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The BEST weight-loss trick. April 11, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Everyone who’s tried to lose weight and keep it off (or remain a healthy weight and keep the pounds from piling on) knows that simply adjusting your diet isn’t enough. Of course it will help. But to sustainably take and/or keep the weight off, you have to exercise.

The options seem obvious: You can go to a gym (if you can afford gym membership or your employer either has a corporate gym or provides free memberships to local gyms as employee perks). You can work out on your stationary bike or treadmill or use weights, dance videos, and etc. at home. You can bike, swim, run, or walk. Ideally, you’ll work several of these into your daily routine.

Of these, the most easily accessible is, obviously, walking. Most of us are able-bodied enough to walk, and you don’t need special equipment or a special location to walk in.

I’m sure you’ve heard many times that we should all aim for at least 10,000 steps a day for optimal health. Unless you wear a pedometer, those 10,000 steps are probably pretty much of an abstraction. Maybe the folks who devised that number didn’t want to intimidate people by converting those steps into their equivalent distance, which is five miles.

Five miles a day can seem overpowering. Where will you find the time and stamina? It’s easy, once you break it back down into those steps. But you also have to break down the habits of a lifetime. What you need to do is counterintuitive, going against not just your instincts but your societal training.

Efficiency is the hallmark of our culture. Saving effort, saving steps: It just makes sense. Through most of human history, food was scarce and survival depended on our conserving calories, being as efficient as possible. We moved only when necessary and made sure that all our movements carried the maximum payoff. Unfortunately, today, moving as little as possible will make us fat and kill us. What can we do?

I say again, it’s easy. Just think about what you’d typically do, then do the opposite. Let’s say you’re setting the table. You bring a stack of plates, forks, knives, napkins, etc., and then distribute them at each place around the table. What if you brought and placed each bowl, plate, fork, knife, spoon, napkin, etc. separately? What if, instead of gathering twigs on your tree-lined property to put in your firepit, you picked up each twig by itself and trotted it over to the firepit? What if you brought each piece of dirty clothing to your laundry room in a separate trip instead of collecting it and making one trip?

This sounds crazy, right? But it’s easy, once you start thinking that every extra step is a good step. And the way to do that is with a pedometer. Pedometers are cheap, and they record every single step. Seeing each step is incredibly motivating as you head toward that 10,000-a-day total. I stick mine on my bathrobe belt every morning, transfer it to my skirt’s waistline when I get dressed, and check it throughout the day. If I need more steps to get to 10,000, I just add the time to my treadmill walk. But I often get to 10,000 without even turning to the treadmill, especially if it’s a shopping day; the other day, I topped 15,500.

Here at Hawk’s Haven, our friend Ben and I have three long-haired cats and a German shepherd. These four on the floor translate to lots of fur on the floor. Rather than reaching for the vacuum cleaner, I pick each tuft up and carry it to the farthest wastebasket (I figure all the bending isn’t hurting the exercise component of this particular chore, either). Rather than gathering up everything I need for a given task in one convenient swoop, I make it as inconvenient as possible, necessitating many separate trips to assemble all the ingredients or materials. With a large, heavily planted yard like ours, it’s easy to turn yardwork into a real workout.

There are plenty of other ways I add to my daily step total. I’ll add a few more circuits around the grocery or farmers’ market, enjoying the beautiful fruits, veggies and flowers before heading up and down the natural-foods and international aisles. It’s not going to kill me to visit the produce aisle several times, after all. And who knows, maybe I missed something! Another way to maximize grocery-store walking is to bring your list and, instead of getting everything you need from an aisle or department, get one thing, let’s say lettuce, then one from a distant aisle (maybe toilet paper), then back for the carrots, off again for some paper towels, and so on. You can obviously do this in any store.

Speaking of stores, I try to make a point of parking once, then walking to each store in that area that I need to go in, then walking back to the car to deposit my purchases before heading off to the next store. This can create a lot of round trips! Then I’ll drive to the next cluster of stores and repeat the process. If I’m out running errands that don’t involve shopping, I can pick a store or two I know I’d enjoy browsing in and just walk around for a while.

Another way I often add extra steps is by walking while waiting. I’ll do a kitchen circuit while waiting for the tea water to boil and again while waiting for the tea to finish steeping. Walking around (or walking in place if you’re on a land line) while on hold turns an everyday irritant into an opportunity to ratchet up your step total. 

You can see why I think a pedometer is vital to success, at least until you can retrain your brain to automatically think in terms of inconvenience and inefficiency. It lets you see for yourself that, despite all appearances to the contrary, you really are getting somewhere. And you’re getting there while doing things you’d have to do anyway, the best of all possible worlds.

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Boldly going nowhere.” I invite you to put on your pedometer and join me. You’ll soon find that, though you may appear to be going nowhere, those extra pounds are definitely going somewhere—somewhere far from you. And they won’t be back anytime soon! 

              ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

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