Fitness full time

December 3, 2007

A photo of people flipping into water

Every day we are inundated with advertisements for Lose Weight Fast diets, exercise regimens, and miracle drugs. Almost all of these products require you to give up a portion of your day to Getting In Shape... or giving up things that you love, like tiramisu. People two hundred years ago didn't worry about such nonsense. People in other developed nations, like England, France, and New Zealand, don't worry about it either. So why are we obsessed with Diets, Exercise, and Drugs? It's all because America has shifted from a society of physical activity to one of mental activity. Now, this is not a bad thing in theory... but in practice, it's the root cause of our national obesity epidemic. So, here's how to get in shape, stay in shape, and actually enjoy it for once. This is targeted primarily towards cubicle zombies, but the philosophy applies to just about everyone. It's pretty easy. The steps are:

Ramp up the activity.

If you're going to get in shape, you can't just sit in a chair all day, then go home and sit in front of the TV or computer screen. Whenever you can, be physically active. Make sure that if you're spending a day at the office, you move. For example, the recommendation From Above is to get up and move around once every hour. That's not enough, and it can be jarring if you're in the middle of a great idea. Instead, try to be active constantly. Push your chair back and forth. Stretch frequently. Stand up and walk around your office or, if you're conveniently located in a tiny cube, get creative with the objects at your disposal. Tape dispensers make interesting free weights, as do textbooks. The key here is to ramp up the activity. If you do nothing else in this list, do this.

Choose to avoid one luxury food a week.

Anyone who's tried most of the diets out there knows how hard it is to suddenly go without all your favorite foods. So, instead of cutting out everything right away, go gradual. Make a conscious choice to turn down or avoid one luxury food per week. Luxury foods are usually sweets like candy, muffins, and pastries. Foods with high carb counts are good candidates for the chopping block. If you can't just cut something out entirely, try substituting something healthier. Honey makes a good alternative sweetener. My first Chop was to stop buying cappuccinos every morning. Not only did that give me 300 fewer calories a day, it also saved me about $60 a month. The key here is to go gradual. Losing weight fast isn't important. Losing weight permanently is. That said, some people like Tim Ferriss have done some amazing things with minimal-effort, fast weight loss.

Make food your fuel, not your crutch.

A lot of us enjoy food. It's not just necessary to our survival, it's a social activity. For some, it's a coping mechanism. For others, a passion. Whatever your reason for enjoying food, if you're overweight, you enjoy it just a tad too much. Don't worry, though, because you can still enjoy food and lose weight. All you have to do is make food your fuel, not your crutch. Always eat after being physically active, not before. Eating before you move is like trying to fill a gas tank when it's already full. Some of you might say, “but I'm hungry and tired! I need to eat before I can get active!” First, if you're tired when you get up in the morning, then you definitely need to be more active physically and less active mentally. There has to be a balance there, as with all things. Starting your day with a jog can be inconvenient for some, so try different ways of getting active right away. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, get creative - replace caffeine with dancing. Yes, dancing. You'd be surprised how well dancing wakes you up. Just make sure you warm up those muscles before doing anything too strenuous or you risk injuring yourself, and that doesn't do anyone any good. If you're tired in the afternoon, take a nap. Unless you're starving - and by this I mean your stomach feels like it's stabbing itself to death with a spoon - try and avoid snacking. If you're really hungry, eat fruit. Fruit has natural sugar that will restore some of that lost energy. But always, always, always remember - food is fuel. Fuel must be used, not stored.

Play hard.

Instead of sitting down in front of the computer all night after a tough day of being on the computer at work, take up a sport. You heard me. Go to your city's Parks & Rec department and sign up for one of their clubs. If you're a little too heavy at the moment to do this without hurting yourself, then take up dancing. Dancing is easier to do at home and will burn just as many calories as sports. “But my guild in WoW will be angry! I can't just abandon them!” If your guild demands your constant presence every night, all night, then you should think long and hard about whether they have your best interests at heart. Do they care about you, or that AoE heal you just happen to have? There's nothing wrong with playing video games, just as long as they don't make up the totality of your nightly entertainment. On weekends, take up a project that involves working with your body. Something that involves lifting heavy weight - like, say, helping Habitat for Humanity build houses - can really work wonders. Doing something that ends with a finished product and a continual reminder of progress can do great things for your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. If you're a code monkey who spends the weekends working on personal coding projects, try the same activities in Ramp up the activity for at home. Since you're in your own space, you can go really nuts.

Work with your body AND your mind.

If you're too heavy on the mental side of the physical-mental seesaw, you need to work harder on the physical side to balance out the equation. If it's winter and you live in the suburbs or in a small town, try shoveling your neighbors' sidewalks for them. It can be hard work, but it'll be rewarding in both your neighbors' reactions and in the physical results you get. Use that brain of yours to come up with new ways to get your body and your mind working in tandem. Martial arts is a great way to do this. Even yoga at home counts, though the social aspect of training with others can be a wonderful bonus. If you're concentrating hard on developing your body into something you can be proud of, you'll find that your mind will get healthier too. Your concentration, reaction time, creativity, and overall happiness will spike. That ADD you think you have? That's not ADD. It's just a side effect of not being in shape.

Eat well, play hard, and work hard. Do this all the time, and you'll find yourself improving on a daily basis... without really having to think about it too much, or spending hundreds on a silly fad diet. Go do it.