Tobias Buckell is blogging about regaining his fitness after having his activity levels sharply curtailed by a congenital cardiac issue. This had inspired me to talk about my own efforts towards greater health and physical fitness.
As some of you know, Bob, last year I was diagnosed with borderline hypertension. Not actually a surprise: my grandmother had high blood pressure, and I have a lot of diabetes in the family. While I lived in Nevada (1999-2006) what with one thing and another, I went from a relatively comfortable size for me (165-170 pounds: I'm a strapping lass) to around a hundred pounds heavier--and I lost pretty much all of my previous reasonably good level of physical fitness.
Since 2006, I've been working to get myself back in the shape for it to be a trivial activity to run three miles. Last spring, I was actually making some pretty good progress on it (I could jog two and a half miles, and was down to 215 or so.) Alas, then the year of deadlines and stress eating hit, and all the kayaking in the world could not save me. Net result: fifteen pound weight gain, and blood pressure running at 130/90. Eeep! Also, I went from climbing 5.9 and working on 5.10s to struggling up 5.8s and thrashing on 5.9s I used to send easily. And running up those hills got a hell of a lot harder.
Obviously, something needed to be done. Especially since I haven't given up on hiking Kilimanjaro someday.
Now, I'm not interested in being skinny, or squeezing into a size eight dress (At 145, which I have been, I am too skinny. And I just about fit into a size 8. Not for nothing did my ancestors say, When ox die, harness wife.), or whatever. What I am interested in is not winding up diabetic, not having a stroke, and climbing 5.10 again.
Thus, The Discipline. This is what I do: it is the result of lots of trial and error, and it will make most people healthier than they are--and a hell of a lot fitter. It may not work for you, and it is, in fact, a Discipline. It is not a crash diet. It is not something you do for six months and walk away from and never have to do again.
1) Exercise most days. I climb (strength and balance, some cardio) two or three days a week. I do yoga (flexibility, strength, balance, cardio) 4 or 5 days a week. Some days it's just 20 minutes of stretching; some days it's an hour of power yoga. I move (cardiovascular) 5 or 6 days a week--this may be walking 3 or 4 miles, or running/walking 2. I am a really crap runner: last spring I was up to 11 minute miles and absolutely thrilled with myself.
In the summer, I hike and kayak.
Not everybody can do these things, or all of them, or any of them. It could be walking the dog around the block. That's awesome. It could be chair yoga. Swimming. Wheelchair biathalons. Whatever. It's good.
2) Diet. This is not diet in the modern sense of "weight loss diet," but diet as in "what you put in your body has an effect."
Step 1: Like Toby, I figured out my daily calories (roughly) intake and outgo. I use fitday. If I am trying to lose weight, I figure out what I am burning in a day (remembering to log sleep!) and I undershoot it. I log what I do, and I log what I eat.
Step 2: Weigh or measure every goddamned thing I put in my mouth and write it down.
I believe I need to eat. I believe I need to eat good food, and plenty of it, and it should taste good and leave me feeling good.
Right now I am aiming for around 800 calories a day less than I burn. It does mean I'm often hungry, but such is life--and considering my workout schedule, that's between 1600-2200 calories a day, which is really rather a lot of food, especially when (and here's where it gets hard for me) one institutes portion control. Yes, I weigh my pasta. Yes, 2 ounces of uncooked pasta is less than I think it is. But it's really enough for my body, even if my brain does not think so.
Like Toby, I eat whatever the hell I want, if it's in the budget. However, I try to stick to the whole/live/low glycemic/things that grow on plants/whole grain end of the spectrum. Because I feel better when I do. Clearer head, better energy levels, less pain, fewer Moods.
Doesn't mean I won't eat a brownie if I want one. The brownie is Nature's Perfect Food.
I'm fortunate not to have any dietary sensitivities. I'm not a vegetarian; I had a 4-ounce steak yesterday. But I also don't fret too much about Making Sure I Eat Meat Every Day.
I try to keep my fat intake between 25-35 percent and my protein intake over 15%. This is a challenge, but I've noticed I build muscle faster and heal quicker when the protein is high. Also, I feel better and I'm less hungry.
It does mean that I may have to decide between cocoa and ice cream, instead of having both. But you know, the ice cream will be there tomorrow. It does mean I have to eschew alcohol most of the time (*sob!*) because whoa, the empty calories.
I try to eat lots of good fats (I do not believe in low fat diets. In fact, I believe they are the devil, and will leave me hungry and sad and grassy-haired. I do believe in making sure that bunches and bunches of my 30% fat comes from almonds and avocados and sardines. My cholesterol, by the way, is amazingly good.)
And like Toby, I have a blow out day a week. 3500 calories? Fine. The metabolism likes the reminder that it's not starving, and it's nice to not be sharp set all the time. (Sharp set is a good term. Borrowed from falconry: it's not the same thing as "hungry," but it's basically "unsatisfied." If I eat until I'm satisfied, I'm not undershooting my caloric demand. The pants stay tight.)
As an example, here's my menu for today:
1 cup raisin bran granola 190 calories
1/2 cup rolled oats 148 calories
1 cup almond milk 60 calories
1 tbsp fiber supplement 15 calories
3 fish oil capsules 15 calories
.75 ounce roasted cashews124 calories
1 tsp sugar 16 calories
1.2 cup blackberries 31 calories
2 ounces Barilla
whole grain pasta 200 calories
1/2 cup cottage cheese 92 calories
1/2 cup Newman's sauce 110 calories
1 1/4 cup almond milk 75 calories
3 tbsp cocoa mix 105 calories
1 tbsp fiber supplement 15 calories
1/2 avocado 138 calories
juice of 1/2 lime 5 calories
1/2 chili pepper 9 calories
arugula &spinach 12 calories
cucumber 14 calories
For some reason, the potatoes refused to cook, so I had cheese and whole-grain crackers and a spoonful of that ice cream after all: 320 calories
Apple cider (because we were out of cookies) 117 calories
total, ~1800 calories
28% fat, 13% protein
With 20 minutes of yoga and the hour long walk I am about to take, my outlay for the day is around 2700.
So technically, I could have a cookie, too.