By Jon Herring
This time last year, I was 25 pounds over my ideal weight. I didn’t like the way I looked, and I wasn’t happy with the way I felt. My skin was broken out. My mental clarity was diminished. And my energy waned in the afternoons. Not exactly how I wanted to feel at 34 (or at any age). So I decided to do something about it.
I began by turning my complete attention to several very specific short-term goals. (In my Health brief yesterday, I recommended that you do the same thing.) I intended to lose 20 pounds in six weeks, and then to drop the other five by March.
By February 15th, I had lost the 20 pounds. And before the 1st of March, I was my ideal weight for the first time in five years. In just a few weeks time, my body became lean and muscular, my skin cleared up, and my youthful energy and mental clarity were restored tenfold.
The best part is that I maintained that state of fitness (or better) for the entire year – and it was effortless. I never went on a “diet” or denied myself the pleasures of great food, and I didn’t spend hours and hours working out.
Today, I’ll tell you how I did it – and how you, too, can achieve all of your most important health and fitness goals.
Why Do You Want to Be Healthy?
What are you trying to accomplish for the long term? This is important. Your reason for wanting to be healthy has to be very powerful and compelling if it’s going to keep you motivated to make the right choices and develop healthy habits.
My ultimate long-term health goal is simple: I want to enjoy a healthspan that is equal to my lifespan. In other words, I intend to remain strong, active, and mentally sharp until the day I die of natural causes. To do that, I will make the choices throughout my life that will help prevent the diseases that are largely related to lifestyle – like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Maybe your long-term goal is to maintain the strength and health to enjoy a long and active retirement. And/or to be around to watch the grandkids grow up. Perhaps you want to overcome a current health problem.
Considering your long-term health goals – and keeping in mind that those long-term objectives should tie in to your health goals for the year – focus now on what you will accomplish in the next six weeks.
Maybe your six-week goal is to lower your cholesterol without drugs … or lose 10 pounds … or stop smoking … or break an addiction to sugar … or show off a new six pack … or just feel well again.
Make it something that is significant (to you), measurable, and challenging. And you must write it down. Don’t worry about the rest of the year … just concentrate on what you will accomplish by February 15th.
Bear down for the next six weeks, and you won’t even think of stopping when you get there.
Contrary to what many people believe, “becoming healthy” does not have to involve drudgery, toil, and denial. You can still eat delicious meals when you’re hungry. And you can work out less than 30 minutes a day, while maintaining an amazing state of health and fitness. Here’s how to do it …
The Way You Eat
The key is not to focus on what you can’t eat, but to focus on eating more of the right foods … whole fruits and vegetables, naturally raised lean meats and poultry, wild fish, eggs, fresh herbs, nuts, berries, seeds, and all-natural (preferably raw) dairy.
You should eat breakfast every morning, followed by another four or five snacks and small meals throughout the day. By “topping off the tank” every few hours, you won’t be as likely to overeat. Frequent meals will also boost your metabolism, sending a message to your body that “the hunting is good” and making it a lot easier to burn fat. And, finally, eating frequent small meals will help balance your blood sugar, resulting in fewer food cravings, more mental clarity, and a better all-around mood.
If there is any “denial” involved, this is it: I encourage you to strictly limit the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates and starches you eat. Overconsumption of these foods will not only increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, it’s also a direct route to the fat farm.
Eat too many simple carbs, and your metabolism will respond by storing fat and burning sugar for energy. To lose fat, you must convert your body to a fat-burning state by limiting the foods that convert rapidly to sugar. Without the excess glucose in your system, your body will create energy by breaking down fat instead of burning sugar.
This one simple change can produce effortless weight loss and a dramatic improvement in your energy, your mood, and your health.
The Way You Exercise
You are designed to be mobile and active, and without regular physical activity your body quickly begins to deteriorate. So, choose exercises that you enjoy, and make a commitment to do SOMETHING every single day – even if it is just a walk around the block or a few stretches before going to bed.
If your goal is to burn fat, as well as making an impact on your health, focus on the intensity of your exercise more than the duration. The best way I know to do that is to practice intervals. Intervals can be applied to any form of cardiovascular exercise, even walking.
The idea is to exert yourself at 70% – 80% of your maximum effort for a full minute or two. Then, while you continue to move, dial down your effort for a few minutes to recover. After a brief, active rest, raise the intensity again for a minute or two. Do this for seven or eight intervals and you’re done. And you will have just completed a highly beneficial workout in less than 20 minutes.
In addition to exercises that build your heart and lung capacity, you should also do some form of resistance exercise (strength training). Resistance exercise will improve your appearance, increase the strength of your bones and muscles, and raise your metabolism (making it that much easier to burn off fat).
My favorite form of resistance training is bodyweight calisthenics. You don’t need any special equipment and you can do these exercises anywhere. The best part is that you can improve your strength, balance, and flexibility and your cardiovascular conditioning all at the same time. Matt Furey, an occasional contributor to ETR, offers several products that show you how to perform a wide range of exercises suitable for any fitness level. I’ve used Matt’s products and followed his suggestions, and I could not be happier with the results.
Make 2006 the Year You Finally Make It Happen
I urge you to make the strongest commitment to your health and fitness this year.
If you are already where you want to be with your weight and health and level of fitness, congratulations! Keep up the great work. But, if you are not, then this is YOUR year.
No matter what your age … or prior bad habits … or how overweight and unhealthy you might feel at the moment … you can attain a peak level of health and fitness. And when you do, your thinking will be improved … you will have more creativity and energy to pursue your goals … you will feel more confident and in control of your life … your relationships will be better … your success will be an inspiration to others … and you will gain the respect of those around you.
Make 2006 the year you finally make it happen!