In our consumerist Western culture there are striking similarities between the problems that the average person faces regarding both health and personal finance. Thankfully though, the solution to both sets of problems involve the same two core principles – planning and discipline. The following is the shortest possible summary of my feelings on the fitness industry, nutrition, the diet industry, and the health of the average person in today’s America.
There is nothing wrong / unhealthy with being a little to somewhat overweight. One doesn’t need to have a physique like Ryan Reynolds in Blade: Trinity / Gerard Butler in 300 (apologies if my comparisons are a bit dated, I haven’t been to the movies in quite a while) to be healthy. Sometimes people stress out about the littlest things and worry too much about the end result and not living an enjoyable life in the meantime.
That all being said, you don’t need a $50 a month gym membership to make progress on being healthier. You don’t even need a set of weights (though strength training is very fun and rewarding). If you want to lose weight, be healthier, it can be as simple as 2 things:
#1 Eat a caloric deficit.
#2 Walk everyday.
Nutrition – You can’t outrun your fork.
I know a good deal of people who constantly say one of these two things – “Man I am gonna need to hit the gym for a few hours to work this off” or “Well that was great workout, time to reward myself with pizza… or a frozen latte” You can do all of the cardio in the world, or 2 months of the toughest newest infomercial DVD workout program (P90X / Insanity) but if you are still eating garbage, you are really just hamstringing yourself, and not improving your health.
Eat a reasonable amount of real food. Real food, as in things that don’t come in packages. You don’t need to do Nutrisystem or Weight Watchers or Paleo or South Beach. I am not saying that package diets (the first two) or restrictive diets (the last two) will not work but you really don’t need to do them. Calories in vs calories out is the name of the game. That being said, if you are getting a lot of your calories from poptarts and candy (sugary foods that do not make you feel full as fast as say – vegetables, chicken, eggs, greek yogurt, etc.) you are gonna be very hungry all day if you are restricting your calories.
The best way to view changes to nutrition are as small, gradual lifestyle changes. If you put yourself on a restrictive diet for 6 weeks to meet some sort of weight goal, and then switch back to what you were eating before, you are going to gain all of the weight back, much quicker than you think. Viewing a change in what you eat as some sort of penance and that “this will eventually all be over” is not the way to go. Going from a typical “American diet” to a calorie restricted diet in one day might be too much for most people. You drink 6 cans of pop (soda for you uninitiated) a day? Try a week of only drinking 4 cans a day. Then the next week do 2 cans a day, then the week after just one a day. You eat fast food / pizza five times a week? Try a week of only having in 3-4 times, then a week of only having it twice, and so and so forth. A year’s worth of these small victories will add up.
But at the end of the day, if you want to be more fit / healthier you can’t eat the way that you used to. Fitness is only going to give back what you put into it.
Now of course #2 depends on a great many things. Walking even more than the national average of steps per day (3000 – 4000 most sources say) may be more difficult for those who are more out of shape than others. But even just buying a fitbit and remembering to wear it every day will make you more aware of how many steps you are (and aren’t getting) every day. A few things to try would be:
* Park further away from work / the store
* Try to get to your place of work early and go for a quick morning walk
* Pack your lunch, walk on your lunch break and eat while working (if possible)
Sure doing some form of cardio is quicker and will likely burn more calories, but walking is said to be better for long term cardiovascular health and is less stressful on your joints. I have had a few different stretches of months without doing any traditional “cardio” (running, ellipticals, biking) and have lost weight at the same time.
If you make getting healthy more about meeting a goal that does not ONLY include the number on the scale, it gets to be more fun and attainable.
I will admit that being a spreadsheet nut, I like watching numbers and seeing progress and find myself on the scale more than I should. That being said, it’s really easy to get lost in the numbers and lose sight of what’s important – feeling healthier.
A few years back, one of my goals was to be able to walk from my house to work – 11 miles. I would have never been able to do that without progressively walking further every day, eating properly and staying consistent on my workout routine on top of that. I started at 5:00 AM and it took just over 3 hours. My feet were pretty sore afterwards but it was an awesome experience. I got to see the sunrise over the city and walk through over 10 different neighborhoods and then showed up at work energized, with a sense of accomplishment, and ready to start my day. And it was completely free 🙂