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Four Simple Steps to Getting Fit

nurse.jpgWhen you reach a certain age, you start to resemble what you eat—and that’s bad news for people like me, who crave chocolate, beer, and croissants.

A few years ago my back gave out when both my kids jumped on me at the same time. After a doctor visit and x-rays confirming the absence of serious injury, I received the standard issue medical advice for 90% of all back problems: “Take it easy and it will clear up in time.”

I did, and it did, but the experience was a stunning reminder that nothing can replace the good fortune of health. I stared in alarm at a photograph of myself: a sagging-posture “office physique” 40 pounds heftier than what I weighed in college. Without change, my physical condition would slowly deteriorate.

Well, it took time and hard work, but I’m finally back in shape. Though I’d never formally considered how I went about it, after reading Get Fit Slowly, I sat down and tried to distill the key points of my “program.” Here’s what I came up with: Four Simple Steps to Getting Fit (they’re not easy, but they’re simple).

Step 1. Stop eating while you’re still hungry

Most of us are accustomed to eating until we feel full. But if you feel full, you’ve already overeaten. Stop. Think. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, and pay attention to how you feel as you proceed through your meal. If you attend closely to your eating, you’ll feel yourself gradually filling up. Stop eating when you feel about 80% full (don’t worry, you won’t starve. In Japan, this is known as hara-hachibun: the “80% full” policy—it helps you distinguish between eating to refuel and eating because it tastes good). If you decide to drink alcohol with your meal, eat less food to compensate for the additional volume (remember, stop when you feel 80% full). From the standpoint of losing weight, this 80% rule is the most important of the Four Steps.

Step 2. Weigh yourself twice a day

Weigh yourself first thing in the morning and again before you go to bed at night. Do this not to obsess about results, but to see what happens when you drink a beer late at night, or how constipation or poor elimination affects your weight. Weigh consistently, and you’ll quickly see the results of Step 1 reflected in the numbers. An enormously successful Japanese diet plan consists of doing nothing but recording one’s weight—writing it down in a special journal—several times per day. Paying attention to and becoming conscious of your weight is an extremely effective strategy. Do it religiously and the rest of your behavior will fall in line.

Step 3. Drink plenty of water and take psyllium fiber daily

Drink a couple of big glasses of water as soon as you get up, and after breakfast, drink another big glass of water or juice with a hefty teaspoonful of psyllium fiber (Metamucil is an inexpensive but poor substitute—it has tons of added sucrose). The fiber will fill you up, and—to put it rather undelicately—make you crap like a horse. And no, unlike laxatives, which loosen your bowels through chemical action, fiber strengthens your guts by making them work harder. My doctor recommended this as a way to reduce my high blood pressure, and I’ve been a fiber fan since.

Step 4. Start an exercise routine

This is the least important Step from the standpoint of losing weight, but the most important from the standpoint of becoming fit. Sticking to an exercise routine—just like the routine of weighing yourself, the fiber regimen, and the habit of conscious eating—strengthens your overall program. I got professional help from a corrective exercise specialist, who immediately perceived my biggest problem—poor posture—and designed a trunk-strengthening program for me.

Well, that’s everything I know about losing weight and getting fit, and therefore my first and last post on the subject. It’s all well-known stuff, but I learned the Four Simple Steps by doing them, and they worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

(This post is from the Soul Shelter archives. A slightly modified version first appeared at Get Fit Slowly.)

You may also enjoy:

What We Really Need to be Happy

The Risk of Happiness

A Moment of Fulfillment

nurse.jpgWhen you reach a certain age, you start to resemble what you eat—and that’s bad news for people like me, who crave chocolate, beer, and croissants.

A few years ago my back gave out when both my kids jumped on me at the same time. After a doctor visit and x-rays confirming the absence of serious injury, I received the standard issue medical advice for 90% of all back problems: “Take it easy and it will clear up in time.”

I did, and it did, but the experience was a stunning reminder that nothing can replace the good fortune of health. I stared in alarm at a photograph of myself: a sagging-posture “office physique” 40 pounds heftier than what I weighed in college. Without change, my physical condition would slowly deteriorate.

Well, it took time and hard work, but I’m finally back in shape. Though I’d never formally considered how I went about it, after reading Get Fit Slowly, I sat down and tried to distill the key points of my “program.” Here’s what I came up with: Four Simple Steps to Getting Fit (they’re not easy, but they’re simple).

Step 1. Stop eating while you’re still hungry

Most of us are accustomed to eating until we feel full. But if you feel full, you’ve already overeaten. Stop. Think. Chew your food slowly andfiber.jpg thoroughly, and pay attention to how you feel as you proceed through your meal. If you attend closely to your eating, you’ll feel yourself gradually filling up. Stop eating when you feel about 80% full (don’t worry, you won’t starve. In Japan, this is known as hara-hachibun: the “80% full” policy—it helps you distinguish between eating to refuel and eating because it tastes good). If you decide to drink alcohol with your meal, eat less food to compensate for the additional volume (remember, stop when you feel 80% full). From the standpoint of losing weight, this 80% rule is the most important of the Four Steps.

Step 2. Weigh yourself twice a day

Weigh yourself first thing in the morning and again before you go to bed at night. Do this not to obsess about results, but to see what happens when you drink a beer late at night, or how constipation or poor elimination affects your weight. Weigh consistently, and you’ll quickly see the results of Step 1 reflected in the numbers. An enormously successful Japanese diet plan consists of doing nothing but recording one’s weight—writing it down in a special journal—several times per day. Paying attention to and becoming conscious of your weight is an extremely effective strategy. Do it religiously and the rest of your behavior will fall in line.

Step 3. Drink plenty of water and take psyllium fiber daily

glass_of_water.jpgDrink a couple of big glasses of water as soon as you get up, and after breakfast, drink another big glass of water or juice with a hefty teaspoonful of psyllium fiber (Metamucil is an inexpensive but poor substitute—it has tons of added sucrose). The fiber will fill you up, and—to put it rather undelicately—make you crap like a horse. And no, unlike laxatives, which loosen your bowels through chemical action, fiber strengthens your guts by making them work harder. My doctor recommended this as a way to reduce my high blood pressure, and I’ve been a fiber fan since.

Step 4. Start an exercise routine

This is the least important Step from the standpoint of losing weight, but the most important from the standpoint of becoming fit. Sticking to an exercise routine—just like the routine of weighing yourself, the fiber regimen, and the habit of conscious eating—strengthens your overall program. I got professional help from a corrective exercise specialist, who immediately perceived my biggest problem—poor posture—and designed a trunk-strengthening program for me.

Well, that’s everything I know about losing weight and getting fit, and therefore my first and last post on the subject. It’s all well-known stuff, but I learned the Four Simple Steps by doing them, and they worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

A slightly modified version of this post first appeared at Get Fit Slowly.

You may also enjoy:

What We Really Need to be Happy

The Risk of Happiness

A Moment of Fulfillment

1 Comment to Four Simple Steps to Getting Fit

On Jun 24, 2010, chacha1 commented:

Very well put. Simple is always best. The more complicated practices become much more possible once we have mastered the simple basics.

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