Getting Into Shape — Getting Started

We don’t really take our health as seriously as we should, and in the modern era we find ourselves in a dilemma. We tend to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food. We fall ill from nutritional deficiencies, we gain weight, often to excess, and we fall ill from one of a number of chronic diseases. Each of these evolves from imbalances created by our improper dietary habits. Modern humans are thus falling ill in increasing numbers from diabetes, heart disease and cancer and other maladies at a time when medicine has evolved effective treatments for them. Life expectancy even for serious cases of these disorders have increased, but many times people still die prematurely. All this notwithstanding, life expectancy for modern humans in most advanced countries, not still plagued by serious infectious disease, has increased substantially.

In America and in some of the countries of western Europe, serious efforts to adjust diets and to improve the activity profile of the populous may show us a way to reduce the incidence of such chronic diseases. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing protein and fiber in the diet in relative terms, are approaches to decreasing the relative excess intake of carbohydrate. These dietary adjustments can have a major impact especially when combined with a sensible exercise program that evolves from modest to more intense efforts over time.

To get started just eat less and exercise more. If you are 30-50 or more pounds overweight and have sedentary habits, it won’t be easy. Start slow with both diet and exercise programs. Cut out the sweets and junk foods, especially those with high calorie density (more calories per bite). Increase chicken & fish at the expense of fatty red meats, and increase fiber (oatmeal, beans and other grains). Eat low blood-sugar-producing fruits and vegetables at the expense of starchy vegetables. Also, drink plenty of water. Reduce portion sizes from the outset and eat smaller amounts 5-6 times a day instead of larger amounts 1-3 times a day. If you want to count calories you can, but the most effective strategy is to weight in once a week or once a month and keep track of your weight reduction progress. You want to lose something like 5-6 pounds a month. Over time you’ll be losing less weight on a monthly basis until you reach your goal.

Exercise is exceptionally important. During weight loss without exercise you will naturally lose both fat and muscle. The exercise routine is intended to put your skeletal muscle back into shape and add more to it than is taken away by the weight loss process. You also need protein in the diet to help compensate for the protein lost during weight loss. Start slow by using small weights at first. Later, weight size will increase. The intent is to develop routines to exercise the arms, shoulders, back, chest and the abdominal region, both front and back (often called the core region) and finally the legs. Combine your weight exercise routine with walking or cycling to work the legs/lower body. You can also work on improving your flexibility with stretches or a yoga class. We’ll come back and look at the exercise program in much more detail in a later blog post.

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