Thursday, October 17, 2013

Paying attention

I was thinking about health and fitness advice. There are a million books (I own most of them) and a zillion magazines (I own them all) with instructions on how to get and stay in shape. Diet advice. Exercise advice. Nutrient timing advice. And they can't all be wrong, can they? And they can't all be right, right?

So here's the best fitness advice I can give you: pay attention. To what? To your own body.

When we're young we think we're going to feel great forever. One of my teen friends has told me that she's never worried about being hit while walking in a parking lot, because if she does get hit, she'll get a lot of money. As a 50-something with lots of issues cropping up, I beg her to reconsider. Here's the analogy that works best for me:

Your body is like a car. So let's say you get a new car. Cool, right? Here's the catch: it's the only car you're ever going to be able to have. Ever. So what you do to this car over the course of your lifetime matters, because you can't trade it in for a new one.

So given that we have this one body, it makes sense to pay attention to it. And treat it with care. There have been entire decades when they only thing I noticed about my body was the number it gave when I was on the scale and whether my skinny jeans fit. Now that I'm older I'm getting better at really paying attention. So I now know what works for me and what doesn't work for me. (Well, I know a little about that.) This is why there are so many diet and exercise books, people. Because one size does not fit all.

So in sorting through all the conflicting information out there, it's best to look at the least common denominator, because chances are health advice that appears virtually everywhere is probably good information. From what I've read, these things are universally true:

  • Eating lots of vegetables is good.
  • Cooking your own food is good.
  • Wearing sunscreen is good.
  • Moving your body enough to break a sweat and breathe hard is good.
I know there's a study somewhere that refutes my claims. But generally speaking you'll live better if you follow these rules. Actually, I'd rather call them "guidelines" as that's a gentler way to see them.

Because I've paid attention, there are some other things that seem to work for me:
  • Eating lots of protein and fat makes my waist smaller.
  • So do avoiding gluten.
  • Caffeine helps me to pay attention.
  • Taking an anti-depressant daily helps stabilize my mood and keep me from free-falling into the depression abyss.
These are not true for everyone, but they work for this girl. So I'm gonna keep doing them. And if they stop working, I'll know sooner rather than later, because I'm paying attention.

What's tricky about this is if you feel overweight and out of shape. The times I've felt like this, I was also way out of touch with my body, because I didn't want to look. And I'm not suggesting eating while naked in front of a mirror (there was a diet that actually promoted this!), but really checking in with the reality of what's going on with your body. Because that's a great place to start -- with what is.


Brit-Man said...

I could tell you a few things you wouldn't like about Caffeine, but that's not the thing right now.

The whole diet thing got shot to pieces years ago, because someone whose name I think was something like Walden, published a report in America identifying changes to the way BMI should be calculated and suddenly a significant proportion of people labelled okay, were deemed overweight, which then sparked a panic in a lot of Aemricans to lose weight.

The problem you get these days is too many people want a piece of the action and too many people who are underqualified or operating falsely due to weak regulations are making money off the back of peoples good will or ignorance of what sounds like the answer(s).

Too many suspect diets, books, pills and snake oil remedies exist not to mention the unjustifiable weight loss surgeries, that place people under unneccessary risk.

One way for people to understand is to learn from people who have been there the sensible way(s) and didn't get suckered in, or people who did but learned the hard way and don't go down that route anymore.

Plus common sense goes a long way.

I'm glad you've found what works well for you Leslie. You can be proud of yourself for that and for bothering to care abotu yourself.

Keep up the hard work and best wishes.

:-) :-).


Irene said...

Wonderful post, Leslie. My body is rebelling at the moment and it's time to take inventory. Yeah, some things do change with age, and now I'm back to figuring out what has changed once again.