Mid-month round-up – dieting, running and glad-wrapping your glutes

It’s a departure from my normal non-fiction areas but I have recently been devouring dieting and exercise books. There was a few factors to me picking out these books, from some interesting new releases to my new hobby of running, but I will cheerfully admit my main motivation was superficial – I wanted to look nice when I walked down the aisle (well, sand).

Nothing like needing to fit into a wedding dress to concentrate the mind, even if I was sensible enough to buy one that fitted rather than go with getting an “aspirational”outfit 4 dress-sizes smaller, and end up shoe-horning myself in on the day. (Apparently, you can tamp down your wobbly bits by wearing two sets of body-slimming underwear or wrapping yourself in cling-film but honestly, dieting sounds easier.)

For those of you who also prefer to keep your Glad Wrap for cookery but would also like to get a better handle on your eating habits, I recommend the first of my picks, the Beck Diet Solution.

Cabbage soup. Banning carbs. Super foods, celebrity endorsements and expensive supplements. The Beck Diet Solution instantly endeared itself to me by recommending none of these things. Instead its author, cognitive therapist Dr. Judith S. Beck, has written a six-week program that applies Cognitive Therapy to dieting and weight loss: teaching readers how to think differently, change eating behavior, and lose weight permanently. The result, she claims, is that the book teaches the skills needed to get off the yo-yo diet circuit, and to diet successfully and to keep the weight off permanently.

It’s a psychological program, not a food plan, and can be used with any other sensible diet program, such as the CSIRO Wellbeing Diet. The program requires a regular daily commitment but it’s short on the gimmicks and big on long-term changes and is certainly easier to apply in real life than most of the diet books out there.

Also on the sensible side, and with no mention of cling-wrapping your bottom whatsover, is Dr Carmel Harrington’s The Sleep Diet, which was just released in August. Subtitled why sleeping well is the missing link to permanent weight loss, it’s not exactly subtle about advocating sleep, good sleep and plenty of it, to keep hormones that cause hunger down and your metabolism ticking over nicely. Dr Harrington argues that we are sleeping far less than previous generations, that sleep and weight are fundamentally connected and that the depth and effect of this connection is only now being discovered. The Sleep Diet explores the science, presents the research, and provides simple rules for improving your health – and weight – by getting more sleep.

While weight loss is a focus, the book also includes a DIY sleep program which will benefit people who have no issues with their waistline but lots of issues with their sleeping patterns or with people trying to disrupt their sleep. The book states clearly says that in order to lose weight, I need to stay in bed longer. Finally science has justified my Snooze Button habit.

If I was to decide to follow the example of my third pick, Running Crazy, though, I’ll need to set my alarm gruelingly early. Running Crazy explores the world of the 100 Marathon Club, also known as the Hell’s Angels of Running. This club has only one prerequisite for membership but it’s a biggie – every member has completed over 100 marathons. Many have completed over 200. And some, some have managed 500, 700, 800 marathons. That’s almost 34,000 kilometres, or Sydney to London – and back.

Why? Well, that’s what the book explores and how these runners find the time and energy to accomplish monthly – or in some cases, near weekly – what most people have to train for a months or years to manage. And their enthusiasm is infectious – whether you have a marathon already under your belt or, like me, you’re still proud of your 5km, it’s hard not to read the book without a tiny voice at the back of your mind saying, “I could do that”.

I have to admit, I’m still unlikely to actually decide to punish myself with a marathon run let alone 100 of them, but it’s hard to wiggle out of a quick 5km run when you have read about people who routinely run a marathon a month. And at least getting out and running means I am less likely to need a few extra rolls of Glad Wrap come summer.


Exercise Read Write

Recently I spent three posts writing about cookbooks and food, with one of those posts devoted specifically to chocolate. I feel that I should now balance things out with a post about exercise.

We all know that exercise is good for us. And yet, so many of us do not exercise enough. For me it comes down to a time factor. I’m trying to maintain a writing career while also being a stay-at-home dad. Every minute I spend exercising, is time not spent on writing or cooking or cleaning or playing with the kids. But I do try. It’s a matter of finding some sort of balance. I aim to do a minimum of two exercise sessions a week. That is, either a 45-minute jog or a one-hour body pump class. (Body pump is kind of like aerobics with weights, set to music.) Ideally, I try to do more than this. Four sessions in one week is a brilliant, rarely achieved high. But often I fail to even reach my minimum.

Aside from formal exercise, I also endeavour to get in as much informal exercise as I can. So I walk to and from school with my seven-year-old, rather than using the car. I try to always use stairs rather than an elevator, if the option exists, and if I use an escalator, I walk on it rather than stand still. I used to do a lot of my local travelling (post office, shops, etc) by bicycle. But since the birth of daughter #2, this has dropped off because I always seem to be in a hurry, and the good old car is the quicker option. Teaching at the University of Melbourne this semester has given a little boost to this kind of informal exercise, as I take the train into the City and then walk to the uni. I also walk a lot around the campus, from lecture theatre to library to tutorial room (conveniently spaced out at opposite ends of the campus) and then, of course, the tutorial room is on the fifth floor. But I taught my final tutorial this week, so it’s back to more lazy habits from now on. 🙂

I’m sure that as daughter #2 gets older and starts kindergarten, and then primary school, I’ll have the time to exercise more. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. (It may turn out to be self-delusion… only time will tell.) In the mean time, I shall valiantly push forward with my inevitably losing struggle against the ravages of a slowing metabolism and an ever-increasing desire to consume more cheese and red wine.

This now brings me to the big question: Why is exercise so important to me and what’s it all got to do with books and writing? Three things…

Firstly, I want to live for a long time. At least 100 years would be good. And staying at least passably fit and healthy increases my chances of this (barring a freak encounter with a runaway bus, terrorist attack or other such quirk of fate). I have quite a long list of reasons for desiring longevity, including wanting to see as much of my daughters’ lives as possible. But the pertinent reason for this bookish blog, is that I want to read more. There are sooooooooo many books out there that I want to read. And there are many that I would like to re-read. And I know that no matter how long I do manage to live, I will never get to read every book that I want to read, because so many new books are being published each year. But the longer I live, the more of them I will get to read. I’m a rather slow reader, averaging only about three substantially sized books a month. That’s 36 books a year. I’m 42, so if I live to 100, that’s only 2,088 books. What a depressingly small number!

Secondly, exercise makes me feel good. And when I feel good, my writing improves and the volume I produce, increases. I always find that I write better on a day when I exercise in the morning. Whereas a morning of self-indulgent sloth is likely to make me reluctant to commit my brain to… anything.

Thirdly, jogging has the side effect of providing me with some great thinking time. No distractions. No interruptions. 45 minutes in which to brainstorm, plot and develop ideas. Many of my concepts are born while jogging, and many of my plotting problems have been solved during these 45-minute sessions. Often, the first thing I’ll do, when returning from a jog, is quickly jot down the ideas that have formed during that jog. I have sometimes even come home with fully formed scenes in my mind, ready for me to “download” to the computer.

So there you have it… my thoughts on the relationship between exercise and reading and writing. Anyone else have any thoughts on this subject? Do other writers exercise to energise their writing, or counteract their otherwise sedentary work? Leave a comment!

And tune in next time to find out about a few short story anthologies.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… it won’t burn calories but it could be an interesting ride!