When Matt hit 25, he started putting on about 10 pounds a year.
As he neared his 30th birthday, he was getting close to 200 pounds.
At 5 foot 8 inches, he’d just crossed the line into “obese” territory.
He felt like crap.
He wasn’t sleeping great. His clothes didn’t fit too well.
He was unhappy.
Matt Might is a Professor of Internal Medicine and Computer Science. He worked as a strategist in the Executive Office of the President at the White House for both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Fitting work and exercise into a busy life involved “finding the time.”. And he was being honest with himself: he would never find the time.
Yet he managed to take eight inches off his waist over six months.
He didn’t join a gym, there were no crazy diets and as far as I know, he didn’t develop a drug habit.
Instead, he decided to try losing the weight by tackling the agents of modern life that make it so easy to get fat in the first place.
Matt bought a stationary exercise bike and moved it into his home office.
Then he bought a couch table, flipped it over, and fit it over his lap so that he could pedal while he worked.
Instead of trying to carve out time for exercise, he started slipping more activity into the stuff he was already doing.
Eventually, he began getting more work done while he exercised than when he was sitting at his desk.
Matt’s philosophy of least resistance involved shaping his environment so it was easier to do the things he wanted and harder to do the things he didn’t.
What mattered was that, on average, he consumed fewer calories than he burned.
At first, the goal was just to break even.
So he threw out all his snacks.
If binging meant “driving to the store” as opposed to “going to the kitchen” then he would binge less.
As he started running a deficit, he began to feel hungry, particularly toward the end of the day. To adjust to the hunger, he ramped the deficit up slowly. First, run a deficit of 100 calories per day. After a week, go up to 200.
Matt started buying less junk and focusing on pleasure per calorie instead.
He loved soda. A small soda with every meal meant an extra 50 minutes on the exercise bike each night.
He got rid of soda and started “geeking out” on tea instead.
He started off with a simple English breakfast tea.
Then followed the rabbit hole into Earl Grey, fruit teas, African Roobois Chais, Chinese Oolongs, Mates, and more.
Picking up local teas during his travels become an enjoyable part of his journey.
This idea of measuring food in minutes rather than calories started to take root.
A giant chocolate-chip cookie was 30 minutes on the bike.
French fries were 20 minutes.
Eventually, he could comfortably run a deficit of 1000 calories per day.
He dropped from 198 pounds (90 kg) to 152 pounds (69 kg) in six months.
We are lazy creatures at heart, and I respect Matt for using this to his advantage.
Once Matt lost 50 pounds, his next challenge was not being able to lift his son and his wheelchair in and out of the car.
He followed the same philosophy to gain 16kg of muscle over the course of a year.
He exercised three days a week, for about 30 minutes a day.
His strength exploded.
He felt like a different human being.
Rather than finding a consecutive block of time to workout, he dispersed the exercise throughout his day. So the 30 minutes weren’t consecutive.
There are mixed opinions on whether concentrated or dispersed exercise leads to faster muscle growth. The takeaway here is they both work.
Push-ups, weights, going to the gym, whatever. At first, the specific exercises he did were irrelevant. He just needed to form the habit.
Matt progressed to dumbbells once he’d got the ball rolling with bodyweight exercises. Ultimately, he moved to a fancy pair of adjustable dumbbells. They were easy to use and he could fit them anywhere at home or the office.
He didn’t radically alter his diet but he did make some changes. He had to eat more calories than he burned (that meant over-eating by about 3500 calories to gain a pound of muscle or fat) and he ate about 1.5 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight.
He exercised 3 days a week and he listened to his body.
When Matt was in his first year as a new professor, he wanted to start doing pull-ups, so he attached a portable pull-up bar to the door outside his bedroom.
Every time he passed by, the transaction cost of a pull-up was near zero, so he did some pull-ups.
He never had to remember to do pull-ups, because he saw the pull-up bar all the time.
One day (for whatever reason) the bar was taken down and placed on the floor. It sat there for months. He didn’t do another pull-up for years.
This whole approach of manipulating the path of least resistance was about reversing the lesson he learned his first year as a professor.
He set up his equipment at home so that he could walk into a room, do an exercise and then walk out.
The goal was to make micro-workouts as easy and accessible as possible so he’d exercise more often.
Five months in, he hit 90 pounds per hand on the flat bench press (he started at 25 per hand).
To increase resistance he considered a traditional barbell. In the end, he bought a pressing system because it’s safer for heavy compound movements.
His 10-rep bench press went from 50 pounds to 220 pounds in one year.
He had 3x-5x improvements across the board.
Now he can lift his son and wheelchair up a flight of stairs.
This post was a writing exercise aimed at connecting information I love to the human behind the story.
Both of Matt’s original posts are below: