As my first step in getting fit I chose to focus on my diet. Here are some of my thoughts and actions to date. It seems important to me to reinforce some of these ideas in my own thinking because they call for a permanent change of lifestyle which is not to easy to establish firmly.
Diet is Central for Weight Control
It would be nice if there were an alternative. But a pill cannot eliminate excess weight if you eat too much. Neither can you exercise enough to offset poor eating habits, although exercise does help reach the overall objective.
On Nerd Fitness (one of the better exercise/weight lifting sites) the question is raised, “What burns more calories: cardio, intervals, or weight training?” But the answer might be surprising. Instead of naming one of the three, Steve Kamb’s answer starts off this way:
“If you are interested in getting in shape, the MOST important thing you can do for yourself is adjusting your diet.
Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of your successes or failures. As I’ve said previously, even if you spend ten hours a week exercising, that still leaves 168 hours for you to mess things up….Keep your total number of calories under control, cut out the junk food, give up soda, and start eating REAL FOODS: veggies, fruits, and lean meats.”
A part of being overweight and out of shape is cultural, as we will see, but whether cultural or just a product of our personal choices, our diet is the most critical aspect of getting fit. Good health is constrained by our selection of food.
Diet for Fitness—A Double Challenge
Because of the eating habits common to our culture in America at least, it is helpful to divide the food issue into two distinct parts. This is my own view, not something I have seen suggested elsewhere, but I think it is just common sense.
In the long term, nutrition as a whole is a vital topic. For our bodies to be healthy we need to eat healthy foods. This much is obvious.
Unfortunately, this is a vast and confusing subject where opinions and science are hard to separate. Nevertheless, it is an extremely important area to explore and apply to our eating habits.
While I have tried to focus on nutritious foods, I have not given this my top priority. I have given special attention to eliminating high fat foods, sweets, and empty calories such as those in snack crackers.
From the beginning, and now as well, one particular factor is dominant and receives my special attention, calories. Now you may consider, with some validity, that calories are a part of nutrition. But the fact is that they are more than that.
Because of food processing methods now in use, there are many products people consume which are often confused with food that have little to no nutritional value but do have a large number of calories. In fact, these are often described as “empty calories.”
Not only so, but many of these products have an abundance of calories. Their frequent consumption is a primary cause of the obesity epidemic in America.
For this reason, it is valuable to consider calories individually, understanding that managing calories is a fundamental aspect of weight control. To this end I have written a major article, Calories Count, on this topic and posted it under the Articles section of this site.
My Practice for Controlling Calories
For me the most important part of controlling my calorie intake is simply to count my calories! It sounds kind of obvious doesn’t it!
To make it more palatable (an especially appropriate choice of words I must say), I incorporate a flexible count as far as total calories and calories per meal.
- At this time I plan to eat between 1200 and 1500 calories per day so on days I am extra hungry I may eat a little more and on other days I may cut back a little.
- Individual meals vary so I may have more at noon one day and more at supper the next, adjusting other meals to compensate. Only the total for the day matters.
The problem is that especially when you are trying to lose weight you have to be very careful with your calorie count to keep it low enough to lose weight. In addition, it takes a lot of time before you really get the hang of counting correctly (there are a lot of hidden calories lurking about).
For these reasons, while I am focused on losing weight I try to eat mostly prepared foods that are clearly labeled as to their calorie count. I will save further details of my specific plan for another post, but the important point is that you have to be able to count calories accurately to succeed with weight loss.
Count! Count! Count!
The idea that counting calories is a bad idea, something out of the ordinary, is preposterous on its face if looked at in the light of day and aside from the emotional response we have due to our unrecognized desire to avoid cutting back on sugar and fats!
Think about it. We plan our menu taking into consideration facts like how many vegetables, fruits, meats, and other foods we include so we do not serve all meat, all vegetables, or all fruit and nothing else. We measure out ingredients for our recipes so we do not put too much milk and not enough potatoes in our potato soup. And on and on.
So why should we not count the calories we put into our meal when that is one of the most important values to consider when we plan our menu? There is no reason at all.