Let’s face it, there are not many of us who do our utmost to stay fit and healthy, whatever the government public health campaigns might tell us about the dangers of obesity and the benefits of a little light exercise – thereby saving the beleaguered NHS a few million (diabetes being a killer.) What they overlook is that health fascists have an entirely counterproductive effect and that what works is what motivates us to do something for ourselves.
There are many inviting softer options when the alternative is going out jogging on a miserable night, so when inertia and couch-potatodom set in, motivation vanishes in a trice, even though, paradoxically, the effect of exercise is to re-invigorate you such that you achieve more.
My past approach to this mental stumbling block was to create an incentive. I launched “sponsored weight loss” campaigns to raise money for charities. It worked: up I would get at 5am, wait for my gym to open, complete a rigorous session and a short swim, shower and dress, then straight on the train to London. No faddy diets either: I made small but sensible packed lunches, ate little and often, rationed my treats (cheese and beer.) Incredibly, I lost 3 stone in 3 months and raised thousands for the charities concerned. “Wow!” said my friends.
You don’t need to go at it hammer and tongs to make a difference, but you do have to make allowances for logistics and old age. In my case, osteoarthritis combined with a house move, no nearby gym and the only nearby swimming pool has adult sessions only on Monday evenings, which is less than convenient.
Exercise is nothing like as attractive as a bacon butty nowadays, and I’m very conscious that too much high intensity exercise results in excruciating pain and a swollen ankle for 24 hours. No more jogging for me, but finding ways to compensate and keep the body moving is no bad thing. Keeping your sex life active does no harm!
Seriously, friends tell me that yoga is a good way to stay supple and reduce the creaking of joints, but make it fun. In my case, treading the boards in amateur dramatics is a remarkably good way to stay active. Many enjoy gardening too, which brings me round again to diet.
My inner-foodie has no intention of buying “healthy eating” products loaded with artificial sweeteners and water. Actually, you don’t have to compromise to eat well and reduce calorific intake, though frying less and reducing carbs will help (carbs are cast in the role of the devil incarnate nowadays.) A bit of protein and lots of fresh fruit and veg never did anyone any harm, so these days I experiment with veggie dishes while rewarding myself with occasional comfort food.
Truth is, we have to stop making excuses and find ways to stay active that suit us, and make the most of good ingredients available everywhere. Who knows, you might even end up happier and healthier as a result!