by Dr. Don Rose
Which do you want: a tip top torso, or a wide wobbly waist? Do you want to look like a Greek god in sandals, or get a big gut with large love-handles?
It gets harder to avoid the latter as we age; that’s why bloated bellies tend to be seen more often on older folks – like Boomers and seniors -- than on the younger set. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anyone at any age can have a great looking bod, and not fear their rear, if one follows some exercise and eating rules of thumb. The rules presented below offer ideas on how to get fit and fight fat – something especially useful around holiday time, when calories tend to tempt us time and time again. The modern middle-aged male’s midsection is often more massive than it should be, which can mean many medical maladies if not modified. The good news: most midsections can be trimmed and tightened with time, through tenacity and tried-and-true techniques.
1. Moving Morning: move your workouts to the A.M. if possible -- the earlier the better. Early exercise increases the metabolism, which stays high for several hours afterwards. Benefits of getting your body moving early: more calories burned during the rest of the day and your appetite tends to decrease for a few hours after a workout.
2. Big Breakfast: eat more in the morning (and at lunch) than in the evening. Not only will this get your metabolism going, but you also have all day to burn off “early calories.” Think of your ideal daily calorie intake as an inverted triangle -- more in the morn, tapering off till twilight.
3. Welcome Water: try to drink at least 8 glasses (cups) a day, if possible. Besides the many benefits from the water itself, drinking water before a meal makes you feel fuller and hence you are less likely to overeat. Everyone’s needs are different, of course, but the common maxim says to drink 8 cups a day for optimal health. (Note: urine color indicates whether you need more or less H20; a deeper darker color means you probably need more water.) Tip: try drinking 1 or 2 cups upon waking, before you do anything else; my friend said her friend lost several pounds via this tip alone.
4. Healthy Half: some folks have lost pounds by eating and drinking whatever items they want, but half the usual amount. By doing this, you’re not denying yourself any particular food or beverage – but half the portion means half the calories, which helps you lose weight. For example, one might eat a sandwich with only one side of the bun. (This not only halves the bun calories, but less bread means less carbs -- so it’s a double salvo in your weight loss war.) You also stretch your food budget twice as far.
5. Ditch Dessert: a variant on the previous rule, where you eat whatever you want, with one restriction. In Rule 4, the single restriction was halving portion size; in this rule, it is eliminating any item that is sweet (that is, items with sugar, since sugar is dense with calories). Combining Rules 4 and 5 can be especially effective.
6. Best Buddies: it’s often helpful to have a buddy (or significant other) following the same or similar rules and routines as you -- for support, and to compare notes. Your buddy may discover a useful technique, trick or tip you didn’t think of (or vice versa).
7. More Meals: eat more often, but less per meal. This keeps the metabolism constantly in high gear to burn off calories. Try to keep the smallest meals (i.e., snacks) healthy, too. Using this rule along with Rule 4 can be a sensible combination. For example, instead of 3 or 4 “normal portion” meals per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and an occasional late supper/snack), try eating 6 to 8 small meals, each at half a “normal portion” or less. This keeps you feeling full and your metabolism high all day. If possible, reduce portion size as the day goes on (see Rule 2).
8. Food Focus: paying attention to what you eat can pay big dividends. First, you’ll enjoy your meal more, since your increased attention will lead you to savor the eating process. Second, the seconds will seem like minutes the more you focus on what you are eating; it will seem like you are eating for a longer time. Third, you will end your eating earlier, because you’ll be aware of the onset of “feeling full” faster – which means less calories taken in, and the gift of extra time to do other things. It’s win win win. Combining this rule with Rule 4 can be effective; the more you truly focus, the more your “half portion” will seem as filling as your former “full portion.”
9. Ending Eating: evening calories are less likely to get burned off that day, and eating right before bed can lead to heartburn or restless sleep, so try to consume less at night (as touched on in Rule 2). Ideally, stop consuming calories at a set time each night. For example, no food after 8pm. Make a rule and stick to it – whatever works for you. The goal: put as many hours as you can between “last bite” and “good night.”
10. Sound Sleep: sleep is when muscles repair, and in general the body uses this time to heal itself. Make sure you get enough hours of shuteye each evening (most people need around 8 hours per night). They don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing!
Refer back to these rules when you need to remind yourself of some good habits to follow. These rules are by no means exhaustive, but I hope they provide a general roadmap that will take you closer to your final destination: a fine, fit physique.
If you find it hard to remember all of the information presented above, here is a closing two-line poem that may help, summarizing the rules in ultra-brief form:
Work out mornings, more food early. Focus, buddy; half, no sweet.
8 cups water, 8 small servings. 8 o’clock stop, 8 hours sleep.
Dr. Don Rose writes books, papers and articles on many topics, including computers, the Internet, artificial intelligence, science and technology, and issues related to seniors.
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