Jack LaLanne had an influence on the lives of many Baby Boomers. His inspiring chatter during his TV exercise show about healthy food and regular exercise was revolutionary at the time. He died January 23, 2011 at 96. Jack’s level of activity in his late years demonstrates the possibilities for all of us. Jack LaLanne published the well received Live Young Forever: 12 Steps to Optimum Health, Fitness and Longevity in September 2009.
Was losing weight high on your resolutions for 2011? You have lots of company. Weight loss and other fitness goals are perennial staples of New Years resolutions lists. As work becomes more sedentary in developed countries, we really have to challenge ourselves to stay fit.
One thing the three co-founders of Boomer Tech Talk have in common is that we are in remarkably good shape “for our age”. We have all had busy careers but we value staying in shape enough to work that into our schedules.
Like most of you, our endeavor to stay fit has peaks and valleys. Sometimes, we have to go on a special regime to get back to where we were. If you are 40 or older you’ve discovered that every 10 years, staying fit gets a little more challenging. We can’t eat what we used to be able to eat and maintaining a high percentage of lean muscle mass becomes both more difficult and more necessary.
The three of us spend huge amounts of time in front of a computer. So the adage that no diet or fitness maintenance regime is complete without regular exercise is even more important for us.
Like many kids, I played basketball, baseball, touch football, soccer – and I often played until darkness fell and I couldn’t see the ball. As I grew older, I experienced some success participating in organized sports in high school and college. Even after entering the work force, I continued to exercise frequently, running with friends, playing some basketball, lifting weights, all while concentrating on racquet sports – especially tennis.
As time passed, I realized that most of my peers did not share my level of activity. The high school football star morphed into an overweight couch potato. The less athletically inclined usually fared even worse, gaining weight while developing ailments typically associated with being overweight.
I was also fortunate to have had an aptitude for tennis that allowed me to play at a competitive level for decades. I worked hard to maintain my fitness and refine my skills, so that as I grew older, I actually became better relative to those in my age group. I could hang tough with players one third my age, and have success against many accomplished players in my own age group.
Being an athlete, I had to deal with a variety of injuries. I loved contact in basketball, and always played racquet sports at full speed. I’ve sprained many joints, had casts on ankles, torn muscles, and taken many a fall. I approached each injury as a challenge to be overcome, and worked hard to rehab principally using weight training and stretching exercises. I’m convinced that keeping my weight down has saved a lot of wear and tear on my joints and allowed me to stay quick on the court.
As I aged, I found my baseline weight increasing slightly every decade, due mostly to a slowing metabolism. However, if I found myself putting on a few pounds, I just increased my exercise and ate a bit less. The goal was to lose excess weight without traditional dieting. This strategy has always worked for me.
I have a few tips everyone can follow to enjoy staying fit:
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and stay away from highly processed prepared foods.
2. Stay away from all those highly sugared, fried or heavily salted snack foods.
3. Try to exercise every day for at least a half hour. Walk. Jog. Lift weights. Go to the gym. Any activity is better than none.
4. Fad diets don’t work. Find out your daily baseline calorie requirement based on your weight, age, and gender. If you want to lose weight, eat less than that amount each day.
5. Lose weight slowly. Remember that a pound of fat is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so it takes time to lose weight. Be happy with steady progress… the loss of two or three pounds in one month is realistic and more likely to stay off than if you try to lose pounds by radically altering your eating patterns.
6. Get regular medical check-ups. If you have a condition that requires special dietary adjustments, make sure they are accounted for in your weight loss planning.
7. It’s important to build or at least maintain muscle mass when losing weight. You don’t want to just reduce calories and actually lose muscle mass rather than fat. Weight training or active exercise will help build muscles while you burn away fat.
8. Men and women really are different. Generally, men have greater muscle mass, and since muscle burns more calories than other body tissue, it’s easier for men to lose weight as they exercise. Women can help their cause by working out regularly to slowly build muscle tissue.
How I stay fit:
I eat lots of fish, tofu and veggies. High fiber, no sugar cereal with fresh ground flax seed, a small amount of fresh fruit and skim milk or light soy milk for breakfast. Fish or tofu with veggies and brown rice for lunch. That stays fairly consistent. When I am in diet mode I eat NO carbs for dinner, fish or tofu with veggies.
Breakfast is important to kick start your metabolism. You may think that skipping breakfast saves some calories but that decision actually has a negative effect.
Eat dinner as early as possible, especially during a dieting phase. When I say, no carbs at dinner, it’s because what you eat close to bedtime is so important. You haven’t had a chance to work it off before you sleep on it.
Snacking is fine. It is WHAT you snack. When I was in Japan, I concocted a soup for dieting with pretty much zero calories but lots of taste and enough fiber to make your stomach happy for a while. The secret ingredient is daikon, a long white radish. Use chicken stock, flavor with onion, carrot and celery. Remove the onion, carrot and celery but keep the daikon.
Carrots have a bit of carbs but shouldn’t hurt you for snacking, along with celery and other raw vegetables. A SMALL portion of walnuts or almonds is good for you – count out 9 and stop.
I prefer Zero tolerance on sugar. I find it easier to “just say no”. I can get vicarious pleasure from smelling my companion’s desserts. I know from experience that when I have just a bit of this or that sugared sweet – I start getting a craving.
Another thing that makes dieting easier is not drinking alcohol. It’s not just the calories in alcohol, it is the steep decline in self control that accompanies its consumption.
Any diet and maintenance of weight must include very regular exercise. I try to get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise every day and light weight training 2 or 3 times a week.
One of the biggest challenges both during the dieting and maintenance phase is dining out. My professional nutritionist friend Erica Angyal says that during the maintenance phase you can indulge yourself once a week.
I have had several jobs in the food and beverage industry and learned how to order out of necessity.
Just as Weight Watchers has recently figured out with a sweeping revision of the program to acknowledge the glycemic Index, food choices are not just about calories. There is much to do with the amount of time it takes food to turn to sugar. So an orange is fine, a glass of orange juice is not. The health benefits of non-gluten have also been popularized recently.
How to Order Well:
Don’t Order List Key Menu Words:
Butter (butter sauce, cooked in butter)
Fried (the only exception is fried tofu)
Pasta (with the exception of brown rice pasta)
Rice (with the exception of brown rice)
Bread (includes buns, sandwich bread, croutons and phylo wrappings)
Sauce (caution for anything with the word sauce – ASK if it is heavy)
Dessert: except for fresh fruit, tell them you don’t need a dusting of sugar
Go easy on beans
Go easy on salad dressing
Do Choose These Menu Items List:
SMALL portions of white chicken, turkey or pork meat
Brown rice (small portions)
Yam (small portion, no butter, no maple syrup)
Fruit (not canned)
I keep alcoholic beverage consumption to once at most twice a week
(during diet phase, you’ll see how much skipping alcohol for a few weeks will give you a running start)
If you like tonic drinks, use diet tonic.
Drink lots of water.
Just forget about fruit juice, soda and any sugary drinks.
Especially if you are at a fine restaurant, your waiter should be able to assist you if you explain what you want to avoid. Be careful with fish advice. Fish oil is good for you. Don’t let the waiter steer you to a species of fish that is dry.
I realize it is very difficult to avoid sandwiches in many countries. Sandwiches are a huge convenience. If you are stuck at a gathering where all they offer are sandwiches, try to discretely eat the filling without the bread.
My change of work status to work-at-home-dad and work-at-home-at-desk-with-laptop has diminished my work-OUT time, without a doubt, though I still work out 3-5 times per week, ski 30-40 days a season, and am constantly active. I’m currently in a phase where I want to lose some pounds I never carried before.
These days, the hardest exercise I get are my frequent ski trips. That is where I shine, in my opinion, though what and how I ski is something that most boomers are not doing. While I’m not dropping out of helicopters, I do play in the terrain parks at Mammoth Mountain, here in California and I’m proud to report I may be the oldest dude in the pipe.
Following is my simple advice and 10 tips to a healthier and fit self — for you and as a reminder to myself:
1. Don’t snack.
2. Drink lots of water or other good drinks. Stay away from soda, period.
3. Get up and move around if you have a desk job.
4. Whenever there are stairs, use ‘em instead of an elevator.
5. Walk to lunch. Walk, period, whenever you can.
6. Don’t skip meals and don’t binge eat if you’re in a hurry.
7. Set a work-out schedule that is realistic for you and stick with it. As I learned from the Canadian Mounted Police’s handbook, when you begin a work-out schedule, set the bar very low. That way, you will keep that schedule and reinforce your commitment. Raise the bar later.
8. Did I say “Don’t Snack!”
9. Vary your work-outs, whatever they are. Do not do your cardio on the same stair machine each time you do it. This means you, too, ladies!
10. The best tip I ever got was from an older man I worked with early in my showbiz career, decades ago. It’s the best and only diet tip that I believe we can all keep. Eat good during the week and enjoy yourself, with restraint, on the weekends.