Youth is a truly remarkable gift that most of us do not fully appreciate until we’ve moved past it. The vigor and vitality that comes with youth has allowed some of our fellow humans to achieve amazing physical and intellectual feats. Think of Sir Isaac Newton developing Calculus at age 26, Albert Einstein propounding his general theory of relativity by age 35, or a 23 year old Usain Bolt running a ridiculously fast 100m dash (in 9.58 seconds) at the 2009 track and field world championships. Also among the myriad of amazing “perks” that come with youth is having a quick metabolism. Ever notice how children can generally eat pretty much anything without putting on much weight if at all? Or how young boys in their teens and early twenties seem to get ravenously hungry every 2 hours? Well, the reason behind this dynamic is because young people need plenty of food to fuel growth, as well as to maintain normal bodily function. After the age of about 20 (when most of us stop growing in height), the average person only needs a fraction of that food intake to maintain normal bodily function. In addition to needing less food, the quality of the food you eat as you grow older should be relatively high if you are to maintain good health. In the ideal case, each person would adjust their diet to one rich in fruits, green vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds as they enter their 30s and 40s.
In reality, most of us do not adjust to higher quality nutrient rich diets as we grow older. We usually just stick to the unrestricted sugar and fat laden diets that we enjoyed in childhood, even as we grow older and our nutritional needs change. The logic is simple… if you keep eating at the same clip as a teenager does when you’ve stopped growing in height, there is only one other direction that your body can grow in… sideways. This is a big reason why people tend to put on weight as they get older. A notable exception to this general rule are professional athletes. Professional athletes can “get away” with eating a lot because they frequently burn a ton of calories with their strenuous training regimes.
Most of us want physiques that approach the chiseled symmetry of professional athlete bodies but very few of us have the time or energy to train consistently for 4 hours each day. So does this mean that we are all just doomed to developing cellulitic thighs and rotund beer bellies as the years roll on? Well I for one don’t think so because there are a few real life examples of people who have managed to stay in remarkable shape as they have gotten older. Like you, I’m vain. I like to look good and I don’t know of anyone who can honestly say that they’d rather look awful if given a chance. Because of our collective vanity, a lot of us focus on the physical results that we hope to get from beginning a particular exercise regimen. We often begin an exercise regimen because we want washboard abs, or we want to fit into an amazing dress for an upcoming party. While there isn’t anything wrong with striving to lose weight so that we can look better, to solely focus on this superficial goal is to entirely miss the point. It is like putting duct tape over the “check engine light” on your car dashboard to avoid seeing it. You can cover it up as much as you want, but the underlying problem is still there. For anyone who is serious about losing weight, you’ll find that your results will be much more permanent if you focus first on attaining great health. Believe it or not, fit people aren’t always healthy. I know that for a fact, because that was me in my 20s.
Below are a few key strategies that any committed person can use to get healthy, drop a few pounds, and feel more alive as a result. Please note that executing on every single one of the strategies listed below will give you the very best chance to lose all the weight that you want. As with most things in life, it is an accumulation of a lot of very small adjustments that leads to the most amazing and long lasting results. Now then, here we go…
Substitute your breakfast for a morning smoothie
Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and stick to it
For lunch, the salad should be the main dish
The traditional breakfast to which most of us are accustomed usually contains some combination of toasted bread, cereal, eggs, sausages, bacon, ham, and pancakes. We’ll call this the conventional breakfast. While this sort of breakfast is certainly really tasty, and seems adequately nutritious on the surface, it lacks the full spectrum of nutrients that our human bodies need. You might be shaking your head at that last statement in disapproval because after all, eggs are a known source of protein, and modern cereal is often fortified with all sorts of vitamins and minerals. While those aren’t incorrect statements or ways of thinking, you will hopefully come to see that they are incomplete. Let’s take a deeper look to elucidate further.
The reason why the average conventional breakfast lacks a lot of the nutrition your body needs is because it’s constituents have been heavily processed. Processed foods are remarkable in the sense that they have furnished us as a species with enough food to feed all of our kind. On the other hand though, the manufacturing procedures for most processed foods strips them of the valuable nutrients that would usually fortify and strengthen our bodies. The word “processed” as it pertains to processed foods just means that the end food product has somehow been modified by an unnatural process. A good example of this would be the processing that corn has to go through to become “corn flakes”. A lot of the important nutrients that we humans get out of food are “thermolabile” which is just a fancy word that means heat destroys them. Quite a few of our modern food processing procedures involve heating food for long periods of time which destroys a lot of the nutritional value of the food.
Swapping your conventional breakfast for a green smoothie will be a double positive in your life. For one, drinking a green smoothie every morning will flood your body with a lot of the vital nutrients, minerals, and fiber that your body needs to function optimally. Also, having a green smoothie every morning in place of a conventional breakfast will mean that you’ll drastically reduce the amount of calories you take in each day. This will have the net effect of weight loss provided you don’t just eat way more in the afternoon or evening to make up for it.
The equation for weight loss is actually startlingly simple. If you burn more calories than you put into your body, you will lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight… with the weight gain often occurring in very unflattering areas of your body.
As most everyone knows, one of the best ways to burn calories is to exercise the body. The problem is that exercise seems like a chore to most people and for that reason, we avoid it. Even amongst those of us who can muster the willpower to regularly attend the gym, only a subset actually know how to exercise effectively. To exercise effectively, you must constantly push yourself to that area of physicality where you feel slight discomfort. Such “discomfort” can mean that you lift weights till muscle failure or you perform cardiovascular exercise until you are out of breath. As a rule of thumb, if you are able to hold any sort of conversation while you work out, you’re probably not working hard enough to see any proper gains. Sorry to be the bad guy here but in order to really improve, you’re going to have to go through some periods of struggle. Struggle is actually a beautiful thing provided it is inflicted in a controlled fashion, and is followed by long periods of rest. That is how the human body is designed to grow. The struggle will challenge your body, and your body will use the rest periods to respond to those challenges by getting leaner and stronger. A word of caution is very appropriate here. If you haven’t exercised in a long while, please do not attempt to run a marathon or anything super strenuous right off the bat. It would be a lot wiser to start off with relatively light exercises, and ramp up the intensity as you grow stronger. The aim is to get you healthy and fit, not to cause injury.
As with most things in life, the effectiveness of your exercise regimen will depend on its intensity and your level of consistency. For best results, aim to exercise between 3 to 5 times each week, allowing ample time for rest and recovery. For those of us who don’t want to immediately start at a gym because we’re too embarrassed about our lack of knowledge or unflattering physiques, there are many modern exercise programs that you can either download or buy as a DVD. P90X and 10-Minute Trainer are some pretty good ones that you can buy from amazon to try in your own living room. For those of us that can afford it, getting a personal trainer is a highly effective way to get in shape. Although personal trainers are generally expensive, the good ones are usually very effective. Good personal trainers will hold you accountable which will keep you striving towards your ultimate end goal.
It is worth re-emphasizing the importance of consistency in your workout regimen if you are to ever see tangible results. The only way to stay consistent is to enjoy your workouts because it would otherwise take superhuman willpower to keep on track for anything more than 6 months. If you like to dance, find a zumba, hip hop, or reggaeton class. If you like physical combat like I do, find a dojo where you can spar with and learn from others who are better than you. It is generally true that if you find what you love, you will be able to stick to it even when the going gets a bit tough.
Consider inserting a nice green salad as the main dish for your daily lunch. This will have at least three beneficial effects. First, a giant salad is a lot more nutrient dense (i.e. has more nutrients per calorie) than the burrito or hamburger and fries that you would have otherwise had for lunch. The green salad will deliver a lot more nutrients to your body, equipping it with more of the raw materials it will need to survive and thrive. Second, since a green salad has a lot less calories, you won’t have the “post lunch coma” that most people struggle with on the daily after lunch… this will make you more alert and productive. And finally, ingesting fewer calories means that you will lose weight.
There are some frequent questions and concerns that come up whenever people are advised to insert a salad as the main dish for lunch. I’m assuming you might have the same exact questions, so let’s take some time to address them upfront.
- Will a salad fill me up?: The answer is yes! Buy some tupperware with a capacity equivalent to 5 cups. Fill your tupperware with your salad of choice and eat all of it. I’m pretty sure you won’t feel hungry after all that green food because the fiber in all the vegetables will give you a sense of satiety. The other option here is to get something small on the side to supplement your salad. You could have half a sandwich or something to supplement your salad each day.
- Vegetables are so bitter, is there anyway to make them taste better?: Vegetables get an unfairly bad rap but if you really learn how to work with and cook vegetables, they really don’t taste all that bad. Below is an example of a salad that I love and you’re welcome to try it. Hopefully, it will help you soften your stance on how tasty vegetables can be.
- 3 – 4 stalks of Romaine Lettuce
- ½ cup of Canned Corn
- ½ cup of chopped up Red Bell Peppers
- 1 cup of Shredded Carrots
- ⅓ cup of peanuts
- ½ cup of diced Fuji Apples
- ½ cup of Edamame
- Add Trader Joe’s Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette Dressing to taste
Skip dinner, or dial it way back
Once you hit your late 20s, there are fewer reasons why your body needs food. One of the reasons is so that the body can continue normal metabolic function such as maintaining the organs, and the immune system. Another reason is so that you can actually move around, think, play a sport etc. From so many years of studying human biology, we now know that when we humans sleep, all our bodily functions slow way down with a few actually grinding to a near halt. Logically then, your body doesn’t really need much fuel/food when you are asleep. So if you eat a large meal right before you go to bed, the meal will get deposited on your hips, butt, stomach, or thighs because it is not being used to fuel that “backhand down the line” or your “inside to out forehand” on the tennis court for example. For this reason, it is often a really good idea to cut off any eating after 6:30pm each day. If you must, have a fruit, a small salad, or some soup… all of which are very light and low in calories. This will keep you from putting on excess weight.
Hang out with other healthy people
I heard a saying once that goes something like you are the average of the 5 people you hang around most. While it is possible for you to lose weight while living in the same house with 4 other people who scoff at the idea of losing weight or getting healthy, it will be much harder than if you are in the company of people who share those same goals or are perhaps already super fit and healthy. You will be able to support one another and possibly even learn from each other on your respective journeys to hitting and maintaining great levels of fitness. Beware that embarking on your fitness journey might mean you have to let go of a few “friends” who will attempt to hold you back from accomplishing your goals. While this might be psychologically painful, you should consider that your health which is directly correlated to being around as long as possible for your children is a lot more important than any friendship. Just sayin…
Cheat a little
I’m a firm believer in the fact that the creator intended for each of our lives to be educational as well as enjoyable. Food is one of the pleasures of life that all of us can enjoy regardless of our age, race, gender, sexual orientation etc. While the majority of your diet should be plant based in the form of scrumptious salads, smoothies, and the like, you shouldn’t feel terrible about allowing yourself the odd snack or two provided your personality can handle it. Let’s face it, some of us just naturally have addictive tendencies… that is why some people can easily stop after one or two drinks while others cannot until they black out and cannot remember for the life of them where they left their wallet, keys, and phone the next day. I can’t remember which one of the famous greek philosophers who came up with the aphorism “know thyself” but this is very applicable here. If you know you have addictive tendencies, the solution is to go cold turkey and never look back. If this is you, it will behoove you to only keep people around you who understand and respect your decision to live a more healthy lifestyle. Personally, I’m addicted to Mr Kipling Apple pies but the good thing is that they only make and sell them in England, and I happen to live in California… far far (a 10.5 hour flight to be precise) away from temptation.
Weigh yourself often
I know this is a touchy subject for most people because our society constantly projects many unrealistic “ideal” physiques on the internet, in magazines, and on television. These and many other things that we are constantly bombarded with has made stepping on a weight scale one of the most avoided activities that people can do for their health; mostly because we are afraid that our weight will be above the unrealistic ideal. The truth however is that if you can’t measure something, it is very difficult to take stock and understand if you are making any good progress with it. Please stop judging yourself because the world will (unfairly) already do that for you most of the time. Strive to see the weight scale as a friend that lets you know if you need to eat one less doughnut on “cheat meal day”.
While the above are some solid tips to help you lose weight, it is more important to recognize that their real underlying purpose is to help you get healthy without losing your mind. If you start to give your body the respect it deserves, it will start to shine ever so brightly for you. While people around you are falling apart and griping about it, you’ll still be beating the crap out of a heavy bag and/or running circles around people 10 years younger than you are. Although it is important to eventually implement all of the tips above, it is not realistic to try to implement all of them at once. If you try to completely change your entire relationship with your health and body all at once, the likelihood that you will succeed is abysmally low. It is more advisable to start with just one thing so if I may, let me suggest that starting two weeks from now, you can decide to permanently swap out your conventional breakfast for a super nutritious fruit and vegetable smoothie… asides from the days you allow yourself a cheat meal of course. From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org, please take care of yourselves, and each other.