The message is simple (but it is worth repeating)

Movement, Diet, NOT FOOD, Everyday

A new beginning, of sort, so time to get moving again.

To get the ball rolling, not because of the new year but because of the launch of the No-brainer Fitness Facebook page (yes, I finally did that; one thing off my list, hooray!), I thought I’d re-visit the message of No-brainer Fitness.

Although it is the time of year for lists of resolutions and things to do, don’t be mistaken: This is NOT a list of resolutions.

It is much simpler than that. It is what should always be on your mind, every year, every day, every moment. To the point that it becomes automatic or, as I put it, a “no-brainer.”

About that name

By the way, for those of you curious about it, that is the point of the name “No-brainer Fitness.”

It is what Zen is all about. Far from being a mystical philosophy or esoteric design principle, Zen is about practicing something consciously so much and so systematically that thereafter you simply do whatever it is you have practiced without having to think about it anymore.

Anything you put your mind to long enough, practice hard enough, becomes second nature. Something in which your brain no longer needs to take an active part. Thus, a “no-brainer”.

The other meaning, that of something which makes perfect sense, and does not need to be thought through much, or at all, is also valid. Moving more is such a thing.

So let’s get back to it

One thing you need to know about No-brainer Fitness is that, although I get side-tracked at times, and try to infuse the posts with my own type of humour, I always get back on track.

Therefore, what you need to know about No-brainer Fitness, is that it stands for one single, very simple prescription, and two secondary recommendations:

1) Move more

Movement is the key to fitness and health. It has been shown time and time again, be it in terms of the effect of exercise on body functions, brain activity, and as was recently reported, our ability to age well and remain healthy and active for a long time.

Some the prescription is to move more, move all the time, move everyday. Not necessarily training for a specific sport, which is great and I encourage, but at least get into the habit of NOT being sedentary and using energy-saving devices like cars and elevators all the time.

2) Don’t diet

So you’ve gained some weight over the years (who hasn’t?). Your sedentary lifestyle and sitting job are causing your mid section to expand faster than the rest of the universe? What’s the solution?

Go on a diet, of course!

WRONG!!!

The problem is, in a large proportion (pun intended), that you do not move enough. So the solution cannot be to change what you eat. At least, that is true in the same proportion as the cause of the problem.

So the first recommendation is to NOT go on a special diet, NOT focus on what you eat, and NOT obsess over your weight. And I’m not alone in saying it. (That, by the way, is a link to an excellent and very refreshing blog post by a dietician.)

Rather, get moving more, and slowly learn to listen to your body. Because, guess what, if you listen, it will tell you what it needs, and over time you’ll get to eat better, without counting calories or obsessing about food. (Obsession of any kind, even obsession about training and exercise, it NOT healthy.)

For more specific food advice, I defer to those who know more than I do on the subject. I prefer to stick to a simple (no-brainer) approach: Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.

3) Cut back on NOT FOOD

Which of course does not preclude me from making further suggestions about what NOT to eat.

You see, the “Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants” statement above is not originally from me. It seems simplistic, but for full effect you have to consider what “food” actually is. And for that, you need to remember that we are, fundamentally, animals.

Animals eat plants and other animals. At least, that’s what omnivores like us do. They don’t eat inorganic matter, stuff that does not grow on plants or that don’t move of their own volition.

The way I like to put it, “food” is anything that comes directly from plants, or that has been transformed mechanically and/or chemically from plants by other living creatures. Another way of putting it: food is biological matter that has been minimally transformed by means other than other animals’ biological processes.

Yes, I know, it can get messy and scientific-y. So often I use a shorter definition: If you can’t find it in nature in the form you eat it, then it’s probably overly processed, and you should pass.

For instance, things like coffee, doughnuts, soft drinks, and booze, are what I consider NOT FOOD. (For more on that, feel free to read a couple of my past posts.) When’s the last time you came across a free-flowing river of coffee? Or a tree in which Coca-Cola bottles grow? Or dug up a plant and found perfectly shaped and wrapped Hershey Kisses in its roots?

You get the point.

Cut back on those NOT FOOD items is my second recommendation; you’ll not only remove unnecessary calories (and in some cases drugs) from your body, but you’ll make room for the real taste of food, and the refreshing feeling of water going down. And that’s why you should do it.

That’s it

The rest, as they say, is details. (That’s also, as they also say, where the Devil lives, but that’s another story.)

If you insist on seeing this as a list of resolutions for the new year, then consider that you don’t need a list. You need only one item:

Get moving more!

You body will do the rest; just pay attention to what it tells you in the process.

I’ve now taught you everything you need to know. But feel free to keep an eye on this blog, and like the brand spanking new Facebook page… (Please?)

Picture from Pixabay.

What is “fitness”? (Part 1)

That’s perhaps not a question you’ve asked yourself, but like so many things we take for granted, it is worth taking a step back and thinking about.

That’s why my first post is dedicated to this simple question. As will be the second, because there’s too much to explore for a single post.

First this first part, a bit of travel back in time is on the menu.

In the somewhat strict biological sense, fitness is the ability to exist, survive, and reproduce, in a given ecological niche. (I’m paraphrasing, of course, since I’m not a biologist.) In essence, the individual “fits” with the conditions and environment that prevail at that time. So:

Fitness = Adapted to one’s environment

More often than not, biological fitness is measured by the transfer of genes from one generation to the next. This “success” at reproduction is what leads to the notion of survival of the fittest. It does not mean the individual has beaten up all competitors (that may happen as well, but not as often as popularly believed); it is a simple indication that the individual has given rise to a sizable portion of the next generation. Thus:

Fitness = Reproductive Success

We’ve come some way from our origins as struggling animals. We’ve distanced ourselves from the hardships of the environment through clothes, fire, housing, agriculture, machines of all kinds, etc. Some might argue we’ve completely detached ourselves from the grips of evolution. They’d be wrong, of course; we’ve only changed our environment, modified it much faster than we’ve modified ourselves through natural (or otherwise) selection.

In that respect, our reproductive success is amazing, but our bodies may no longer fit the environments in which they now live. This leads to lots of health problems. Those among us who are overweight are only the most visible aspect, a symptom really, of this. (Careful: overweight does not necessarily mean unfit. The correlation with many health issues, however, is undeniable.)

I would go as far as to say that our current way of life makes us all unfit to a great extent. We have facilitated our lives to the point of taking cars everywhere instead of walking, taking escalators and elevators instead of stairs (yes, I’m aware there were no stairs in the African Savannah, but bear with me), eating our fill pretty much every single day (for a large portion of the population, pun intended), etc.

Our bodies are not prepared for that, and it will take time for evolution to compensate. But I don’t think we should let evolution take its course in this case. It would simply take too long, and too many would suffer needlessly in the process.

That’s why those definitions are not entirely satisfactory anymore. The first one still has value, as we’ll see later, but it demands that we consider a bit more what our environment has become.

As to the second definition, I think we should reject it altogether. We have developed technologies that compensate for nature in guaranteeing reproductive success. At any rate, overpopulation and the footprint of humanity on our only planet are already problems that demand a lot of attention. Let’s not focus on adding more of us as a measure of success.

So we must look elsewhere for a current, useful, definition of fitness.

That’s what I’ll continue doing in the second post on this topic.