Recently I was reading a fitness article in the paper going along the lines of '...if you want to have a great ab workout here's what you have to do...', with the article continuing along the lines of x amount of situps, x amount of knee raises, and a few other isolation-type exercises. It made me sick. The article was accompanied by a photograph of a female sports model, clearly targeting the women's market, with (lo and behold) an advertisement for a slimming drink at the bottom (slight pun intended). Pathetic. Cynical. Negative. The tactic is this: show the 'ideal' - unattainable for just about everyone - and then use guilt as a device for consumption/purchase of a particular product.
People, I will give it to you straight, in a way that no corporation wants you to really know about. I'm not selling anything here, I am not making money out of this. The only thing I want out of this is your happiness and so a much better world for us all. No sales pitch required. This is written in simple and precise language, so at first it may seem a little confusing, but fear not. Re-read anything that you may have trouble with, and then repetition will clarify.
Here's the ONLY successful way to become more fit, and to become more healthy. EXERCISE MORE. EAT BETTER.
That's it. Two things. Very simple.
Whether you like it or not, the key to improved fitness (notice how I didn't say 'weight loss' - there's a reason for that, read on) is an increase in daily exercise. You have to GET MOVING, and in a much more increased capacity to what you would normally do, and you have to GET SWEATY. That is, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, slightly elevated surface body temperature, and so, an increase in metabolism. It's called aerobic exercise. And here's the killer - you have to do it for at least 40 minutes per day. Minimum.
If you want something extra, you can go on to strength conditioning, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is. As far as getting started, don't worry too much about strength. Trainers in gyms will tell you that you need to balance aerobic activity with strength conditioning, and technically that is right, but all we are doing here is setting the wheels in motion for improved fitness and well-being, and lifting weights is secondary to simply MOVING AROUND (see 'Self Image, Weight Loss and the Lie of BMI' below).
Exercise, exercise, exercise. That's the first thing. Now, eat properly, dickhead. If one person mentions the word 'diet', I will have them taken out the back and shot. 'Diet' should only ever be used in the context of describing what someone eats, not a system of eating to promote weight loss. Eat well, every once in a while have a treat. Eat to be healthy, not to submit to emotional wants. Too much is written about food as a means to weight loss. It's all bullshit. Most of it comes from companies that have a vested interest in the weight loss industry and it's simply lies. Below is what you have to do EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Cut out all added sugar - that is, don't add sugar to anything. Coffee, tea, cereals, anything that you would normally chuck a teaspoon of sugar on stop doing it immediately. Raw sugar, brown sugar, white sugar, anything. CUT IT OUT IMMEDIATELY. Sugar is used as a preservative, and a mask for salt flavours. It's already added to all preserved foods (that is, food in tins). And another little-known secret is that SUGAR IS A DRUG. It fucks you up. You don't want to be a drug addict, do you? Of course not.
Cut out all added salt - that is, don't add salt to a cooked egg, mashed potatoes, anything that you would normally chuck a pinch of salt on stop doing it immediately. Cooking salt, sea salt, salt anything. CUT IT OUT. Salt is used as a preservative, and a mask for sweet additives.
Eat more fresh fruit, especially in the morning. This will help kick-start your metabolism and keep it running efficiently throughout the day. Forget about green tea, wheatgrass, or any of that other New Age bullshit. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING kickstarts your metabolism like water and fruit. Cereals will clog your stomach and bowel and make you feel slow and heavy (read 'unmotivated') when consumed on an empty stomach. When you wake up, drink water, eat fruit. Rest your belly for half an hour, then eat some unprocessed cereals, and dairy. You will notice the difference immediately. Anyone that tells you otherwise is, you guessed it, selling you something.
Stop eating sugar-rich foods. You know exactly what I'm talking about - don't pretend you don't. The shit that you think makes you feel good - ice cream, cakes, MacDonalds - actually poisons you. Okay, every once in a while is fine, of course, but eating these things regularly fucks with your metabolism, your bowel, your heart, liver and kidneys, as well as impairs brain function. Ever eaten a Big Mac and felt like doing a few laps of the pool? You don't have to answer that. I know your answer already. Just don't put that shit in your mouth.
SELF IMAGE, WEIGHT LOSS AND THE LIE OF BMI
Stop using magazines, the cinema and other media as a template for the ideal body shape. Firstly, ALL of the people used as the 'ideal' are either freaks, seriously ill, or professional athletes. Aim to be nothing like these people. Aim to be the best you can be (to borrow a line from elsewhere). Secondly, you cannot change the natural shape of your body. Get used to it. But do not use it as an excuse to not do the right thing by it. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Every day. (A little tip - even when you go to the gym, and you have a program written for you by some nice hyper-fit young trainer, and they write in 'rest day' between workouts, you must still exercise. 'Rest day' does not mean do nothing. It means do something different to the regular workout. Keep moving, in other words.) Thirdly, exercise. I know, it's getting boring, but it's the key. Exercise begets exercise. Your body starts to really like it, and it will punish you when you don't do it. Same as with eating right. Once you cut out the excess sugar and salt from your diet, your tastebuds are retrained to appreciate natural flavours, and your internal organs will love you for it too. You will crave unnatural sweet and salt flavours less, and when you do indulge the occasional craving you will require less of a hit to sate it.
Absolutely NEVER rely on a graph or chart to show 'where you should be at'. You are working to feel good. Nothing more. One of the side effects of feeling good through exercise and healthy eating is... You guessed it - you look good too! The Body Mass Index is an outdated (invented in the 1850s for chrissakes!!!) chart that takes no real-world factors into consideration whatsoever for determining an individual's ideal weight. It cannot be used for athletes (who nearly always come up as "obese" on the scale), it cannot be used for children (who nearly always come up as "severely underweight"). It is deceptive and more often than not, hopelessly inaccurate. Forget that shit. Forget the concept of "weight loss" and accept the concept of "feeling good". It is difficult, sure, because we have had a constant bombardment of images and advertising campaigns from the 1970's onwards that base their 'science' on corporate productivity and market research, not on what is best for an individual.
Don't listen to anyone that tells you otherwise - they are selling you something.
Learn to listen to your body. When you first start to do the right thing your inner voice is small and meek, but continue to do the right thing and that inner voice becomes strong and encouraging. Listen. To. Your. Body.
Now stop reading this crap and go for a walk!