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Eating and Exercise

Being overweight and unfit, I am fascinated by diet and exercise.

I don't claim to have cracked it, but I have hammered out a viewpoint which I think and hope will work for me. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they somewhat inappropriately say in England, and I hope that those who know me personally will be able to judge my progress at following my own advice during the upcoming months.


I have been through countless diets and I have given up on them. Most diets work short-term, but I am looking for a sustainable way of eating sensibly for the long haul (ie the rest of my life).

I believe that the best guardian of my own interest, that knows better than any diet expert what I should and should not eat, is my own mouth. The simplest and most effective way of eating for a problem eater is simply to hold each mouthful for a little while before swallowing it, thus allowing the mouth to savor the food, and to give a clear signal whether to go ahead and swallow it.

I have found that it is impossible to eat junk food consciously, like this. The only way of eating junk food is to shovel it down unconsciously, preferably while reading the newspaper or watching TV.

Not only does my mouth tell me automatically what is appropriate to eat, but also it tells me how much. By eating slower and more consciously, I stop eating when I am actually full, rather than go on eating unconsciously until I am bloated.

Further benefits are that my food is predigested better by the saliva in the mouth, and also that I give the saliva a better chance to neutralise toxins in the food. When I eat fast with hardly any chewing, then all the work that the saliva could do is missed out, and the digestive juices in the stomach have to do not only their own work, but the work of my saliva too.

Obviously I make some intellectual choices about the best food to eat (my choice is an organic vegan diet plus eggs), but that is secondary to holding the food in my mouth. And I don't need to chew each mouthful for ages, chomping away religiously - just holding my food in my mouth for a little while longer than normal, and with a little bit more consciousness than normal, works wonders when I do it.

This method was a big craze in the USA at the end of the 19th century, pioneered by Horace Fletcher. His five basic principles in his own words (quoted by Leslie Kenton) are:

-- Wait for a true, earned appetite

-- Select from the foods available those which appeal most to appetite and in the order called for by appetite

-- Get all the taste there is in the food out of it in the mouth, and swallow only when it practically "swallows itself"

-- Enjoy the good taste for all it is worth, and do not allow any depressing or diverting thoughts to intrude upon the ceremony

-- Wait; take and enjoy as much as possible what appetite approves. Nature will do the rest



Here are some points that help me take exercise:

-- First, in order to take exercise in a sustainable way, for the long-haul, I have found I cannot be too ambitious. If I get all enthusiastic and make a resolution to this everyday, and that everyday, etc, then I might keep it up for a week, but the pressures of my everyday routine will win in the end. So whatever I do has to be incorporated easily into my daily life.

-- I see a Pilates teacher Rachel Swindle who is excellent, and has introduced me to the Gym ball, or Swiss ball. In line with my idea of incorporating exercise into my daily routine, I now sit on this ball while at my desk, and find that in fact it is more comfortable than my expensive desk chair! And I do the various exercises on it to increase core strength (the main Pilates concept) while at my desk and working away.

-- I have also discovered the benefits of slow weights - that is, doing simple dumbell lifts very very slowly. Not only is it effective (there is a lot of talk and opinions about slow weights in the weightlifting world), but doing it slowly allows me to be aware of my body, and the various muscles that are being affected as I slowly move the weight. And I do it sitting on my Gym ball!

-- As far as stretching and yoga go, if you have read my meditation section on this site, you will not be surprised to know that I don't like following teachers slavishly. Two books that encourage you to explore and find your own yoga or stretching routine are Open Body: Creating Your Own Yoga by Ted Walton, and Fitness Stretching by John Jerome - both inspiring reads.

-- For aerobic exercise, I try to do bike riding, walking, or bouncing on my mini-trampoline. Walking is great, as you are out in nature and the sunlight. I use walking poles, which are like ski sticks. In fact, the most common remark made to me as I stride along with them is lost your skis, then?, to which I still have not thought of a suitable response! Walking poles give you an upper body work out as you walk, they take some of the strain off your knees and hips, and in difficult terrain they are almost like having four legs. The kind I use, and would recommend, are the Leki top of the range - they are collapsable, and so transportable; they have slight inner springs, which you can adjust; and they have cork-composite handles which are at an angle to the pole.


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