In my earlier column It looks unappealing and it smells appalling, but
… I mentioned that I had just started reading A. J. Jacobs’ latest work – Drop Dead Healthy – One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection
to see that column).
Well, I finished this book yesterday, and let me start by saying it was a jolly good read. It is particularly interesting to me because I really do need to change my own lifestyle – spending eight hours a day working on a computer without taking any form of break or exercise is not doing me any good at all. This isn’t just about losing weight and getting “6-pack abs” (although that would be nice), it’s also about increasing one’s lifespan, freedom from disease and pain, and achieving a sense of emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
As it says on Amazon, as part of Jacobs’ quest:
He consulted an army of experts— sleep consultants and sex clinicians, nutritionists and dermatologists. He subjected himself to dozens of different workouts—from Strollercize classes to Finger Fitness sessions, from bouldering with cavemen to a treadmill desk. And he took in a cartload of diets: raw foods, veganism, high protein, calorie restriction, extreme chewing, and dozens more. He bought gadgets and helmets, earphones and juicers. He poked and he pinched. He counted and he measured.
Now, Jacobs is the first to admit that he is not going to spend the rest of his life dieting and exercising to the same levels he did while researching his book, but he does say that he is going to keep on practicing quite a few of the things he discovered on the way.
As part of his journey, Jacobs provides a lot of useful tips and tricks, like keeping a food log (more below). None of this is revolutionary. We’ve all seen most of it before. The thing is that, as part of reading this book, I took notes on things that (a) made sense to me and (b) I think that I can do (and keep on doing).
The first thing I’m going to start doing is eating better. My usual workday involves a lot of black coffee and not much food. Once I’m in my office, I can happily work through the day without easing anything or even thinking about food. Later, when I return home, I have a big supper. None of this is good for me. I know that it’s much better to have a number of small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.
Also, as I mentioned, one of Jacobs' tips is to keep a food log. He says that you tend to eat healthier and in smaller quantities if you write it all down. So as of this morning I popped into the supermarket on the way into work to purchase some supplies and I started my log as follows:
- 09:00 a.m. Handful of shelled walnuts (good for Omaga-3, whatever that is)
- 11:30 a.m. Medium banana (good for all sorts of things, plus it looks funny)
- 01:00 p.m. Sandwich: Two slices of whole wheat bread (3 grams of fiber per slice), 2 slices of 99% fat free smoked turkey breast, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, yellow mustard, pepper (no salt).
I’m afraid that’s it with regard to the food log so far – I’m eating the sandwich as I type these words (decades of “hunt-and-peck” typing have given me the ability to type with either hand while doing something like drinking coffee or eating a sandwich with the other). However, I do have plans for an apple as a mid-afternoon snack, which will be dutifully recorded in my log.
Another obvious point is portion control. Starting this evening, I’m going to employ Jacobs' trick of eating off a smaller plate – he used his kid’s "dinosaur plate"; I’m going to use a side plate.
Of course eating less is not enough on its own; it’s also important to exercise. I used to walk everyday a few years ago, but I fell out of the habit (you miss one day, then another, then you find a week’s gone by, then a month…). Well, that’s all over – I’m going to start walking again. The thing is that I like to have a goal to aim at, so I’ve decided to walk from Central Park in New York
to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco
Actually, much as I would like to, I’m not actually going to walk the path as shown on the map, because I have a wife and son who would miss me and I have a job that won’t do itself. Instead, I’m going to keep track of how far I walk and then plot my virtual progress on the map. I started off by asking Google for directions from Central Park to San Francisco – the result was the map shown above – three pages of directions, and a summary that said the total distance was 2,911 miles.
When I glanced at the directions for exiting Central Park they seemed a little strange, so I zoomed in on the map to see what was happening. As shown below, these directions had me starting off by heading North-North-East, then doing a U-turn, then coming back through Central Park, followed by a little “jig”, then under the Lincoln Tunnel, followed by a 360-degree loop…
The problem, of course, was that I had asked for driving directions
. When I clicked the button for walking directions
, things changed slightly as shown below. Now the journey has grown to 2,966 miles (with 49 pages of directions) and early on I have to take a short excursion into Canada (I hope they will be kind to me :-)
I’m not in any rush here, you understand. As part of its directions, Google informs me that my trek is anticipated to take 39 days and 4 hours, but that assumes I’m doing nothing but walking all day, every day. In reality, I’m only going to walk a little here and a little there when I can, so it could take me two or three years to complete my journey. I don’t care … I have my goal … as the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC) famously said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Last but not least, you will be happy to know that I’m not going to bore you with this on a day-by-day basis. I’m just going to quietly go off and do my own thing. Having said this, once I start seeing some significant progress, it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be shouting it from the rooftops (grin).
In the meantime, do you have any tips and tricks on how to lose weight (and keep it off) and generally increase one's health and well-being?
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