Eat to Build Your Body

Most people these days eat for pleasure. I am of the opinion that you should eat for the purpose of making your body stronger and healthier. Unfortunately, many rely on fast food to provide their daily sustenance, and this can be a disaster. Fast food is designed to make you crave more of it, and it is easy to overeat with all the fat and sugar and salt they fill these things up with. Healthy eating begins with cooking for yourself and your family.

A healthy diet doesn’t have to be expensive. Grocery stores are usually close, unless you live in an inner city food desert or way out in the country. We are lucky in my area to have a wide selection of stores with reasonable prices and a good stock of food. When buying food you should think about what you need in your diet, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You should also consider the vitamins and minerals you will need to grow strong and healthy.

The most expensive nutrient will usually be the protein. Unless you are following a plant based diet for some reason, this means meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Perhaps the cheapest meat will be chicken. You can get boneless, skinless chicken breast around here for $1.99 a pound or less. This makes protein from this source about two cents a gram. I can get lean ground pork for $1.49 a pound. Milk has gone up recently to $2.59 a gallon, and eggs come in as the cheapest protein source at $1.59 for 18. Beef and fish tend to be more expensive, but if you watch the sales you can usually find ground chuck for $3.99 a pound. I tend to avoid fish recently because of the polluted state of the waters of the earth, but it is occasionally on my menu.

Carbohydrates will be the cheapest of the macronutrients. White rice can be had for under a dollar a pound, and a pound of rice goes a long way. White potatoes are available at $1.99 for five pounds, sometimes less. It helps to shop around. Sweet potatoes are about a dollar a pound, as is hard squash. Oatmeal is on the pricey side, but it only takes a little for breakfast. Fruits and vegetables are more expensive and don’t keep as long, but they have good vitamin and mineral content.

You will have to look around for deals on healthy fats like olive oil. In general you should avoid adding a lot of fat to your diet, though some fats like the omega-3 fatty acids are essential. I can get a liter of olive oil for $3.99 at the fruit and vegetable market, and ground flax seeds and walnuts are a good source of omega-3s from a plant source. Some margarines are made without hydrogenated oils, but you will have to read the ingredients. In general I use butter, but use it sparingly or not at all on things like vegetables.

The things to avoid on a diet designed to build strength and muscle are sugars, excessive fats, and fast-digesting carbohydrates like white bread. One combination that will certainly lead to excess body fat is that of sugar and fat, as found in cookies, cakes, donuts, and ice cream. Dessert is not your friend when you are trying to build healthy muscles, bones, and organs. This also rules out things like candy and chocolate bars. Do you want to be fit and healthy, or are you all about satisfying some food lust for sweet, greasy food? You should eat to live, not live to eat. For a graphic depiction of the effects of eating an unhealthy diet, watch any episode of 600 Pound Life.

It takes time, money, effort, and not a little skill to provide a healthy diet for yourself. You don’t need to be rich or a genius to figure this out. Start by reading up on foods that will promote health on the Internet. Get some ideas for interesting meals and make a list of the ingredients you will need to make these foods. Go to a grocery store and purchase what you need. Then plan ahead for your meal and start cooking. Food prep will take a couple hours out of your day, but you can plan ahead and make extra and keep it in containers in your refrigerator for those times when you want a quick, convenient meal. With a little work and planning you will have healthy foods that will benefit your body and not turn you into something resembling Jabba the Hutt.

Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

In this modern world there is no shortage of ways to sit around inactive. If you want to be healthy and maintain your muscles and bones, you will need to get some form of exercise every day. Exercise can be as simple and easy as walking or as complicated as a crossfit competition. The important thing for health is to get some form of activity that you can do every day.

If you have a dog, you know that you have to walk him every day, often several times. This is not only good for the dog, but it is good for you as well. I just got in from our second walk of the day, and the sun was shining and the air was fresh and cool. Don’t let the lack of a pet keep you from walking though as you can always put on your walking shoes and go out in the neighborhood on your own.

In these days of COVID-19 many gyms and pools are still closed. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to set up a simple home gym. A set of adjustable dumbbells might cost you $50 but it provides the means to get some good resistance training. A simple search of the web or YouTube will bring up many dumbbell exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine. If you are already fairly fit a cheap jump-rope can be used to get some good cardio into your routine. A weight bench and barbell can give you more opportunities for compound exercises and resistance training.

Many people think they don’t have the time to exercise, but there are always free moments of time during the day when you can get your daily activity into your schedule. Do you watch TV in the evening after dinner? Turn off the set and get out your dumbbells and do some reps and sets. Do you have to get up early for work? Set the alarm an hour ahead of your usual schedule and get your exercise while everyone else is asleep. All that’s really important is that you are not sitting around staring at a screen all day or otherwise being idle. Make exercise part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth or showering, and you will be well on your way to better health and fitness.

Becoming More Active

People spend a lot of time sitting these days. It may be at a desk at your job, or it may be in front of a computer or a TV. Sitting has been compared to smoking in that it may be just as bad for your health.

The human body was designed by nature to move and do work. Back in the time before civilization and among primitive tribes today the resting posture was and is a low squat. People kept on their feet and on the move to find food. If you want to become more active the first thing you need to do is get out of your chair and onto your feet.

If you are out of shape or overweight, the best thing you can do to improve your health is to start walking. Walking is low impact, it is something most people can do, and it gets your body moving. A set of hand weights can be used to get your upper body into motion or you can just swing your arms. In fair weather a walk in the park can be the highlight of the morning or afternoon. Walking requires no extraneous equipment and it doesn’t put much strain on your cardiovascular system.

Gardening is not only an enjoyable pastime, it can also provide high-quality food for your diet. Digging over a plot, breaking up the clods with a hoe or a rake, planting crops or flowers, weeding and harvesting all require a fair amount of physical labor. When the weather is good you will get fresh air and sunshine and you will improve the look of your yard.

A bicycle can be a good means not only of transportation but of exercise. A bike makes longer journeys under your own power take much less time and effort than walking. If you ride on the road you should be sure to wear safety equipment like a helmet and obey traffic regulations to avoid injury and accident. There are many types of bicycle, and the choice you make will depend on what type of riding you plan to do.

Winter provides some opportunities for physical activity. Here in the North we get a fair amount of snow each season, and snow has to be shoveled and brushed off vehicles. The temperature is cold, so you should dress warmly in layers. Also, throwing shovels of snow around takes some effort, so you will have to pace yourself, especially if you have any medical condition.

Perhaps the best investment a person who wants to become more active can make is in a set of adjustable dumbbells or a barbell and bench. Weightlifting stimulates muscle growth and improves both joint and bone health. There is no reason for the average person to attempt to lift heavy weights, but higher repetitions with lighter weights can build both strength and endurance. As we get older muscle tends to waste away. Using weights to stimulate muscle growth is helpful to maintain physical function.

There is an old saying that you either “use it or lose it.” If you sit all day staring at a screen you are not utilizing much of your body’s potential. Make it a habit to get up and move around once in a while if you must sit for extended periods. Get a hobby that requires physical work, or take up a sport that will require physical activity. You may wear out more shoes this way, but you should be using your body to accomplish tasks instead of mindlessly watching inconsequential garbage and allowing your muscles to waste away.

Obesity, the Cause and Cure

In America today, fully two-thirds of the population is either overweight or obese. There are many factors that have worked together to cause this epidemic, but the root cause is simple enough to understand. We consume more food energy in our meals than we expend as heat and work.

While there are still many people without adequate food in this country, the vast majority of people have constant access to high-calorie, appetizing nourishment. A lot of people have given up on the notion of preparing their own meals and instead consume fast food and restaurant fare that has been designed to make people want more and more.

While the basic cause of obesity is simple enough to understand, the cure for this condition is problematic. In recent years doctors have been inclined to do bariatric surgery on obese persons that drastically reduces the size of the stomach and impedes the absorption of food. Many times the results obtained from these methods are temporary, with patients gaining back any weight they had lost.

Our modern world is filled with conveniences and labor-saving devices. Why walk or bike to the grocery store down the road when you can drive there instead? People have become inactive, not only in their employment, but also in their personal lives. We sit and watch movies in the evening instead of taking a walk around the block. When we do exercise, it is at a gym, for an hour, while listening to music or watching TV.

If you have a weight problem and want to change your body and your life, common wisdom holds that you should eat less and exercise more. What isn’t mentioned is that this method is often doomed to failure because we will inevitably be faced with the challenge of just what to eat and what to do to become more active. The problem many people face with food is that they rely on corporations, whose only motive is profit, to provide them with energy-dense tasty morsels instead of taking the time and initiative to prepare their own meals. The problem they face with activity is similar, in that they rely on gyms and personal trainers to tell them what to do instead of finding motivation in their own minds to do some physical work.

One method which may help you get a handle on your diet and physical activity is to keep a log of food and exercise. A cheap spiral notebook, a pen, and access to the Internet to look up the calories in food are all that is necessary to keep a meaningful journal. Of course, this would only be an approximation to your actual intake and output, but it will give you a good idea of just what you eat and do throughout the day.

It is best to plan meals in advance. Purchase the ingredients at a grocery store and prepare the food in your own kitchen. Instead of eating a greasy fast food hamburger and fries make your own with lean ground beef or turkey. Make your own oven fries with a very small amount of oil and some seasonings. Eat a lot of vegetables and some fruit. Get whole grains in your diet and pick up some extra protein by eating beans, peas and lentils.

Exercise is important, and in these times of COVID-19 we don’t all have access to a gym. Get some simple exercise equipment for your home. Start with a set of adjustable dumbbells. Try resistance bands. You don’t have to drop thousands on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, but you can get a small medicine ball, ankle weights, or a pedometer to keep track of the steps you take. Walk in place or take a walk outside if the weather is nice. Load an exercise video from some streaming service and follow along. Get a bicycle and ride it if you are able. Do calisthenics. There are many ways to add activity to your life without having to pay a monthly fee for a gym you might seldom use.

Obesity is not necessarily as simple as calories in minus calories out. There are hormones like insulin at play in the human body that determine whether we gain or lose weight. We can change our hormonal state for the better by getting enough sleep, keeping away from alcohol and other drugs, managing stress, and eating healthy foods. In the long run it is best to try and control your weight through your own efforts. Stay aware of what you eat and what you do to get into better shape every day. Even if you have a doctor help you with your weight problem, it will still be up to you to implement the advice given. Make time to take care of yourself, and your body will reward you with a long, healthy, happy life.