In this book you are asked to adopt a specific lifestyle for the purpose of losing weight and keeping it off. What is meant by “lifestyle?”
In the broadest meaning of the word, “lifestyle” means how you choose to conduct your life. It includes the kind of home you live in, the friends you have and the activities you share with them, what you do for entertainment, the work you do, the hobbies you engage in, the food and drink you ingest and the way you prepare and serve it, the level of mental activity you find pleasurable, and much more.
In this book “lifestyle” is used in a narrower sense. Since our concern is primarily weight, the focus is on what you choose to eat and drink; how frequent your meals are; the level and kinds of physical activity you engage in; the value you place in your appearance; and your attitudes toward your health, food and exercise.
To concretize this, here are the lifestyles of two people.
Ted is 30 years old. He’s 5’8″ and weighs 200 lb. This means that he is just above the line separating overweight people from those who are obese. His favorite food is pizza, which he has for dinner three nights a week. He never eats breakfast so by lunch time he is ready for an overstuffed deli sandwich or a Big Mac. Most of the things that Ted likes to do, such as programming computers, helping to organize science fiction conventions, reading, watching TV, surfing and researching on the Internet, don’t involve exercise. This is fine by Ted, since he has never liked exercise.
Suzanne is also 30 years old. She’s 5’4″ and weighs 130 lb. She has a conscious goal to, as she puts it, “eat healthy.” She starts the day off with a breakfast of cereal, skim milk, fruit and tea. She eats a lot of salads. Her dinner is more likely to be fish than meat. Some of her meals are vegetarian. Her diet helps maintain her trim figure but exercise is important too.
Suzanne is very active. She stays in shape by exercising. She goes to the gym three times a week to do aerobics and weight training. Her social leisure activities often involve physical activity, including hiking, bicycling and tennis. Suzanne enjoys all these activities.
Ted and Suzanne have very different lifestyles. The reason for this is that they have different values. The things that are most important to Ted are different to the things that are most important to Suzanne.
For Ted, the kind of food he eats is important. The ways he likes to spend his time don’t involve physical exertion. Exercising would be time lost from what he loves doing.
Suzanne’s values are different to Ted’s. She is health conscious. Her appearance is important to her. She would love to be able to eat pizza for dinner and ice cream for dessert, but these are lesser values. She’s happy to forgo them to achieve her main values.
Another huge value for Suzanne is being fit. She loves that her body can take her wherever she wants to go, that she does not have to curtail activities due to physical limitations.
So lifestyle is a choice, based on what you think is most important. The corollary to this is that lifestyle can be changed if your values change.
Consider Ted. He has an enquiring mind. He reads articles on health and he knows that his lifestyle is unhealthy. He tracks his weight and it has been creeping up for years. He knows he will be heavier by the time he is middle-aged. He takes note whenever an acquaintance in the science fiction community dies of a heart attack. It is usually a man in his forties or fifties who is obese. And there’s romance. Ted knows that there are some women whom he finds attractive who would not date him because of his appearance.
So Ted knows that he should change his lifestyle, but he doesn’t want to give up his values. He decides to make a few changes for the sake of his health and appearance.
Ted doesn’t particularly like fish but he reads that omega-3 fat in salmon and other fish protects the heart. After experimenting he finds he can tolerate salmon. He has salmon for dinner once a week. He changes his routine so that he walks a mile two or three times a week. If he enters a building and has to get to the first or second floor he takes the stairs. He decides that he will exercise portion control to keep his weight just below the obese range.
Thus, Ted has made choices and has changed his lifestyle. The changed lifestyle will lead to a change in his body. He will lose some weight and become healthier.