After a recent visit to see my niece and nephew, my brother walked me to my car. As he did, a neighbor approached whom I did not know.
He looked to be no more than 30 and possessed a muscular yet athletic build that told me he engaged in far more than typical health club workouts. Maybe that's why when my brother introduced me he added, "And he was writing health and fitness articles while you were in diapers."
"Cool," the neighbor said though I felt otherwise when he didn't grasp that the jest had to be an exaggeration. He asked me about the efficacy of some of the supplements he was taking, whether it was better to do cardio work before or after a weightlifting workout, and then, "So what's the philosophy of your column?"
Pretty good question. Pretty bad timing.
It was supper time, my brother had just ordered take-out pizza, I really needed to eat and I never eat that junk. So I joked that he'd have to read the column to learn that, hopped in my Scion xB, and drove away.
As I drove, however, I realized answering him could actually make a good column. Furthermore, it would force me to reflect upon and reassess my health and fitness beliefs something that probably should be done by everyone at least once a year anyway.
But after many frustrating attempts, I realized my encyclopedic beliefs are better suited for a doctoral dissertation than an 800-word column, so what follows is just a smattering of them. See if my views align with yours.
Eating should be
governed by awareness
Too many people live their lives on autopilot, multitasking the day away until they collapse in bed. As a result, that's the way they eat, cramming all sorts of crap in their mouths as they work on a report or watch the TV, not really aware of what they're tasting.
People who eat that way not only miss out on one of life's great pleasures, but they also tend to overeat since it takes about 20 minutes for food consumption to negate hunger.
Slow down. Take a deep breath before every bite. Chew each mouthful 20 to 30 times. Concentrate on taste and texture.
Do this and you'll enjoy meals more and naturally eat less.
The type of food you eat is ultimately more important than the amount
Even though I constantly learn about the way my body handles calories by weighing all the food I eat and keeping a detailed log, I realize most people would find the practice time-consuming and tedious. Luckily, concentrating on the type of food you eat rather than weighing it works nearly as well.
Just remember that protein and complex carbohydrates tend to satiate your appetite and not breakdown in the digestive tract as easily as simple carbohydrates and fats. If your meal consists primarily of protein and complex carbs, you're not only far less likely to overeat, but also, if you do overeat, a significant amount of the excess will be wasted in the process of transforming it into fat.
In contrast, simple carbs digest quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar that makes it easy to overeat because the feeling of hunger returns about 90 minutes later. Additionally, extra simple carbs turn to fat nearly as easily as dietary fat.
In other words, you have a large enough margin of error if you overeat "good stuff" that an occasional binge doesn't produce significant weight gain.
The body thrives on exercise
One of the most frequent complaints expressed to me is that there just isn't enough time in the day for exercise. What everyday exercisers have come to realize is that once the body acclimates to it, the body thrives on it, and exercise ultimately saves time.
In those ubiquitous commercials for 5-Hour Energy, the actors and actresses talk about "that two-thirty feeling," how the brain and body so often seem to come to a grinding halt somewhere in the middle of the afternoon every day.
Exercise, especially during your lunch break, can eliminate that, making you more efficient for the remainder of the day. So quite often those people who previously thought they had no time for exercise have extra time at night despite working out earlier in the day.
If you can't use your lunch break to work out, try early-morning exercise. It not only gets you ready for the start of the work day, but it also works wonders if you find it hard falling asleep at night.
Learning what to eat and how hard to work out is the grand experiment
The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said, "Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." If you're really interested in health and fitness, the questions you need to love are what to eat and how hard to work out.
And if you treat the search as a grand and never-ending experiment, you won't stress out over finding the answers. If you adopt this mindset, experimentation doesn't lead to mistakes; it only produces useful information including a few ways not to do things.