Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Do you get confused by all the health and nutrition information out there? Who can blame you? It's way too easy to get lost in all the details.

But most Regular Guys should simply stick with good ole-fashioned KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid.


Specialized Diets
There's a diet advocating just about everything. Some so-called experts suggest cutting out all simple carbs. Some say go vegetarian. One that's getting a lot of press lately is the High-Fat, Low-Carb diet. How are you supposed to know which ones work and which ones don't?

For starters, if you're not eating food you like, and enough of it to satisfy you, it's not going to work. You might hold out for a week or even a few weeks, but eventually, if you're miserable, you're going to give it up. As you should.

My other rule of thumb: If a diet purports to circumvent the first law of thermodynamics, it's bogus. You can't beat Calories In, Calories Out.

A More Basic Approach
Let's assume you're just looking to eat healthier overall. Maybe you're not one for smoothies, or you can't see how the Paleo diet would work when cavemen died at age 30. The big trick is to cut your calories (while still getting the nutrients you need).

But are you really going to count your calories? Weigh everything on a food scale? When I was first looking to lose some weight and get healthier, I made it much simpler:
  • Don't eat too much.
  • Don't eat a lot of crap.
Add in a little exercise, and it's a recipe for success for most Regular Guys. So how do you cut down your calories without counting? Here are some things that worked for me:
  • Leave 10 percent of whatever you're eating on your plate. Just eyeball it.
  • Make a point of having a salad or a vegetable at dinner every night. Put more of that on your plate and a little less of the other stuff.
  • Cut your burger, sandwich, whatever in half, and eat that. Still hungry? Cut it in half again, and eat that. Many times we eat more than we should because it's literally in our hands.
About a year ago, I spelled out a few of these tricks and added a few others. Check them out here.


What the Heck Should You Do?
Get out on the big, bad Internet, and it won't take you long to find a gazillion different workout plans and even more suggestions for individual exercises. There's cardio vs. strength, compound vs. isolation, weight vs. bodyweight... That doesn't even get into mobility and flexibility, let alone aerobic, threshhold and anaerobic cardio. And you can totally get lost thinking about which of your more than 600 muscles you're targeting with a specific exercise. It's enough to make your head spin -- which is not a good exercise.

Much like with your nutrition, if you want to stick to a workout plan, you need to find the exercises you like doing. Yes, a daily walk is better than nothing. But you do want to be sure to build both aerobic fitness through cardio and strength through resistance training. How much of either depends on your goals. What works for me is close to a 50-50 balance, though I have tipped the scale in favor of running while I build up to the New Jersey Marathon in May.

A More Basic Approach
Really, I think a basic DIY workout program should do two things:
  • Elevate your heart rate for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week -- and preferably more.
  • Target every major muscle area -- core, arms, shoulders, chest, back, glutes and quads, and calves -- at least once a week each.
You can get into more detail as you continue in your fitness journey, but if you're doing those two things, you're already well on your way.

The Fine Print

I've always been very up front on the blog that I am not a pro -- just a guy who loves fitness and wants to foster the conversation. I think my advice is good, but before you make any big changes, be sure you're up to the task -- and if you're not sure, talk to your doctor.

What else should you do? If you learned something here, or even just found an idea you'd like to discuss more, share this article with a friend. The more Regular Guys we have, the better the conversation will be!


  1. I totally agree. Everyone is always looking for the key to a healthy lifestyle and complicate it way more than it has to be. The answer is really simple, we all know it, just most people don't want to do it.

  2. I guess you could say that many people get caught up in analysis paralysis. Great comment!