Geez, what a shitty title.
All of these posts on diet and exercise are serving a two-fold purpose:
1. You, faithful and most beautiful and most extravagantly genius reader, get to have some insight on weight-loss and diet, and perhaps learn to step around common pitfalls every valiant pursuer of a healthier/thinner body tends to fall in a few times.
2. I get to review all of these topics as I write them and perhaps find what I have been doing wrong or what I have forgotten.
I am more than happy to share my “knowledge” with all of you, but you have to understand how much that second point pisses me off. I hate learning things, let alone RElearning things, as I find it akin to back-tracking, and fuck that shit. Unless you’re trying to lose some pirates by walking into a cave and then going back by stepping into the footprints you have already made in the sand as a form of misdirection, back-tracking is simply infuriating.
This has nothing to do with the today’s topic; I just wanted to let you know if my tone sounds a little angrier than usual, that is the reason.
As you had to do with food, you’re going to have to learn some vocabulary and classifications before you start putting together an exercise plan. Most of these will be words you are already familiar with (muscle, aerobic, pulse) but we’re going to have to make the definitions a bit more clear cut if you are going to start exercising properly. Now you may say, “Running is running, and I hate running. I don’t need any other definitions other than knowing running is something I hate.” But remember that one of your biggest weapons in the battle of the bulge is knowledge and understanding and loose terms never helped anyone. Also, after some research you will realize that running may not be the best form of exercise for you (in most cases is actually to be avoided, depending on your size) and that there are many ways to get your heart pumping.
Also, watch that mouth. I’m smart-ass enough for all of us.
Almost all modes of exercise fall within three categories (flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic, which I’ll talk about in later posts) and each are important to your overall health and strength. Notice how I didn’t say “important to weight loss”? That’s not because you shouldn’t focus on working out (which, if true, would make this one of the shortest and dumbest posts I’ve written), but because you need to change your ideas about exercise. It’s not just for the person who wants to lose weight, or for the training athlete, or for crazy people who like to do these kinds of things for the hell of it. Exercise is something for everyone and should be done by everybody. And it’s a lot easier to do than you might think.
Like taking long walks at the end of a long day to unwind? Guess what? You’re exercising. Do you ride your bike to your friend’s house because he lives close enough that to use the gas in your car to get over there would be absurd? Voila, you’re exercising! Are you one of those people who try to get all of your groceries bags into your house in one go by placing eight or more bags on each arm and rushing indoors before you cut off the circulation to your hands? Presto, you’re exercising, albeit for the silly reason of acting macho when no one is paying attention. A lot of what we do during our day can be considered exercise. This begs the question, “Well, what is exercise exactly?” And I’ll tell you. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight . . . . . . . . . . . .
We can’t talk about what exercise is until we have a clear definition of what exercise isn’t, and we can do that with a little science experiment.
Do me a favor and go lie down on your bed. For those of you who aren’t near your bed, wait until you get home. If you have to do something like walk upstairs or fight with the lion that you keep in your hallway, lay down for a good ten minutes and relax before starting. If you’re already in bed while you are reading this, what, you don’t have a desk?
Now as you’re laying down, all calm and collected, go ahead and take your pulse: Two fingers to either side of your jugular, count the number of times your heart beats for ten seconds, and then multiply by six. Don’t press too hard as you may feel the pulse of your finger tips and end up miscalculating. If you can’t find your pulse, then I’m sorry but –
This is your Resting Heart Rate, the speed at which your heart beats while doing nothing extraneous or exciting whatsoever. The Mayo Clinic lists the average resting heart rate to be anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), which is a really large gap for something as renowned and official as the Mayo Clinic in my opinion. But every single body can be drastically different in this regard, depending on how much you work your body during a normal day, what sex you are, your age, blah blah blah. In general, 80-90 bpm is what the normal heart beats at.
Now seeing as laying down isn’t exercise no matter how many birthday wishes I waste trying to change it, we are going to have to calculate another number.
220 bpm is the highest an average heart can beat before it simply explodes like C4 and burns with the heat and fury of hell. No, I’m not trying to get you to exercise until your heart bursts from your chest –
– but if you take this number and subtract your age from it, you will get a general idea of what your optimum heart rate is. Your Optimum Heart Rate (otherwise known by its much more awesome name, VO2 Max) is the speed at which your heart beats when you are exerting all of your effort into moving your body. Think of it as the rate at which your heart beats when you are running for your life. From a bear, perhaps, or maybe from that lion you keep in your hallway. It’s the heart rate you achieve when your “Fight or Flight” instinct kicks in and your system is flooded with enough adrenaline to run up a tree or brain-punch a gigantic cat.
This is not the heart rate you should be aiming for when exercising either, but with it we can make some more computations to help figure out where you should be. Now to spare you having to plug through equations and shit, such as:
THR = ((HRmax − HRrest) × % intensity) + HRrest
I’ll just go ahead and throw up a chart that explains it without all that pesky mathematic mumbo-jumbo.
Hmmm. I’m starting to realize I could have just posted this chart and skipped all the writing I’ve just done. Man, even being lazy takes a lot of work.
Remember that Resting Heart Rate I had you find out earlier? If your bpm is between that and the first row of numbers on the bottom of that chart, you aren’t doing anything. You’re not getting exercise, you’re not working out, you’re not losing weight. If you’re heart rate is not in the light yellow area (aka – the Moderate Activity Zone, aka – Spinning in Your Chair Really Fast For At Least Ten Minutes Zone) you’re doing nothing for yourself.
However, once your heart rate is in the SIYCRFFALTM Zone, you’re exercising! Anything between taking a five minute walk and running a five hour marathon is considered exercise. By taking this view of it, suddenly being more active doesn’t seem so terrifying. You don’t need to go to a gym, to don’t need to wear sweat pants. Other people don’t even have to realize that you are doing it! And it includes fun stuff too, not just running and lifting weights. Jumping on a trampoline is exercise! Chopping down a tree is exercise! Chasing after the birds in the park is exercise! Sex is exercise! Hell, even masturbation is exercise! Anything, anything, that gets your heart beat up into that light yellow zone and keeps it there for a prolonged period of time is exercise.
Of course, exercising doesn’t necessarily mean losing weight, which is why we are all here. But you have to start somewhere and you can’t just jump off by trying to run five miles everyday. If you have been large for a long time and you trying to sprint for as long as you can you’re going to end up hurting yourself. Your bones and muscles and heart simply aren’t prepared for the stress, and you’re dooming yourself for failure and the depression that comes with it if you attempt exercise so haphazardly.
It’s infuriating having to take it slow, I know. It drives me bonkers when I’m not able to do something physical because I know I’m not strong enough yet. To hold yourself back when all you want to do is get rid of the shame you feel about yourself, or to feel healthier day by day, is frustrating to the point of tears. And I’m sorry, I really am, but you can’t force this. It is too easy to injure yourself, to permanently damage your body with improper exercise. If you work hard and keep at it, the time will come when you will be able to do things with your body that you never even dreamed of, but you’re going to have to start off with baby steps.
In the meantime, start going for walks, even if it’s for ten minutes. Go into your backyard and kick a soccer ball against the side of the house. Dust off those rollerblades and go skating in the park. Sure, you’ll be dating yourself by at least a decade or so, but you’ll also be working up a sweat and if it’s a clear day and there’s a slight breeze, you won’t even know it is happening.
. . . . .
P.S. – You really should do something about that lion in your hallway.
Okay, enough of these diet and nutritional generalizations. You’re reading this blog because you have no idea where to begin or how to start losing weight, not because you want to hear me wax poetic about how strong you are for really deciding to change your life, or how you’re really worth the time and effort, and how you’re not alone and blah blah blah. All of those things are true, but it’s time we start getting serious and serious means DETAILS.
From an early age we’re taught that food is just something we’re supposed to eat three times a day, but no one ever gets around to teaching you what food actually does for you. Sure, those elementary and middle school teachers attempt to teach you the basics of nutrition, but in my opinion they are hitting way off of the mark with that one. When you’re in middle school you’re just starting to learn about and enter into social circles, just beginning to form your own opinions about the world around you, so you couldn’t care less about what Mr. Run-N-Jump has to say about diet. Besides, when you’re in middle school you could eat a bus and still be okay because your body is just that strong.
Words like “calories”, “protein”, “carbohydrates”, “cholesterol”, don’t mean that much to you and so they don’t sink in. What you’re left with is an image of food that you’re taught in the second grade and that will remain food-gospel to you well into your adult life. An image of food, by the way, that is wrong.
You see that? Everyone recognizes that. The Infamous Food Groups. Grains, Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Dairy and Fat, all with the number of servings you should be having each day. It’s pretty, it’s traditional, it’s standard. It’s also complete bullshit. If you’re trying to lose weight and you follow this stupid triangle, you will end up either maintaining your current weight or even gaining weight. Anything that tells you that you should be eating more bread than all the other groups combined is pure crap. It’s also horrible at portion control. How much is a serving of grains? Does it count as two servings of fruit if I eat eight grapes instead of seven? What the fuck does “alternative group” mean?
But this pyramid betrays you even further than that because it doesn’t give you any kind of sense of what these foods do for you. There is no evidence of actual science in that pyramid, just a taught willingness to eat whatever people tell you to. It teaches you that food is cute pictures of bread, carrots and chicken drumsticks. So it’s time to deconstruct that pyramid; to take it down, brick by brick, and start realizing what food actually is: Unprocessed, raw ENERGY. And we will begin by learning the real food groups.
For the purposes of weight loss, you can not categorize food by what section of the store you buy it in, but instead you need to categorize food by what it’s made of. You need to start thinking of the different foods you need to consume to survive. And what are those?
Protein, Carbohydrates, Fiber and Fat. As long as you are eating these things, you will stay alive. And unlike the shitty pyramid that we’re doing away with, what these foods do for your body can be easily explained through analogy using inanimate objects. Because I started off this post with a couple of pictures of automobiles, I’ll use that.
So you’ve just bought your new car/body and are ready to take it out for a spin, but before you do, let’s take a look under the hood. You see that engine? That engine represents the inside of your body; all of the organs and tissue. And why that blood of yours is nothing more than transmission fluid. It is a well-honed machine, resilient, strong and pliable, and it’s very good at keeping itself healthy . . . as long as you treat it with care and don’t pour sugar in your gas tank. It truly is a miracle in and of itself. Pretty, isn’t it?
Let’s see what things you’ll need to put in it to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Protein is what the car of you is made of, and I mean everything. Other than water and some other chemicals, you are pure protein. Skin, organs, hair, teeth, bones, everything. You are a walking piece of protein. But unlike the metal of a car which more or less stays the same shape and size without a lot of degradation, your body is constantly shedding its protein away, protein that you have to replace. Seeing as buying slabs of beef and taping it to your body doesn’t count (I know from experience), the only way you can replace what you lose is to eat more protein. Chicken, eggs, fish, beef, nuts, seeds, beans; there are many sources of protein, and you must consume them. It’s not just “You are what you eat,” but also, “You must eat what you are.” But no cannibalism, please.
Forget all the negative things you have heard about carbs, because you need them, especially if you are going to be exercising more. Carbs are the gas of your body, they are the fuel on which your body runs. Put gas in your body, and you’ll be able to run a marathon. But unlike an actual car where if you don’t put gas in it you’ll suddenly have a very heavy tent, if you don’t put fuel into your body it will begin to eat itself. Yes, you will start to burn fat, but you will also start to burn away protein, the thing your BODY IS MADE OF! Grains, cereals, roots, sugars; all cheaper than actual gas, so go ahead and fill your tank up.
Look, I never said fat was bad. Fat is great. In the car of you, fat is the oil that helps your engine run, that insulates the wires to the battery and all the electronics, and they are the air bags that protect the occupants in case of a crash. In a more real, less analogical sense, it promotes healthy skin, processes and distributes vitamins, protects your organs and nerves and maintains your body temperature. All from a little butter. That’s what I call a gift from God.
Fiber keeps your insides clean. In the car of you, fiber isn’t so much a thing you put in your car but more the act of cleaning it. It’s an oil change, changing your filters or flushing the transmission system. It regulates insulin levels, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, balances intestinal pH levels and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids. I don’t really understand that last one, but fuck me if it doesn’t sound important. This is the group of fruits and vegetables. It keeps you regular (a phrase I have always found disturbing in this context) and makes sure that you don’t keep gunk in your system. In other words, fiber is car maintenance.
There are other things that you need to be healthy (like vitamins or, I don’t know, water or whatever), but as far as things you have to chew, these four groups are what you should be focusing on. In the weeks to follow, I’ll be going over each one in more detail, but for now just start looking at your meals through this lens. Every time you sit down to eat, look at your plate and see the parts that help make and run The Car of You.