The Donkey Kong Guide to Weight Loss

Today, an 800-pound virtual gorilla is going to help you get in shape.

Everybody has played the original Donkey Kong at one point or another, right?? If you haven’t, here’s the premise: Donkey Kong has kidnapped the princess, and it’s your job as Mario to climb up ladders and over obstacles until you reach the top of the level where she’s being held captive.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, take 30 seconds to watch this video, and then join the conversation.

Who’s your princess?

Mario is constantly risking life and limb to scale a treacherous obstacle course, climbing faulty ladders, dodging rolling barrels, and escaping pesky flames. Why?? Because his lady friend has been captured by an damn dirty ape and he is her only hope of survival!? If you were put in Mario’s comically oversized boots, I bet you would do the same thing.

Take a look at your life and your quest for health: who is your “princess?” Why do you want to get in shape?? If you say “why not!” or “my friend told me to,” you probably won’t be jumping through hoops or over barrels to get there anytime soon.

Now, if you said, “because? I want to grow old with my wife” or “because my father died of heart failure at 53, and I want to actually see my kids grow up,” I bet you’ll actually take steps to turn your life around.

It doesn’t have to be this serious either: maybe your motivation is “I want to impress the cute waitress at the coffee shop and I know she works out” or “I want to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.”? Whatever your “princess” is, keep that in your mind every day, especially on days when you feel like sleeping in/pigging out/doing nothing.

Secondly, do you have a set goal? Mario’s girlfriend was waiting at the top of the level, which meant Mario had a specific challenge to accomplish to rescue her.? What are your specific goals?

  • Lose 95 pounds.
  • Run 3 marathons in 2010.
  • Bench press 200 pounds 5 times.
  • Get down to a 34-inch waist.

Depending on how far away you are from your goal at the start, the longer? and more perilous the level might be.? No matter how far away that goal is however, as long as it’s in your mind and SPECIFIC, you’ll remember why you’re going through all this trouble and you’ll know how much further you need to go.

Barrels and Hammers

Mario’s journey from the bottom of the screen to the top is no cakewalk.? He’s got all kinds of garbage to contend with, including barrels hurled with ferocity by our furry villain.? Fortunately, Mario’s quite the acrobatic plumber, and provided he’s paying attention he can leap over these rolling barrels with ease.? Of course, he can also grab a super hammer instead, turning temporarily invisible and whacking the hell out of those things.

What are the barrels in your life? These are the obstacles that have derailed your previous weight loss efforts and will threaten to do so again if you’re not prepared.? Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar:

1) Extra difficult project at work. In the past, these stressful times at work are a reason to say “hell with it” and order pizza, hit up Taco Bell for fourth meal, and generally completely disregard your own well-being while putting the company first.

  • Jump – Although it’s difficult, find a way to eat sensibly while going out for food during these few bad days and make a pact to get right back on the train once the workload slows down.? You also de-stress by going for a brisk walk every few hours to clear your mind.
  • Hammer – In anticipation of a rough work week, you fire up a bunch of grilled chicken and cut up a bunch of veggies on Sunday night so you have all meals ready for the week.? You deftly avoid the vending machines and instead chomp down on a healthy snack brought from home.? Recognizing the importance of a clear mind, you still find time to exercise and come back to your desk refreshed.

2) 3-day holiday weekend. Ugh.? A million beers, six dozen hot wings, a truckload of hamburgers, and a pallet full of Ruffles have all been invited to a party in your stomach.

  • Jump – You know that a long weekend is coming up, so you eat extra diligently for the days leading up to it.? A few days off the wagon aren’t enough to sabotage your adventure, and you get right back on track when the holiday is over.
  • Hammer – It’s a weekend in the US, which means there’s probably a fun race going on that morning.?? Instead of sleeping in, you sign up for the race, maybe raise some money for a good cause, and get something accomplished before you would even normally wake up!? That runner’s high carries you through the rest of the day while you enjoy some beers and surprisingly decent eating.

3) Freak snowstorm. Aw crap, you were going to go to the gym today, but there’s now eighteen inches of snow on the ground.? Oh well, looks like you now have the perfect excuse to lie the couch, eat Oreos, and watch a marathon of America’s Funniest Home Videos, right?? Fail.

  • Jump – Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold.? Go about your normal routine, do a kick ass body weight exercise routine inside, and take care of business.
  • Hammer – Screw the gym and pretend like you’re recreating the training montage from Rocky IV: go shovel the driveway, chop some wood, and climb a freaking mountain while screaming the name of your arch rival.

Our lives are full of these barrels.? Identify yours and have a game plan for how you’re going to deal with them.? Be prepared, plan ahead, and then either jump over them or hammer the hell out of them.

What happens if you get hit by one? Sh** happens, and every now and again you’ll get hit.? We’re all human, and this game of life isn’t easy.? Fortunately, unless you literally got run over by a barrel, you’re probably okay to get up and try again (wooo extra lives!). ? So you ate like a pig, drank like a fish, and exercised less than Jabba the Hutt, WHO CARES.

Set your alarm for 7AM the next morning, get your ass out of bed, and get back on track.? That princess isn’t going to save herself.

The flames

As Mario is climbing the level, dodging barrels, grabbing hammers, and scaling ladders, there’s this little rinky-dink flame hanging out at the bottom.? It’s slow and clumsy, but it will eventually catch up to Mario should he become complacent and not advance further.

That flame is chasing you too.? Standing still and jumping over obstacles as they come to you can only take you so far – it’s time to make some progress.? Be stronger and faster today than you were yesterday – find a way to lift one extra pound, do one extra rep, and be one second faster.

Always be leveling up, and always be moving forward.

How’s your game of life going?

This is the part where we all help each other win.? Who’s your “princess,” what are your barrels, and how do jump/hammer them?

Leave your advice for others in the comments!

-Steve

PS – Exciting news!? Over the weekend, I was contacted by the cool folks that run The Daily Brainstorm who asked me to be a contributor!? This online newspaper pulls in articles from a select group of bloggers, including Leo at ZenHabits, Everett at Far Beyond the Stars, and Darren over at ProBlogger.? I’m a BIG fan of these guys (and most of the other contributors too), so I’m quite honored to have my name occupy the same webspace. If you got a few minutes I’d encourage you to check it out!

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19 thoughts on “The Donkey Kong Guide to Weight Loss

  1. This was smart and very well written, although I must say that it makes me want to skip my run entirely and play Super Mario Galaxy 2 instead. ??

  2. Man, I definitely need to pick up Super Mario Galaxy 2. I loved the first one, and the reviews for the second have all been overwhelmingly positive (I think it's at number 2 all-time on Game Rankings).

    -Steve

  3. Good post! I like the part about keeping on going! =D

    Let's see … my princess? I want to be fit enough to be able to do anything I want to do. Hike 20 miles? No problem! Push my dead 1973 truck back to the mechanics? Sure! Play tag with my kids? Watch out, I'm fast!

    I've got a long way to go.

    My barrels are a body type that WORKS AGAINST ME. I can look at food and it goes to my waist. I have a lot of muscle that runs to fat, but now that I'm kicking it in shape, it's starting to run to muscle. (JUMP: and once I get it there, it's gonna STAY THERE, darn it!)

    A lot of my family/friend activities revolve around eating. Trying to fix that. (JUMP: Anyone up for rollerskating? Miniature golf?)

    I have a *very* high stress life, and very VERY few hours that aren't taken up by one or the other of my jobs. (JUMP: … uh, yeah, still working on this one.)

    and I'd rather game than work out. (JUMP: Yay for work out groups! <3)

    Slowly, I'm starting to see progress. My friend was giving me a massage yesterday, and suddenly stopped, poking my arm. “What the heck is that?!” “I dunno.” “ZOMC! It's a MUSCLE!” “FTW!”

  4. Steve, you consistently have the best articles I've read. I'm loving the video game theme and how it really does apply to our lives. Keep it up man! Can't wait until you get some of those money making things out so we can help support you!

  5. Great stuff here. It's all about being proactive and drawing up an action plan. Without a plan, especially during the challenging times you describe, there are too many variables to throw you off track.

  6. Plan the work work the plan.

    If you're not sure what your motivation is, I highly recommend going to the gym when you feel fat or lazy. It does wonders…

  7. Great article. I love these video game references and it fits the site also (big surprise there I guess). So when are we getting a Zelda reference or did I miss that one?

  8. Yes! I love the Jump/Hammer analogy. There are often 2 (or more) good ways to solve a diet or exercise problem that fell in your lap. It's important to realize you don't always have to make the perfect choice though.

    – Fitz.

  9. Okay… I know I might be missing the point of the article… but I just started geeking out too much and lost track! ?? I played a lot of Donkey Kong as a kid, even remember all the hoopala around Donkey Kong Country for SNES when it came out.

    I also highly recommend the documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” to everyone. A really great movie about two guys duking it out for the world record in Donkey Kong.

  10. LOVED the old donkey kong game.
    my princess? definitely my girlfriend. she’s so supportive of everything I do, I want to please her, and I want to look good for all the high school events coming up.
    Barrels? I also love food. For a while, I was hellbent on opening my own restaurant, but that wouldnt happen (I cant hold a knife properly!) So, when I couldnt MAKE the good-looking food i saw on TV, I settled for eating the food my parents make, which is equally delicious, but equally fattening. It feels that I am ALWAYS eating. Also, procrastination is a HUGE barrel. ( I’ll do it tomorrow; I’ve done so much today!)
    Hammer? Seeing my girlfriend cheer me on at local 5K races. She woke up at 7 in the morning, w/o makeup on, to come see me do what I enjoy doing. since its summer, i’ve only been eating bananas and water for breakfast (some article saying it’ll help with the fat regulation), go for a little free running, skip lunch, and have dinner. I’ve willed myself to cut the deserts, the sweets, and the junk from my diet.
    Steve, these articles are TREMENDOUSLY helpful. Keep it up! m/

  11. LOVED the old donkey kong game.
    my princess? definitely my girlfriend. she’s so supportive of everything I do, I want to please her, and I want to look good for all the high school events coming up.
    Barrels? I also love food. For a while, I was hellbent on opening my own restaurant, but that wouldnt happen (I cant hold a knife properly!) So, when I couldnt MAKE the good-looking food i saw on TV, I settled for eating the food my parents make, which is equally delicious, but equally fattening. It feels that I am ALWAYS eating. Also, procrastination is a HUGE barrel. ( I’ll do it tomorrow; I’ve done so much today!)
    Hammer? Seeing my girlfriend cheer me on at local 5K races. She woke up at 7 in the morning, w/o makeup on, to come see me do what I enjoy doing. since its summer, i’ve only been eating bananas and water for breakfast (some article saying it’ll help with the fat regulation), go for a little free running, skip lunch, and have dinner. I’ve willed myself to cut the deserts, the sweets, and the junk from my diet.
    Steve, these articles are TREMENDOUSLY helpful. Keep it up! m/

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