Recently I came across some of my old columns from the 90’s and decided to sample some of them to see what I was thinking back a decade or so ago. I was especially curious to see in what areas my thinking had evolved. I fully expected to slap my hand to my forehead in mock embarrassment, the way we all do when grandma brings out those embarrassing home videos of us when we were 7.
But I’m sharing this one with you because I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Back then, I was writing in much more polite and moderate tones (still hoping to convince the “establishment” of the error of their ways and not realizing that they were pretty much unmovable when you questioned their treasured notions about weight loss, nutrition and exercise).
Hard to imagine, but much of what I said in this column was considered very controversial at the time. I hope that when I look back on the columns I’ve written in the past year, especially those considered so controversial now—my enthusiasm for large doses of supplemental vitamin D, my rants against the insanity of using cholesterol as a marker for heart disease—will stand the test of time as well as what you’re about to read below.
Best of all would be if in a decade or two, what I’ve been saying would be considered so obvious and uncontested that no one can remember that it was ever controversial!
So here’s my column from 12 years ago. As always, let me know what you think!
Jonny Bowden’s Top 10 Fitness and Nutrition Tips for 1998
- Forget the fat burning zone: When trying to burn calories, work as hard as you can for as long as you can so long as you don’t cause injury or burnout. The idea that you will only lose fat if you work in some magic “zone” is simply untrue. If you enjoy working at the lower intensities, make sure you compensate by going longer.
- Do Interval Training: One way to add variety, challenge, extra intensity and additional calorie burn to your regular routine is to insert high intensity intervals into your cardiovascular workout. You can do this at any level of fitness training. For example, if you’re walking, speed up the pace to as fast as you can for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes; then return to your normal cruising pace. You can easily insert high intensity intervals into stair climbing, treadmill and stationary bicycling routines as well.
- Consider Circuit Training: In this style of training, you go from exercise to exercise (“a circuit”) with little rest in between, giving yourself a challenging full body workout that makes the most of limited exercise time; one body part recovers while you work another. For maximum challenge you can also intersperse aerobic intervals of three minutes- such as jumping rope- after every two or three weight training exercises.
- Lift Weights: Forget your fears of becoming too bulky. It rarely happens with women, and only in genetically gifted specimens who train for a living. Weight training gives your muscles tone and shape and is your best ally in fat-burning. Here’s why: most of your calories are burned in the power centers of the muscle cells, known as mitochondria. The more muscle you have, the more of these fat burning powerplants you have working for you.
- Throw Out Your Margarine: Probably one of the biggest mistakes the health establishment ever made was the promotion of this ridiculously unhealthy butter substitute, which is loaded with something called trans-fatty acids. Many nutritionists now consider trans-fatty acids the most health-destructive of all the fats. Trans-fatty acids can also be found in high amounts in shortening, cookies, crackers, candies french fries, pastries and potato chips.
- Don’t Trust The Media: When it comes to honest, fair reporting of nutritional information, caveat emptor. Mainstream doctors and nutritionists, and the reporters who get their information from them, are notoriously conservative, and parrot exactly what they’ve been told, often not looking much further than the surface. The chances of getting a fair report, for instance, on any eating plan that suggests you consume less than 60% carbohydrates is equal to that of the proverbial snowball in you-know-where.
- Eat your Eggs (if you like them): The evidence is now pretty incontestable that dietary cholesterol has a trivial effect on serum cholesterol. So don’t fall for the ridiculous claim that because a product has “O% cholesterol” it’s therefore a healthy product. And by the way, a great deal of valuable nutrients are found in the yolk, including lecithin.
- Don’t Be A Fat-Phobic: The wholesale avoidance of fat that has become the mantra of the diet industry is not only misguided, it’s downright unhealthy. Without fat, we can’t absorb the important fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E. We eat far too many fats from vegetable oils and not nearly enough from fish, for example, and this unhealthy imbalance is thought to be a major contributor to a host of common health problems. Monounsaturated fats like those found in olives, olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts and avocados are very stable fats that have many benefits.
- Eat More Like A Caveman: There are many lessons to be learned from Paleolithic Nutrition, as readers of this column know. Hunter-gatherers existed on wild game, fish, shellfish, plus a seasonal variety of wild vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. The pre-agricultural diets rarely contained concentrated carbohydrate sources such as sugar, flour, rice and pasta. Try as best you can to eliminate processed and packaged foods from the daily diet, and replace them with fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
- Love Yourself More: If there’s any one thing I’ve learned in ten years of coaching it’s that Life and Fitness aren’t two separate things. If you wait to feel good about yourself till you lose some magic amount of weight you think you need to lose, you’re in for some tough times ahead. Enjoy the journey. Aim for the stars, but enjoy the ride. Self-acceptance isn’t dependent on a perfect dress size, and a perfect dress size doesn’t guarantee self-love.
I can’t end 1998 without letting all of you know what a privilege it’s been being able to interact with you throughout the year, through the chats, the Shape Up Programs, the message boards and my columns. I thank you all for trusting and believing in me, for your wonderful letters and e-mails, and for being willing to take risks; I thank you for being willing to participate with me and with each other; and most of all, I acknowledge and appreciate you for being willing push past the invisible ceilings of self-limitation by being just as big as you can be… and then some.
And I look forward to doing it all together again in 1999.
Merry Fitness, Happy Holidays, and much, much love.