Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fitness for lazy people

I'm getting more fit. I'm a little chunky and easily winded, and I like eating, so if something works for me, I think it could work for you.

I estimate I used to take in 50 calories more per day than I should have. I only need to eat a little better than I had been to be in equilibrium; for example, giving up juice and soda as everyday things takes care of that, and then some. As long as I basically eat well every day, I don't have to worry. I eat until I'm full. Life is short. If I can't eat German chocolate cake without questioning my worth as a person, what's the point?

One of my favorite authors, Daniel Pinkwater, eats ratatouille at the start of each meal. He gets a low-calorie nutrient hit and can then eat whatever else he wants, without eating too much of it. Now, I eat a whole lot of ratatouille, fresh fruit, and vegetables. I feel full, so this made it easy for me to give up eating frozen pizza every day for lunch.

I hate being sticky, so just digging into an apple or an orange drives me nuts. Also, I mostly eat in the lab, so don't have a knife and cutting board handy when I want to bust out a kiwi. Bananas are the only fruit I will just pick up and eat without thinking about it, because they aren't sticky and don't need to be cut up.

I shop at Trader Joe's every week, because it helps me feel more cheerful about eating healthy food. When I get home, I do all of my food prep for the week, cooking a hot entree, roasting tofu for sandwiches, and chopping fresh raw fruit and vegetables. It's a lot easier for me to be really intentionally healthy once per week, than for me to have to worry about preparing lots of healthy food throughout the week. The big idea here is to make it easier to grab a pile of healthy food than it is to rip open a package of frozen pizza.

My big problem with going to the gym was actually getting there. It used to be that if I didn't pack a proper gym bag with proper gym clothes and a towel and soap, I wouldn't go to the gym. That worked as a proper excuse to not go to the gym, I just needed to not have a gym bag ready. I can't stand my own sweat, so if I couldn't go home to get a shower shortly after exercising, I wouldn't go to the gym. (Showers at the gym are unacceptable. I got a fungus there, and I'm a bit sheepish when naked.)

Now, I go to the gym as improperly as I can. I go in my regular clothes. I watch TV on my iPod while on the elliptical trainer. I have no idea what I'm doing in the weight room. This is great, because as soon as I get bored with my work at the end of the day, I can wind up at the gym before my better inhibitions can stop me, and, while I'm there, I can be a stupid putz and still be doing more good than harm. Then, I go home and take a shower.

I think the only other thing is motivation. I'm terrible at thinking in the long term. Goals like losing weight and having six pack abs are ineffective for me. Instead of focusing on losing weight, I think about how good I feel when I have had plenty of vegetables and fruit: I feel more alive! I don't mind going to the gym, because I could either watch TV on the couch, or on the elliptical trainer. I like lifting weights and stretching, it's very meditative. I burn off a lot of stress. I feel happier.

Handy, stupid recipes:
Butternut squash:
Get a container of chopped butternut squash from Trader Joes, divide it into smaller portions, season to taste (I just use black pepper, but sage and thyme might work for you), and squirt some olive oil on there, too. When you want to eat some, nuke it for 3 minutes.

Roasted Tofu:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice a block of tofu into about 8-12 slices. Pat them dry, well, with towels, you'll go through about 2-4 towels in this process. Then, coat the tofu on both sides with some soy sauce and sesame oil, and put it in a casserole dish, laid out flat. Cook it for ten minutes, flip the tofu, and then cook it for another ten minutes. I like to use this instead of lunchmeat. I don't know if it's much healthier, I just don't eat meat.


  1. I forget to eat once or twice a week. That works pretty well for me. (-:

    I'm horrible at going to the gym, though. I'm embarrassed about being out of shape, which means that I don't like working out when other people are around. So the only way I can make it to the gym is if I think of it late enough at night so that everyone else is gone, but early enough that I'm not getting ready for bed.

  2. Where exactly is the Trader Joe's near you? It's not a bad place to shop as long as you know what the heck you're doing.

    Another tip: switch up regular white rice with brown rice. Also city living encourages walking, which helps.

  3. Kumother, the Trader Joe's I go to is the one in Columbia, MD. I do whole grains across-the-board, too.

  4. I feel almost the opposite; I have to keep the long-term goals (e.g. not dying of a heart attack or stroke before age 60 and having an impressive set of muscles to make Sara uncomfortable whenever my shirt is off.) In the short-term, exercise doesn't really help me feel better that day unless it's something like a pickup game of soccer, and those are sadly few and far between in my neck of the woods.

    I love to eat healthy-- so much so that when I have healthy food in my fridge I usually eat it all within a week of buying it! I think the only good solution to this is shopping so that I have to go back to Aldi's more (I now try to make it so I only go once a month in order to save time) or else making a stop at Lexington Market as part of my weekly routine coming back from school or something.

    But as ashamed as I feel about being too white, I do love Trader Joe's.

  5. while i do have somewhat of a reputation for being the most unhealthy person in the world, i've read that skipping meals every now and again is good for your blood pressure and resting blood glucose...also, 2-3 glasses of scotch a day is good for your heart/mental well-being.

  6. Calorie reduction is proven to be the best means of heart healthiness. That means basically eating until you are 3/4 of the way full. And just like fasting, there is less sugar and cholesterol in your blood so your heart has an easier time pumping (not sure why this is, but I can even feel lighter all over my body when I haven't eaten in awhile).

    I kind of am a mixture of both short- and long-term goals. I know I want to get my black belt in Taekwondo and I am determined to do so, however every black belt testing I go to I despair of ever getting it. So basically I take the short term goals (like, finishing each class without dying!) and take the attitude "we'll see what happens!" This has worked well for me as the adding up of small goals has enabled me to really get alot better at taekwondo, just because my goals are to go to class.