There was a point in time when America was revered as a physical and intellectual powerhouse. We were seen as the great liberators, purveyors of freedom – big brother, if you will – to other nations under oppression from a ruthless regime or an intolerant government. A short time after 9/11 and the start of the war on terror, this all began to change. These days, all you have to do is get on YouTube and read the comments under any video to realize the way other nations perceive us has changed drastically. You’ll see things posted from citizens of other nations along the lines of “ignorant American”, “go eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger, fat American”, and other colorful sayings that paint Americans in a less than stellar light.
I work in the service industry, at one point in a very large, chain seafood restaurant. The majority of the food on the menu was deep-fried; the small amount that was grilled was drenched in unhealthy oils or butter. Each shift, I watched as my more-often-than-not disgustingly obese restaurant guests shoveled down handfuls of deep-fried, tasteless food. This was after they struggled up the thirty or so steps that it took to actually get inside the restaurant. It’s a frightening and very sad sight. Coupled with the fact that I live in one of the most unhealthy states in the union, it does cause for serious alarm. According to Reuters (2009), “26% of the population is now fully obese.” That was two years ago, and I doubt things have improved. Awesome.
I always stress the importance of continual mental and physical growth through my writings, as well as in my own life. When you chose healthy eating habits and engage in physical activity, you are not only doing yourself a favor by ensuring a long and healthy life, you’re doing your country a favor by helping to restore its image. I currently have a fraternity brother working abroad in Spain, and he is frequently asked if all Americans are fat, or with what frequency we consume McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Don’t help feed this stereotype. Instead, feed yourself healthy food, and put down the XBOX controller and get yourself into the gym.
The biggest excuse I hear from people for not exercising is that they don’t have enough time. That’s because they don’t make time for it. I do. And it only takes me six hours each week.
I am huge proponent of the StrongLifts program (you can find the entire pdf on the SL website for free – www.stronglifts.com), which puts me in the gym three times a week (typically, MWF). It focuses on high weight and low repetitions for a full body workout, which is great news for guys, as this yields the largest possible testosterone release. This essentially yields higher results in less time, but the goal is to find what works for you so you’ll stick with it. I also suggest finding an adequate cardio plan that you can stick with 2-3 times each week to keep your cardiovascular health in check. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, and that’s largely due to the fact that the majority of Americans don’t live healthy lifestyles.
As far as healthy eating is concerned, there are a few key ideas to keep in mind. If you are engaged in a solid workout regimen, you should be consuming 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for each pound you weigh. This will encourage muscle recovery and growth. Protein also acts as a thermogenic for your body, which speeds up your metabolism, which in turn torches body fat. You should also be eating a decent amount of fruits and vegetables, while staying away from any overly processed foods. Some of the best things you can keep in your kitchen are chicken breasts, whole wheat bread, lean cuts of beef, whey protein, skim milk, oat meal, cottage cheese, and various fruits and vegetables. A tip on vegetables – buy them frozen. They’re not only cheaper and last longer, but they’re flash frozen as soon as they’re harvested, thus preventing excessive nutrient loss.
Additionally, focus on eating six small meals instead of three large ones, as well as consuming a gallon of water each day. Again, this will keep your metabolism peaked. If that seems like a lot of work, keep in mind it’s much easier to pick one day a week and cook for the remaning six days than it is to lose ten (or more) pounds.
I encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle if you aren’t already, as the benefits are endless. Yes, you’ll feel better, look better… but you’ll also live longer. And who doesn’t want that? Right now, our country is in a tough spot. Our economy is defunct, bipartisan leadership continuously prevents any progress from being made, and we’re constantly paranoid about another terrorist attack that we’ll probably never see. As individuals, there’s not much we can do to alleviate these issues. But we can work to put to rest this stereotype of our country being overweight and unhealthy. So get in shape. For America.