How to Get and Stay In Shape
A Simple, Low-Cost Guide that Works
I'm going to show you the easiest, fastest, cheapest, healthiest, and most effective way to quickly lose weight and keep it off. If you change your lifestyle and adopt this program as your new lifestyle, you will lose weight, get in shape, and you will also find that staying in shape is easy. Not only that but you will likely be the healthiest you have been in a long time, maybe ever.
First, Get Educated
You must get truly educated about what is healthy and what is not. There are many misconceptions (that even doctors hold) about what is healthy and what is not that are not supported by medical science. There are even doctors that recommend very unhealthy diets that are sadly keeping thousands, even millions of people from enjoying a trim and healthy body.
What most people eat is based more on their habits and culture, than on what studies show as healthy and nutritional. Now many cultures around the world already eat diets that are healthy and so the science backs their diet. These cultures have lower rates of cancers and heart disease than Western cultures. If it's news to you, most fair and balanced medical studies do not show Western diets as very healthy.
It's easy to see then that genetics does not play as much of a role in your health as you might think if you consider that people with the same genetic makeup can have vastly different levels of health depending on their lifestyle and eating habits. Doctors have already studied the health of people who live in other countries with different, healthier diets, and what happens when these people migrate to a new land (America) and adopt an unhealthier diet.* (What happens is their health goes downhill and that's why there are tons of statistics about how overweight and unhealthy Americans as a whole have gotten.)
It is time to open your mind a bit and study some scientific facts.
The first thing to learn is that animal products and many processed foods (including but not limited to junk foods) are not really that healthy or necessary for your health.
Now right away most people are turned off because most people think you need lots of meat protein, dairy protein, and some people even think you really need eggs because of their high Vitamin A content. It's true you need Vitamin A, but you get a lot of it from yams, sweet potatoes, or carrots, without also getting the big cholesterol hit. You also get a healthy fiber from plant foods that you don't get from eggs or animal products.
Not only do you not need any animal protein to live (and to thrive) but animal products contribute to the leading causes of death and disease for most Westerners.
Another thing you will need to understand is that oil is not a health food, and can be just as damaging to your health and waistline as a Big Mac.
Because of the many cultural misconceptions about dairy and meat, it is common to doubt the veracity of the "claims" I've mentioned, so I think it's best to point you to some resources where you can learn more.
There is an excellent video from CNN at this link that's only 45 minutes long:
Dr. Sanjay Gupta Investigates How President Clinton is Reversing His Heart Disease
More Great Resources
The first website I will point to you is completely free and loaded with quality information explained in laymen's terms:
Dr. McDougall's website, http://www.drmcdougall.com
I really love this website because it is how I was first introduced to nutritional facts that directly impacted my life. The lay-out and lack of ads make navigation of it easy.
You do not have to pay to join his forum and you can ask any questions directly to the nutritionist. You can meet regular people who have dramatically changed their health for the better and they have the blood work and pictures to prove it. However I suggest you spend the most time at first reading his articles, free materials, and free program so you will have enough knowledge to understand the basics prior to spending time in his forum. So spend some time and get thoroughly acquainted with this website. I recommend all of his books also. You can find them at the library for free or buy them used online.
The second reference material is a very popular and highly regarded book about the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted. The book is called:
The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD (and Thomas M. Campbell II)
This is a life-changing book and you will think about nutrition and cancer completely differently after reading this book.
Now, once you have finished reading these books and websites, (and I mean read, not just a cursory glance or reading a review), your opinion on nutritional health will likely differ from what it once was (it will be grounded in actual fact, for one).
Here are some additional resources that I recommend:
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.
In this book Dr. Esselstyn explains his study where he was able to reverse heart disease in his patients with a low fat, vegan diet, and he has the angiograms and statistics to prove it.
A Race for Life by Ruth Heidrich, PhD
Ruth Heidrich was diagnosed with breast cancer at 48. At 72 she was still running Ironmans. She credits Dr. McDougall and a raw vegan diet for giving her long survival.
Senior Fitness by Ruth Heidrich, PhD
Ruth Heidrich explains how to be healthy in your older years and prevent and treat diseases with a healthy vegan diet.
The books by Neal Barnard, M.D.
Dr. Barnard did the studies that proved Type 2 diabetes could be reversed with a vegan diet. He explains it in his book, and he has many other helpful books about diet and health.
I know this might seem like a lot of work. However I think most people will find these books to be eye-opening and interesting reads. Not only that, spending some time reading truth about nutrition that is backed by real medical science will enable you to see through marketing, myths, and lies told by those with other interests.
Once you have gone through Dr. McDougall's website you will have all the information you need to get started, and it's all there for free. You do not even have to invest anything into your health education.
I added the other books as a bonus and extra scientific support for what is going to be your new, more informed, and healthier viewpoint.
*For good information about the genetic/lifestyle discussion I suggest you read The Dr. McDougall Program and The McDougall Plan for Maximum Weight Loss which talk about his experiences working as a doctor in Hawaii and what he discovered about the Japanese people he cared for there.
A Simple Guide
Now, if you haven't already, adopt the whole plant food low-oil diet and stop eating animal products and their derivatives. Limit and eliminate oils. You are going to quickly lose weight because (as explained by Dr. McDougall very well) the type of food you are eating can't make you fat. Try to get fat eating broccoli and rice or plain potatoes, mixed vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains all the time and you will find it's hard work. If you've read Dr. McDougall's website you will understand the slight danger of too much avocado, coconut, oil, or nuts to your weight loss program because they have a higher fat content than most plant foods do. Since these are whole plant food healthy fats, you'll know you can eat a little bit to get some additional quality fats you need (found in walnuts and brazil nuts, for example) but you won't want to make an entire meal out of them alone.
You will also understand why it's important to supplement your vitamin B-12. Briefly, this is a vitamin that is actually a bacteria that grows on rotting flesh (ick), and is found in algae and other unmentionables. Humans need a very small amount that lasts a long time in the body. Since you will no longer be eating the largest source of vitamin B-12 (meat), it's wise to supplement this one vitamin just to cover your bases. If we had "clean" spring water and regularly ate our veggies straight from the garden, it's likely no vegan would need to supplement their vitamin B-12 since the vitamin would be in the spring water from the algae and the minute amount of dirt consumed would also contain vitamin B-12. But our water sources are rightly very sanitized and it's necessary to clean our fruits and veggies to get the pesticides off, so it's best not to mess around and just supplement with a vitamin B-12 pill or add a multi-vitamin to your regimen.
You will find eating this new, vegan way enjoyable once you start practicing replacing unhealthier meals with tasty alternatives. There are a lot of free resources online at Dr. McDougall's forum, and it is easy to find healthy no-fat plant food meals and recipes by searching online. It takes no longer to prepare these meals than to prepare standard American diet type meals. With practice you will learn short cuts and can make meal preparation very fast if you want to.
Eating a low fat whole plant food vegan diet is easy and very healthy for your blood. Your cholesterol is going to shoot down and having done your prescribed reading, you will understand why. Your risk for having a heart attack or getting diabetes is going to go way down, and your chance of getting cancer will also be lowered.
Enjoying this new health makes most people very happy to follow this diet. One important key is that they have done the reading and research and understand why they are so much healthier. So if you haven't already, go back to my references above and start reading!
Running is the Best Exercise
I recommend developing a daily running program over joining the gym. For one thing, running works your cardiovascular system and does it much more cheaply than paying each month at the gym. Running exercises your largest muscles and forces you to breath hard and sweat. With the money you'll save by not joining a gym you can afford to take additional classes that work your other muscles, like dance classes or pay for swim passes. Joining the gym is great if you can afford it, but beware of only working a small set of specific muscles and neglecting the cardiovascular element. It's really good for your body to have oxygen-rich blood circulated regularly, to work your muscles, and to get sweating.
While you will quickly lose weight on your healthy vegan diet just by following it, you will find running adds momentum to the weight loss and also tones the body.
You may need to buy running shoes and special running socks that you can get from a running store. It's a one time investment that you will thank yourself later when you don't get blisters and you run comfortably.
Start slowly so your body has time to adjust to the change. How fast or slow you go will depend on how much weight you have to lose and how quickly your body adjusts to the exercise. Your body will have to build new blood vessels and capillaries to support your daily running habit. At a cardiovascular level, it is common that new runners find their endurance level increases quickly but remember it takes longer for your body to strengthen cartilage and bones. What this means is that you may feel you can go for longer but at first you should develop your mileage or time out running at a slower pace. I recommend following the philosophy of the Chi-Running folks, which means learning to listen to your body, learning proper form, and increasing running time and distance at a slow, personal pace. I think it's better to do that and listen to your own body than to follow any standard time schedule. You will also soon find that what you eat really does have an impact on your running success. This is why it's important to cut out the oil and the animal products. You will see how eating fat like cheese or oil causes your blood to become sluggish and make your runs harder work. By running with "clean" blood, you also reduce your chances of having a heart attack (in general and also when you run).
Take it slow and give your body time to get rid of excess weight and build the support you need.
I like to run on the pavement rather than the cement, since pavement is softer. It's better for your knees, hips, and backs. Since most running injuries are caused by doing too much too soon, it's really important to run safely, as taught by Chi-Running. I recommend reading Chi-Running so that you can make sure your running form is good and so you'll know how to prevent injuries.
You will find as you lose weight and get healthier that running is a regular and enjoyable, free part of your day. You don't have to be fast at it to get the benefit, and only 30-40 minutes every day does a lot for your health. You can run down pretty streets near your home or a nice park, or along the beach. You can change your route if you get bored. The only investment you'll need to make initially is comfortable running shoes, possibly running socks (which wick moisture away better than regular socks and thus prevent blisters), and comfortable clothing.
I recommend starting your day with a run. For one thing, the streets are more empty early in the morning so it's a bit safer. It's also a bit cooler so you can work up a sweat and feel ok. You'll also have an empty stomach which is important for avoiding cramps and digestion-induced nausea. You also have the added psychological benefit of getting your exercise out of the way! Make it a regular program, like brushing your teeth. Most people can wake up a bit earlier and fit in 1/2 an hour or 40 minutes to take a run around their neighborhood to enjoy the early sunrise. You compensate for getting up earlier by taking a cat nap or by going to bed a little earlier, when you feel tired. You'll soon notice the days you run you'll feel better, healthier and your sleep often improves.
When you start out you'll have to take rests the day after you run so your body can heal up. As your body adapts you'll be able to go out every morning and you'll be in great shape!
I want to emphasize that it's important to be following a low fat vegan diet, as described by Dr. McDougall and the other doctors whose books I've recommended. Having quality fuel means having quality blood. It can be dangerous to start a running program if you don't also change to a healthier diet because the stress of exercise can be too much for a cardiovascular system that's clogged up from years of poor eating habits. The way to reverse the damage and to run safely is to take it slow and to adopt a healthier vegan whole plant food diet.
There's no need to go for really long runs if you don't want to. Just because many runners fall in love with the sport and run marathons or half-marathons regularly doesn't mean you have to. Making a 1 or 2 mile run a regular, daily or near-daily routine gives you all the benefits your body needs while lessening the chances that you'll have a running injury. You'll feel proud of yourself when your clothes fit well and you have the endurance to go out for a 2 mile run easily. Most people can fit 30-40 minutes into their busy schedule for something that adds years and quality to their life.
In addition to running I recommend dancing, swimming, and tennis to work your arms and upper body and to have fun. These sports can also be low-cost or free. Running can definitely be the cheapest, the easiest to start, and the sport with the fastest and most benefit. I recommend a running program as the basis for getting and staying in shape because of the benefits it has on your cardiovascular system and the benefits of moving all that oxygen through your body on a regular basis.
Now, if you're dead set against running, for whatever reason, then start a walking program. By eating the healthier low-fat vegan diet you'll lose weight and walking will help you shed pounds also. But I recommend running over walking because it takes less time to burn calories running than it does walking. Running makes the weight go off faster, works the muscles nicely, and gives you all the benefits of rigorous exercise very cheaply compared to joining a gym and working only specific muscle groups. And because most people can start running around their neighborhood, a running program can save you time along with money, since you won't have to get to the gym to start, you just have to go outside.
After you have lost the weight and find yourself to be a regular runner, then I'd recommend seeing a personal trainer or joining a gym if getting even more toned is your goal. But keep in mind that on my regular running route I often see a guy who outpaces me and he carries a heavy weight with him. He goes all the way down the street holding the weight in one arm and then all the way back with the weight in the other arm. He looks pretty in shape and runs right past me. I think he's found a way to stay in shape without having to join a gym. Over the course of a year the amount saved by not belonging to a gym really adds up.
A Lifetime of Health
There you have it. Now you know the easy, cheap, and quick way to lose weight and keep your insides healthy. You also won't have to fear getting a heart attack and can sleep at night knowing you're doing something pro-active to reduce your chances of getting many life-style related diseases.
Once you are in the pattern and have made eating healthy and running a habit, you'll see it's the easiest and cheapest way to get and stay in shape.
More by this Author
I have schizophrenia. Here's my article about what it's like to have schizophrenia.
Explore the connections between diet and acne, and learn what really works to combat the pimples. End acne from the inside-out.
I thought preventing cavities would be easier with Invisalign than with braces, since the Invisalign trays can be removed for teeth cleaning. It turns out, however, that it's not quite so simple.