By Basil Gala, Ph.D.
In Search of Meaning
I was a big and chubby baby. My mother knew I was her last and nursed me for a long time. At two years of age I would say to her, “Mama, sit down; I want to eat.” Later in life I slimmed down, but I had periods when I was overweight and had to go on a diet to shape up. After age fifty I started adding five pounds every year, laying a large spare tire around my middle. I was five feet eleven inches tall and weighed 250 pounds.
My brother, who was thin and a health enthusiast, kept scolding me: “You’re going to get diabetes; all this fat you carry will give you heart disease. I don’t want to lose my brother.” Finally after I became sixty, I started fighting my compulsion to overeat and began losing some weight slowly, so slowly I thought I would never get into shape. In the meantime, my doctor diagnosed Type II diabetes; also I had developed high cholesterol and high blood pressure. My doctor told me, “Get your weight below two hundred pounds, and your symptoms will disappear.” I struggled for years to get that light, but I couldn’t do it.
Finally at age 68, after taking Pravacol for the cholesterol problem and Lotensin for high blood pressure for ten years, I began to experience severe pain and weakness in my muscles as well as dizziness. I felt as if I were in my nineties, approaching my end. My doctor took me off all medications for a year. I began going to the gymnasium every day, weak as I felt, starting with just a few minutes of painful effort. Gradually I worked up to hours of aerobics and weight training. At the same time I cut down on animal and sugary foods.
Five years later now my doctor tells me, “Your readings are fabulous” each time he tests my blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. My friends and family tell me I look “slim and muscular” at 73. And as an added bonus I have not been sick, not even with a cold or flue, these past five years. How did I do it? How did I motivate myself and maintained that motivation for many years?
Well, to be honest I have had many slip ups along the way. But I built up a safety net of good practices and habits that sustained me, even when I occasionally failed. Some people are tied up in a net of bad habits and customs–personal, familial, or societal–that keep them down, prisoners of ineffective thought and action. Here then is my saving net for whatever it is worth to you. Be patient. Apply one by one the strands of the life-saving net I lay down before you in what follows. When you exercise one of the good habits I suggest to you, you strengthen your healthful net through reinforcement. When you refuse to repeat a bad habit, gradually, through extinction, you tear down the net that traps you in fatness and weakness.
You will soon be moving to greater success in fitness, and other areas of your life to which these principles apply.
A. How to Exercise
1. Motivate Yourself
Motivation and habits come to us from family culture. I was fed well as a child because my mother thought a fat baby was healthy and would more likely survive. In South Pacific’s Samoa, people have a tradition of honoring girth, and the bigger you are all around the more attractive you are on this island. If you are not a native Samoan, you probably want to be lean instead, flat as can be in your midsection, with your concerned physician or spouse egging you on. Young, old, or middle aged, you also want strong muscles and bones to look more attractive, stay healthy, look younger than your biological age, and to live on earth a few extra years.
So one day you stir yourself up, read a diet book and go through the agonies of a very low-calorie diet, dropping weight but losing muscle, ending up looking gaunt, emaciated, your tummy still sticking out, and feeling ready for burial.
But why struggle to be slender and build strong sinews? Winston Churchill, who enjoyed his meals, cigars, and brandy, used to say: “I get my exercise carrying the coffins of my friends who exercise.” He lived to an overripe fat old age, but he was the exception. Overweight people suffer more diseases, such as cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and die much younger than those who are of normal weight. Underweight people also die younger and suffer from more illnesses. Years ago I did a statistical analysis of Los Angeles County employees with heart disease. I was surprised to find a higher correlation of early mortality with underweight than with overweight. What is my explanation? Thin people tend to be undernourished and lose the ability to fend off infections and injuries.
Most people today, however, once past their teenage years, suffer more from an excess of lard rather than a shortage of it. So, once you have decided you are better off without all that extra fat, how do you motivate yourself to change your slothful and gluttony habits to slenderize? I did it primarily by listening to self recorded affirmations when relaxing before sleep and during my exercise sessions. Habits are entrenched in the subconscious mind. To change them, to establish them, or eliminate them, you must relax; reach the subconscious with repeated affirmations of what you want, and even fervent prayers to your inner god. You may use tape or CD recordings by professional hypnotists, record this essay, or listen to your own exhortations to shape up.
2. Moderation is the Answer
After listening to such recordings, you determine to exercise more and you do so like a fiend, running and working out with weights, raising your appetite, your food intake, and your weight. But for most of us the problem is not the weight. Throw away your scale and weight charts; they only mislead you. Dropping weight could mean you’re losing muscle and bone mass because of poor nutrition—leading to more fat gain later on. Weighing more or less could mean you are retaining or draining water due to hormonal changes, salt intake or dehydration.
The proper question: not how do we lose weight, but how do we lose fat while gaining tough muscles and sturdy bones? The answer: moderation. You eat a moderate, well-balanced, nutritious diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. You exercise moderately, daily combining weight training with aerobics, and finally you take a moderate number of supplements with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Build up your muscles and your muscles will burn off any excess fat in time, provided you maintain food intake at a moderate level.
When I was a teenager and prone to excess, my dad often reminded me of the ancient Greek saying, “Pan metron ariston,” similar to “Moderation is best.” Once in High School the Greek teacher gave our class “Pan metron ariston” to write on. I wrote an essay where I argued the saying was nonsense, of no value, because to know the “metron” or proper measure of something requires study and intelligence, not available to common people. Besides, to achieve extraordinary success, one must go beyond what is normal, average, and known, to the extreme limits of human endurance. I received a shocking “F” from my teacher.
I know now, health and life is best within a certain range of values, for calorie intake, blood sugar, cholesterol, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, salt, hormones, exercise, sleep, rest, work, leisure, socializing, solitude, faith, doubt, sex, abstinence, love and hate, freedom and discipline, and so forth. Put yourself within the right bounds of eating restraint and physical effort. You are set to make good progress then.
You will lose fat gradually (be patient), and you will keep it off, adding muscle and bone mass to your frame.
To keep tabs on your progress, use a scale that calculates the percentage of fat in your body. I step on a Tanita brand scale once a week to measure my fat percentage, targeted at 10% of my body weight. A healthy body fat percentage is between 10 and 20 for men, somewhat higher for women. Less than 5% or more than 25% fat in your body may cause problems with body structure or hormones. Alternately, measure your waist, arms, and thighs with flexible tape, and record the shrinkage; or, more simply, look at your naked body in a full-length mirror, sideways (no sucking in of the tummy, please.)
Strong bones and muscles are very useful to the owner and operator of a body.
3. Muscles and Bones Vs Fat
Bones frame the body and support it against gravity together with tendons, ligaments, and muscles wrapped around them. Muscles produce energy and move the bones as your nerves direct. Muscles burn calories to do this. Fat does not burn calories. Fat is just a bunch of container cells for storing calories in case of famine; only a little fat, 10-20% of the body mass, is needed for surviving famine in our society and for cushioning the body against shocks. If you have packed in more fat than that, you carry around extra baggage, which slows you down, draining your strength. Excess fat also clogs your arteries, contributing to heart disease, arthritis, cancer, strokes, and senility or dementia.
As you get past the age of sixty, seventy, or eighty, you are bound to get one or more of such blessings for your golden years.
Also inevitably, you will tend to lose bone and muscle with aging because your body will produce less of the human growth hormone, causing weakness and osteoporosis, and bringing the risk of breaks in your frame and a wheelchair. Under a microscope in aging animals and people we see active muscle fibers which contract doing work being gradually replaced by inert connective tissue. This connective tissue is what makes an old chicken dinner stringy in your mouth and old people weak and tired easily. But a sound program of physical fitness will counteract these natural tendencies, and you can delay the breakdown of your body until you are ninety or a hundred years old.
Actually we don’t really know how much we can delay aging with the proper foods, supplements, exercise, mental effort and emotional control. We cannot fathom the limits in human growth of muscle and brain when we apply all known methods for vigorous living. Animal studies show mammals develop new brain cells as well as connections with consistent and systematic exertion—something I was told a few years back in Psychobiology class cannot happen. Statistics on the effects of aging are averages collected from normal people. Do you want to be an average Joe or Jane, suffering the fate of ordinary mortals or somebody a little better? Most people give up trying to stay in shape when they get their first wrinkles, weakness in muscles, and sore joints. They move less and sit down to eat more, accumulating fat especially in the midsection, and accelerating the breakdown of their bodies.
No, there is no way to stop the aging process, to stay young forever–despite some best-selling books promising you just that. These are pipe dreams. But you can take the attitude you will do all you can to slow down aging, staying as fit as possible, and given your odometer reading, getting as much mileage from your body as it is capable of giving you.
4. Why Should I Want to Be Fit and Live Many Years?
This is a crucial question because the answer you give to it will motivate you to take action to boost your health and fitness, or discourage you and cause you to continue with your life lamely. Your attitude is critical. With the right attitude, you take pains to eat the right foods and not overeat. You strain to strengthen your muscles, tendons, and bones. Why? So that you may become more fit. What does it mean to be fit and why should you seek to better yourself in fitness?
To be fit means to be well adapted for a particular end, such as survival. Charles Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest living things in Nature. (Today biologists speak of the survival of the adequate.) For most of us survival is the goal of fitness in mind and body, the end we desire for becoming lean, muscular, strong, flexible, adaptable, and alert. We want to live as long as possible in good health to enjoy life and do good deeds. Good deeds give meaning to our lives; without meaning we flounder in action. We need a vision to move us to action, because fitness requires much effort and the vigorous exercise of our faculties.
5. What is Vigorous Exercise?
It is impossible to lose fat in a healthy way without exercise. Dieting to stay fit without exercise is like trying to run on one leg. You postpone the dilapidation of your body (and mind) mainly with exercise. You may eat as much and anything you hunger for, yet maintain a lean frame, burning the calories off with exercise. Michael, a colleague of mine, liked to eat steak and potatoes, washing it all down with beer, and capping his meal off with a big piece of cake or pie. But he ran 10 miles every day, rain or shine, and his shape was great. Starving yourself will also do the trick of keeping you fashionably thin. Smoking helps by controlling your hunger, if you ignore its effect on your lungs and heart. Kate, a cousin of mine, was thin as a rail, a nervous little bird of a woman, who chain-smoked even while eating. She would take a bite of food, followed by a puff on her cigarette. Her daughter would admonish her, “Mom, please don’t smoke so much.” Kate would insist smoking was good for her. Her figure was shapely, but her teeth were full of tar and her dry cough incessant. Some years later she died from cancer of the larynx, but slim and trim.
If you like to be not slim and trim but muscular, vigorous exercise laced with steroids will do the trick; you may even get to look like a Schwarzenegger. Steroids, however, are illegal now, and your physician will not recommend their use. You may take certain supplements which aid the metabolism of fat, such as chromium picolinate, L-carnitine, omega-3 and 6 fats, found in flax seed, evening primrose, and borage, including deep-ocean fish. Flax seed, which smells like fish to me, is ubiquitous in California health food circles, found in bread, bagels, muffins, crackers, pills, and oil. I grind it up with some sesame seeds to help with flavor, mix it in green tea, lemon juice and hot water and down this concoction upon waking up every morning.
Lifting supplements to your mouth will not be enough exercise to achieve your goal of delaying your collapse for later in life. A daily program of vigorous calisthenics, aerobics, and weight training will be necessary. In exercise, four factors determine success: regularity, intensity, variety, and duration, of which regularity is the most important.
6. Exercise Regularly
If you can spare only 15 minutes for a workout, do it daily, making it a firm habit, like a religious rite. I do fifteen minutes of stretches and calisthenics every morning without fail right after my flax seed dose, and have done these for the past twenty years with the same musical tape of instructions. It is the Canadian Air Force Fitness program, which was originally on a vinyl disc. I transferred the recording to cassette tape catching my six-year old daughter’s voice at the end, cheering me on: “Go on, Daddy!” Muscles respond well to regular practice, even if it’s mild.
7. Intensify your Exercise
The second factor of intensity will make you fit at the level you set the intensity of exercise, such as the amount of weight you lift, the number of repetitions you do, or the range and speed of your movements. You will maintain the same level of fitness, if you keep the intensity at the same level; you will increase fitness as you raise intensity. But you will hurt yourself if you raise your level too soon or beyond your capacity at any time. At the gym I see young men moaning, snorting like bulls, and getting red in the face; their shirts get soaked in sweat as they push up heavy weights. In your later years you don’t want to go through this nonsense for sure. For health and fitness is it really necessary even when you are young? Movements easy and serene add some pleasure to exercising in all settings, even in the dismal caverns of a gymnasium.
I close my eyes doing my repetitions and sets, meditating on my body in motion, relaxing body, mind, and spirit–even when the weight is substantial, requiring much effort to lift.
8. Add Variety to your Exercise
Variety, the third factor in fitness, often ignored by beginners in this game, is vital. When you reach a plateau, as you will inevitably, in losing fat, gaining strength, or building stamina–whatever your goals–introducing a change in your routine will often break the impasse, moving you ahead. As variety adds spice to your senses, so does change in your exercise routine to your physique. Try a different weight machine, for example, or a different sequence of motions. If you normally lift your weights fast, switch to slow motion. If you lift standing up as a rule, try now some bench presses.
Variety in exercise includes picking up different sports you enjoy: volleyball, basketball, skiing, dancing, swimming, biking, water polo, etc. Skip golf, unless you carry your clubs running to the next hole. You may also enjoy a martial arts class (such as karate), jazzercise, or yoga. Afterwards, you may sit relaxing in a Jacuzzi, steam room, or sauna to sweat off toxins.
You will make much better progress, if you add variety to your exercise program.
9. Lengthen your Exercise Sessions
The fourth factor, duration, applies to people who have plenty of time to devote to fitness training. If you are in this privileged class, gradually extend the duration of your exercises, first by adding more warming up and cooling down stretches, low weights, and slow motions. After a lengthy period of rest, such as a night’s sleep, or eight hours sitting down at your office desk, warm ups and cool downs are essential. Stretches prepare muscles and tendons so they are less likely to suffer injury during vigorous workouts. The longer the duration and the higher the intensity of your exercise, the more time you should spend warming up and cooling down with a variety of stretches.
Then you will be ready to tackle the toughest sets and develop your strength and stamina. Stamina means staying power in your lungs, muscles, heart, and circulation systems. You develop stamina only by slowly increasing the duration of your physical training.
10. Flex your Muscles and Tendons
Not needed for muscle building, but critical for overall fitness, is the factor of flexibility. Stress and inactivity make muscles shorter and more brittle. On the other hand, you’ve heard of body builders who become muscle bound trying to look like Atlas posing for contests. Life is not posing, but movement and yielding. Flexible joints, long pliable muscles, and stretchable ligaments make your body more adaptable, less subject to injury, and more energetic. Microscopic studies show muscle fibers tangle becoming less efficient during intense exercise or prolonged rest. When you stretch you line up your muscle fibers and dispose of toxins more effectively so your muscles work better; you are also less likely to injure yourself.
The best stretching exercises are what you instinctively do when waking up in the morning on weekends when you don’t have to rush off to work. Watch a cat when it wakes up from a nap, leisurely stretching its limbs and arching its back.
Put your hands together and raise them up over your head as far as you can reach. Hold it for a count of twelve seconds. Move your right hand over your neck to your back and reach for the left hand from below. Reverse hands. Put both hands together behind your back as low as you can reach, arching your back. Slowly rise up on toes, stretching your ankles. Stay up for a while. Bend your knees and hold. Bend your waist with arms hanging down loosely in front and hold, or bend to the left, then to the right. Slowly, ever so slowly, rotate your head, or move it from side to side, up and down. Rotate your hands at the wrists, your forearms at the elbows, your arms at your shoulders, feet at the ankles, legs at the hips, gently loosening the joints and allowing synovial fluids to lubricate them, thus extending the range of motion of your appendages.
I do stretching exercises everywhere I have to wait for a while, like a bank line, a checkout line, or on an airplane on long flights. I take frequent breaks from work at my desk to stretch, and at card games or social gatherings whenever I get or create an opportunity. I try to do this unobtrusively to avoid looking too ridiculous, but I’d rather appear odd, than be stiff in my muscles and neglect my blood circulation.
You will also benefit from a good massage from a professional or from yourself. Hatha yoga, with stretching and holding positions, working out with an exercise ball, warm baths–all these activities help improve flexibility, the dispersal of waste products through the lymphatic system, and strength.
To stimulate the lymphatic system nothing beats rebounding on a trampoline or skipping rope; both are also very good for flexibility and stamina. Deep breathing, which is coupled with these exercises, puts extra oxygen into circulation to clean up waste products and toxins, recharging your nervous system. With greater flexibility in place, you can move your limbs, head, and torso through motions which are larger is range, elongating your muscles further to make them stronger.
11. Postures Are Attitudes
The military know the importance of good posture; it is the first thing taught to you in boot camp. Stand up straight at attention—head up, chin in, chest out, back straight, tummy and rear end in, legs like pillars under the pelvis. Postures express attitudes; they display the condition of your spirit facing the world. If you are sad, you tend to sag; if proud, your head rises and your shoulders go back.
Equally important, the good posture you assume with an effort of the will produces positive feelings. When you are upset about something, hold your head up—you’ll feel better. In yoga and in Rolfing you learn to hold the right posture for self improvement. In golf, tennis, skiing, all sports, you are taught good “form.” Whatever exercise you do, you want to place your body firmly on ground, floor, bench or chair, before moving or lifting. The weight is distributed on your legs, or arms; your spine is straight. You will build muscles and bones with less risk of getting injured, and you will build character, as they say in military schools.
You will grow leaner and stronger with constant and persistent effort using these six techniques. It is the way of Nature: we become tougher when we face challenges, work hard, and strive to outdo our competition. Too much ease and comfort makes us weak, easy prey for barbarians, viruses, and bacteria. As a young man I knew this and I admired President Theodore Roosevelt, who preached and practiced “the strenuous life.” I did not know then that rest, recreation, and recuperation are just as important for a period after a struggle to recover my energy reserves and allow my body and mind to repair frayed tissues.
Unrelieved exhaustion does no good—it leads to illness and worse.
12. Recover from your Efforts
If you exercise vigorously, you need to give your muscles time to rest and recover before each effort. Some body-building experts recommend you do repetitions of each exercise until you cannot move any more. Others like you to go though your movement very slowly with weights, pausing in mid-range. These techniques are effective in muscle-building, but be sure you allow time to recover, and massage your muscle after doing the set, so lactic acid and other byproducts of energy production will dissipate before you begin the next set of movements. And don’t do heavy weight-lifting with the same muscles every day. I alternate exercising the upper half of my body one day, and the lower half the next.
13. Breathing In and Out
In all exercising, don’t neglect your breathing. Quite often people hold their breath when lifting weights–a bad practice. Take a deep breath, from the abdomen up, before your effort and then release the air through your mouth when you exert yourself. This is important in weight lifting, but also in moving your body against gravity or water. Running, swimming, walking, climbing, biking, skiing, and such activities where you move at a steady pace, not too fast or slowly, with a certain rhythm, stimulate the use of oxygen and boost your metabolic rate; that is why they are called aerobic exercises, great for burning fat reserves, and making you feel wonderful with endorphin secretions in your brain. Focus your attention on your breathing and on you body moving and you are likely to go into a pleasurable trance with the rhythm of your movements.
You will build muscle and bone faster, while losing fat, if you complement such a rigorous exercise program with the right foods and supplements.
- Eat Right to Stay Fit
Eating supplies vital nutrients to your body for growth and repair; its function, despite on the commercials, is not entertainment.
1. How Much and What to Eat?
Let’s say you require 1800 calories each day, as I do, to maintain body weight, avoiding the Dachau or supermodel look. Numerous studies with laboratory animals in recent years support the theory that caloric restriction extends their life spans by as much as 50% with improved health. The animals are not given as much as they normally eat–they get only enough food to supply them with all necessary nutrients and maintain a lean but vigorous body. We would, all of us, like to extend our lives by 50% in good health, but how many among us can exert that much self control over how much and what we eat? I developed a system to keep track of the calories I consume each day and the calories I expend. I will explain the system shortly.
Before I tell you about my little system, know that most people in affluent countries eat far too much. The excess food burdens our digestive system, makes us sluggish, and is largely eliminated. The rest is added on to our fat reserves, which are too plentiful already. The reasons for overeating are: first, often we eat for fun, not for nutrition; second, most of the foods available to us in stores and restaurants are overly processed by food manufacturers. Having destroyed the natural nutrients and flavors in raw foods for a longer shelf life, manufacturers add sugar, fat (sometimes the deadly trans-fats), salt, spices, chemical colors and flavors, wrapped in fancy packages. Thus we become overfed, undernourished, and constantly hungry.
To avoid becoming undernourished, eat raw foods as much as possible.
You have heard the dictum: “There are no bad foods.” Also, “Eat everything in moderation.” Yes, variety is good to get a balanced diet. We need portions each day from all food groups: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. But all foods are not created equal, as we shall see. Some foods are better for your health and fat control than others. On a restricted budget of, say, 1800 calories each day, if you have a pork chop with potatoes, 800 calories, and a slice of 50%-fat blue cheese with 500 calories with two glasses of wine, 200 calories, and a piece of cake, 300 calories, you have consumed your day’s allowance, and have no calories left in your budget for fruits, vegetables, or dairy products; you will go hungry the rest of the day, or go off-diet and overeat.
If you occasionally overeat, or eat the wrong things, don’t beat yourself up, and punish yourself by skipping your next meal, or giving up on slenderizing until tomorrow.
Now my system: I have put together a card-size envelope with four slots using thick paper and glue. I cut up 18 chits from the same paper to fit into the slots. Each chit represents 100 calories. Three chits are labeled protein, three carbohydrates, three vegetables, three fruits, three dairy, and three fats. I start each day with the chits in the top slot labeled “calories allowed.” The next slot is labeled “calories earned,” and I put there the chits I earned by exercising before eating. The machine at the gym tells me how many calories I have burned; otherwise I estimate that number in increments of 100. If I have eaten before exercising, I put the estimated number of chits in the next slot labeled “calories spent,” or if I have already earned the calories by exercising earlier, I put those chits in the last slot labeled “calories earned and spent.” I carry my little envelope in my wallet and use it everywhere where I eat or exercise.
If you are smaller than I and exercise less, adjust this system to 1,200 or 1500calories. If you are bigger and more active than I, increase it to 2,200 or 2,400 calories. I suggest fewer than 1,200 calories will deprive you of needed nutrients, while more than 2,400 calories will defeat your purpose of getting slender.
2. Eat Grapefruit and Cabbage
If, in spite of the best control system used, you have slipped up on your calorie budget, you may get some help from grapefruits and cabbages. Grapefruit is the basis of the famous diet by the same name, and cabbages give up their lives for the equally well-known cabbage-soup diet. Though these diets exaggerate the benefits of these foods for losing weight, you will profit by eating three servings of grapefruit each day (but including the calories in your budget), and as much as you can down of the cabbage soup. Citrus fruit like grapefruit is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and is lower in fructose, than oranges or tangerines. Scientific studies show people show greater fat loss with grapefruit.
I have anecdotal evidence grapefruit works. My brother George was once very ill with the flue for a month. He had no appetite during this time, losing much weight, and becoming terribly skinny. When his appetite returned he wanted to regain strength and weight, and daily he went on eating a whole roasted chicken with bread, vegetables and fruits, washing it all down with grapefruit juice. At mealtimes he filled his tummy to the bursting point without any gain of weight, until it dawned on him to drop the grapefruit juice.
As to cabbages, remember they are rich in calcium, which studies shows helps subjects lose fat faster, as much as 70% more than people on the same amount of calories without this magic ingredient. Everybody knows milk products are rich in calcium and the American Dairy Association will never let us forget that as long as we watch television. Cabbage, however, has fewer calories than milk, does not have lactose (sugar is a no-no), and is rich in fiber and vitamin C (besides costing less.) I find cabbage soup delicious, with lemon juice, and fresh defatted chicken broth.
Chicken soup has been shown in scientific studies to boost our immune system and ward off colds (as if we needed that information when we have grandmothers, Jewish or otherwise.)
3. Cook the Food, or Have it Raw?
Cooking destroys as much as 46%–steaming only 16%–of the nutrients in foods, with some exceptions, such carrots and sardines. The fruit or vegetable you pick ripe from the tree or vine is more nutritious (and more colorful, aromatic, delicious) than that which has been picked unripe, put in refrigerators, dried, frozen, or packaged for a longer shelf life. Cooking creates by-products, ashes and carcinogens, apparently poisonous to a degree, because the bloodstream is filled with leucocytes after cooked food is digested. You may recall that leucocytes are the body’s reaction to invasion by poisons or bacteria. That is especially true of the broiling, baking, grilling, or frying of carbohydrates, such as flours and potatoes, which studies have shown produce carcinogens. If you must cook your food, do it only enough to kill bacteria and parasites, at the lowest temperature and duration for this purpose.
Don’t cook to soften food, unless you are toothless; hard chewing is good for your digestion, gums, jaws, and teeth.
The most absurd thing done with food processing is the treatment of grains. They are milled, wheat germ and bran taken out, and the starch used for baking breads or making pasta. Thus, the most nutritious parts with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber are taken out in processing, and the least valuable starch served up to us with oils, sugars, salts, and preservatives. Steam grains and beans, or better still sprout them and eat them raw.
4. Play the Sprouting Game
Something miraculous happens when seeds sprout. The infant plants are filled with eagerness for growth, carrying forward the primal energies of all living things on the planet. Like colorful flowers at full bloom, like fruit luscious and ripe on the branch or vine, like pretty girls of sixteen years, full of aromas and promises, sprouts are splendid things. Okay, that’s being poetic. Factually, during sprouting, fats, sugars, and starches in the seeds convert to protein, vitamins, and minerals, which the plants need for growth and health as you do. All living things are related (the Buddha again.) Say sorry to the plants, praise them for giving up their lives for you, spice them up, and eat them with pleasure. As a small side benefit, recent studies at the University College London show grains and beans help prevent cancer, as their compound pentakisphosphate inhibits the tumor’s phosphoinoskitde growth factor (that’s a mouthful.)
Sprouting is easy; I always have several jars sprouting with cloth or paper on top. Make sure you get seeds that are whole and not broken up. Hard winter wheat sprouts well and has more protein than soft wheat. Barley softens quickly, but doesn’t sprout, unless you can get whole seeds from a seed house. Lentils sprout in a couple of days, are sweet, palatable, and lower the cholesterol level in your body. Soak the seeds for a few hours in pure water. Drain well. Soak and drain at least twice a day. Keep your jars in a cool, shady place, out of the sun. After the seeds have sprouted, cover and keep in the refrigerator, rinsing and draining each day. Bacteria know these sprouts are very nutritious, as you do now.
You can flavor your sprouts with your favorite spices, cinnamon (lowers cholesterol), cayenne pepper, sea salt, oregano, fresh parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar. I like to use fresh dill, rich in antioxidants, which grows plentifully in my garden. If you like your sprouts warm, give them a quick turn in a hot pan with a little olive, peanut, or sesame oil–one or two minutes is enough, or you’ll take away crunchiness and flavor. Let your teeth get some exercise and enjoy the freshness of nearly raw foods.
Combine two parts grains with one part beans to give your body complete proteins without animal flesh.
5. Do You Eat Flesh?
Animal flesh and dairy products are dense sources of complete proteins, essential to muscle and bone growth. Kathryn loves meat, beef especially. She went out to a restaurant with a friend and while they were ordering their dinner, her vegetarian friend asked, “Do you eat flesh?” Kathryn was shocked to hear what she likes to call “real food” described as “flesh.”
Studies with animals and humans show that a diet with less than 5% of the calories from protein causes a decrease in muscle tissue, while 20% protein is sufficient to promote growth. More protein does not help. In the absence of sufficient carbohydrates, your body burns fat for energy, producing toxins as byproducts, called ketones. That’s good, unless it’s excessive and then you suffer from too much ketosis, which can harm your health, and halitosis (bad breath to those not versed in Latin or Listerine advertising), which prompts your friends to drop you. You can thank Dr. Atkins and the Quick Weight-Loss Diet revolution for this state of affairs.
6. Eat Carbohydrates and Fats
Carbohydrates are the best source of food for the body’s energy needs, having water as the main byproduct of their metabolism.
Fats are necessary too, the good essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and 6, GLA and CLA, but not the saturated fats or cholesterol, mostly found in all animal flesh. Manufactured fats, known as transfats, are worst because they clog your arteries, but food manufacturers like them because they give pastries and candy bars longer shelf lives. Though you need to add some liquid fat to your diet for vitamin transport and other functions, you don’t need much: two or three teaspoonfuls a day are enough, if the fat is the right kind. Because many good foods contain fat as they come from Nature, you really don’t need to add fat to these: whole grains, beans or peas, and even some fruits such as avocados and olives. Of course, nuts, except for chestnuts, are mostly fat, and if you eat seven almonds or walnuts a day you get all the good fatty acids your body requires. A diet of up to 20% made up of fats is not harmful, however, if you follow a moderate exercise program. I prefer to get only 10% of my calories from fat, and 30% from protein. The balance of your calories, 60%, should be complex carbohydrates from low-fat, low-starch fibrous vegetables, and non-fat dairy products.
7. Vegan, Anyone?
If you’d like to go vegetarian, the king of protein foods is the soy bean, and soy bean products, such as tofu, miso, and TSP (textured soy protein). These products taste very bland, so you add flavor with spices, herbs, and other savory ingredients. You can maintain a 20% protein intake with such foods. Dark-green leafy vegetables also have some protein, as does broccoli, tomatoes, and eggplant. You can have non-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and egg whites, unless you are a vegan. As a vegan you can get your calcium from cabbage or supplements, preferably in colloidal form for better absorption. Thus you will avoid some unhealthful things in animal foods, such as cholesterol, lack of fiber, (unless you eat the fur and nails with the meat) fat, and environmental poisons. The higher on the food ladder an animal is, the more poisons get trapped in its tissues.
If you must have your meat, feast on animals that feed on grass and other plants.
Every year, nutritional experts are discovering more benefits in vegetables and fruits. Look at the variety of beautiful colors in ripe fruits and vegetables; then take another look at them after they are cooked, frozen, dried or otherwise processed. Bright, clear colors indicate the presence of phytochemicals, very important for your health. Colors attract animals, which get the health benefits from eating the plants, while the plants get a chance to propagate their kind. This is the symbiotic relationship you want for yourself also.
8. Build your Food Pyramid for Better Health
Given the advantages of vegetables over other sources of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, I place these at the base of the healthy food pyramid for people who want to control fat and boost muscles and bones. Raw or steamed vegetables when fresh are also colorful, delicious, and offer a much greater variety than animal foods to satisfy your palate. Veggies are loaded with good fiber and water to fill you up so you are not hungry while taking few calories in. They are cheap and if you have a garden, you can grow them yourself organically, without chemicals and artificial fertilizers, which is not the case with most commercially produced vegetables by agribusinesses. You can buy them fresher and for less money from farmers markets almost everywhere in the country.
Next up on the pyramid I place seeds, grains and beans, sprouted if possible. They provide more protein than grown vegetables, and have staying power in your stomach for hunger control. Seeds have lots of fiber that helps move wastes and toxins out of your body quickly, with the side benefit of helping to prevent colon cancer. Non-fat dairy products, two or three cups a day, should be consumed even less than seeds, because they lack fiber; but, they have calcium, protein, and friendly bacteria, like lactobacillus Bulgaricus in yogurt. At the same level on the pyramid with dairy I place fruits, two or three a day only because of their fructose. At the very top of the pyramid I offer you just a few nuts (because they are mostly fat), and polyunsaturated canola, safflower or mono-saturated extra-virgin olive oil. Remember your body needs very little fat, which has nine calories in each gram, as opposed to proteins and carbohydrates, which have four calories in each gram.
If you have to have oil in your salads and vegetables, keep in mind, extra virgin olive oil is more flavorful than pure and has more antioxidants good for your heart.
Stop, you cry. Where are meat, poultry, and fish in your pyramid? What about vitamin B-12, not found in plants? What about fish with their heart-healthy oils? What about a sweet dessert to cap a fine meal? There is no better dessert than Nature’s own fresh, ripe fruit. You can get B-12 in supplements and omega-3 and omega-6 oils from seeds, skipping fish with their cholesterol, excess fat, and possible mercury contamination. But I am not a veggie guru. I say eat much less protein from animal products, because of their fats, cholesterol, toxins, and greater risk of food poisoning; eat less flesh for the sake of your body’s health and the health of your pocketbook and the health of our planet. (It takes ten times as much land to grow one pound of beef, than one pound of soybeans. Rain forests are burning in South America to make room for cattle, which produce greenhouse gases.)
There is a place for some well-cooked flesh, if you want it, inside the veggie pyramid, like the body of a Pharaoh. You can have animal parts once in a while, on special occasions, and when you can’t get decent vegetarian food.
9. Watch Out for the Glycemic Index
Some plants, however, should be avoided or minimized in your food, because they have a way of boosting your blood sugar level too much, such as white potatoes, carrots, corn, grapes, dates, and other starchy vegetables and sweet fruits—these have a high glycemic index.
I mix red potatoes and carrots in stews and soups in small amounts. I shave carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams raw and crunchy for my salads. Potatoes and carrots have less starch and more protein, vitamins and minerals in their skins, which most people toss. Apple and pear cores with seeds are good for salads, with extra fiber and protein. I like grapes, which have a high glycemic index, but I eat them with seeds, which I chew well for their plentiful antioxidants and fiber. I eat fresh figs and dry ones of course with their skins. Refined carbohydrates, however, such as white-flour bakery products can be disastrous to your metabolism, making you feel starved and lethargic in cycles. I have learned to eat fresh fruits for dessert. It was hard at first in restaurants when everyone was ordering sweets, but now I don’t feel deprived, because I enjoy the fruit just as much, and it is good for me.
Sometimes, I don’t even get fruit, because I am still munching when everybody else has finished eating, even their dessert. I take little bites, putting my fork or spoon down with each one, until I have finished chewing the bite. I turn the food over and over in my mouth relishing the flavor and texture, adding saliva to it, until it just runs down my gullet. This is the beginning of good digestion. Eating slowly allows you to feel satiety by raising your blood sugar level after about twenty minutes and to stop eating more than your body needs.
While you are eating, do nothing but eat. Don’t watch television, read, listen to music, talk, and don’t (Oh, yuck!) smoke. Don’t eat unconsciously or too fast while thinking of pressing matters—you are likely to overeat. Don’t think of anything at meal times except your meal. Be aware and meditate on your food, rolling each morsel with the tip of your tongue where most of taste buds are, enjoying the flavor and aroma of each bite with your eyes closed. In Buddhist circles this activity is called mindfulness of what you are doing. Time moves slowly. The moment becomes important, because you not thinking of the past or what’s coming or what you are going to do.
If you are angry, sad, nervous, or tense better leave eating for later when you have calmed down; otherwise your food will turn to bile and upset your digestion.
10. Eat More Fiber
Next to regular exercise, fiber is your best source for losing fat and maintaining fitness. Fiber is good for dieting because it has no calories, but fills you up quickly, driving away hunger. Fiber has cellulose which cows can break down and use in their stomachs, but we can’t–which is good because it goes through your intestines quickly cleaning up as it goes. Fiber is plentiful in seeds, vegetables, and fruits in their natural state. Ah, but fiber has no taste; adding injury to insult, fiber will choke you if you take it down too fast—you have to chew it well in small amounts. Who has time for that? You have the time, if you want to be healthy.
We take out much or all of the fiber from our foods before eating them or have our food manufacturers remove it for us. We take three oranges and squeeze out juice throwing away the pulp which has more vitamin C than the juice. End result: three hundred calories without fiber, instead of the one hundred calories of the whole orange. The juice gurgles down the throat quickly and pleasantly, giving us a rush of sucrose. I remember in the fifties, when I migrated to America, we drank tiny glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ with breakfast. Now it’s packaged in large containers made from concentrate and we drink it like water. Sometimes commercial juice is mixed with sugar or corn syrup and sold more cheaply to fatten us up faster.
Today we peel apples and eat the flesh, tossing the core and seeds. Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer conned his friends to paint his fence for fun, taking in exchange the core of somebody’s apple as his reward. The ancient Greeks said: “Melon me olon, apion apan.” The apple, not whole, the pear complete. True, an apple has a thick skin, hard to chew, but full of fiber; but scrub it well and eat it whole, core, seeds and all. What’s your hurry, anyway? If you have no time to chew all of it, eat half and save 50 calories.
We peel potatoes and carrots, throwing away the skins which have more fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins than the inside. Why? Because we have been spoiled by our mothers, spouses, or restaurant chefs and we have become lazy, that’s why. Use a brush and scrub well organically grown potatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, jojoba, turnips, yams, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, and eat raw them raw in their skins with a little sea salt and lemon juice. You will not choke if you chew well in small bites. You will eventually learn to enjoy raw foods, and because your body will be getting more nutrients in each gram eaten, you will feel satisfied with less. You will be surprised how quickly you can slim yourself down with plenty of rough and raw vegetables.
But if your spouse cooks wonderful, rich foods, or if you eat out habitually in fine restaurants, prepare yourself for an early heart attack.
11. Eat Often, Fast Once
Whether you eat plants or animals, to maintain and grow muscle, your body will need food every three or four hours. You should not get too hungry between meals, because then you may overeat, as your body gets into a starvation mode. Moreover, when you are very hungry your metabolism slows down and your body starts burning muscle to conserve fat reserves for the famine it senses is imminent.
Eating frequent, small meals is a good strategy for building up muscle and bones; moreover, a small meal allows you to pick up exercise after a short rest for digestion. I eat three balanced meals and a snack, usually an apple or orange. I use an eight-inch plate and small spoons and forks, although I am nearly six feet tall and quite muscular. I don’t drink anything with meals, but I drink plenty of water one hour before my meals and one hour afterwards. Water thus taken helps metabolize the carbohydrates in my meals so they are burned properly instead of getting stored as fat in my body. Periodically, fasting without any food, only water, is also a powerful fat-loss technique. Do fasting only after getting your doctor’s advice. You can continue your exercise program during a fast, but take it easy. This is not the time to overexert yourself and drive your blood sugar too low. During fasting days, be calm and meditate as much as possible. You will benefit from fasting by getting control over hunger, learning not to panic when hunger pangs hit you, and allowing your GI system to rest for a day or longer.
To manage hunger during fasting, keep busy with easy tasks, diverting your thoughts from food to other interests, and use psyllium or some other nearly calorie-free fibrous supplement.
I fast every Monday, from Sunday night to Tuesday morning, or 36 hours, drinking hot water, whenever I feel hungry, with lemon juice and a tablespoon of psyllium. Psyllium is made from plantago husks, a pure water-soluble fiber that fills you up, lowering blood cholesterol to boot, and it has 2.5 calories in a tablespoon. It is slimy in hot water, but works like a broom through your intestines, cleaning out fecal matter, some of which remains and accumulates during the week, stuck on the intestinal walls, blocking the absorption of nutrients.
Without enough nutrients your body makes you feel weak and hungry all the time, but with better absorption of nutrients you revive quickly and need less food to keep your body well supplied with materials for rebuilding tissues.
I take a psyllium drink with cinnamon, also a cholesterol fighter, before going to bed every night also, because I eat an early dinner and don’t want to feel hungry when I go to bed. As the German saying goes, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper to take proper care of your body’s energy needs, which are normally highest in the morning and lowest at night.
Besides a psyllium potion, the best drink in the world for your body is pure spring water with all the natural minerals the earth gives to it for our good health. Forget fruit juices and vegetables juices. Juices pile up the calories quickly, which you cannot afford if you limit your calorie intake to 1500 or 1800 each day. An average glass of orange juice today contains the juice of two or three oranges, or 200-300 calories, without the fiber of oranges, which slows absorption of the fructose in them.
12. Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
Fructose is a sugar, not much better for your health than table sugar, sucrose. Honey is often praised by health enthusiasts, but pure honey is sugar with some nutrients from pollen, which the bees collect and process. Maple sugar is also natural, but it is much thinner oozing out of cuts in the maple trees than the product you buy. Milk has sugar, lactose. Then there is maltose. Corn syrup, found in many foods and soft drinks today is also a sugar. Molasses, brown or turbinado sugar are sucrose too with some nutrients. Starches, even complex ones, turn to sugar in your mouth with saliva and become glucose.
All carbohydrates produce glucose after digestion when they enter your bloodstream.
Glucose is what your brain burns to operate. The brain is the master organ of your body; all other organs live to serve the brain. Some people say the brain lives to serve the gonads, where the protoplasm and genes are stored. That’s not the issue: when blood sugar drops too low, your brain starts switching off, and you can go into shock—very dangerous. Eat a piece of candy quickly then, or get an intravenous injection of concentrated glucose with water.
Concentrated sugars, such as honey, are rare in nature and are an occasional treat for primitive people, doing no harm. Manufactured sugars are everywhere in our culture: manufacturers put them in drinks, sauces, sweets, breakfast cereals, and candies. Hawaiian children munch on sugar cane with no ill effects because it’s not concentrated sucrose. The human species, however, has not adapted to absorbing pure nectar like the hummingbird.
In humans, sugar is metabolized in a feedback loop, by stimulating the secretion of insulin, which helps burn the sugar for energy, followed by some hunger, which normally stimulates consumption of a little more sugar or starches. The blood sugar level oscillates gently up and down. The health problem with sugar is too much of it assimilated too fast into your body. Then the insulin level jumps up, causing too much combustion of the blood sugar, and sugar levels plummet. You go into shock, your brain desperate for glucose. You are starving and trembling. You grab any carbohydrates or sugars within reach, gorging yourself.
Now your body must rush more insulin to your circulation system, repeating this violent cycle. After a while your body cells learn to resist the rush of insulin to avoid burning up, a process called insulin resistance. Since excess blood sugar now does not enter your tissues for energy, it remains in your blood stream, causing Type II diabetes, common in overweight adults past the age of forty.
If you don’t want diabetes, and the host of illnesses it brings about, remember that not only sugar but all something–ose substances have similar molecular structures, raising your blood sugar to an unhealthy level when ingested rapidly or in large quantities. Moreover, studies show that sugar leaches calcium and magnesium from your bones for its metabolism–a nice little bonus for your older years. People kid themselves when they eat more expensive sugarless jams preserved with pectin and concentrated pear or grape juice instead of the good old sugary jams. The new jams are mostly sugar too. Fruits are healthful, but not if you eat a mess of grapes, apricots, peaches, figs, or other sweet fruits. Fructose is not much healthier than table sugar.
You don’t fool your body either by eating honey, molasses, or brown sugars, although you are supplying it with some important vitamins and minerals. Avoid sweet foods of any kind, unless you eat them with sizable quantities of fiber as in vegetables like celery, proteins, as in beans or meat, complex carbohydrates as in grains, and even fats as in almonds and walnuts. The mixture may sufficiently slow down the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream, depending on how sweet you make it.
If you must eat your sweet dessert undiluted, go at it slowly, one nibble at a time, drinking water with it, to ward off an insulin rush. My brother-in-law George likes chocolate, but he relishes half a tiny chocolate at a sitting, leaving the other half for another day. If you can control yourself like that, have your chocolate. I cannot, so I don’t eat any.
Sugar substitutes, like aspartame (Nutrasweet), have side effects worse than sugar, and may cause damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. Also, all sugars act as stimulants–part of their charm for their victims.
13. Stimulants and Other Poisons
Forget most drinks with stimulants if you want to be slender and healthy. Drinking black coffee or tea without milk loads you up with tannin, a poison, together with the poison of caffeine. All stimulants are poisons: that’s how they work to stimulate your system, including strychnine, used by doctors to revive patients who suffer a heart attack. Many sodas have more caffeine than coffee. Chocolate also has caffeine, including deadly sugar as its first ingredient. Try eating chocolate without sugar. When my daughter Elizabeth was little she loved chocolate, so once I played a dirty trick on her and gave her plain baking chocolate without sugar. She gulped it down greedily, but then looked at me with a deeply injured look and has never trusted me since.
Why avoid stimulants? They put toxins or poisons in your body when today we get enough poisons from the pollutants in our environment we can hardly handle. Using stimulants becomes a growing habit, like taking nicotine or cocaine, and you are eventually addicted. Stimulants can give you energy for some time, and even boost your mental acuity, temporarily, but they borrow that energy from future hours. Afterwards you go into a slump and you need an even bigger boost from your favorite stimulant. Often, when evening rolls around you are so loaded up with poisons, you are unable to sleep and get a good night’s rest; so next day, you need a stronger dose.
If you are on a diet, stimulants are bad, because they make you more tense and nervous, and that usually leads to overeating. Now to calm yourself down, you feel the need of an alcoholic drink, a depressant. That makes you sleepy, so you have another cigarette or cup of coffee. You get the point.
14. Avoid Condiments and Prepared Foods
You should also avoid most condiments sold commercially, such as catsup, which has sugar, soy sauce, loaded with salt that raises your blood pressure, mayonnaise, full of fat, and so forth. Tomato sauces for spaghetti usually contain much salt, sugar, and fats. I generally avoid prepared foods, and especially cooked restaurant meals, because usually I don’t even get a list of ingredients in them from the server or menu, while most packaged foods are required by law to list them.
15. Water, Water Everywhere
A highly advertised packaged item today is water, usually just plain filtered tap water, but with a fancy price tag. Many cities in America, such as New York, have better tap water than some of the pricey stuff bottlers put on supermarket shelves. Yes, you do need to drink plenty of water if you are dieting and exercising, but you are better off getting your own tap water filtered, if necessary, than buying the stuff from bottlers. Seven tenths of the earth’s surface is water, and so is your body with some salt in it, just like the sea. We are creatures of the sea and carry the sea inside us on land. Numerous biochemical processes in our bodies require water and we need to drink at least eight glasses of it each day between meals.
Don’t drink water or other fluids with meals, unless you are choking. Washing down your food is not a sound idea; food should be chewed well, eaten slowly, and thoroughly mixed with saliva to help with its digestion. As we grow older, we produce less saliva, and we should stimulate our salivary glands to be more active with the undiluted flavors, aromas, and varied textures of fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices.
Water is the true stuff of life, but don’t drink or eat anything three hours before bedding down. You’ll sleep more restfully. Drink water mornings and afternoons when you are active and need it most. Why drink water if you don’t feel thirsty? Busy with the tensions of your work schedule, you may be suppressing your thirst drive. Drink water to get away from your desk for a minute or two and relax. Drink water so you will not have sodas, beer, wine, coffee, tea, or other potions not as good for you as spring or filtered water. Drink water to avoid dehydration, dangerous especially for older people who tend to lose their sense of thirst. Dehydration can put you in shock and endanger your life quickly. After vigorous and sweaty exercise everyone needs to replenish fluids and certain minerals, including salts, but it’s not necessary to drink expensive sports drinks, if you have pure spring water with natural minerals.
I carry a sports bottle with six parts spring water and one part sugarless cranberry juice everywhere I go between meals. The cranberry juice has powerful antioxidants, keeps my urinary system free of infection, and aids in metabolism. The water helps flush out ketones and other byproducts of burning fat while exercising.
Drink your water then and be merry—never mind beer or coffee with their diuretic ingredients.
16. Manage with less Human Growth Hormone
Despite all your efforts and precautions, aging will take its toll on your muscles and bones once you are over thirty years old, a process called catabolism. A smaller supply from the endocrine glands of growth hormones, such as the human growth hormone (HGH), produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, and testosterone, cause muscle and bone loss in older people, even if these people exercise and eat right.
At the peak of growth in the teen years, the body produces 600-800 ng/ml of the HGH version stored in the liver, somatomedin-C, which steadily drops to less than 200 ng/ml as we get to be eighty years or older. For most adults the hormone is 250 -400 ng/ml. Some doctors recommend we take these growth hormones in small doses, because they have no side-effects and do promote the growth of fibroblast cells in muscle and osteoblasts in bones, called anabolism. Moreover, the hormones make older people more energetic, less depressed, and give them more lung capacity, higher mental acuity, better memory, and healing power. The Mayo Clinic gurus, however, think there is not enough evidence to support prescribing injections of HGH, which may cause liver damage. A good strategy is to build up your body enough when younger, ending up with enough muscle and bone mass for your later years, even after some losses–something like a retirement account. In addition, you can slow down the loss of muscle and bone tissue by continuing a vigorous exercise program and eating very nutritious foods that are low in calories for the rest of your years.
17. Free Radicals and Antioxidants
With vigorous exercise, good food, and plenty of oxygen coming in to energize the body, we pay a price by producing free radicals, molecules that damage cells in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules missing electrons, byproducts of normal metabolism, pollution, infections, smoking, radiation, and disease. Free radicals scavenge electrons from cell molecules, causing more free radicals in a chain reaction, eventually killing cells, and contributing to aging. You can be healthy by controlling free radicals. You accomplish this by taking in up to 5,000 mg of antioxidants from supplements or better still from food, such as berries, Concord grapes, peaches, cantaloupe, pomegranate, cabbage, kale, broccoli, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, etc., which contain vitamins E, C, B-6, B-12, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and folic acid. Green tea receives much praise from nutritionists for its antioxidant properties, but be sure to drink the decaffeinated variety. Green tea is not bitter—you can drink it with a little lemon juice, or some non-fat milk, and has the added benefit of having practically no calories.
C. You Become What You Think
That great teacher, the Buddha said, “We are what we think. All we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” We cannot ignore mental and emotional factors in the solution of our problem of fat loss with muscle and bone gain. We tend to become as we think, and our bodies gradually turn into the image we keep in mind for them. Think yourself slender and you’ll gradually become so, as your subconscious eventually absorbs the message, directs your life, and changes your habits to make you less fatty. After putting yourself in a trance, visualize yourself repeatedly to be muscular with sturdy bones, and despite your age, you will tend to become stronger than you would be otherwise.
Many people past forty are resigned to aging, with its attendant disabilities, ordering their lives to become older sooner, skipping opportunities for vigorous exercise and potent foods.
Never resign to fate; create your future. Every good or bad thing begins in your mind, your rational self, as well as your deeper feelings, emotions, and even something called spirit.
Feelings are delicate sentiments, while emotions are stronger, leading to action. To get fit, less fatty, with more muscle and bone mass, rouse your emotions to come to your aid. Thinking abstractly about what you need to do will not get the job done. The will is aroused and put to work by an emotion akin to assertiveness, aggressiveness, and cold anger. The action of the will is necessary to overcome bad habits, social pressures from friends and relatives, and an antagonistic environment from the food industry against your efforts to be fit. Strong emotions will lead you to act powerfully in reshaping your body and your life. Practice visualizations, after putting yourself in a relaxed state of mind. See yourself with flat tummy and bulging muscles now. Now you are running, sprinting, swimming swiftly, with ease and pleasure. Now you are dancing vigorously to your favorite tunes, holding your partner or in a solo performance, in front of a large admiring crowd.
Thus your mind will affect your body and your healthier body your mind. My dad enjoyed life very much and even more so after retirement. He would walk one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, rain or shine. While walking he repeated a mantra silently, such as “I’m getting younger. With every step, I’m getting younger and younger.” He traveled to Greece every summer to see old friends and relatives. They would say in amazement, “Elias, you are not getting older.” He lived to be 100 years and 17 days of age. Affirmations for youth may have helped, but also, if he learned that some food or habit was bad for his health, he quit it right away. He gave up smoking at 27 years of age, when he had a cough and a physician advised my dad to quit cigarettes. Later in life he stopped drinking coffee and tea to avoid caffeine, or the toxic chemicals in decaffeinated beverages.
So clean your system from toxins, free radicals, and other poisons. Let your hormones come into proper balance with natural eating and drinking. Push your muscles to firm up and become limber. Do aerobic exercises to pump rich blood to every cell in your system, in muscles, bones, joints, abdominal organs, limbs, and brain. Now you naturally become invigorated to a peak of performance, changing to a more efficient entity, with higher mental acuity and memory, able to do more work, doing it better.
Yes, all the time you are getting older, but you can stretch youth, reaching a mellow golden age. In many ways, you are getting better as the years go by, like fine wine lovingly preserved. Every year leaves you with lessons learned on how to live more effectively, with joy and greater contentment. Each of your birthdays is indeed a grand occasion to celebrate life.