Treat Your Body Well - A Zen Sammich Series on Health
Everybody knows you should take care of your health. Then why don’t we do it? Well, because chocolate tastes better than vegetables, running on a treadmill is boring and hard, and it is just much easier to eat buttered popcorn and watch Netflix all day. Fair enough. So, before we even start this series, it is critical to stress the importance of getting mental “leverage” over your well being. That is, you have to really dig deep and image what a life of being physically fit would feel like. You have to value you that vision more than binge watching a tv show with a plate of nachos.
One final word about this series: over the years there has been a plethora of health and fitness advice from a variety of sources that often winds up contradicting each other. I remember when I was younger reading about how bananas were good for you. They contain potassium or vitamin K. Then, a few years later I read about how you should stay away from bananas because of the high sugar/carbohydrate content. Even the recommended food pyramid guide has changed several times in my life. We only post here what is certifiable – either through a consensus by nutritional experts and studies or by way of genuine actual experience (I did, in fact, lose 70lbs over a 6 month period at one point in my life). Only the stuff that is true and works will appear on this page, I promise. – Mark Reid
Try Intermittent Fasting
As it turns out, eating less is vastly different than not eating at all. All you need to know is that when you are not eating, you are teaching the body to rely on the energy that is already present, which is stored body fat. This is the fat that most people want to have less of. When the body finds these calories, the metabolism increases. This is a simple, cheap, and easy way to lose fat and boost your metabolism.
If you haven’t fasted before, or if there are a lot of carbohydrates in your diet, this might be difficult for you to get started. Try to start slowly and do not push it too much. Continue to focus on eating fat and protein until you are satiated. You could start with pushing back your first meal of the day to be a little later. You could try skipping a meal here or there. You do not need to be dogmatic about it. Try to see if you can stick with the discomfort of being hungry. It is probably not as hard as you think it will be.
This tip is courtesy of Casey Ryan Ruff at myboundlessbody.com. You can (and should) read the full article if you are interested to learn more about raising your resting metabolic rate at https://www.myboundlessbody.com/post/your-resting-metabolic-rate-keeping-the-engine-revving
Kaizen Your Personal Health
So, you want to improve your health, lose weight, feel or look better, right? What might you do? Buy the next P90X program or a diet book? Maybe start watching yoga videos on you youtube? Ok. None of those are bad ideas, per se. The problem is in sticking with them, right? So, start first with the simple Japanese concept of “kaizen.”
Without going into a academic treatise on kaizen, it is most simply explained as this: “constant and never ending improvement.” The key is how to implement it. Well, you already know that the basis for good health can be boiled down to two elements – diet and exercise. The reason most people fail at making the necessary changes in either or both of those departments is because they attempt drastic change and eventually lose motivation. They buy the Miami Beach diet and simply can’t keep up and begin to cheat. Or, they join a gym and it quickly becomes overwhelming to go everyday. The suggestion here is that kaizen is a lifestyle change that is gradual, doable and is likely to have a greater long term effect.
So, whatever you are doing now, make one simple change. Do you eat McDonald’s too much? Well, the suggestion here is not to quit altogether suddenly. The suggestion here is to perhaps leave out the french fries next time. Make no mistake, ultimately the goal will be to eliminate McDonald’s from your life. But the suggestion here is that you have a better chance of success if you do it in smaller increments over a lifetime. Do you exercise? Not at all? Ok, start with a single pushup or a walk to the end of the street. Tomorrow, do two pushups or walk two blocks. If you make one small incremental change everyday – just one improvement – and you never stop making a daily improvement, image where you might be in a year. Five years. Ten. For the rest of your life.
Shop the Perimeter, Stay Out of the Middle
This is an oldie but a goody. Many might be aware of this maxim already, but some of you may not have ever given it any thought: Only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and never the aisles if you can help it.
Why? Think about it for a second. All of the natural stuff – veggies, fruits, meats, dairy, eggs – are found along the perimeter. All of the processed stuff and the sugary stuff – the cereals, the canned goods, the instant mac and cheese with 400 ingredients, most of which you can’t pronounce – are found in the aisles.
Here’s the thing about this maxim too: of all the discrepancies between nutritionists and dieticians as to what is healthy and what is not – regardless of who you listen to – this one rule has nearly universal acceptance. Whether you are a vegan or a meat-eating low-carboholic, the foods you should be eating are still found along the perimeter.
One final word of caution, just because the bakery is found along the perimeter doesn’t make it ok. Utilize it sparingly and get the whole grains. The maxim is not suggesting that everything along the perimeter is good for you, but for damn sure almost everything in the interior is bad.
Practice "Hara Hachi Bu" - the Japanese rule for weight loss and longevity
The Japanese phrase hara hachi bu roughly translates to eat until you are 80% full. Think about that in terms of how Americans (and to some extent other Western cultures like the U.K., Australia or Germany) generally eat. We are undeniably a “more is better” culture. If there is one positive to come out of the post-Covid pandemic once we move past it but remain germ conscientious, it might be the likely death of the all-you-can-eat buffet. We don’t need that. No one needs that.
The Japanese practice the concept of eating until you are about 80% full. This might be tough at first for an American to get used to. We like to eat until we are satisfied. But have you ever eaten until you feel full, only to find 20 minutes later that you overdid it? You are uncomfortably stuffed then. You probably ate past the point of 100% full, nevermind 80%. Imagine how much your daily caloric intake would be reduced if you trained your brain and body to be satisfied at 80%. To help with this, of course, chew slowly and drink water or an herbal tea with your meal.
One final benefit of hara hachi bu: the Okinawans in Japan are the leading proponents of this practice. They also have the longest life expectancy in the world and the world’s highest proportion of centenarians.
Change Your Breath, Change Your Life
By far, the most overlooked aspect to physical well being is breathing. It can help control your mind and your body. There are breathing techniques to help you concentrate; breathing techniques to help you fall asleep at night; breathing techniques to wake you up; breathing is even tied to your metabolism. In short, breathing is the one thing you have probably neglected in taking good care of yourself when it should be the first thing you do. Breathing well is more important than you probably know. In the future I may submit more on this topic. For now, I will simply put in this TED talk video to get you started: