Fitness and diet, part 3

Here are some excerpts from my book Righteous Seduction, which I’m posting in serial form.  I’m presenting this to you for free, because this information is valuable to the public.  Being fit and healthy is a good thing; being better-looking is a cool side effect.  Stay tuned for more.

Diet:  your favorite four-lettered word

Other than exercise, another important element in losing the spare tire is nutrition.  Without getting that right, you’ll end up good enough in the gym to have a decent powerlifting score yet look more like an off-season linebacker than Charles Atlas.  (Take it from someone who knows…)  To show off your new musssscles, you have to get rid of the layer of blubber covering them.  If you have six-pack abdominals already, awesome; you can skip this chapter.  If not, read on.  I bet you’re still reading.

First, another disclaimer.  This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.  You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

The fact is, about 2/3 of Americans are considered overweight, and 1/3 are to the point of being obese.  Much of the rest of the world is catching up, too.  This has been a growing trend over the decades.  In times past, the majority of Americans were farmers, and during the Industrial Revolution, many became factory workers.  These days, family farmers are steeply on the decline, losing out to corporate farming, and factory jobs largely have been exported overseas.  The effects have been pretty bad for the economy, as well as our waistlines.  Most work these days – for those of us fortunate to be employed – is in sedentary positions or low-intensity jobs:  retail, bean counting, tech support, etc.  Add to that the fact that many of us eat crap diets:  processed food, often with excessive portions.  A hundred years ago, all food was organic; these days, you can get that still, but it usually costs twice as much.  Most of us drive everywhere and don’t even have to walk to a bus stop or subway terminal.  We’re parked in front of our computers more than ever, or glued to the TV.

This is particularly alarming for young people.  Kids are glued to their video games and social media, and are less interested in sports than in times past.  Back when I was a little brat, we had video games of course, but you had to walk or bike to the arcade, you usually stood while playing, and eventually you ran out of quarters.  These days, some kids are getting type II diabetes, which used to happen only to adults.  Even teenagers now sometimes exhibit the early stages of arteriosclerosis, a disease of old age.  The only glimmer of good news is that having a great physique is one way you can stand out from the others.  If you look like Jabba the Hutt, then it’s about time to change this.

Nutritional basics

Begin by banishing junk food from your diet.  It’s evil, and not even evil in a good way.  Start reading labels, and avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” anything.  Whoever unleashed food additives like that onto the public should have been deep fried in oleomargarine or vegetable shortening.  Here’s what you do need in your diet:

  • Essential proteins
  • Essential fatty acids (particularly omega 3, of which we usually don’t get enough)
  • Essential vitamins and minerals

Notice that “carbohydrates” – sugars and starches – isn’t on the list.  There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, so cut down on them.  If you’re getting all the essential stuff, then you don’t need the empty calories.  Just read that dang nutrition label!  Simple carbs are sweet and will bounce your insulin and leave you hungry soon.  Complex carbs take longer to digest but are still just extra calories.  Fiber is carbs that don’t get digested, so there’s really nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s sort of a good thing, as it makes you feel more full, among other digestive benefits – and I’ll leave it at that.  Some diets banish carbohydrates nearly entirely (such as Atkins) or greatly reduce it (South Beach or the Paleo diet, for instance).  These are a bit controversial; more on that later, but do the research if you’re interested.  Other people have success reducing total calories by cutting down on fat intake.  There is no One True Way to diet; different things work for different people, so figure out what works for you.

Note that you do need fats in your diet, so don’t banish it entirely, but keep it modest.  You could probably get by okay – for a limited duration at least – with ten grams of fish oil or flax oil a day.  Quality counts here too.  Trans fat additives are horrible, and I’ll repeat:  avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” like the plague.  If in doubt about a product, go to the company’s Canadian website and look up the grams of trans fat; they have strict reporting requirements (0.2g, versus the American requirement of 0.5g) and less wiggle room to fool you.  Saturated fats are best kept to a minimum.

Now for a word about alcohol.  In my boring high school health class, the teacher explained that it’s empty calories.  He was right; I should have paid more attention.  (Speaking of empty calories, it’s a bit ironic that all but the heaviest beers actually have fewer calories by volume than sticky soda pop, which typically contains that lovely compound, high-fructose corn syrup.  Although fruit juice has vitamins, it’s also calorie-dense.)  I’d be the world’s biggest hypocrite if I told you to avoid beer, though.  The key is moderation.  Limit yourself to two a day at most.  If you guzzle a six pack of liquid bread every day, it will catch up with you sooner or later, causing more problems than just excess calories alone.  If you really must get wasted, limit that to once a week.  (Make sure you have a ride home too, especially if you don’t like going to jail or the hospital.  This shit’s real.)  Getting wasted on the weekend is still bad for you, but not as bad as pickling your liver every single day.

One pound of fat is about 3500 food calories, or kcal to be scientific about it.  So, if you eat six Big Macs with one medium side of fries (and a diet Coke to wash it down, of course), then you will gain about a pound.  It will take several hours around the jogging track to burn it off; the exact number depends on the running speed and your body mass.  Or, if you reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day after your binge, you’ll lose that pound in a week.  Reducing by 1000 calories a day means two pounds lost per week.  You don’t want to go any lower than that, or else starvation sets in, which will be counterproductive and bad for you in general.

Posts in this series

  1. Fitness and diet, part 1 – My journey, and why you should get the body you want
  2. Fitness and diet, part 2 – How to get started lifting weights
  3. Fitness and diet, part 3 – Nutrition 101
  4. Fitness and diet, part 4 (final) – How to avoid diet pitfalls

See also my first 50 posts and the main page

Fitness and diet, part 3

4 thoughts on “Fitness and diet, part 3

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