1.2 Lifestyle

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.

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