For those of you who want to take it to the next level in health, view the Bonus Tips section at the bottom of this article in addition to the numbered list. Do note, that unless you are already following the numbered list here, the Bonus Tips will have varying results. They are individually great pieces of advice though!
Extra Note: If your body isn't where you want it to be, approach this as a beginner and leave your ego aside. This helps to recalibrate the body as you will refresh your system. No, it does not matter if you were once Arnold Schwarzenegger or Nicole Scherzinger.
Ego outside the door please, thank you.
Yes. You heard. Water.
With comfortable chairs, increasingly appealing workplaces, and a “pile of work that keeps us busy from 9am to 12pm, 1pm to 6pm and 8pm to 10pm”, it is easy to overlook drinking water. Often, many of us do not reach for a glass of water till we are thirsty. And that’s too late. The aim is to drink enough water throughout the day, so that we never feel thirsty.
Common workable solutions include using a much larger glass, a bottle, or a jug at work. A jug can continuously be used to replenish the glass that you sip away from, every 10-15 minutes.
A lot of people are fat, to put it simply, because their bodies are too acidic. To regulate blood pH and acidity, water most definitely helps. And get this, a little birdie on a tree told us that Victoria’s Secret models drink at least 3 litres of water a day. To put that into perspective for you, if you only use small glasses, use 15.
Not convinced? Think about this for a second. Your body is 70% water. Tell that to a 6-year-old kid (who you are supposedly smarter than), and ask them what they think should go into your body the most. You will have your answer. Sorry, we had to, it's important.
2. Food: Go Natural
If you can’t grow it, don’t eat it. It is that simple.
Now, if you’re an everyday human like us, you’re probably not going to stop muffins, cakes, chocolates, pickle, bread, noodles, sweets, protein powder, sugar, salt, butter, jam, wraps and dairy, tomorrow morning.
If you want to get lean simply though, you have to start keeping this line in your head just before mealtimes. “If you can’t grow it, it’s not food.” Somebody asks, “would you like rice or noodles tonight?" You would answer, “rice please." Chicken or mock meat? Chicken. Noodles or bread? Neither. Prawn dumplings or grilled prawns? Grilled prawns.
Not only will your waistline thank you, your acne and complexion will too.
3. Exercise (Focus On Contracting Muscles)
We understand that this can be daunting for someone who does not do any. Enter dumbbells.
Before human beings dwelled in cities, we were basically running around on plains, mountains, in forests, near seas and so on. Humans didn’t look any less attractive then, or well they wouldn’t have been compelled to reproduce, and we probably would not exist.
In that day and age, the exercises were hunting, throwing, pulling, pushing and so on, as nature and survival called for it. That’s what we suggest. Keep it simple.
Dumbbells are as effective as rocks were to ancient humans, with handles. Even if you’re a startup entrepreneur who spends 15 hours in a room or an office, all you need to do is buy a pair of dumbbells that weighs 10kgs each to start with. For 15 minutes a day, you will make a commitment to get off your work chair, and start with something simple. Before this, you will make a commitment to buy the dumbbells. They’re not scary, they don’t bite, they don’t talk back. Buy them.
Jumping jacks are perfect (preferably in front of a mirror so you can see what you are doing) to warm up. 2-4 minutes of jumping jacks should be enough to get your blood pumping and to break a slight sweat. This could be a lot for a beginner so if you're not used for jumping for 2-4 minutes straight (it sounds easy, but it isn't), then start with 20 repetitions of 1 jumping jack. A jumping jack has 4 counts. YouTube it. So, you will count as such:
1, 2, 3, 4,
2, 2, 3, 4,
3, 2, 3, 4,
20, 2 , 3, 4. That's 1 set. Repeat for up to 10 sets if you like, although as low as 2 are fine as well.
Also, there is no excuse for someone who doesn’t own dumbbells; yet. Next, you will split your body into 7 body parts or groups and do one body part a day, for a total of 7 per week, with the dumbbells. So let's break this down. What you'll do with or without dumbbells (you should have placed an online order by now) in this category should be focussed on the contracting of muscles. That is, shortening them. That is, using a muscle directly to do work against gravity. For those of you who don't know what this means, feel free to do more research and learn more, or follow Google/YouTube as stated below if you do not want to get into it.
A simple example in the meantime would be raising a pail of water upwards, after it's already in your arm by your side and you are standing straight. Your arm has two parts, the upper arm, which runs from your shoulder to your elbow, and the lower arm, which runs from the elbow to the wrist. Your hands, are attached at your wrists. Imagine you keep your upper arm close to your upper body, and frozen in one position. Only your lower arm moves as you raise the pail upwards. Those, are your biceps contracting to pull your lower arm, and hence the bucket, upwards, against gravity. If you look in the mirror, you might see your biceps looking "bigger" as this movement happens. This is because the muscle fibres now occupy a smaller length of space, so they bunch up and look "bigger", in a shorter length. It's like taking putty, or dough, and either stretching it out, or bunching it up.
Google/YouTube will be your best friend assuming you’re a newbie. Search out just 1 exercise for each body part. On Monday you may do legs. On Tuesday you might do back. For each exercise/body part, you will do 6 sets of 8 reps. Rest for 1.5 minutes in between each set (this part is important - do not hang out or start talking to people or checking your phone). This should be manageable for any grown adult who is in reasonable health. Although you will start out searching terms like Chest, Back, etc because you are new, after a while, you will actually start to search the muscle names in these body parts or sections.
The good news is that before you get too tired or focussed, you’ll have to stop everyday, because the commitment is 15-20 minutes and the sets will be finished. You might find yourself asking, “Is that it?”
2 weeks later, you may choose to enjoy the compliments coming your way. By the way, if you choose to skip the next section, prepare for some nasty aches.
4. Stretching (Focus On Elongating Muscles)
So everyone you know is doing Yoga these days. Yoga fitness that is, not traditional yoga. Meaning? They're doing stretching, is what it is. Bending your body all over the place isn't necessarily Yoga, although it's included in the overall practice of Yoga. What we're doing in this category, is elongating your muscles and tendons, back to where they were before exercise or daily activities like sitting in a chair for prolonged periods. In simple terms, returning them to neutral or unused positions. Again, you will go to YouTube. However, be sure to not search for things like "Yoga Flow" or "Stretching Routine". What you will search for is "Stretching for [Insert Body Part Here]." Let us explain why. Videos like a Yoga Flow or anything on YouTube with the word Routine, are largely done by experts or non-beginners who already know their bodies inside out. You can get there in 6 months. Our task right now, is to learn. And to learn, we will build knowledge bit by bit. We will also build by your body bit by bit. Let's face it, if you already knew your body inside out, you wouldn't be in less than ideal shape right now. To learn the whole body, you first have to learn how each part works, especially when it comes to exercise and stretching. This is to build a lifelong foundation. Let's put in the effort now, and get it out of the way forever. So videos with the words Flow or Routine in them, already have multiple things going on, and sometimes these routines have both muscle contractions and elongations in them (as do most full body exercises and movements) which then fumbles and jumbles the two categories 3. & 4. into one, and is too much for a beginner to understand, and that can be a problem.
Again, this is good for experts, but this is not what we are going for, for beginners. We want to learn part, by part. Slowly and steadily. So that in a few weeks from now, even if you don't have YouTube, you know your body. Just as with the section above, you will get familiar with one body part per day. Ideally, the same body part you searched out the exercises for in the section above, because after contracting and working the muscles, you'll want to stretch them out for a cool down. Once you are a couple of weeks in, feel free to mix up your stretching routine, as you get to know your body more. When your body is in shape and flexible, then, you will enjoy videos with words in the title like Flow and Routine, much, much more. Try those now and they may feel like torture. We want to enjoy life here, not make it suck. For those of you who are already relatively fit though, go for it, if you like. Important Note: You may skip section 3. Exercise if you wish on some days, but do not skip this section, 4. Stretching. Long, healthy and relaxed muscles are necessary for your overall well being and for preventing injuries. Also, this will help you feel more relaxed than exercising will, so if it's a tiring day you're having, opt for this instead.
What’s that you ask? You must live in Asia, or Singapore!
On one of our recent visits to Vancouver, Canada, we realised that people do exist today who start winding down at 7pm. By 9pm, it’s lights out. By 5am, they’re up to exercise and by 8am they’re at work. “But what about all the people who messaged me on WhatsApp? What about Facebook Messenger? Viber? WeChat? Twitter? My Instagram inbox? And who do you think is going to answer my 6 e-mail accounts and Facebook Pages? Replies don’t write themselves you know!”
We know. We also know, that the choice to look at your phone, and devices (yes there are too many), is yours. You may argue, but the truth is that unless someone’s got a gun to your head, you have a choice in everything that you do. We know many people in the creative space and with this gig economy do late nights and late mornings, as creative juices flow or work gets done easier while the rest of the population sleeps sometimes. The problem with that though, is it will leave you less lean and more bloated. Yes, our bodies do react to the sun and the moon, whether you like it or not, or whether you think you've figured out "hacking the timings of the day" like... "I sleep from 4 am to 12 noon, I get my 8 hours." Those 8 hours are not the same as 9pm to 5am, unless you have literally spent thousands and millions of dollars re-doing your life and the environment to simulate a fake sun, moon and everything in between, all the time, and every day. Please leave the ego and misinformation aside, if your aim is to progress forward (in lean-ness).
"You against the Universe is a stupid battle." - Sadhguru
If your argument is that you have a crazy schedule, without all the devices, we sympathise with you. Poverty, lack of a good job or career, overwhelming family commitments and responsibilities, a bad turn in a financial crisis, physical disabilities or maybe even working for a startup. As gigantic as the task may seem, you have to start to reduce the number of responsibilities you have, to have a healthy life. Just say “no”. Entrepreneurs who’ve learnt from their over-committing mistakes earlier in their careers will agree.
If your life runs on a daily cycle like most humans’ lives do, try doing less, resting more, and getting compensated as much as possible for what you do. That’s the key to success, and, rest. Rest enables you to then do better work in the decreasing number of hours you work the next day and so on. This is an upward spiral. Entertainment is now easily available on devices and it winds you down after the day. Right? Certain types of live entertainment would but here’s the rub. If it’s on a device, it actually wakes you up.
We'll leave out the scientific mumbo jumbo but we will repeat, if you’re looking at a device with a screen, in close proximity, it wakes you up.
If you haven't managed to get a hold on the previous sections, there is no need to start on this one. However, you may, if you would like to.
6. Start Understanding The Composition Of Your Food
The title of this article is Get Lean. The opposite of lean, to put it simply, is fat. We have to understand what is making some of us fat, fatter than we should be, and where it is coming from. Assuming you already know about excess sugars, and excess carbs that can be converted to fat and you already eat those in relative moderation, here's one that may be harder to swallow.
Meat & Animals. A lot of people think, "Oh I worked out today, so now I'm going to eat meat like a crazy person because I need my protein to get strong." On a day after a tough workout, it's normal to hear, "I had bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast, a chicken burger with a drink for lunch, and steak, vegetables and mashed potato for dinner. Pretty healthy right?" Wrong.
Firstly, carbs, veges and legumes cook easier than meat, generally speaking. You may not need the same amount of sauces, seasoning, oil, etc that get added to meat, well, just to make it edible. These are dead animals we're talking about. Unless it's Sushi, hardly anyone eats them raw. Next, unless you are sticking specifically to lean meat, most meats come with a lot of fat. So when you start to watch your diet, you might be better off cutting out every meat other than skinless birds or lean fish, unless you really want to carve the skin off your fried chicken or fats off your pork chop, on your dinner plate. Full Cream Milk & Cheese. This point really needs no explanation. If you're an adult who's in normal general health other than your waistline, cut out milk and cheese from your diet. Immediately. They are really high in fats. You can get enough of the nutrients that matter in these, from plants and nuts.
Also, if you do not understand that you are torturing animals for something that you can obtain from plants that can be put through non-torture-&-oppression-based-growth methods, then you could try to get out from under the rock you're living under and get acquainted with the planet you live on.
7. Proportion Your Plate
Do you sleep 20 hours a day? No? Do you exercise for 8 hours a day? No? Do you have 18 husbands at one go? No? Good. Food is the same, it should be done in proportion. It is fuelling your life that encompass the above questions, after all. Duh! This one is so valuable it shouldn't be given away free, but I'm about a mission, not profits. When you fill your plate for dining, try this method:
Let one-third, be vegetables. Avoid anything too starchy. Here, we are talking about green and colourful, leafy and juicy vegetables. You'll know them when you see them. Imagine you're in a tropical rainforest.
Let one-third, be carbohydrates. This is rice, noodles, potatoes, wraps (just the skin not everything inside it LOL), pasta, etc.
Let one-third, be food as high in protein as possible. Now yes, we know you're not going to fill a third of your plate with Whey Protein powder from GNC. So, try to make it as high in protein as possible. This could be lean beef, chicken breast, tofu, a soy-based concoction, eggs (if you're serious, try some days with just egg whites, they are delicious with salt and pepper), tuna, lentils and so on. Important Note: If this item is lower in the concentration of protein than let's say something power packed like lean beef, tuna or egg whites but it's the only thing on the menu for your meal that actually has more protein than vegetables and carbs, then make this 2/3 of your meal, and skip the category above, carbohydrates. However, try not to do this too often, as you do need carbohydrates for proper energy levels, especially if you don't snack throughout the day.
8. Treat Potato As A Carbohydrate, Not A Vegetable
For crying out loud, if you're trying to get lean, do not count potatoes as vegetables. If you're Indian or Mexican (bless the Indians and Mexicans for their delicious food), or have spent time around some, you'll know what I mean. Sometimes upon asking our Indian helpers, "What's the vegetable for today?", we've heard, "potatoes and peas." That dish will single handedly upset section 7.'s guidelines. Stop!
That said, eat potatoes, they are great. Sweet potatoes too. You can do potato chips in the middle of the day if you must, and if you do a full large sized packet, skip the carbs at the next meal. Over time, head closer to closer and unseasoned varieties. Best of luck, and stay tuned for our exercise and health programmes in the future.
We hope you've enjoyed this article by Zephyr Khambatta. If you have, please assist it by sharing it on socials or in your circles with anyone who may benefit from it. Thank you. Check out Zephyr's body transformation course, The Top To Toe Transformation where you can lose weight healthily & sculpt the body of your dreams, without any pills, powders, HIIT exercise or personal trainers, here.
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