The other day I was at the stairs all alone. (I now go up and down 20 times when I'm by myself, for a total of 4600 stairs. I'm always exhausted and sleep well at night after that workout, and it's a great time to pray, meditate, plan or listen to podcasts.) One of my former writing teachers hosts a show called Writers on Writing, and I took the opportunity to listen to one of her podcasts. She was interviewing the female author of a weight loss book. I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on that, except she apparently isn't pushing a particular diet and she encourages people to eat real food rather than processed junk. Kudos to her for both of those things. At the same time, she gave some advice that I had a problem with.
#1. Gyms are basically evil, useless places and walking is all the exercise anyone needs.
Well, lucky her. She lives in New York City, and her lifestyle affords lots of walking, but for many folks in this country, weather and geography make finding a place to walk outdoors something of a challenge. And I'm sorry, but most of us go through each day without lifting anything heavier than our cell phones. If we don't use--and yes, even train--our upper bodies, we will lose muscle strength and mass, as well as bone density over time. So while walking is great exercise, it's not enough, and though I don't belong to a gym, I don't think we should begrudge the man or woman who enjoys running on the treadmill or biking to nowhere while they watch the news on a big screen tv.
#2. Eat whatever you want, as long as it's mostly real food and all things are taken in moderation.
I know from personal experience that this method can work for weight loss and maintenance. The question then, is whether or not we want to make weight the primary reason for our food choices. Don't get me wrong. I was miserable as an obese person, truly miserable, so I understand the obsession with shedding excess fat. As I said, I haven't read the book, but during the podcast interview there was no mention of what foods are truly beneficial to our health, and so should be the foundation of our diet.
Frankly, most Americans could only improve their health and fitness levels by following this woman's plan. It's not a plan for optimal health, but it would make many people healthier. It's not a plan for optimal fitness, but it does seem to encourage people to move their bodies. I wonder then, should we set the bar low? Should we start with the minimum, and if so, should we expect that people will want to or be able to exceed that? Is it enough to just do a little better?