Sunday, March 2, 2014

Younger Next Year

Following my last blog entry, I am voraciously ingesting audio books. The next two I selected were on lifestyle improvements. Books I had heard about and been recommended, but could never muster the interest to read … but to have them read to me? That's another story!
After reading Allen Carr's book on losing weight (read here), my life changed dramatically. I lost about 15kg in a matter of weeks (and went from over weight to ideal weight) and felt so much better inside that I got encouraged to lead a generally fitter and healthier lifestyle.
Where I would previously have devoured a family size pack of crisps (“chips” to my American brethren), I now look upon the smallest serving with disdain and horror. What used to be a once or twice or more frequent serving of junk food per week, a stop at McDonald's is now reserved for real emergencies only.
Don't get me wrong. When I do dip into a helping of Cheese and Onion Lays that my kids have tempted me with, I reminisce of “the good old days” with that flavour and texture crunching in my mouth, and a bite of a juicy Quarter Pounded with Cheese in that soft white bun is heaven revisited, but I then remind myself of how hard I have worked to get where I am today and get somewhat fearful (actually petrified) of slipping back to my old pudgy self, and that is what keeps me on the straight and narrow.
So to get additional help in staying fit and trim is always welcome!
I had recently been reading a lot about the 5-2 diet, or “Fast diet”. A notion of being able to eat what you want as long as it is only 5 days a week. The other 2 days should be fasting days. The idea sounding appealing, but immensely hard. As I had learned and experienced through my reading of Alan Carr, no “diet” is going to work if it can't become a complete lifestyle changer. Following an eating plan for a few days, weeks or even months will not have a long term effect unless your life completely changes (forever) to support this.
That is what concerned me about the Fast Diet. How long could I keep on fasting 2 days a week?
So, with ease and speed, I listened to the book. The theory behind it is backed up with clinical testing and proves to be convincing in its promise, and best of all, by understanding the full story, the Fast Diet is not that difficult to follow.
Its main principle lies behind the premise of weight loss (or gain) as a simple formula of calories in minus calories out! The Fast Diet fast days actually allow you to eat 25% of your normal calorie intake (about 600 calories for men and 500 for women). Following my Allen Carr experience, I was often doing this anyway as that book (like the Fast Diet) encourages you to eat only when truly hungry and not otherwise … and on some days I just am not.
With the Fast Diet, the underlying premise is that you eat 25% of your normal calories on 2 non consecutive days per week, and then eat how you would normally eat all other days. The authors have researched that the days following a fast day are not glutinous feasts where people gorge themselves silly to make up for all that was lost the previous day. In fact, the most that gets consumed the following day is 125% of the normal calorie intake (and in many cases no extra and in some cases, mine included, even less than the usual intake). So in the worst case, over the course of the week, you will not consume the amount of calories you would normally have consumed for one full day. So assuming you do everything as you previously did, you are sure to lose weight!
That sounds pretty good, pretty realistic and pretty doable!
Anything wrong with this? The authors profess that with this diet, you need to make NO CHANGE to your existing lifestyle (apart from the 2 days of fasting) and you will lose weight. That's right! It's the dream solution. A couple of days of light eating and the rest of the time eat and drink what you want and don't make any lifestyle change and you will lose weight and become more healthy … but I take issue with that. I don't argue that it wont work, but I personally feel it is such a waste to go through that to achieve dramatic weight loss results and not use the opportunity to improve your body and fitness levels at the same time.
So along came the next audio book. A book recommended to me a while ago and I have had the copy sitting at home for well over a year, but each time I wanted to start it, I would pick up a piece of fiction instead. I'm a slow enough reader as it is, and even a riveting novel is enough to send me to sleep when I read last thing at night, so a book on “wellness” was not proving appealing to me, until now …
“Younger Next Year” was “sold” to me as another life changing book. I didn't know what it was about and assumed it would be another set of useful pointers on keeping my weight down. From the moment it started playing it in my car, I understood this was something different. It's brilliantly read and keeps you hooked, and it's written in such a hard hitting way … it literally holds no punches in its advice!
I am 44 years old, and although the book is aimed at those in their 50's and over, its proving to be immensely powerful to me knowing those days are right around the corner for me.
Younger Next Year talks about living life TO THE FULL until you are 90 (or the day you drop dead}! It questions why people need to become frail and fragile in their most senior years, and it doesn't talk about diet AT ALL! This is not a book about losing weight or getting healthier now. It is a book about how your body will naturally and surely steadily decay as you age unless you choose to do something about it.
This book adds the missing link for me. This book talks about exercise. The authors are 100% open in professing that there is NO SHORTCUT to being healthy and living long. A good diet is no bad thing, but exercise is the key! How much exercise? 6 days a week of at least 45 minutes ... for the rest of your life!
That took and takes a lot of digesting. That's a hell of a commitment … especially considering this has to be a lifestyle change and you have to do it for the rest of your life! But it's explained in such a way that it makes total sense, and more importantly, explained in a way (that for me, at least) makes it quite achievable.
3-4 days a week of hard aerobic exercise and 2-3 days a week of weight or strength training. Now, for me, I play football every Sunday and sometimes Tuesdays and go fencing some Wednesday. All I need to do is commit to the Tuesday football and Wednesday fencing and then add in an activity on the weekends with the kids and I am there. As the book advocates, vary it up and try rowing, it's a great workout! We are fortunate to live on the beach and have a couple of kayaks parked out back .. they are there begging to be used.
So all I have to do is mix in some weight training (something I have never done before and need to push myself to do) and I hope to be, as the book promises, younger next year!
It's a lot to do and will take a mental shift. As I think of the effort involved …it wont be easy. It’s going to take time and a lot of energy and I'm intrinsically telling myself (at 44) that I'm too old for a big change like this! But guess what? I’M NOT! It's all in the head. It may be a cliché, but its true to say that you are only as old as you feel! Sometimes I find myself in a football game and slowing down, but it just takes one move and one mental shift and I am back in the game with full vigour … and it feels great.
I'm not too old. I'll put in the effort along with my improved eating habits and change my mental gear to ensure that I will not only be and feel younger next year, but hope to feel better, healthier and fitter in my life than I have ever done before.