and it keeps you honest. Writing down everything you eat (even without logging calories) and weighing yourself every day is a good place start because it gives you a more visceral awareness of the relationship between those two things.

I know this is tl;dr, but I am always excited to share my experience to give hope to others who are struggling. You CAN lose massive amounts of weight and keep it off and you DON'T have to spend lots of money or join a gym.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

I've just kindled this! Thanks for the review!

Monday Pen
Monday Pen

Eat less.  It's actually that simple.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Ok, I've never needed to lose a hundy, but I quit smoking a couple years ago and gained 40, of which I've only maintained to lose 5-10.

I love counting calories, but exercise is paramount.  And also realize, distance-wise, walking is as good as jogging.  It'll just take longer.  Google it.


Of so many pics to choose from you select that one. Why K why?


See Monday Pen's comment

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

The question I really want to know the answer to is why she keeps posing like that in the first place!

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