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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

HealthQuest 2008 - May: How Diet is Like Language

I was thinking today about diet and exercise, and the things that have worked for me in the past, versus the things that I'm doing now, which are not really working. And suddenly, an analogy came to me: Fitness and diet are like accents in language. It's not really a matter of "this word is pronounced like this," "this vowel makes this sound in this context," "R's are trilled using the uvula," and so on. Well, in a way, you can describe an accent in terms such as those, but that's not what an accent is. You can't define it by its parts. Instead, you define it by the whole -- like the way you hold your mouth -- and if you hold it just so, the language sounds filter out according to this accent or another.

This isn't really a science (yet [I think]), but speaking from experience, as someone who can produce a near native German accent, producing German sounds became much easier for me once I stopped reducing it to a set of formulas and instead looked at the whole of those formulas: Germans hold their mouths like this when they speak.

Obviously this isn't easy to describe. Anyone out there who speaks a second language, please chime in with your feelings on this theory.

So how this relates to fitness and diet: I've been reducing everything to a set of rules. I must go to the gym so many days, or ride my bike to work so many days, or I must eat this many calories for lunch, and stop drinking Coke, and only have one cup of coffee, and always order skinny lattes, and try to cut back on the chocolate, for god's sake, and eat more vegetables. But I think I'm going about it all the wrong way.

In the past when I've lost a substantial amount of fat, it hasn't been because I've restricted myself to a certain diet and exercise regimen. Instead, it just happened seemingly without effort. During all the times I noticeably lost weight, I simply lived my life per usual, and ate what I wanted. So what changed?

Well, the first time, I moved from my parents' house to the student dorms to go to college, and I ended up walking almost everywhere I went, and since I was going to school about 4 days per week, I walked A LOT. I also ate according to my tight budget and the meal plan I purchased through the University cafeteria. But I didn't focus on losing weight. My lifestyle just changed such that I did.

Another time, I decided it would be fun to take a cycling class at the U. The first two weeks I hated it with a furry, but since I was paying for it, I kept going and ended up loving the endorphins that resulted. It was a very intense class of straight 50 minute cycling, and three months later, the pants I wore to cycle in no longer stayed up by themselves. But I wasn't trying to lose weight. I just wanted to try something new.

Finally, after graduating college and spending the Summer with Like Me, I ended up shrinking to a size 8 - the smallest I remember being - without any effort whatsoever. All I was doing was actively living my life and trying to go out to concerts and to see friends as often as I could. If that meant that sometimes I forgot to eat, so be it, I was happy.

The point is I think I'm focusing too much on trying to lose weight and too little on trying to lead an active and fulfilling life. I need to learn how to hold my mouth, so to speak, in order to really get the accent of true fitness down.

That's going to be my goal for June.



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4 comments:

The Over-Thinker said...

I like the way you're approaching this. I believe you'll be successful.

In regards to your method of watching how a German speaks to learn how to speak like a German makes a lot of sense.

For those wanting to learn a new healthy lifestyle, anyone who watches ME for an example may not learn how to eat better or develop healthy muscle mass, but they can be damn sure that they'll learn how to polish off a tub of Breyer's Vanilla Fudge Twirl. In one sitting. And they won't even be out of breath!

Hit the showers!

Kirsten said...

I'm going to draw inspiration from you. I think it may be time to begin my very own HealthQuest. I've been thinking about becoming healthier, but not doing anything about it, for months now.

Having a new baby is a good excuse for why I've got extra belly weight to lose, but probably not for why I need two helpings of dessert!

Time to kick it into gear and learn a new accent.

natabird said...

I think you're on to something here. When I am really trying to loose weight, I rarely find success. When I am more focused on living a healthy life, success isn't measured in pounds, although the loss of a few of them is usually a beneficial side effect. Good luck on your healthquest.

natabird said...

I think you're on to something here. When I am really trying to loose weight, I rarely find success. When I am more focused on living a healthy life, success isn't measured in pounds, although the loss of a few of them is usually a beneficial side effect. Good luck on your healthquest.

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