The Coach Speaks Out |
with Mike Lushington
A couple of days before I wrote this, I saw an advertisement on television for another miracle shortcut, this one an herbal concoction, to weight loss. The advertisement emphasised that one could lose weight without dieting and without exercising. I know nothing about the particular herb - I don't even know what it was - but I do know that about the only way that these things can work is by doing something to one's metabolism which is not likely to be healthful in the long term.
Such ads prey on our desire to look good without having to do the necessary work to achieve that end. Eat what you want, do as little physical work as you want; when you take our product you will be as slender as when you were a teenager. In so doing, they overlook the dangers associated with tampering with our metabolisms. They also confuse a fundamental principle of physical health and that is that how we look is not as important as how efficiently our internal engines are working. Good cardiovascular and digestive health are essential; good looks and even muscular power are not.
It all comes down to exercising regularly and systematically and to eating properly. I have discussed the importance pf cardiovascular health in earlier columns. I want now to take a look at our eating habits.
The first thing to realise should be self-evident but apparently it isn't. We gain weight when we eat more food than we need to perform our daily functions; we lose weight when we burn more energy than we store. I have often tried to point out to people, especially those who do eat normally, although perhaps a bit generously, that they really do not have to diet at all if they increase their physical efforts regularly.
The second thing is to accept that most of us put on weight rather slowly but steadily over a period of years rather than in a huge spurt (unless the weight gain as been a consequence of pregnancy perhaps). Losing weight in a sensible and maintainable way then takes time as well. Rather than succumbing to the allure, and ultimate disappointment, of one of these miracle diet plans, adopt a lifestyle that will enable you to lose a pound or two a week. That doesn't seem like much but it does add up to anywhere from fifty to one hundred pounds a year - and that is significant. This is the process that Weight Watchers advocates. It is a sensible, maintainable and very successful approach for those who develop a bit of patience and acceptance of the realisation that it will take some time to undo a problem that had taken time to cause in the first place. (22)
The third thing is to accept that ideal body weight and configuration do not have a lot to do with Hollywood or Vogue images. Physically fit bodies do come in a variety of shapes that may not make it in bathing suit or underwear advertisements but which meet accepted fitness and health standards.
Finally for today, I want to address a charge that is sometimes thrown my way, that I am, in some obscure, self-denying way, striving for immortality. Why, I am asked, do I want to do all these things that seem like denial if I am only going to die anyway?
I just celebrated my sixtieth birthday. That reminds me, very clearly, that I have a great deal more behind me than ahead. However, by keeping in good shape I am still able to do anything that I want to do - and I really do not have to make any concessions to age in doing them. Why I advocate an active lifestyle has little to do with a search for immortality; it has everything to do with making each day -and each year - that I have left as rich and meaningful as they have been. It is the journey, not the destination, that is all important.
More next time.