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Monthly THINKERING: Getting Healthy-errr April 1, 2010

Posted by huymix in Food, Monthly Thinkerings.
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Let’s get physical, physical, I wanna get physical… Aside from my secret love of Olivia Newton John’s classic, I did want to talk about getting healthy. One of the classic problems in North America is this idea of massive obesity and how it’s an epidemic yet there is also an obsession (that you don’t find as much of in the rest of the world, certainly not in Asia) with diet and exercise.

This is not really going to be a review but a set of thoughts around the topic of getting healthy.

Health and Weight

One of the main issues I have with the way health is addressed in North America (I’ll just start saying Canada but I do mean North America) is the equivalence of personal health and weight. First of all, a person is healthy along a spectrum of health, it is not binary. Also, a person’s weight is healthy across a spectrum as well. Neither is binary and where someone exists in the spectrum of either health or weight does not necessarily equate to their position on the other. One area of confusion is the fact that there is a concession on a large scale (nationally or provincially) to use the BMI indicator which does equate health and weight. While it is understandable at a national level that a more practical (even if much more rough and less accurate) measure such as BMI would be acceptable, it’s use has lent credibility to the notion that it will work for an individual person. If you really want to get healthy, stop thinking about the weight it’s not the same thing.

More than some motivation is required

A major hole in any program, be it Atkins, Zone or P90X, is the issue of motivation. To go from a sedentary life to one that is much more active (and would probably need to change food attitudes) requires major motivation. The motivation does not actually have to last long, you need motivation to change attitudes towards food and activity which requires a higher intensity of motivation. This is often the hardest part to get over. The idea that you have to change what you define as normal in both food and activity. Once a new “normal” is set, you can cruise, it’s getting to that new “normal” that is the big problem.


Alright, so by now you might be guessing that I do not advocate any special diet or exercise plan. In fact, I hardly want to say go exercise. What I do advocate is stepping back and looking at the way your life is structured and figuring out how you can turn things you know are good for you (and maybe feel guilty about not doing) into regular parts of your life.

An example

Let’s use myself as an example, I am a big guy (about 90 kilos or 200 lbs and 5’10”) and would be classified as overweight by BMI standards. I don’t care because I am pretty healthy despite what BMI says.  I used to weigh in at 230 lbs back in first year university so things were worse. By no means did I ever consider myself crazy obese or anything (and I don’t really care about that label anyhow) but I wasn’t the fittest fiddle either because I knew I lived a very sedentary life. What happened to change all of that? A few things changed, #1 I got back to Judo. Now I posted about Judo before but I have a childhood link to judo and a club that is great. I never view judo as a means for exercise, and I go very regularly. #2 I decided that vegetables and fruits would become the dominant food group in my regular life. This was much harder than just going to judo as I do love meat but I eat as close to my 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. I had to convince myself that this is the normal food that I will eat and after a while it became normal and expected.

Final Thinkering

In order for you or someone you know get healthy in a significant way, they have to be fully convinced that the new healthier way is the new normal way. Otherwise, they will just slip back into the old sedentary way. Address the mind first and the body will follow.

Note: I actually try to meet the food pyramid (it’s tough but it’s a good guide).